The Dodge Caliber is a car that is just full of surprises. In fact, I got a pretty big one as soon at I arrived home in my test vehicle
By Kevin “Crash” Corrigan
You see, I like to play a little game which I call “guess the press car sticker price”. Basically, I drive maybe an hour or so home in my test vehicle, guess at the price, then open the little package from the manufacturers to reveal the answer. Ok, so it’s not exactly Jeopardy or the Price is Right, but it amuses me.
Usually, my guess is reasonably close. After all, I’ve been in the car business for a number of years now.
With the Dodge Caliber SXT Sport, I was off by a mile. My guess was $4,000 over the actual price. That is quite a large spread for a guy who is supposed to know a thing or two about cars. I was quite shocked, so I thought that I would ask a colleague who is also in the publishing business. His guess was $7,000 over. That evening, one of my friends managed to guess $11,000 over.
Now, either my paperwork is all wrong, or I’ve stumbled onto the sale of the century. Let’s take a closer look and try to figure this one out.
The 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Sport certainly has the looks. It appears from the outside to be well put together. In fact, the build quality is, dare I say it, of quite high caliber. The vehicle has obviously been designed to stand out in a crowd and it follows the brand’s other offerings by being instantly recognizable as a Dodge product.
Upon entering the vehicle, it immediately becomes apparent who exactly Dodge is targeting with this model. The interior has a real “young” feel to it and is loaded with features that will appeal to the younger buyer.
The first thing which grabs your attention is the large section of dashboard which is color matched to the exterior body color. The instrument panel has been designed to be easily read and it gives a pleasant ice-blue glow to the white gauges when illuminated at night.
I tend to notice silly little things and printed just above the fuel gauge in small script is “Fuel Door” and a little arrow. Now, you might think this rather pointless as most owners know which side their fuel filler is on, but think about it for a moment. The price of this car makes it an attractive rental vehicle, and those drivers now won’t have to hang their heads out of the door before pulling up to the pump. This is one thing which gets me each time I drive an unfamiliar vehicle.
The glove box is also rather clever in that it boasts a Chill Zone ™ which has been designed to keep your cold drinks cold. Is that cool idea or what? Then there’s the holder specifically designed for your cell-phone or I-pod, which then plugs into the auxiliary input on the vehicle’s stereo system. Speaking of sound, the Caliber SXT Sport boasts 6 Boston Acoustics speakers with an additional sub-woofer in the rear. It also has a unique drop down speaker box built into the rear hatch. This just screams to me “tailgate party”! Dodge even offers an available 115 volt built-in power outlet, although I wouldn’t try plugging your electric guitar amp into it.
Other nice little touches include the interior light which detaches and becomes an LED flashlight (an industry first), the illuminated coffee cup holders, and the seating arrangements, which include a fold-flat front passenger seat and reclining rears. Speaking of seats, these are well designed, stylish, comfortable, and my test vehicle carried rather sharp looking color-keyed inserts.
Now, I have been known to have a little poke at Daimler-Chrysler now and again for their interiors, but I have to take my hat off to them on this one. It suits the vehicle, and the materials are of better quality than you would expect in this price range.
Ok, so it looks good and sports a well-designed interior, but what is it like to drive?
The power is supplied by a smooth running 2.0L 4 cylinder DOHC engine with 16 valves and Variable-Valve-Timing. This is then fed through a Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT) transmission to the front wheels. This doesn’t give exactly mind-blowing acceleration from a standing start, but it does work well when performing passing maneuvers, and is extremely smooth in operation. It is also a large part of the reason behind the Caliber’s great fuel economy (9.0 City, 7.3 Hwy). That’s 39 miles per gallon! I’d call that “great fuel economy”, and I can still remember when I was young and had to find gas money.
The ride is a little on the semi-firm side. In fact, it feels like a European car in many ways. The Caliber SXT Sport comes with anti-lock front disc/rear drum brakes which are more than adequate for the vehicle. All in all, I thought that the Caliber handled very well. In fact, I’ve driven vehicles that carry a much higher price-tag that came up short of it.
I think that Dodge has a real winner on their hands here, and that the younger buyers are going to go wild for it. On the other hand, I was talking to an older gentleman the other day who was thinking of trading in his minivan for one. He felt that the fold-flat front seat would be great, as he could lay a six foot step ladder in there. I have a funny feeling that the younger folks might have “other ideas” for that particular feature.
2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Features
In addition to the standard features included on the SE model, the Dodge Caliber SXT adds:
- 60/40 rear seats that both fold flat and recline
- Fold-flat front passenger seat
- Dual-purpose re-chargeable/removable flashlight
- Map light
- Air conditioning
- Chill Zone
- Power windows
- Power mirrors
- Power door locks
- Illuminated entry
- Passenger assist handles
- Remote keyless entry
- Outdoor-temperature gauge
- 115-volt electrical outlet in the center console
- Manual seat height adjuster
- Floor mats
- Satin Silver PRNDL bezel and instrument panel switches
- Standard black dual power mirrors
- Body-color bodyside molding
- Chrome grille
- 17-inch wheels and wheel covers
Available options on the Dodge Caliber SXT beyond those offered on the SE model include:
- Heated cloth seats
- Power sun roof
- Fog lamps
- 17-inch aluminum wheels
- Security Group (which includes tonneau cover, alarm and air filtration system)
- Driver Convenience Group (which includes Electronic Vehicle Information Center, HomeLink Universal Garage Door Opener, electrochromic mirror and Tire Pressure Monitoring system)
- Six-CD full-map navigation system with global positioning system (GPS) display (late availability)
- Leather Interior Group (which includes leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and manual lumbar adjuster)
- YES Essentials seat fabric
- Speed control
- UConnect Hands-free Communication System
- Sport Package (which includes fog lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels and a Sport Appearance Package, which includes cloth seats with colored inserts, color-keyed PRNDL and instrument panel bezels)