If I were to list my automotive guilty pleasures, the Dodge Caliber SRT4 would probably rank No. 1, first and foremost, top of the list, above every other vehicle. Even above the Plymouth Prowler. The Caliber SRT4 is both that pleasing and that guilty.
The Caliber SRT4 is a pleasure for obvious reasons: It’s a 285-horsepower hot hatchback with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 265 lb-ft of torque, a mandatory 6-speed manual transmission, a big rear wing and 19-inch alloy wheels. There’s also an obvious reason why it’s guilty: It really wasn’t a very good car. See the Dodge Caliber models for sale near you
Allow me to explain. Way back in the mid-2000s, Dodge sold the Neon, which was sort of a mediocre economy sedan that sold just fine and occasionally finished third in magazine comparison tests. At some point, sensing a huge desire among car shoppers for new performance vehicles, Dodge fitted the Neon with a 230-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder, which was far more engine than that car ever should’ve had. The result was tons of new publicity for the Neon, tons of excitement and tons of fanfare — more than Dodge had seen for any product since they put two sliding doors in the Caravan.
But the basic Neon wasn’t very good, and Dodge wanted something different, so they redesigned it in 2007 to become a hatchback called the Caliber. Not wanting to leave behind the high-performance market, they also debuted the Caliber SRT4, and they gave it even more power than the Neon. The result was 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6 seconds and so much torque steer that you could put your foot down and moments later wind up driving through someone’s backyard cookout. “Nice rear wing,” they’d say as they fished hot dogs out of your grille.
Torque steer wasn’t the only problem. There was also the issue that Dodge wasn’t really an expert in building cars like this, so the suspension and the brakes weren’t exactly up to the standards set by other hot hatches around the world. And then there was the fact that the Caliber was inexplicably taller than most other hatchbacks, so it always felt like you were sitting on the car rather than in it. There was also the hopelessly cheap interior.
So there were some flaws. But I love the Caliber SRT4 for three reasons. One, it looks cool. Two, it’s an excellent example of how I solve problems: Just give it more horsepower, and everything will be fine! And three, it’s now really cheap: The average price of a Caliber SRT4 on Autotrader is just over $11,000, which is a pretty good deal for a 285-hp hot hatch. If you get one, I look forward to seeing you at my next backyard cookout. Find a Dodge Caliber for sale