2002 Dodge Stratus Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D ES

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2002 Dodge Stratus
Bob Plunkett

Introduction
Sleek as a coupe, but roomy like a sedan, the mid-size, four-door Stratus sedan was totally redesigned and re-engineered last year for better ride, handling, and performance. Its improved road manners now boost Stratus squarely into the same league as the most popular imports, including the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

But for sheer style, the Stratus struts more individual personality than any 10 Pacific Rim products put together.

For 2002, Dodge has reinforced the individualistic image of the Stratus with a sporty R/T sedan, powered by a 200-horsepower V6 and riding on a lowered suspension and 17-inch Vertex alloy wheels. Model Lineup
The basic Stratus SE sedan ($17,400) is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams, generating 150 horsepower. A four-speed automatic is the only transmission available. SE is modestly equipped with air conditioning, power brakes and power steering, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM cassette stereo with four speakers, and power windows and locks.

Stratus SE Plus ($18,845) adds amenities such as cruise control, power mirrors, power seats, a CD player and 16-inch aluminum wheels.

Stratus ES ($20,660) moves up to a 2.7-liter dual-cam V6 rated 200 horsepower, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and firm-feel power steering, sport suspension, lower-profile tires, a premium sound system, and other niceties.

The V6 may be added to the Stratus SE or SE Plus for $850.

Several safety systems are listed as options for all three models, including ABS ($565) and side-impact airbags ($390).

The new Stratus sedan R/T ($21,400) mates the 2.7-liter V6 with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional, with or without Dodge's slick AutoStick manual override. ABS comes standard on the R/T, along with a performance-tuned suspension and P215/50HR17 Michelin Pilot all-season tires. The combination of V6 power and a real stick shift is growing increasingly rare in this class; kudos to Dodge for not forgetting the enthusiast driver.

Dodge also builds a Stratus coupe, in SE and R/T trim. But while it shares a family resemblance with the sedan, the coupe is a very different car mechanically. (See full review of the Stratus coupe at NewCarTestDrive.com.) Walkaround
Dodge has applied the taut dimensions and fluid lines of a slick two-door coupe to the surprisingly space-efficient Stratus sedan.

The Stratus sedan shares many of the design cues of the Stratus coupe, even though the two cars are built on entirely different platforms. The Dodge Stratus sedan is built on a Chrysler platform, while the Stratus coupe is rides on a Mitsubishi platform.

The windshield of the Stratus sedan describes a graceful arch that extends over its sensuously shaped doors. It merges thin rear roof pillars into an abbreviated tail. That arching profile echoes design cues from other Dodge sedans, while the stubby prow and body-colored, cross-hair grille suggests the Viper. Rounded front corners carry multi-lens headlamps set above round fog-light openings.

Shapely rear pillars slide down into the sedan's flanks to form shoulders around the high tail. A rear spoiler lip arches over large corner lamps and the thick mass of a monochrome bumper.

The architectural design of the four-door Stratus carves out generous space for riders by extending the windshield forward, increasing the length and width of the cabin, and abbreviating space for the engine. A highly rigid structure encases the passenger compartment, contributing to safety. Stratus enjoys a double-five-star safety rating from the Federal government. Interior
In spite of its sporty appearance, the Dodge Stratus offers a roomy interior. High-back bucket seats come upholstered in cloth or optional leather. The rear bench seats three, with folding seatbacks split 60/40 for access to the trunk.

Round analog instruments, tucked beneath an arched cowl and rimmed with black bezels, employ 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.

Thanks to the broad and tall expanses of window glass and relatively narrow windshield pillars, the Stratus provides excellent outward visibility for the driver, enhancing safety.

Passive safety measures include three-point seatbelts for all five seat positions and dual-stage frontal airbags. Side-impact airbags are available as a $390 option. Driving Impressions
The Dodge Stratus sedan is easy to control with precise handling and a firm, smooth ride. With rack-and-pinion power steering, it turns in crisply and feels nimble on winding roads.

The V6 engine delivers spirited acceleration performance. It responds quickly for merging onto crowded freeway. Punch it at highway speeds, and it quickly overtakes slower cars for safe passing. With its aluminum block, dual overhead cams and multi-valve technology, the 2.7-liter V6 delivers 200 horsepower but still earns respectable fuel economy (EPA-rated for 20/28 mpg city/hwy). And it runs on regular-grade gasoline.

The electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission is quiet and efficient. Gear ratios have been calibrated to produce quick acceleration performance and responsive shifting in stop-and-go commuting.

Stratus SE with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine musters less power than the V6, but feels energetic through all the gears. It's a noisy engine, however, and to maximize the power you'll need to rev it up.

Instinctively, the four-cylinder engine may sound like a bargain, but the primary difference is in the initial purchase price, which only differs by about $850. Fuel economy numbers differ by only 1 mile per gallon. Therefore, we recommend the V6 option.

This car feels very stable and is not easily upset by bumps, like dropping the right wheels off the pavement on an irregular shoulder. This and its smooth ride quality are benefits of its fully independent suspension with a double wishbones in front and a multi-link setup in the rear. Anti-roll bars come standard (front only on SE, front and rear on ES and R/T) to reduce body lean in corners. In addition to its stiffer springs, the ES has 16-inch rather than 15-inch wheels. The larger tires feel more stable when turning, and ultimately improve the car's agility.

Four-wheel-disc brakes with optional ABS provide sure stopping power. Summary
Dodge Stratus comes as an attractive sedan with sleek styling that makes this four-door look more like a coupe. The sporty design is backed up by competent road manners and crisp acceleration performance from the available V6 engine.

This sportiness comes with practicality. Inside, the Stratus sedan is spacious and comfortable. Best of all, it's reasonably priced.

Model as tested
Stratus ES ($20,660)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Sterling Heights, Michigan
Destination charge
595
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
17400
Price as tested
22810
Options as tested
side-impact airbags ($390); leather seating and trim ($600); ABS Plus ($565)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
SE ($17,400); SE Plus ($18,845); ES ($20,660); R/T ($21,400)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point front seatbelts with adjustable anchors, rear seat ISOFIX child restraint anchors
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 8-way power and adjustable lumbar support for driver's seat, premium AM/FM/CD 120-watt audio system with six speakers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, rear passenger assist grips, front courtesy map lights, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, trip computer, 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
3269


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