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After the brand’s seven-year absence in the segment, the Dodge Dart compact sedan was re-introduced in model year 2013. It was like dropping meat into a shark tank with so many well-known compact sedans already vying for sales leadership-primarily the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruz, amongst many other compact vehicles. It was a good gamble as Dart sales topped over 80,000 sales. That’s not bad considering the competition.
After testing the new, more powerful 2014 Dart Limited I think that the other car brand buyers missed their chance at test driving the all-new Dart because one-the Dart was named the leading compact car in total quality according to Strategic Vision’s Total Quality Index. Also, the Dart Limited redefines performance with an agile, fun-to-drive experience, delivering highway fuel economy ratings of up to 41 mpg, has segment leading safety features, easy-to-use technology and an interior that is so comfortable, innovative and luxurious that no other compact sedan can match. With the 184hp 2.4 liter Tigershark MultiAir2 inline four cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic with AutoStick sequential shifting, the Dart accelerates with the best of the compact sedans. Among the class-exclusive innovations are 10-standard airbags, ‘racetrack’ LED tail lamps, HID headlamp’s, an 8.4 inch touchscreen and a 7 inch thin-film transistor (TFT ) reconfigurable instrument cluster, and that is only the beginning!
The Alfa Romeo Giulietta based architecture allowed designers to design an exterior with great proportions. Dynamic lines and curves are seen from every angle with a body-in, wheels-out stance and coupe-like silhouette with steeply raked windshield A-pillars, thin, aero-styled power-remote/heated/turn-signal repeater sideview mirrors, pinched windows that are triple sealed for outside noise reduction, chrome pull-out door handles, flared fenders and lower side extensions. Up front is the unmistakable Dodge split crosshair chrome grille with a modern, sleek look that floats in the front fascia. HID headlamp clusters are flush with the sides, and lower round projector foglamps feature chrome accent spears below. The front was designed for smooth airflow around, above and below the car without compromising styling or engine cooling. The lower radiator close-out panel is positioned below the front fascia. This not only contributes to the Dart’s lower front-end appearance, but also reduces drag while still allowing for an 8 inch curb clearance. The Dodge Dart is the first Dodge to use an active grille shutter system. The system automatically stops airflow through the lower intake at highway speeds when less engine cooling is required and aerodynamic drag is most significant. When closed, the shutter system enhances aerodynamic performance by redirecting airflow around the front end and down the sides, rather than through it. The active grille shutter system will open or close automatically based upon engine coolant temperature and vehicle speed. Furthermore, the front spoiler, front/rear diffusers and underbody cladding all combine to enhance straight-line stability and exceptional cornering abilities while also blocking road noise from entering the cabin. Tire spats located forward of the front and rear tires were engineered to function as mini air dams and were optimized for shape and ground clearance, adding even more to the underbody efficiency in conjunction with the underbody panels.
The rear view of the Dart Limited features the Charger-inspired ‘racetrack’ full width tail lamp with 152 indirect glow LEDs and a deck-lid spoiler to keep the rear wheels solidly planted on the road. Dodge designers made special attention to detail and precision craftsmanship a priority, and it is noticeable from every angle. Standard laser-braised roof welds, hot stamped, high strength tensile and ultra-high strength tensile steel make up 68% of the body, high-quality metal Daylight Opening (DLO) moldings painted piano black are just a few examples of well-crafted features typically found on much more expensive classes of vehicles. The Dodge Dart Limited cuts through the air with a very low 0.285 co-efficient of drag.
The 2014 model Dart Limited receives the more powerful 2.4 liter SOHC, 16-valve all-aluminum, in-line four-cylinder MultiAir2 engine that generates 184hp at 6,250rpm and 171lb.ft. of torque at 4,800rpm. MultiAir technology delivers optimum combustion at any speed under all driving conditions by allowing direct and dynamic control of air intake and combustion. The result is up to a 15% increase in low engine rpm torque and a 7.5% improvement in fuel efficiency. This potent engine is mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with AutoStick sequential shifting for more spirited driving. With the easy-to-use AutoStick, the 2014 Dart Limited races out to 60mph from a standstill in just 6.9 seconds.
The fun-to-drive and dynamic handling performance of the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited comes from its fully independent suspension. Up front is a MacPherson strut setup with coil springs, gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar that was specifically tuned to minimize camber loss, resulting in more response steering and handling characteristics, improved ride quality and a reduction in road noise. The rear multi-link setup features coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a link-type stabilizer bar. The front/rear suspension enables European handling capability for drivers who enjoy leaning into corners with a smooth ride at speed on the highway. The electric, dual pinion rack & pinion steering system is spot on with quick and precise response to my inputs. Just a little tug on the steering wheel moved my direction. On center and feel for the road were excellent. Dodge engineers have dialed in superb driving dynamics whether driving slow or at high speed on the road. It remained flat when traveling through sharp curves and didn’t even move left or right when I took my hands off the steering wheel straight-ahead at speed on the highway.
Brakes are large and strong-up front are 12 inch vented discs clamped with large 60mm single-piston calipers and 10.5 inch solid discs clamped with 38mm single-piston calipers. Braking is further enhanced with standard ABS, BA, EBD, Electronic Stability Control and all-speed Traction Control to help me maintain my desired direction when braking hard or when braking on slick or wet road surfaces. The Dodge Dart Limited rides on stunning 17X7.5 inch satin silver painted cast aluminum wheels wrapped with sticky Kumho 225/45R17 inch Solus KH25 low-profile high-performance tires.
For an inexpensive compact sedan-total price including options in my test Dart Limited is only $24,385.00 wow! This is just the beginning because the interior and safety systems of the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited are way ahead of the competition in the compact sedan segment.
Inside is interior not found on any other compact sedan costing only $24,385.00. Dodge designers focused their attention on creating a modern blend of precision craftsmanship, state-of-the-art technology, and hand-sculpted shapes when designing the interior which is crafted with materials and technology typically found in much more expensive vehicle segments. Starting with modern Dodge DNA and through the use of innovative ambient interior lighting, high-quality soft-touch materials and high-tech features, the 2014 Dodge Dart is loaded with cool amenities and unexpected delights for both me and my passengers. The Dart’s ‘driver-centric’ layout is designed to put all controls within easy reach. Customizable displays and comfort-tuned, deeply cut front bucket seats are trimmed in Nappa leather and feature 8-way power adjustments including power lumbar support for me and 4-way manual adjustment including height-adjustment for my front seat passenger. Packaged in the footprint of a compact car, the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited features the interior spaciousness of a mid-size sedan, and it boosts best-in-class hip and shoulder room. The high-tech centerpiece of the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited is the class-exclusive floating island bezel which houses the segment-exclusive 7 inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LED customizable gauge cluster display with a leather top and light pipe surround that also houses the class-exclusive Uconnect Touch 8.4 inch touchscreen Media Center-the largest touchscreen in its class, and large than most other vehicles costing thousands of dollars more. The beefy, leather-wrapped/tilt/telescopic steering wheel feels perfect in my hands and features buttons for the audio system, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone and cruise control. A thoughtful storage option throughout fits today’s technology. The glovebox easily conceals a stowed iPad; the center console with dual cupholders and storage box with padded armrest features auxiliary jacks to plug in a wide variety of electronic devices and thoughtful, inventive storage solutions, such as a center console side pockets are perfect for storing mobile phones, receipts, or pens and paper. There are also storage slots in each door. Even the trunk floor conceals storage slots.
Besides soft-to-the-touch dashboard and door trim materials, there is also an abundance of aluminum around the side air-vents inside door handle and shifter bezel as well as chrome around the large dials, air-vent directional and handbrake tip. Standard features not mentioned above in the 2014 Dodge Dart Limited include grab handles above each door, dual map lights, dual lighted vanity mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, AM-FM-CD-Sirius Satellite radio with 7-speakers and Sirius Travel Link, Sirius Traffic and Weather link, Garmin GPS navigation with Uconnect Voice Command, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, illuminated instrument panel surround, automatic headlamps, rear pull-down center armrest and storage box, remote fuel filler door, remote trunk release, Keyless Enter ‘n Go with push-button start/stop, power windows with both front windows express up/down and power door locks, 2-12-volt power plugs, USB connective, one-touch electric sunroof, ParkView rear back-up camera, map pockets behind the front seats, center pass-thru and front/rear floor mats. This new 2014 Dodge Dart 2.4 MultiAir2 Limited can only be called a luxury sedan not found inside any other competitively priced compact sedan. That’s not all because the standard safety features go well beyond the competition with 10-standard airbags including dual front knee airbags, advanced multi-stage front airbags, supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags, supplemental side-curtain airbags front and rear airbags, supplemental rear seat side airbags, LATCH system for child seats, 5-3-point safety belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, hill-start assist, electronic roll mitigation, Trailer-sway control, Rainy Brake Support, Ready Alert Braking, Brake-lick differential, remote start, front seat reactive headrests, tire pressure monitoring, front/rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door. Options included in my test 2014 Dodge Dart 2.4 liter MultiAir2 Limited included an intrusion alarm, ParkSense Rear Park Assist system, Blind Spot and Rear Cross Traffic Detection, automatic high-beam headlamp control, rain-sensing wipers/washers, HID headlamps and 17X7.5 inch aluminum wheels.
Just one test drive will show any consumer looking for a price just above $25,000.00 for a compact sport sedan than is so innovative in aerodynamics, performance, interior and safety that is unmatched by the competition.
COPYRIGHT: 2014: HARVEY SCHWARTZ
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