Category: Chicago Auto Show
Just a month after the Dodge Caliber wowed the auto show crowd in
Detroit, a high-performance version of the replacement for the
Dodge Neon makes its debut at the Chicago Auto Show–the Dodge
SRT4 project team leader John Cathcart discusses just how powerful
this souped-up version of the Caliber is and how it got there.
Excerpts from his interview are below. You can hear the entire 9:56
interview by clicking “download podcast” below. As always,
everything is on the record, so quote or pull soundbites all you
What turns a Dodge Caliber into a Dodge Caliber SRT4?
“The first thing is horsepower. It all starts with the engine.
We’ll be upping the output to 300 horsepower, 260 footpounds of
torque. That’s always the prime ingredient of an SRT vehicle. It
has to go fast. We of course, balance the approach. It has to go
fast, stop fast, turn well, and turn heads. So we take that
approach to all areas of the car. We’re putting an enhanced braking
system on the car as well. We always look for parts we can use from
the corporate parts bin. SRT is a small organization. We are
investment constrained typically as well as always after offering
the best price possible to the consumer as well. The brakes, for
example, we took from the Chrysler 300C. We take brakes from a
5,000 pound car and put them on a 3,000 pound car and the car stops
real well. We’ve got performance acceleration, performance braking,
now we also want the car to also turn well. So we need to have a
little lower suspension. We were able to lower suspension by a
half-inch on the car. We will retune the shocks and sway bars as
well. But the prime ingredient of the car’s handling ability will
be the lower CG (center of gravity).
Tires are also very carefully selected for an SRT product. We do
have a couple of good tire offerings: an all-season tire and then a
higher performance three-season tire. All are capable of the 150
mph top speed of the car.
We have an extensive appearance treatment for this car. A new hood,
a new fascia. Actually the cut line between the hood and the fascia
had to change for the SRT4 in order to package the intercooler. We
do bring the body sides down a little bit for better aerodynamics
with lower side skirts, and a different rear fascia as well which
offers diffuser veins for increased rear down force and better
directional stability, better yaw stability in high speeds.
We think we accomplished all the primary functions of the SRT
vehicle with the Caliber SRT4 as well.”
How was the World Engine altered?
“The World Engine does offer a pretty good platform for the
customization SRT did to the engine. Similar to the Neon SRT4, we
start out by turbocharging the engine. We crank up the cylinder
pressures, put a turbo on, make sure we’re providing a lot of fresh
air into the turbocharger inlet, thus we have a reduced restriction
inlet system, and then good cold air at pressure to the cylinders
via the turbocharger and the intercooler system. That’s really the
heart of what makes the Caliber SRT4 an SRT from an engine
“The brakes are a Bosch system brake, as for the Chrysler 300C. The
rotor diameter is 13 and change on the front. The pistons I believe
are 58 mm. pistons on the front calipers.”
“The Caliber SRT4 has a unique transmission developed specifically
for that vehicle. Six-speed manual is only available in the SRT4
version of the Caliber. The vehicle performance is so tuned around
the manual transmission and the gearing and top speed capabilities
of that transmission, we really can’t offer a different trans in
the car and still maintain the level of SRT performance.”
“Seating is another SRT core element. We have a car capable of high
lateral G loadings, stopping, accelerating quick. We need to make
sure the driver and front seat passenger are held in place. We have
very aggressive thigh and torso bolster and non-slip suede surface
area seating. We have a seat that will cradle the occupant, hold
them for aggressive driving maneuvers, and also provide a fair
level of support at all times. Beyond the seats we do have a unique
color scheme for the carpet and the interior trim. It darkens it up
a little bit to give it a more performance look. Also, we have an
IP that’s unique in that we’ve got a boost gauge that’s integrated
with the IP. It’s not integrated into the dials, it’s actually
separate were a cubbie bin would be on the left side of the driver.
We have added in that spot a uniquely tooled boost gauge so you’re
able to see what the engine output is or the boost output is.
The seats will have an embroidered logo in the seat back.
Why is the Caliber appropriate for an SRT version?
“The Caliber was a great choice for SRT. It’s important to have an
entry level vehicle in SRT and maintaining the Caliber’s starting
price on par with where Neon’s was is an important aspect of
keeping our brand alive and keeping that end of our brand alive.”