2004 Stratus New Car Test Drive
With its sleek styling, the Dodge Stratus stands out in a crowded field of look-alike mid-size cars. The Stratus sedan gets a fresh look with updated styling for 2004, while the coupe was restyled just last year (model year 2003). Stratus is available at attractive prices, particularly when big cash incentives or cut-rate financing are thrown into the deal.
Built on entirely different platforms, the sedan and coupe versions of the Dodge Stratus are significantly different in character. They also use different engines, but each is available with a choice of V6 or four-cylinder. The sedan shares platforms with the Chrysler Sebring sedan and is built in Michigan, while the coupe shares its basic architectural structure with the Mitsubishi Eclipse and is built in Illinois.
The Stratus sedan is sporty and fun to drive when equipped with the V6, though it lacks the high levels of refinement found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Stratus sedans generally seem to have nicer interior trim than the Stratus coupes.
The Stratus coupe is fun to drive as well. It's sportier and feels tighter and more refined than the sedan, particularly on rough roads. Improvements to the coupe last year reduced noise, vibration and harshness. The Stratus is larger than some of the other coupes on the market, adding to its practicality.
The sedan comes in four trim levels, SE, SXT, ES, and R/T. The coupe comes in three trim levels, SE, STX, and R/T.
Sedan SE ($18,325) 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, power locks and power windows with one-touch auto-down for the driver's window. It comes with 15-inch steel wheels and 205/65TR15 tires.
Sedan SXT ($19,390) offers a good value, adding a CD changer, body-color door handles, illuminated entry, keyless entry, power mirrors, and 16-inch aluminum wheels with lower profile 205/60TR16 tires. The SXT is often available with hefty discounts not shown here. Add them to big rebates and the price of an SXT can drop below $17,000.
Sedan ES ($21,835) offers more driving excitement with its 2.7-liter twin-cam V6 rated 200 horsepower and a sport-tuned suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars and firm-feel power steering. ES comes standard with an automatic transmission and chromed aluminum wheels. ES also gets a higher level of trim, including an eight-way power driver's seat, premium cloth bucket seats, an interior light package, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a mini trip computer.
Anti-lock brakes ($695) are optional on SE, SXT, and SE. The standard brakes use discs in front, drums in the rear, but the ABS package includes four-wheel discs and traction control, a smart buy.
Sedan R/T ($22,370) is the sport model. The R/T mates the V6 with a five-speed manual transmission, and a four-speed automatic is optional for no additional charge. The ABS package comes standard on the R/T, along with a performance-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels with P215/50TR17 all-season performance tires, and performance-tuned steering. R/T also comes with a premium stereo and is distinguished by its trunklid spoiler, wide bodyside molding and a body-color grille.
Coupe SE ($19,210) comes with a single overhead-cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated 147 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission. Air conditioning, power windows (with driver's auto-down), power mirrors, and power door locks are standard. ABS is not available.
Coupe R/T ($22,055) comes with a 3.0-liter single-cam V6 rated 200 horsepower and a five-speed manual. It's available with a four-speed automatic ($825) and can be ordered with AutoStick ($165), which allows automatic and semi-manual shifting. R/T comes with four-wheel disc brakes. ABS ($565) is available for R/T and can be ordered as a package with traction control ($740).
Side-impact airbags ($390) are an option for all Stratus models.