2003 Dodge Stratus Review

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High Gear Media Staff High Gear Media Staff  
January 26, 2003

The performance edition of Dodge’s five-passenger coupe could be one of the more talented contestants on American Idol 2: it looks good, boogies on demand and hits all the right notes. It may not win the big prize, but you know Simon, Paula and company would invite it to Hollywood to compete. Who knows what Randy would do? He’s the wily, unpredictable one.The Stratus R/T Coupe certainly projects the confidence of a second-rounder, and even a little of its certainly mainstream appeal. The slightly more powerful new look comes thanks to all-new front and rear fascias, grille, headlamps, tail lamps, fog lamps and side sill moldings, as well as new hood and trunk lid designs. Its stance is strong, the profile, sleek, with visual cues reminiscent of the old Dodge Challenger muscle cars. Our R/T Coupe was also dressed up with Deep Red Pearl Coat paint, a bright exhaust tip and optional 17” chromed aluminum wheels, providing a bit of showbiz glitter.

Inside, our R/T had the optional leather interior group ($1,215) in black. Nifty white gauges had faux carbon-fiber bezel accents. The low-back bucket seats were our only real beef with the car; surfaced with perforated leather, they were slippery, low, narrow and lacking in thigh support. The mounting points for the front seat belt buckles seemed low, as finding the buckles was often frustrating.

Cabin fever

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Belt buckles aside, the rest of the cabin was ergonomically correct, thanks to a new center console, Chrysler group’s perfect environmental system controls, and stereo switchgear on the steering wheel. It was also a quiet environment, as Dodge engineers paid close attention to noise, vibration and harshness characteristics during vehicle development, adding more sound-deadening materials and utilizing a single-piece bodyside aperture. Fit and finish was excellent, both inside and out.

The cabin has generous leg and shoulder room both front and back, but the low seating position and the fall-away curves of the car’s exterior isolate the driver from the car’s true size. We were surprised to have tapped a wall during a back-up parking maneuver.

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