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2001 Dodge Stratus
Bob Plunkett

Introduction
Dodge has totally redesigned the mid-size Stratus sedan for 2001. With its sleek new shell and all-new interior, this four-door sedan shares only its name with last year's Stratus. It rolls on a stiff new platform and is powered by stronger engines, including a 200-horsepower V6.

This new mid-size sedan acts as sporty as a coupe. Better handling and improved road manners put the Stratus in the same league as the best-selling mid-size cars from Japan, the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. In spite of the sleek styling, there's plenty of room inside for four people. And the bottom line is attractive. Model Lineup
Dodge splits the Stratus four-door sedan into two models: SE and ES.

Stratus SE ($17,830) is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams that generates 150 horsepower. SE Sedan comes standard with a four-speed automatic transaxle.

Stratus ES ($20,465), the luxury version, provides a 2.7-liter dual-cam V6 rated at 200 horsepower. It comes standard with a four-speed automatic with AutoStick.

Several safety systems show up as optional gear for both models, such as ABS ($565) and side-curtain airbags ($390). The V6 may be added to the base Stratus SE for $850.

Appointments for Stratus SE include gear usually seen on the list of options, such as air conditioning, and power windows, mirrors and door locks. The V6-powered ES adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a premium sound system with CD player and other features.

(The Stratus label also applies to a new two-door Dodge Stratus coupe. Despite their shared name and styling, the coupe should not be confused with the sedan, as they do not share chassis, powertrains, or components. Instead, the Dodge Stratus sedan shares components with the new Chrysler Sebring sedan.) Walkaround
Dodge's treatment for the four-door Stratus stretches long and wide over a taut package with fluid lines patterned after the slick two-door coupe.

The windshield initiates a graceful arch in profile that extends over sensuously shaped doors to merge thin rear roof pillars in a swoop to the high deck of a tail. That arching profile repeats design cues of other sedans in the Dodge fleet, while the stubby prow with body-colored grille in cross-hair pattern conveys an image of the racy Viper sports car. Flanking the grille, front corners carry multi-lens headlamps set above round fog lights.

Rolled side panels flare in rings around the wheelwells to draw attention to the large wheels. Above the beltline, blackened center roof pillars diminish definitions for doors and mimic the look of a pillar-less coupe.

Shapely back pillars slide down into the sedan's rear flanks to form shoulders of the high tail. At the rear a spoiler lip arches over large corner lamps and the thick mass of a monotone bumper. Interior
The architectural design of the four-door Stratus carves out generous space for riders by extending the windshield forward to the firewall, increasing the length and width of the cabin, and abbreviating space for the engine.

Up front is a pair of high-back bucket seats clad in cloth fabric or optional leather. The rear bench seats three, with folding seatbacks split 60/40 for access to the trunk.

A dashboard collection of round analog instruments, tucked beneath an arched cowl and rimmed with black bezels, employs bold black-on-white graphics. Although the dashboard is flat and linear, there's a wrap-around feel to the cockpit.

From the driver's seat you can easily reach window and lock switches mounted on the door, or the center console housing the transmission shift lever and a padded armrest.

Above the console, stacked controls for audio and climate systems include large rotary dials in a simple scheme.

Due to the broad and tall expanses of window glass and relatively narrow windshield pillars, Stratus provides excellent outward visibility for the driver, which becomes a factor for safety.

Safety features begin with the rigid structure that encases the passenger compartment. Active devices include four-wheel disc brakes with optional ABS; passive measures include three-point seatbelts for all five seat positions and dual-stage frontal airbags. Also, the headliner has been engineered to accommodate curtain-style side airbags that are available as an option ($390). Driving Impressions
The Stratus sedan surprised us with its competent road manners and the tight and precise way it functioned. We really liked the stiff yet smooth ride characteristics and discovered it could be downright nimble when steered through a set of curves, or quick to respond when prodded in the passing lane.

Our tests of a Stratus ES edition included a day of driving around Seattle through diverse urban and suburban venues, freeways, downtown streets with stop-and-go traffic, and residential roads winding along the shoreline of Lake Washington.

The V6 engine in the Stratus ES delivered spirited acceleration. Punch it and it goes, whether starting from the gate or overtaking a slower car. This engine, displacing 2.7 liters out of an aluminum block with dual overhead cams and multi-valve technology, delivers 200 horsepower but still earns respectable fuel economy figures. As a bonus, it runs on regular-grade gasoline.

The ES model's electronically controlled automatic four-speed transmission is quiet and efficient. It comes with AutoStick, allowing semi-automatic shifting for better control on winding roads and heavy traffic. Gear ratios for the transmission have been calibrated to produce quick getaways in stoplight derbies and typical stop-and-start in-town driving situations. It makes the Stratus feel more responsive for better freeway on-ramp merging.

We also drove the Stratus SE, which gets the Chrysler 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine carried forward from the predecessor Stratus sedan. Although this 147-horsepower engine musters less power than the V6, it still feels energetic through all the gears. But it's noisy, and to maximize the power you must run the revs high. Still, if the bottom line is a primary concern, this engine might be the best choice.

However, Dodge offers the V6 upgrade on Stratus SE for only $850, which pitches a comfortable mid-size sedan with V6 power for less than $20,000. With fuel economy numbers differing by only a single point per gallon between the two engines, that makes the V6 hard to resist.

Power steering for the Stratus uses a rack-and-pinion device, and it makes the car feel crisp and easy to control.

The Stratus rides smoothly. Its suspension is independent at all corners, with a short and long arm design in front and a multi-link setup in the rear. It feels stable even when dropping the right wheels off the pavement to feel an irregular shoulder. Anti-roll bars come standard to reduce body lean in corners.

Both trim levels use the same suspension components, but wheels and tires differ. The SE has 15-inch wheels, but the ES gets 16-inch wheels and rolls on more aggressive tires. The larger tires feel more stable when turning, and ultimately improve the car's agility. Summary
The Dodge Stratus Sedan dresses a spacious and comfortable passenger compartment in sleek skin that hints at the sporty lines of a coupe. With V6 power and precise road manners, it compares in behavior to mid-size imports yet beats them in price. The top edition, Stratus ES, loads luxury gear aboard but still keeps a rein on the bottom line.

Model as tested
Stratus ES ($20,465)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Sterling Heights, Michigan
Destination charge
595
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
17830
Price as tested
22970
Options as tested
side-impact airbags ($390); leather seating and trim ($600); premium 120-watt audio system with six speakers ($350); Quick Order Package 28C ($850) includes rear passenger assist grips, premium headliner, front courtesy map lights, eight-way power driver's seat, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, trip computer

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
SE ($17,830); ES ($20,465)
Safety equipment (standard)
ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), dual front airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point front seatbelts with adjustable anchors, rear seat ISOFIX child restraint anchors standard; side-impact airbags optional
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Transmissions
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, dual power mirrors, analog instruments with tachometer, cloth-covered bucket seats with adjustable lumbar support for driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, stereo sound kit with single-disc CD player, power 4-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch cast aluminum wheels with P205/60TR16 all-season tires

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
200 @ 5900
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
20/28
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS/EBD
Suspension, front
Independent
Tires
P205/60TR16
Suspension, rear
Independent

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
37.6/52.5/42.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
35.8/53.1/38.1

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
16.0
Wheelbase
108.0
Length/width/height
191.2/70.6/54.9
Turning circle
36.8
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
60.2/60.2
Ground clearance
N/A
Curb weight
3297


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