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Dodge Intrepid R/T (2001)

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

"R/T" as applied to Dodge is a name intimately connected to the muscle car era of the late 1960s. Meaning "Road / Track," it first appeared on the 1967 Coronet R/T, a bad-boy intermediate- sized hardtop or convertible with a standard 375-horsepower, 440- cubic inch V8. If that wasn't enough, the famed 426 cubic-inch "Hemi" V8, conservatively rated at 425 horsepower, was optional. By 1968, the R/T nameplate was used on the more upscale Charger as well. Muscle cars peaked by 1970, and, with the coming of the first safety and emissions regulations, and steep insurance penalties, were extinct long before the oil crises of the mid and late 1970s. The 1971 Dodge Charger R/T looked like the end of the line. But awesome performance is never forgotten. Muscle cars that sold for under $1,000 at the depths of the 1970s gas shortages are now valued collector's items. And Dodge brought the R/T designation back in the mid-1990s, applying it to a number of its performance-oriented cars and trucks. The latest recipient is the Intrepid R/T sedan.

Today's Intrepid R/T is not a muscle car in the original sense, but that's not exactly bad news. True muscle cars, like the Coronet and Charger R/Ts, were pretty one-dimensional, sacrificing almost everything for blistering acceleration. Braking and cornering abilities were, even by the standards of the day, often primitive. And fuel consumption was prodigious. The 2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T may lag in acceleration when compared to some of its forebears, but it more than makes up for that in its handling, comfort, and fuel economy. The Intrepid R/T gets its performance increase the old- fashioned way - from a larger, more-powerful engine. In this case, it's a 3.5-liter (215 cubic inch) V6, with 242 horsepower. It's quick enough, and, far more importantly, suspension and brake upgrades give it good, well-balanced handling abilities. I've been driving one for the past week, and have been impressed. It's a roomy, refined, and comfortable executive express.

APPEARANCE: Changes to the second-generation Intrepid's styling for the R/T are minimal, limited to foglamps at the outer edges of the modified "cross-hair" grille and five-spoke alloy wheels. Like all current Intrepids, the R/T's sleekly aerodynamic lines and short hood and trunk make its three-box sedan shape almost a one-box, teardrop design. The thick vertical bar of the grille suggests the front of a race car, but subtly.

COMFORT: The Intrepid traveler journeys in style and comfort, with plenty of room as a bonus. The Intrepid R/T is a large car by today's standards, and makes excellent use of its size thanks to its "cab-forward" design. It's a driver's car, with comfortable front bucket seats and well-placed sporty black-on-white instruments and easily-used controls. Two interior colors - taupe and dark slate gray - are unique to the R/T. My test car had slate leather. Dark interiors can be dreary, but not in this case. A lighter-colored headliner and plenty of window area help considerably. Interior storage is far more than merely adequate, with large door pockets, a center console box with CD partitions and a power point, and a large, locking glovebox. Large doors aid access to both the front and rear seats. The rear seat takes full advantage of the Intrepid's size, with excellent legroom, and good headroom despite the large, gently-sloped rear window. An available 60/40 split for the rear seat adds to the car's versatility, but the trunk is large enough that it shouldn't be necessary to fold the rear seat very often.

SAFETY: The 2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T has standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, dual depowered front airbags, and brake-shift and park-ignition interlocks. Side airbags are available.

ROADABILITY: My compliments to Dodge's suspension engineers. The Intrepid R/T is not small, and has a noticeable forward weight bias, but careful design and tuning of its fully-independent strut-type suspension gives it surprisingly agile handling, even on narrow, undulating roads. There is very little body roll in cornering. Like a well-bred European sport-touring sedan, its suspension is firm but compliant enough for excellent ride comfort. It is a very civilized vehicle on the highway or on a scenic byway.

PERFORMANCE: The Intrepid R/T's 3.5-liter single overhead cam V6's 242 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 3950 give it good performance by today's standards, helped by the manually-shiftable "AutoStick" four-speed automatic transmission. The engine's torque characteristics enable it to work just fine in "Drive." For quicker acceleration or just plain driving entertainment, the AutoStick shifts enables use of higher engine speeds and shifts smoothly and quickly. Even driven enthusiastically, fuel use is minimal, especially considering the car's size, with low-to-mid 20s mpg easily attainable. What it may lose to its ancestors in acceleration and straight-line speed is more than made up for in the corners and in fuel consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T is a civilized, well- balanced sport-touring sedan.

2001 Dodge Intrepid R/T

Base Price               $ 24,975
Price As Tested          $ 29,720
Engine Type              single overhead cam 24-valve 
                           aluminum alloy V6
Engine Size              3.5 liters / 215 cu. in.
Horsepower               242 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)           248 @ 3950 rpm
Transmission             4-speed electronically-controlled 
                           automatic with "AutoStick"
                           manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length       113 in. / 203.7 in.
Curb Weight              3563 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    14.6
Fuel Capacity            17gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane
Tires                    P225/55 VR17 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear   independent MacPherson strut / 
                           independent Chapman strut
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      18 / 26 / 22
0 to 60 mph              7.8  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)          16.0 sec

Customer Preferred Package 25S - includes:
 leather upholstery, 8-way power front bucket
 seats with manual lumbar adjustment on driver's
 seat, 60/40 split folding rear bench w/armrest  $ 1,795
Cold Weather Group - includes: engine block
 heater and battery heater                       $    40
Remote/Illuminated Entry Group                   $   225
Sound system - includes: AM/FM radio, cassette,
 4-CD in-dash changer, 9 Infinity speakers, 
 240 watt power amp                              $    575
Smoker's Group                                   $     40
Side Supplemental Air Bags                       $    350
Power Moonroof                                   $    895
Full-size spare tire with alloy wheel            $    235
Destination Charge                               $    610