Dodge Cars and Trucks For 1997
By Carey Russ
Dodge is the performance branch of Chrysler Corporation. Anyone who doubts this need only to look at the Viper sports car. Or, even better, look at the new Viper GTS coupe. These folks are serious.
More down-to-earth Dodge cars are still on the sporty side. From the Neon, through the Stratus, Avenger, and Intrepid, Dodge sedans and coupes offer distinctive cab-forward style and a fun-to- drive experience. Among the new features in the Dodge lineup this year is the availability of the Autostick manually-shiftable automatic transmission on some models of Stratus and Intrepid.
Chapter Two of the Viper saga is here. The back-to-basics Viper RT/10 roadster was joined by the GTS coupe in mid-1996. Both continue for 1997. Although it looks much like roadster with a fastback top, more than 90 percent of the coupe is new. New body panels, new interior, even a lighter version of the V10 engine - with even more power. Internal modifications raise the horsepower rating to 450 from 415. A new clutch ensures that the rear wheels get all of that through the 6-speed manual transmission.
The interior of the Viper GTS has civilized amenities missing from the Conan-the-barbarian roadster. Air conditioning, a stereo system, and power windows are standard. Not only are the seats adjustable, the control pedals are as well.
For those with more basic tastes in transportation, the original RT/10 roadster continues as before. Side curtains and all.
The Avenger combines sports coupe style with real interior space. Available in two trim levels, it has gotten a facelift for 1997. New front and rear styling, and revisions to the interior will be found on all 1997 Avengers. Base models have a 2.0-liter, 140-horsepower 4- cylinder engine, and upscale ES models have a 163-horsepower V6. For the first time, the V6 is available on the base model. ES models get a variety of enhancements, including 17-inch wheels and speed-rated low-profile tires.
The second-generation of Dodge minivans were introduced last year. Caravan is the name for the short-wheelbase version. Grand Caravan has a longer wheelbase and even more room. There are some important upgrades for 1997. The Sport trim package is now available on long-wheelbase as well as short wheelbase models. All-wheel drive, with 4-wheel disc brakes, is offered for the first time on the Grand Caravan models. There have been upgrades to the transmission and antilock brake systems, and refinements to the interior. Low-speed traction control is now available.
The Intrepid is Dodge's family car with sporting character. That character is helped considerably this year by the availability of the Autostick transmission. Autostick lets the driver switch between fully- automatic operation and manual shift control. Autostick is part of the "Sport" package, along with a 3.5-liter overhead-cam V6, power driver's seat, and interior upgrades. The Sport package is offered on both trim levels of Intrepid.
Intrepid features fully-independent suspension, a choice of 3.3- liter or 3.5-liter V6 engines, and many standard comfort and convenience features including air conditioning, power windows and door locks, and an AM/FM/cassette sound system.
The Dodge Stratus is compact on the outside, midsized within, and has plenty of style and performance. It has the largest trunk in its class, and a choice of 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or 2.5-liter V6 engines. For 1997, V6-equipped models get the Autostick automanual transmission. All versions have new interior features.
The small car with character has refinements for quieter operation this year, and minor cosmetic revisions.