New Car/Review

1999 DODGE STRATUS ES

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Daimler/Chrysler Full Line factory footage (39:14) 28.8, 56k or 200k Part 1 and 200k Part 2
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 18,960
Price As Tested                                    $ 20,950
Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 2.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 152 cid/2497 cc
Horsepower                                   168 @ 5800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               170 @ 4350 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.0"/71.7"/186.0"
Transmission               Four-speed automatic w/AutoStick
Curb Weight                                     3093 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P195/65R15 All-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 79 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/27/22          
0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                         18.0 seconds at 80.0 mph
Top-speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Being a fan of the "Blues Brothers" cult movie, Bob Hagin is receptive to Dodge sedans, so much so that he owned an architypal Bluesmobile some years ago. Matt Hagin liked the movie too, but he's glad the Dodge doesn't make those big Highway Cruisers any more.)

MATT - Dodge is a name that was around even before Walter Chrysler bought it in '28. In the '70s, its Monaco was a favorite with highway patrols around the country because it was big, fast and almost indestructible. But those days are over and the new line of Dodge sedans is aimed at the mid-sized family car market. As it has been since it came out in '95, the Stratus can be had with a couple of four-bangers and in that trim level it is, in effect, an upscale Plymouth Breeze. The Breeze is essentially the same car but decontented.

BOB - That's true Matt, but the Stratus that's more exciting and lots more fun to drive is the ES model with the 2.5 liter, 24 valve, overhead cam V6 engine. It's relatively uncomplicated with a single camshaft on each of the aluminum heads and a cast iron block. It puts out 168 horses and 170 pound/feet of torque which is actually a bit on the light side for a 3100-pound car. Although its Autostick "automanual" transmission system has been around a while, it's still fun to row the Stratus through the gears almost as fast and as nimbly as the five-speed stickshift that's standard in the four-cylinder versions.

MATT - The handling is good for a conventional family sedan and the double-wishbone suspension on both ends is pretty sophisticated. It's several cuts above the MacPherson struts that are on most other cars in this market segment. The Stratus handles well, although being front- wheel-drive, it complains a bit and understeers when it's tossed through tight turns. It comes standard with anti-skid braking and the V6 version has disc brakes on all four corners. But it's obvious from the beginning that the Stratus wasn't designed to be a sports sedan.

BOB - But typical of Chrysler sedans, the amount of interior space that it provides is great. If the three adults that are expected to be carried in back are anything more than of slender build, things back there are going to be pretty close, but if they're tall, they're going to find that they have plenty of leg room. The P195/65R all-weather tires are mounted on fancy aluminum rims and the combination probably helps this Stratus hold the road as well as it does. I tried the upgraded sound system that has six speakers and an in-dash changer that handles six CDs, but we never get a chance to try the standard units to see if the hot-rod versions are worth $550 extra.

MATT - Our car came standard with a lot of neat equipment, Dad. Cruise control is standard, and so is power remote door locks. Again, an integrated child's seat isn't available even as an option but it never was a really popular accessory. Research has proven that most families plan to keep their new cars past the time when their kids need safety seats and then the built-in seat is simply not needed.

BOB - The interior space in the Stratus is still the best in its class and is possible because of Chrysler's "cab-forward" design that it pioneered several years ago. It pushes the wheels as far out to the corners of the car as possible and that stretching extends into the engine room. To get more interior space, the battery is located way up front, ahead of the left wheel and is actually more under the fender than under the hood. The car is classy and economical at 27 miles per gallon on the highway and goes from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds. It's good for 120 MPH according to the Dodge spec sheet that came with the car but I think the car they tested had a hurricane-velocity tail wind.

MATT - There was a time when Dodge sedans would go that fast, Dad. The speedometer on that '78 Dodge Monaco we had went to 140 MPH. I liked driving around in it but you never looked "right" behind the wheel unless you were wearing your dark glasses and black fedora hat like Jake and Elwood Blues.

BOB - I know, but your mother made me get rid of them when I started wearing them at night.

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