It took too long to get out on the open road. City life is sometimes suffocating for high-powered cars like the SRT-4. I decided to use my Sunday morning to flex this mini-muscle car's power. Hitting the slightly arching onramp to the local expressway I got the first taste of the brute force the SRT-4. Most of the tuned cars I test have hair-trigger gas pedals that instantly tell you they mean serious business. But that also means on the way to the grocery store you have to exert all your driving ability just to wrangle the demanding vehicle.
Surprisingly the SRT-4 is not like that. Around town I've found it a very unremarkable, easy to drive car that simply has a maniacal exhaust note. It sounds more like a Harley Davidson than a Neon. But when you need it the car's power erupts easily when pushing the gas pedal down forcefully. I even hit a toll way that allowed me to do a very legal 0-60 test. I was out of the toll-gate and gone in no time. The turbo-gauge danced for me, the shifts flew smoothly and quickly and I was soaring down the highway as fast as recent memory allows.
The SRT-4 actually rides very solidly on the highway and I was impressed for the first time in a long time by a Dodge product. Not being a truck or SUV fan, what Dodge is undoubtedly best at, I've found their cars drab, underpowered and unappealing in almost every respect. I still don't love the looks of the base Neon but at least the SRT-4, with its viper scooped hood, large spoiler and ground effects, offers some masculinity. The car is also solid as a rock. There's no rattling or other awkward noises coming from anywhere and that was a surprise since the model itself is no spring chicken.
There were definite drawbacks on my early Sunday drive. Out in the suburbs I failed to execute a tight U-turn I'm sure would have been a breeze for a Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Evo. That is one of the attributes buyers will have to settle with since they are still driving a Neon, a car not originally designed for high performance applications. Tomorrow I'll discuss more of the pros and cons in the final overview of the SRT-4.