After Dodge discontinued the widely popular compact Neon in 2005, the brand decided to create a new compact vehicle for the segment with the Dodge Caliber. The Dodge Caliber blended the design of a compact car, with a crossover, and a hatchback into one vehicle. At launch, the car seemed like a success and journalists were raving about it being the next big hit for the brand, so it was only a matter of time when the engineers at Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division would get there hands on the car, to follow up its highly successful 2003-2005 Dodge Neon SRT4.
Enter the Dodge Caliber SRT4. On September 1st, 2006, Dodge released details on its latest performance compact boasting that a 300 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four-cylinder “World Engine”. That number would be downgraded before production to 285 horsepower, while torque increased to 265 lb.-ft. That power was backed by a Getrag DMT-6 six-speed transmission sending power to the front wheels.
Fans were shocked that SRT didn’t take advantage of the Caliber’s capability to feature all-wheel-drive, which was featured on Dodge Caliber R/T AWD models, considering one of the original Dodge Neon SRT4’s biggest competitors was the all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza WRX. However, Dodge and SRT decided to offer the car at a shocking U.S. Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $22,995, which included $560 for the destination.
The Dodge Caliber SRT4 featured some impressive standard equipment for the money. A much more aggressive SRT exterior styling treatment set the SRT4 apart from the rest of the Caliber lineup. Performance front fascia with a larger grille opening, unique hood with functional air scoop, aggressive side sills, and a large integrated spoiler above the rear glass was tuned for smoother airflow and lift reduction.
The Caliber SRT4s suspension was lower 28mm in the front and 22 mm in the rear, to help improve handling characteristics. The SRT tuned chassis and 19-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear RSA 225/45R19 three-season performance tires (all-season tires were available), improved grip on the track. To help the Caliber SRT4 in the braking department were four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with 340 x 28mm vented front rotors and 302 x 10mm rear rotors, with twin-piston aluminum front calipers from the Dodge Charger Pursuit.
The interior might have been the biggest weak point for the entire vehicle as the DaimlerChrysler era cheap plastic surrounded the driver, and was even considered subpar at the time. But it didn’t stop SRT engineers from putting some performance goodies throughout the cabin. An SRT race-inspired instrument design showcased an optional Reconfigurable Display (RCD) that featured early versions of the “SRT Performance Pages” we have grown to love in the current Charger, Challenger, and Durango SRT models. The pages included lateral and longitudinal G-force, 1/8-mile and 1/4-mile acceleration time and speed, 0-60 mph time, and braking distance results. SRT engineers also put a set of sporty performance bolsted seats up front and a boost gauge in an awkward place to the left of the steering wheel on the dash.
As for performance, the Dodge Caliber SRT4 was capable of producing a 0-60 mph (compared to the lighter Neon SRT4’s 0-60 mph 5.3-seconds results) and a quarter-mile time of 14.5-seconds (Neon SRT4 had a 13.9-second time), the Caliber SRT4 lived in the shadows of the car it ultimately replaced. With lackluster performance numbers, the cheap plastics of the interior, and build quality issues that kept the Caliber SRT4 from being as successful as its predecessor. The Caliber SRT4 only last for two model years (2008 & 2009) and only 5,562 Caliber SRT4s were ever built (2008: 4,586, 2009: 976). That was not even close to the Neon SRT-4 production total of 25,303 over three model years (2003, 2004, & 2005).
In recent years, the Caliber SRT4 has become a cult classic with some owners modifying their cars to have around 350 to 400 horsepower. While the compact performance car market seems to be dead in North America with vehicles like the Ford Focus RS leaving the market, there are still a lot of Mopar fans that still want a compact turbocharged front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive affordable performance car.
So what did you think of the Caliber SRT4? Leave your comments below.
2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 Image Gallery: