2007 Caliber New Car Test Drive
Dodge has introduced a remarkable replacement for the Neon. The all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber draws the best elements from hatchback, wagon and minivan designs, delivering a vehicle that doesn't truly fit in any existing category but does a lot of things quite well.
A five-passenger, five-door hatchback-cum-small station wagon, the Caliber offers a choice of four-cylinder engines. There's also a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the latter making the Caliber a capable winter vehicle. The Caliber is relatively affordable. Its starting price is below last year's Neon, and fuel economy is respectable, achieving 28/32 City/Highway miles per gallon in its most frugal form, according to federal government estimates. At the other end of the scale, an SRT4 version is expected in spring 2007 with a turbocharged engine generating 300 horsepower.
The front seats are comfortable, with lots of headroom, and there's a large amount of cargo space here. Packaging is functional, with folding rear seats that have an optional reclining adjustment and an optional fold-flat front passenger seat to make room for a ladder or more likely, a surfboard. A couple of innovative options, especially for a car in this price class, are an air conditioned compartment in the glove box to chill water bottles or sodas and a swing-down stereo speaker panel attached to the liftgate that converts the back end to a sound stage for beach parties or tailgating.
The Caliber is no sports car, but we most enjoyed the mid-level SXT model with the 2.0-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission.
Dodge is gambling a huge chunk of change on the hope new car shoppers looking for value and function can be persuaded hatchbacks are acceptable again, that five-door, small wagons have a place in American garages. The Caliber makes a good case.
The 2007 Dodge Caliber offers a choice of three four-cylinder engines, a 1.8-liter rated at 148 horsepower, a 158-hp 2.0-liter, and a 165-hp 2.4-liter. The first two are available with a five-speed manual or an automatic Continuously Variable Transmission.
The SE ($13,425) comes with the 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission. The 2.0-liter engine is optional ($100), and both engines are available with the CVT automatic ($1000). The SE comes with cloth seats; tilt steering column; an AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and an auxiliary input jack; a cell phone/MP3 player holder built into the front center sliding armrest; 60/40-split, folding rear seat; removable and washable vinyl cargo mat; and all-season, P205/70R15 tires on hubcapped, steel wheels. Air conditioning is not standard, nor are power windows. The SE comes with manual roll-up windows and manual outside mirrors.
Options for the SE are as extensive as the standard equipment is basic. The air conditioning system ($1000) includes a Chill Zone inside the glove box that holds four, half-liter water bottles. The Power Equipment Group ($545) includes power windows, outside mirrors and keyless remote central locking. There are two uplevel stereos, one adding cassette and MP3 capability and six-disc CD changer ($420), the other just MP3 and the six-disc changer ($320). Two other audio options are available, Sirius Satellite Radio ($195), including a pre-paid, one-year subscription, and a speaker package called MusicGate Power ($435) comprising a Boston Acoustics sound system with nine speakers. Finally, buyers can order floor mats ($50), daytime running lights ($40), an engine block heater ($35), a cargo area cover ($75) and an ash tray and lighter ($30). A Trailer Tow Group ($130) adds an engine oil cooler and a wiring harness.
The SXT ($15,425) also comes standard with the 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual, with the 2.0-liter engine and CVT optional, but the list of standard features expands dramatically. The features in the SE's Power Equipment Group are included, as is air conditioning with the Chill Zone; a 115-volt, AC power outlet; floor mats; a flashlight-like removable lamp that stows and charges in a receptacle in the rear headliner; height-adjustable driver's seat and fold-flat front passenger seat; a reclining, 60/40 split rear seat; and all-season P215/60R17 touring tires on steel wheels with hubcaps.
SXT options include the Leather Interior Group ($1045), which gets leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and a manual lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat. Seat heaters can be ordered for the cloth seats ($250). Cruise control is available ($250), as is a sunroof ($750), and UConnect, a Bluetooth, hands-free cell phone capability ($275). A Driver Convenience Group ($400) adds a compass, an ambient temperature gauge, HomeLink, auto-dimming inside mirror and a tire pressure monitoring system. A Security Group ($275) includes the cargo area cover, an alarm and an air filtration system. A Sport Package ($645) includes fog lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels and a Sport Appearance Interior Group with contrasting inserts on the cloth seats and color-keyed instrument bezels and gear indicator for the automatic transmission. Aluminum wheels are available ($400). Audio options and other items listed above are also available.
The R/T ($19,425) comes standard with the 2.4-liter engine, the CVT, and all-wheel drive. Standard features include the SXT features, the Sport Appearance Interior Group, cruise control, leather-clad steering wheel with audio controls, cargo cover, a sport suspension with performance steering and P215/55R18 all-season performance tires on aluminum wheels. Options include those above with adjustments necessary to accommodate features standard on the R/T; for example, the Leather Interior Group price ($910) reflects the fact the leather-wrapped steering wheel is among the.