New & Used Dodge Stratus: In Depth
2006 Dodge Stratus Sdn R/TEnlarge Photo
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Hailed in its early years as one of the best cars on the road by the press, praised for its innovative “cab forward” design, and generally turning heads, the Dodge Stratus lived a short two generations in production.
Preceded in the Dodge line by the Spirit, Dynasty, and Avenger, and later succeeded by another, all-new Avenger, the Stratus was a mid-size four-door family sedan that first hit the streets in 1995.
The first generation of the car was built from 1995 through 2000, and was bookended by the higher-end Chrysler Cirrus and more affordable Plymouth Breeze, which were aesthetically differentiated (if only slightly) but structurally identical to the Stratus, all being based on the same Chrysler JA platform.
Each of the three platform mates used a slightly different set of engines, however, and only the Stratus and Breeze offered the five-speed manual transmission; all models were available with a four-speed Ultradrive automatic. The Stratus was available with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, or a 2.5-liter V-6.
The second-generation Stratus arrived in 2001, continuing through 2006, offering a range of in-line four-cylinder and V-6 gasoline engines. In some models, a five-speed manual transmission was available, but most cars were equipped with one of two four-speed automatics used over the first generation’s production run.
Also in 2001, Dodge added the Stratus Coupe to the range, and though it shared much of the design (as well as the name) of the Stratus sedan, it was built on an entirely different platform as part of Chrysler’s joint venture with Mitsubishi, and constructed at the former Diamond Star Motors plant in Normal, Illinois. The second-generation Stratus Sedan was built at the Sterling Heights Assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
For the second-generation Stratus, Dodge sharpened up some of the details and added some exterior ornamentation, but largely kept the same shape and proportions as the first-generation Stratus. The second-generation Stratus was also the last of the so-called “Cloud Cars” due to the elimination of the Plymouth Breeze and the renaming of the Cirrus to the Chrysler Sebring.
Despite the Stratus’ initial praise and awards, it never sold as well as its predecessors, eventually leading to its replacement with the Avenger. While the Stratus did offer a spacious interior, good looks, impressive handling (for its time and size/price class), and fair value, the market didn’t take to it, perhaps in part due to mediocre crash-test scores and certainly due to its reputation for poor reliability and low build quality, especially in comparison to its Japanese competition.