Review: 2002 DODGE STRATUS R/T COUPE

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SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

By Matt And Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,483

Price As Tested $ 21,407

Engine Type SOHC 12-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/ Sequential multi-point fuel injection (SMFI)

Engine Size 181 cid/2972 cc

Horsepower 200 @ 5500 RPM

Torque (lb-ft) 205 @ 4500 RPM

Wheelbase/Width/Length 103.7"/70.3"/190.2"

Transmission Five-speed manual

Curb Weight 3279 pounds

Fuel Capacity 16.3 gallons

Tires (F/R) P215/50HR17 performance

Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)

Drive Train Fount-engine/front-wheel-drive

Vehicle Type Three-passenger/two-door

Domestic Content 60 percent (appx.)

Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 20/28/23

0-60 MPH 7.9 seconds

1/4 (E.T.) 15.2 seconds @ 90.1 mph

Top-speed 134 mph

* (At 3500 pounds and sporting a 130-inch wheel base, the Dodge Stratus R/T is hardly a "pocket rocket" by Bob Hagin's definition of the genre. Matt Hagin says it's getting close to the concept of a modern muscle car.)

BOB - As I cruise around the streets of our city, I'm struck by the number of sports coupes I see. They are usually driven by younger members of our population and they are obviously enjoying looking "cool" behind the wheel. The Dodge Stratus Coupe is one of the most prevalent, and the reason may be that almost all of them I've seen are fire-engine red and of these, most are carrying the R/T logo. The typical buyer of this car is obviously using it as a fashion and life-style statement.

MATT - As it is on the rest of the Dodge lineup, the R/T name indicates that the Stratus R/T coupe that we're evaluating is the hot-rod version of the two-door. Actually, the standard coupe and the R/T model use the same engine and deliver the same 200-horsepower and 205-pound-feet of torque. It's a V6, of course, but it was a new design last year. The single-overhead-cam heads carry four valves per cylinder are made of aluminum, but the 60-degree engine block is cast iron. An automatic four-speed transmission is optional on the Stratus R/T and although it comes with a manual stick-shift, it just isn't the same as a true manual transmission that has one more cog. The last time we tried the car it had and the automatic but our evaluation this time is with the stick-shift and it's much more fun to drive except in downtown traffic. It makes the Stratus more of a sportster but I have no doubt that the automatic will outsell it by a big margin.

BOB - The chassis is pretty straightforward with the perennial MacPherson struts up front with an anti-sway bar and rear coil springs, stand-alone shocks, trailing links and another sway bar. It isn't highly sophisticated, but simplicity helps to keep the price reasonable and we average drivers can't really can't tell the difference between an exotic suspension system and one that simply good and reliable. But we can tell the difference between drum brakes and disc brakes in back. The Stratus R/T has disc brakes all around and that decreases the stopping distance in a panic situation. An anti-skid system is standard. On the road the Stratus R/T has plenty of power and acceleration but I find it hard to believe it can go the advertised 134 MPH.

MATT - The body of the '02 Stratus Coupe is a hold-over since it was only redesigned last year. It has a high belt-line, which shortens the window area. The tail section is high, the nose is low and it doesn't really have a distinctive grille. It's mercifully devoid of body geegaws and I like the large wheel cutouts. They accent the polished 17-inch alloy wheels. Our car had an optional Leather Interior Group package, which includes a six-way power system for the driver but the passenger's seat is more basic. Getting into and out of the back seat takes some planning as well as agility and once the single passenger is seated, it's somewhat on the tight side for long legs but there's plenty of side room. But this car is designed to be a two-seater with occasional seating for a few more.

BOB - The standard sound system for the R/T is an AM/FM radio with a built-in four-disc CD player, but for "old-timers" who still have a couple of hundred audio cassettes laying around, a system with a cassette player can be ordered. The promotional literature that came with the car points out that the trunk has a pass-through that will hold skis and snowboards, and that the trunk is big enough to hold mountain bikes. This obviously targets the young "with-it" buyers who don't care about how many bags of groceries it can hold. Overnight bags and golf clubs maybe, but definitely not gardening supplies.

MATT - It's not appropriate for those of us that need room for a couple of child seats either, but it's fun to be able to wring out one of these sports coupes when parental duties aren't pressing.

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