- Awesome available features
- Comfortable seats
- Impressive interior flexibility
- Interior materials are subpar
- Difficult access to the backseats
- Sharp edges of center stack can be a pain in the knee
- Tepid acceleration in SE and SXT
- Engine noise with CVT automatic
The Caliber has a very practical layout and quite a few innovative features to get excited about, but it's lacking in driving enjoyment or refinement--even compared to its low-priced competition.
The Caliber was introduced for 2007, replacing the Neon sedan as the small car in Dodge's lineup. Available only as a five-door hatchback, the 2008 Dodge Caliber comes in three different models and with three different engines: 1.8-, 2.0-, and 2.4-liter four-cylinders. An all-wheel-drive system is available only on the top Caliber R/T model and can send up to 60 percent of engine power to the rear wheels. At the top of the range is the high-performance SRT-4 model, which adds a 285-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged four along with a bevy of high-performance equipment and a racier appearance, but it goes without all-wheel drive.
The Dodge Caliber is quite impressive at first glance and has some very clever and thoughtful interior features available, including a beverage cooler, an easy-clean cargo floor, and a setup that includes rear-facing speakers for tailgating. Seats are supportive, though their positioning is a little low, and there's a generous amount of space in back for combinations of passengers and cargo. However, the execution is lost in the details as many of the interior plastics and surfaces are (literally) rough around the edges.
Unfortunately, the Caliber's road manners are entirely unremarkable. Skip the 1.8- and 2.0-liter engines if you're considering the optional CVT automatic and go with the R/T model, but even then with the CVT, it's accompanied by a noisy drone. The R/T with the manual transmission is our favorite. The 2008 Dodge Caliber has a decent ride but doesn't handle as nimbly as most small cars. The SRT-4 wasn't as comfortable or as fun to drive as its 285 hp might suggest, due to a hard, unforgiving suspension that's out of place on rough roads. Across the line, fuel efficiency is very disappointing for a small car, with ratings as low as 21 mpg city for the R/T AWD model.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber gets mixed marks for safety and doesn't offer all the features that are standard on some competitors. Head-protecting side-curtain airbags covering front and rear occupants are standard, but torso-protecting supplemental side airbags are optional. Although it received five stars in the federal government's frontal and side crash tests, it was only rated "marginal" in the insurance industry's side-impact tests and in rear crash protection, which is based on seat tests and assesses neck and whiplash injuries. Electronic stability control is optional.
2008 Dodge Caliber
The 2008 Dodge Caliber sports a tough look but disappoints on the inside.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber definitely makes a statement with its strong exterior styling. Unfortunately, that statement loses some of its appeal once you sit down inside.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber is in its second year as Dodge's primary small car, and for 2008, Edmunds says that the Dodge Caliber is available in "four trims: SE, SXT, R/T and SRT4." The exterior differences between the trims of the Dodge Caliber lineup are noticeable, especially on the SRT4, which Cars.com describes as a "serious-looking muscle machine" thanks to its "unique grille that gives it a much more aggressive appearance than the regular Caliber." Car and Driver adds that the SRT4 Dodge Caliber gets "molded-in ducts for brake cooling," while "the hood is distinguished by a functional air scoop and a pair of decorative vents," and the back gets "an oversized parasol wing over the rear hatch." Aside from those trim pieces unique to the SRT4, the entire Dodge Caliber lineup shares what Road & Track calls "a two-box design a la Toyota Matrix." Car and Driver remarks the Caliber "looks like it's spent a lot of quality time at the gym," while MotorWeek thinks it's "a long way from the cute, pudgy Neon" that Dodge sold in past years. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com approve of the overall styling theme, with The Los Angeles Times reviewer contending that he "[likes] the way it looks, with the bruised-knuckle machismo of the Durango and Magnum station wagon." In terms of exterior styling options, Edmunds notes "available 18- and 19-inch wheels only add to the Caliber's swagger."
The exciting, muscular exterior of the 2008 Dodge Caliber should conceal an equally impressive interior, but unfortunately, it looks like Dodge designers spent a bit too much time crafting the outside. The Auto Channel reviewers are disappointed to find "wind-up windows" inside the Dodge Caliber SE, and they report that the instrument panel is "a return to basics with a speedometer, fuel and water temperature gauges" but "no tachometer." Mother Proof finds fault with the "overly plastic interior," and Edmunds declares that the interior simply "looks and feels too cheap." The few positive reviews of the interior styling on the Dodge Caliber come from Cars.com, which remarks that "the all-black interior" on their test SRT4 gives it "a purposefulness that fits the car's performance aspirations"; however, while the "turbo-boost gauge on the left side of the steering wheel" does look "pretty cool," they note that it "isn't optimally positioned."
2008 Dodge Caliber
The 2008 Dodge Caliber may look like a performance car, but the underpowered engines and uninspiring handling need a lot of improvements to earn that title.
With the 2008 Dodge Caliber, the automaker has proven that it can design a car that looks like a highly capable and willing sport wagon. In base versions, though, its performance is forgettable.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber is offered with a "wide range of engines" that Edmunds lists as a "1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 148 hp and 125 pound-feet of torque" on the SE and SXT, while "a 2.0-liter engine is an optional upgrade" that ups it to "158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque." Regarding the Dodge Caliber R/T, Edmunds reports that "a 2.4-liter engine good for 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque" is standard, and on the top-end Dodge Caliber SRT4, drivers will find a "2.4-liter turbocharged engine good for 285 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque." The numbers on the higher-output engines might sound impressive, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that all four engines are rather sluggish. With the tiny 1.8-liter engine on the Dodge Caliber SE, The Auto Channel says that the Caliber is "woefully underpowered" given its "3,000-pound" curb weight; "it's also noisy," they note. Edmunds states that "acceleration is unimpressive, whether you stick with the base 1.8-liter or ante up for the 2.4-liter in the R/T model"; furthermore, "all of the engines have an unrefined power delivery." The one bright, or perhaps less dull, spot in the Dodge Caliber lineup is the SRT4, which offers a turbocharged engine, but Edmunds reports that "excessive curb weight and abundance of torque steer" is enough to offset this performance enhancement. In terms of acceleration times, Car and Driver predicts "60 mph in six seconds or so" on the SRT4, with the times increasing dramatically for the less powerful engines.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber is available with several different transmissions and two drive types. Edmunds says that most Dodge Calibers are front-drive, but the R/T trim is "the only Caliber available with all-wheel drive." In terms of transmissions, Edmunds reports that "the 1.8-liter engine comes paired to a five-speed manual only," while "both 2.0-liter engine and R/T AWD models come standard with a CVT" and "with the SRT4, you get a six-speed manual transmission." Opinions of the manuals are mixed, but most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com disapprove of the CVT. On the Dodge Caliber SRT4, "the manual transmission...isn't particularly slick-shifting, because it requires a good nudge to move the shifter from gear to gear," according to Cars.com, which nonetheless notes that it is "positioned high on the dash and it falls easily to hand." Car and Driver proclaims the SRT4's transmission is "way better than the manual tranny offered in base Calibers," though that's not saying much. The Auto Channel contends that the five-speed on the base Dodge Caliber SE "[isn't] the best either," and "fifth gears was only for highway cruising...while third was best if you wanted any kind of performance." When it comes to the CVT, Mother Proof reviewers slam Dodge's transmission for the fact that "the rpm rev without getting much reaction in the form of increased speed."
One of the purported benefits of both a small car and a CVT are increased fuel economy, but that's not necessarily the case on the 2008 Dodge Caliber. The official EPA estimates range from 24 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with the 1.8-liter engine down to 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for the AWD Dodge Caliber. In between, the SRT4 gets 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, while the 2.0-liter with CVT gets 23/27 mpg, and the 2.4 with CVT gets 21/25 mpg. During their road test, The Auto Channel "averaged 26 mpg" in a Dodge Caliber SE, which is about in line with the EPA estimates.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber doesn't earn high handling marks by any stretch of the imagination, even in SRT4 trim. Cars.com writes that the "SRT4's street moves are just OK," thanks to "the steering system's lack of road feel." On the more comfortably tuned Dodge Caliber R/T, Road & Track reports "handling is tidy and benign, with lots of warning before terminal understeer sets up camp." Fortunately, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the ride quality is acceptable, and Edmunds says "Dodge's wagon has a smooth ride quality on city streets but rarely generates much excitement for the driver, even in R/T trim." Braking is a strong suit on the performance edition, with Cars.com noting that the "SRT4 also features larger brake discs and two-piston front calipers...[which] give the car a performance-oriented feel with firm pedal feel, linear response and powerful stopping."
2008 Dodge Caliber
Comfort & Quality
The 2008 Dodge Caliber is comfortable and practical, but whether or not that compensates for low-grade materials and build quality is up to you.
When it comes to comfort, TheCarConnection.com finds that reviews on the 2008 Dodge Caliber are mixed. Quality, on the other hand, receives a unanimous thumbs-down from reviewers.
Edmunds says that the 2008 Dodge Caliber "can seat up to five people, though putting three adults in back will likely result in grumbles about a lack of comfort for the center passenger." Up front, The Auto Channel reports that "front seat comfort [is] good," and Road & Track agrees "the front seats are reasonably comfortable." Consumer Guide discovers "ample headroom and legroom" in front and back, although "the cloth seats lack a lumbar adjuster, and thus are short on lower-back support." However, "the SRT4's front sport seats have enormous side bolsters, and they're finished in leather and a mesh material," according to Cars.com.
Storage space in the 2008 Dodge Caliber is a definite strong point, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Kelley Blue Book calls the Dodge Caliber "pleasantly roomy and functional" and notes that the "hatchback design accommodates a variety of cargo and passenger configurations." Edmunds reviewers concur, asserting "the Dodge Caliber is tailor-made to accommodate most daily tasks," including such features as a rear cargo area that "is made of vinyl for easy cleaning." In terms of volume, Edmunds claims "with the seats lowered, the Caliber can carry up to 48 cubic feet of cargo." On the inside of the Dodge Caliber, The Auto Channel reports, there are "cubbies all over" that help with interior storage; ConsumerGuide loves the "large two-tier glovebox" and "moderately sized consoles," along with "a chilled glovebox compartment" on models equipped with air conditioning.
While comfort and cargo space may be strong suits for the 2008 Dodge Caliber, build and materials quality are not. Edmunds writes that the 2008 Dodge Caliber's interior "is lacking in terms of materials and construction," even with the dashboard's "textured surfaces." Reviewers over at Mother Proof are "frustrated with the overly plastic interior, despite the addition of a $910 leather package," while ConsumerGuide notes that "low-rent, hard plastics cover most parts of [Dodge] Caliber's cabin, [and] padded surfaces are non-existent." Although "SRT4 models have a slightly dressier cabin with better detail work than other Calibers, [it] still significantly trails the MazdaSpeed 3 and Volkswagen GTI," remarks ConsumerGuide.
Another common complaint about the 2008 Dodge Caliber is that it fails to offer a quiet ride. The Auto Channel complains that the Dodge Caliber at highway speeds is "noisy." More specifically, ConsumerGuide reports "mediocre suppression of road noise," adding that "engines intrude during acceleration, particularly the turbocharged engine in the SRT4."
2008 Dodge Caliber
Sure, Dodge wants to keep the price down on the 2008 Dodge Caliber, but nobody should have to pay extra for ABS or front side airbags.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber gets low marks in safety not because its features are lacking in quality, but rather because they're lacking altogether--unless you're willing to pay extra.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber has been crash tested by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the results are largely impressive, with one notable exception. First up for the 2008 Dodge Caliber are the NHTSA results, which are strong across the board. In NHTSA testing, the Dodge Caliber earned a perfect five-star rating in both frontal impact tests, as well as five-star ratings in both side impact tests. The only minor blemish on the Dodge Caliber's NHTSA scorecard comes in the rollover category, where the Dodge Caliber earned four of a possible five stars.
IIHS testing produced similarly strong crash results for front impacts, where the Dodge Caliber earned the highest possible rating, "good," for the IIHS's frontal offset impact test. However, when it comes to side impacts, the IIHS rates the 2008 Dodge Caliber "marginal," which is the second-worst possible rating. The reason for this rating is that the IIHS claims "measures taken from the dummy indicate that rib fractures and/or internal organ injuries would be likely" for the driver in the event of a side impact crash.
For the most part, crash-test results for the Dodge Caliber are commendable, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that the safety features are not. According to Edmunds, the only real safety equipment that comes standard on most Dodge Caliber models is a set of "head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers" and a knee-blocker airbag for the driver. From there, most safety features can be added as options, although ConsumerGuide notes that both the R/T and SRT4 trims get "antilock 4-wheel disc brakes." Otherwise, the options list includes "traction control" and "antilock brakes" for the lower trims, though, as Kelley Blue Book points out, "some competitors include" those items "as standard equipment." ConsumerGuide also mentions that "front side airbags" are available on all trim levels of the Dodge Caliber as a $250 option.
One important aspect of overall safety that can be overlooked at times is driver visibility, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2008 Dodge Caliber suffers from some problems in this area. The most notable complaint comes from ConsumerGuide, which claims that "outward visibility to all directions is restricted by thick roof pillars, especially to the rear corners."
2008 Dodge Caliber
There are features galore available on the 2008 Dodge Caliber--if you're willing to spend extra for them.
Despite the many flaws of the 2008 Dodge Caliber, the features list alone makes this vehicle worth a look.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that there are many excellent features offered across the line of Dodge Caliber models. The standard features vary depending on trim levels, but all 2008 Dodge Calibers come loaded with "a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/AUX sound system, sliding armrest with cellphone/MP3-player holder," and "illuminated cup holders," according to Kelley Blue Book. Moving up to the SXT trim, Edmunds reports that the standard features lists "adds 17-inch wheels, keyless entry, cruise control," and "a 115-volt outlet." The R/T trim of the 2008 Dodge Caliber "has all kinds of fun, innovative features," according to Mother Proof, including a "rear overhead cabin light [that] doubles as a rechargeable flashlight" and a "glove compartment that doubles as a chilled bottle holder." ConsumerGuide says that the R/T and SRT4 versions of the Dodge Caliber also come with a "Boston Acoustics sound system" and "liftgate speakers." Those rear speakers get a lot of press in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and Mother Proof describes the tailgate as "party central with boombox-esque speakers that flip down."
Moving over to the options list on the 2008 Dodge Caliber brings a wealth of additional features that Dodge Caliber owners can tack on to their vehicles. ConsumerGuide reports that some of the more noteworthy options packages are the Sun/Sound Group on the SXT, which includes a "Boston Acoustics AM/FM w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, liftgate speakers," and a "power sunroof," while the Kicker/SRT Livin' Loud Audio System package on the SRT4 brings all that and "satellite radio." Edmunds says "options on the SRT4 include a display that shows performance metrics," while a navigation system is available on all trims except the SE. ConsumerGuide rounds out the options list, noting the Dodge Caliber offers a "power sunroof" and "DVD entertainment system" as stand-alone options.