2001 Neon New Car Test Drive
Performance - the affordable and fun-to-drive kind of performance - has returned to the Dodge Neon lineup. The Neon was completely redesigned and re-engineered last year and the result is a roomier, more refined compact four-door sedan.
But the performance models that were part of the fun of the previous generation had to wait until this year. For 2001, Dodge has re-introduced the high-performance R/T and competition ACR models.
Base Neons start at $12,715, but air conditioning ($1,000), side-impact airbags ($350), four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and aluminum wheels are all extra-cost options.
The Neon comes standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 132 horsepower and a 5-speed manual transmission. We prefer the manual transmission for this car, but a 3-speed automatic transmission is optional ($600).
An option package ($1,820) comes with air conditioning, nicer fabric, nicer seats, head restraints for the rear-seat passengers, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and a nicer looking instrument panel with a tachometer.
Most fun to drive is the R/T. The R/T package ($3,820) seems pricey at first glance, but it comes with the 150-horsepower High-Output Magnum version of the 2.0-liter engine, a sport suspension, P195/50R16 Goodyear RS-A tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels, 16:1 firm-feel steering, performance-tuned exhaust with bright dual tips, unique front and rear fascia, rear wing, front fog lamps, black headlamp bezels, color-keyed instrument cluster bezel, unique cloth seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The R/T package also includes a host of luxury options, including the power convenience group (power heated mirrors, power front windows with lighted switches), Sentry key security group (alarm, Sentry key theft-deterrent system, tachometer, power door locks with lighted switches, central locking, lockout protection, power trunk lid release), air conditioning, and the anti-lock brake group (four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake proportioning, and traction control).
For road racers, autocrossers and just plain serious driving enthusiasts, there's the American Club Racer or ACR package ($2,130). It passes on convenience features such as power windows as being heavy and complex. In their place, it adds the 150-horsepower engine, a competition suspension and the ABS setup with the four-wheel disc brakes.