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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Road Test - Dodge Dart will save you a speeding ticket
Story thanks to Brian Champagne and in Salt Lake City. Link provided below:

SALT LAKE CITY — Dodge loaned us a Dart Limited for a week of testing. It had an impressive list of options for a car of its size and price, but it lacked one big one feature.
As equipped, the tester retails for $25,190. That’s the higher-end of the price category, but consider:
It has a power seat for the driver, and shotgun gets ratcheting height adjustment. If you've ever used it (it's popular on Volkswagens), you know how good it is at getting the seat in a position you actually want. The seat bottom flips up to give a small storage area. The seats are both quite comfortable and supportive.
The cruise control downshifts. This can prevent you from speeding when you come to downhills, and avoid getting a speeding ticket in a place like Mantua, which comes at the bottom of a long decline.
The automatic high /low beam works pretty good. Yes, Cadillac had this feature in the 1950s, but you don’t see it often today, and especially not on economy cars.
Blind-spot detectors are on many higher-end cars these days, and the Dart had it. A small triangle lights up in the corner of the side mirrors when a vehicle enters your blind spot.
The biggest like is the tech, and how you interact with it. The heated seats, steering wheel, climate, and radio work with the knobs or touch screen.
You can rewind songs on satellite radio (why not local broadcast bands?), get gas prices in the area, and get movie listings. Other vehicles provide these higher-end features, but the Dart interaction is one of the easiest to navigate.
The gas gauge and RPM needles are real; the rest of the instrument panel is virtual and configurable. Best of all, it’s all very easy to use; there are no joysticks or mice.
The Dart name is being put on an Italian-designed, adapted platform shared with Fiat. Those older than 40 will remember the value name from the 60s and 70s. the original Dart moved from a mid-line to an economy name along its lifespan, with a few sporty and muscle-car variants along the way.
The modern Dart has a proper e-brake so you can drive rally-style. To many, having a brake you can yank with your right hand is no big deal, but it’s becoming an endangered feature.
Matthew Huff agreed to help test-drive the Dart. He says he loves long road trips in the car, alone, or more likely nowadays, with family. His current car is a 2007 Lexus IS250 with all-wheel drive. He says “It corners really well, but you can never really get off the line quick enough to get a buzz.”
Huff says the Dart is faster than his Lexus, but “The problem is I’m not very impressed with the getup and go of my Lexus, and I’m not very pleased with the get up and go of this Dart.”
Our loaner had a good looking, two-liter Tiger Shark engine. The plastic cover doubles as the air intake. Dodge claims 160 horsepower going through a six-speed automatic. There’s a smaller turbo claiming the same power, and a 2.4 boasting 184 horsepower. But 160 horsepower just didn’t feel that quick off the line, maybe because it only makes 147 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage is 25 city, 36 highway, 29 combined.
As for the handling, tested in Logan canyon, Huff says “My Lexus handles a little better. It digs into the corners, grabs the road a little better.”
The Dart has 10 airbags and lots of handling and aerodynamics technology. Base models start at $16,000. A Mopar Dart is scheduled to come out this summer, with the 1.4-liter turbo with few enhancements to enhance power.
The Dart, at least with the automatic transmission, cannot get you a ticket for coming away from a green light too fast. It did, however, just get an honor from Road and Travel magazine for being earth-friendly with its fuel economy.
If speed is not at the top of your shopping list, the Dart will impress with its command of technology, and the ease of using it.
Brian Champagne has reported on cars for more than nine years. He holds a Masters Degree in Communications from the University of the Pacific, and teaches at Utah State University.

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