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Dodge Stratus is available as a four-door sedan or a two-door coupe. Sedan and coupe are significantly different in character because they are built on entirely different platforms and use different engines.
The coupe has been completely redesigned for 2003, giving it a sportier, more aggressive look. Last year, the coupe looked very similar to the sedan, but its bold new lines distinguish it further. Also, Dodge has made some improvements to the Stratus coupe for 2003 aimed at reducing noise, vibration and harshness.
Redesigned and re-engineered for 2001 for better ride, handling, and performance, Stratus sedan comes into 2003 relatively unchanged.
The sedan is sporty and fun to drive, though it lacks the refinement of the newest midsize cars, such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The coupe is also fun to drive, and it feels tighter and more refined than the sedan, particularly on rough roads. Stratus sedans generally seem to have nicer interior trim than the Stratus coupes. Neither version offers exemplary rear-seat accommodations and are best for owners who put children, and only occasionally adults, back there.
Sedan and coupe are available with V6 or four-cylinder engines. New SXT packages for both coupe and sedan are value-priced and feature popular equipment.
Dodge Stratus is fun to drive, a description that applies to V6 and four-cylinder models. Though equipped with front-wheel drive, it feels more like a muscle car when compared with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, or Volkswagen Passat.
The V6 engine delivers spirited acceleration performance. Slam the throttle down and it responds quickly to overtake slower cars. The 2.7-liter V6 used in the sedans features dual overhead cams to generate 200 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 167 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Yet it earns an EPA-rated 20/28 mpg city/hwy and runs on regular-grade gasoline. R/T sedans growl under acceleration, a benefit of their sport-tuned exhaust.
The electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission is quiet and efficient. Gear ratios have been calibrated to produce quick acceleration performance and responsive shifting in stop-and-go commuting. The R/T's five-speed manual is clunky, but fun to shift in a muscle car sort of way.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that comes standard on Stratus sedans feels energetic through all the gears, but to maximize the power you'll need to rev it up. It's a noisy engine compared with the latest designs from Japan. The 2.4-liter engine that comes on sedans features double overhead cams. It generates 150 hp at 5200 rpm and 167 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm and is rated 21/30 mpg.
Coupes come powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a single overhead camshaft that generates 147 hp at 5500 rpm and 158 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. It's rated 21/28 mpg, not quite as good as the sedan. I drove a 2003 Coupe SXT at Chrysler's proving grounds. The coupe's four-cylinder engine sounded sporty and I did not feel like I was missing out by not having the V6.
The coupe comes with a larger 3.0-liter V6, but it uses single cams to generate brisk acceleration performance. The coupe's V6 is rated 200 hp at 5500 rpm and 205 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm.
The coupe SXT we drove handled well on Chrysler's handling course. It was fun to drive and offered a sporty experience. The coupe we drove seemed relatively quiet on nasty, rough roads. Dodge has made improvements to the coupe for 2003 designed to reduce noise, vibration and harshness. The coupe's suspension seemed to manage bumps better than the sedan's suspension and there was less cowl shake (the tendency of the dash to vibrate on rough roads).
R/T sedan seems most in its element on a winding road with your foot to the floor. Pedals are placed well in models with the manual gearbox, making it easy to heal and toe when braking and downshifting at the same time. The R/T sedan's chassis does not feel as rigid as other cars in this class. Handling is not as crisp, it doesn't feel as tight, and transient response is a bit ponderous. It goes where you want it, but it sometimes uses up more road in the process. Still, it's fun. It's easy to rotate the car on its suspension by lifting off throttle in the middle of a corner, making for sporty handling response.
Brakes on the Stratus work reasonably well, though there is some nose dive.
Dodge Stratus is sporty and fun to drive. Throaty V6 engines deliver strong acceleration performance and a cockpit-like interior adds to the muscle-car sports appeal.
Coupes are a bit more refined than the sedan models, but these cars do not offer the levels of refinement found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Also, rear-seat accommodations lack comfort.
Dodge Stratus offers more aggressive pricing than the Japanese brands, however, and you're more likely to find a good deal.