The 2009 Dodge Caliber SRT-4 is a bona fide mini muscle car and it is looking as good as ever. The Mopar engineers have done an excellent job transforming the this plus sized traditional two box hatch into an extremely aggressive pavement pounder. This Bright Silver Metallic clear coat SRT-4 differentiates itself from standard Calibers thanks to a very stylish body kit consisting of everything from a big mouth front bumper and vented hood all the way to an oversized spoiler and 19 inch rims on the outside while the interior benefits from bits like sport buckets and an Autometer boost gauge so that you can keep tabs on what the go fast compressor is doing.
The heart of any true muscle car is the power plant, and the SRT-4 won’t disappoint horsepower junkies. The 2.4 Liter turbocharged four cylinder offers plenty of torque due to its rather large displacement while the hairdryer under the hood ensures that you will have fun all the way to redline at 13 PSI. The mill is good for a total of 285 HP and 265 lb-ft of torque and will accelerate the SRT-4 from 0 to 60 MPH in a mere 5.4 seconds and complete the standing quarter mile in 14.4 ticks at a very fast 103 MPH, all while returning 19 MPG around town and as many as 27 MPG while cruising at highway speeds with the turbo singing.
Starting at $25,470 the Dodge Caliber SRT-4 is very well styled, from the vents in the hood to the diffuser out back this car had enough show to match the 285 HP worth of go and proved to be one of the best examples of affordable speed on the market today and despite consumers leanign towards fuel economy over fun for their new car purchases we just hope that Mopar continues to do what they do best by sticking SRT badges on Chrysler’s compacts.
Continued after the jump.
The big mouth front bumper is unique to the SRT-4, the openings are larger to allow more air to flow through the large front mount intercooler, a piece that hints at the turbocharged Caliber’s capability. The redesigned front end also lowers the car to the ground which not only looks good, but is also functional, by blocking air from passing underneath the vehicle at speed, and when combined with the lower side skirts creates a low pressure zone that sucks the SRT-4 onto the pavement. The hood is another muscular touch, not only is made out of aluminum for weight savings, but the forward facing scoop and vents on either side hint at the bygone days of classic Mopar muscle cars.
The Caliber SRT-4 sits lower to the ground than the standard model thanks to a Mopar engineered suspension. Unlike the muscle cars of the 1960’s that rode around on 14 inch steel rims, our Caliber is sitting pretty on a set of stylish 5 spoke aluminum alloys that measure a rather large 19 inches in diameter.
The rear end of the Caliber SRT-4 is just as aggressive as the front. At the top of the hatch is a rear wing so large that it could make Porsche’s classic tea tray spoiler jealous. Just like the front bumper, the rear unit was designed specifically for the SRT-4. It is wider than the standard model and features a stepped design that not only continues the lines of the Mopar, but also channels the air that does manage to get underneath the vehicle into the rear diffuser creating even more grip for the high-performance Caliber.
The interior decorators at Mopar have done something with the Caliber SRT-4 that is not easily accomplished. The interior is both functional and stylish at the same time. It incorporates comfortable materials, colorful accents and some high end pieces as well.
The seats are the first thing that you notice, and feel, when you get into the car. They are shaped like traditional racing buckets with large leather bolsters to keep the occupant in place, while the cloth inserts grip the driver even better in the event they decide to push the SRT-4 to the limit. Aside from being functional the seats are also stylish. The black leather is accented by two rows of red stitching running up either side of the buckets and feature large SRT logos embroidered onto the seat backs. The red accents continue with the shift boot and steering wheel. The two pieces also feature a leather material that looks like the weave of carbon fiber.
The polished aluminum pedals on the Caliber SRT-4 are true performance parts thanks to the rubber inserts. While the shiny surface is pleasing to the eye, the small black circles help the driver to grip the pedals even better. My favorite part of the SRT-4 interior is the boost gauge. Not only is Autometer a well known aftermarket gauge manufacturer, but the fact that Dodge had SRT inscribed onto its face is just plain cool.
Under the scooped and vented hood of the Dodge Caliber SRT-4 is a 2.4 liter turbocharged engine with enough oomph to make sure that you can feel the torque steer. The motor is rated at 285 HP and 265 lb-ft of torque with a 6300 RPM redline, about right for a stroked 4 cylinder. Good enough to send the Caliber down the 1320 in only 14.4 seconds at 103 MPH. While manufacturers have a tendency to fib about output, Dodge traditionally underrates their performance machines, so I was very impressed to find out that Edmunds brought a Caliber SRT-4 to a dyno in southern California where they recorded a 281 HP pull. That’s at the wheels. Go Dodge!
The SRT-4 is powered by what Dodge is calling their World Engine. The power plant is actually a product of the Global Engine Manufacturing Association. Just like the old days of Diamond Star Motors when you could find a 4G63 under the hood of just about anything from Mitsubishi, Chrysler and the now defunct Eagle brand; the GEMA 4 cylinder architecture is being shared by Chrysler, Mitsubishi and the new kids on the block Hyundai.
Although the GEMA engines share the same block, everything else is customized to the manufacturer’s specifications. That is why the SRT-4 application comes with variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust side for increased performance and efficiency, and a Mitsubishi sourced TD04 turbocharger that makes around 13 psi of boost at wide open throttle.
Gears are shifted through a 6 speed Getrag manual transmission, no flappy paddles here; just a good old clutch pedal and shifter give the driver full control of up and downshifts. The German transmission manufacturers have been the choice for high-performance applications for years. Examples can be found in cars like the twin turbo Toyota Supra, R-34 Nissan Skyline GT-R, BMW’s M cars and the Porsche 911 Turbo. By choosing Getrag, Dodge has placed the Caliber SRT-4 in a class of well proven speed machines.
The Caliber rides on a Macpherson strut suspension up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Brining the SRT-4 from 70-0 MPH in only 175 feet are a pair of hard working 13.4 inch brake rotors combined with a set of bright red two piston calipers sourced from the Charger Police Pack.
Why to Buy
The Caliber SRT-4 is very well styled, from the vents in the hood to the diffuser out back this car had enough show to match the 285 HP worth of go and proved to be one of the best examples of affordable speed on the market today.
There is something inherently wrong with turbo charging large displacement engines in American automobiles, but in the tradition of the Buick Grand National and the GMC Syclone the Caliber SRT-4 continues the tradition of automotive excess. If straight line speed is what you crave, this Dodge is just what you are looking for. Be careful, because you might end up becoming a little too friendly with local law enforcement.
Why not to Buy
Caliber SRT-4 shoppers are in the market for a stylish and powerful compact for a fair price. The Caliber SRT-4 stacks up well against the competition; cars like the Japanese built Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and MazdaSpeed 3, the American Chevrolet Cobalt SS and the German Volkswagen GTi. With the addition of an all wheel drive system like the WRX or Ralliart, the Caliber would be able to make better use of its boosted horses. The Caliber is handicapped by its 3000+ pound curb weight and because of this the Mazda outshines the Dodge as a more nimble machine. The German built hot hatch features a more refined interior, but comes at a higher price, and none of the competitors offer as much cargo capacity. Making nearly 300 HP at the front wheels and returning 28 miles per gallon on the highway, the Caliber is one tough car to beat.
Top Speed Final Verdict
By the time that Dodge came calling for their Caliber SRT-4 back we were sad to see it go. We had just begun to find ouselves at home in the plush racing buckets racing through the gears of the Getrag transmission and the torque steer had turned into a fun predictable part of the turbocharged SRT-4 experience. However, like all good things our stint with this Mopar must come to an end.