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Dodge Neon ACR Sedan (2001)

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 12,715
     Price As Tested                                    $ 15,335
     Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 2.0 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 122 cid/1995 cc
     Horsepower                                   150 @ 6500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               135 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  105.0"/67.4"/174.4"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2734 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  12.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           185/60R15 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Four-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            28/35/31
     0-60 MPH                                        7.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  16.0 @ 85.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           135 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - Even though Chrysler products have been considered by some as a distant third in the Big Three of muscle car history, I've always held the Penastar logo close to my heart. All the Chrysler speed machines of the late '60's and early '70's were cool. The monster 426 cubic-inch Hemi 'Cuda, the Dukes of Hazzard 440 Magnum Chargers, even the smaller 340 Dart Swinger. Dodge is still in the power game with products ranging from the thunderous Viper V10 down to this week's tester, the entry-level 2001 Dodge Neon ACR. ACR stands for Automotive Club Racer, and it features a spirited 2.0-liter Magnum four-cylinder engine that is also standard in the Neon R/T model, a small step up from the ACR. It delivers 150 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque and is equipped to meet low emissions standards, offering a nice alternative to other sub-compacts. Its performance helps solidify the Neon's "pocket rocket" reputation, a tag that applies to many of the vehicles driven by today's kids. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of these ACR's altered with aftermarket products burning up the street drags. I had a blast driving it and even had some fun with a few "boy racers," although they proved to be veterans of the urban street-racing sub-culture and made me look like a rookie, especially when I missed a couple of shifts.

MIKELE - Bren, you need to grow up a little. You're not 21 anymore, Its five-speed stick-shift worked fine for me when I drove. I thought it handled great for a small car, and it can be attributed to its competition suspension and 15-inch all season performance tires. And although it doesn't look like a "gonzo" hot-rod on the outside, I thought the Neon had a cool, sporty look that got a few "ooh's and ahh's" from the neighborhood teens. It's unique front and rear bumpers and aluminum wheels helped add to its "trick" factor, as did its performance tuned exhaust system and bright dual tips. Inside, it has reclining low-back bucket seats and a leather-wrapped shift knob, and the rear 60/40 split-back seat made it possible to carry extra cargo. Four people fit OK in the ACR, but five would be very cramped. The dogs didn't complain however, except when Brendan popped the clutch to do a burn out. It was hard for them to keep their footing.

BRENDAN - Mikele, you aren't supposed to let people know about how we drive these testers but in the case of a performance-slanted car, I'm sure the folks at Dodge will understand. We just wanted to show off their ACR screamer in the best possible light. Inside are a a pair of coat hooks in back for the professional "hipster" to hang his zoot-suit on, and three front cup holders, with a fourth located in the rear. Tilt steering is standard, as well as what Chrysler calls "Firm-Feel" rack-and-pinion steering. I gives the car a sporty, firm response, while the white-faced gauges added to its upscale competition-slanted interior appearance.

MIKELE - Dodge's Driver Convenience Group is the only available option on the ACR, and we recommend it because of its air conditioning, CD changer controls with AM/FM cassette, floor mats, and security system. The air conditioning is the main thing, although the added weight will slow it down a bit. Some of the young and determined street-racers may be able to cope with the heat of Summer but not me. The ACR's interior is roomy and comfortable, but I found a few minor inconveniences. Two of them were the hard-to-reach rear defroster control and the ignition switch that's hidden by the steering wheel.

BRENDAN - I know this is usually your bailiwick, Mikele, but I have to say that the Neon is a very safe vehicle all-around. Driver and passenger front airbags are standard, and side-impact airbags are available as an option. Two-way adjustable locking head restraints are also included, as are child-proof door locks. It also has child seat tether anchors mounted on the rear package shelf. As you can see, I'm hip to safety stuff too.

MIKELE - Its OK for you to talk safety Bren, because after seeing your performances at Track Day, you need something to brag about.

BRENDAN - Now don't be cruel, honey.