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With its sleek styling, the Dodge Stratus stands out in a crowded field of look-alike mid-size cars. The Stratus sedan gets a fresh look with updated styling for 2004, while the coupe was restyled just last year (model year 2003). Stratus is available at attractive prices, particularly when big cash incentives or cut-rate financing are thrown into the deal.
Built on entirely different platforms, the sedan and coupe versions of the Dodge Stratus are significantly different in character. They also use different engines, but each is available with a choice of V6 or four-cylinder. The sedan shares platforms with the Chrysler Sebring sedan and is built in Michigan, while the coupe shares its basic architectural structure with the Mitsubishi Eclipse and is built in Illinois.
The Stratus sedan is sporty and fun to drive when equipped with the V6, though it lacks the high levels of refinement found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Stratus sedans generally seem to have nicer interior trim than the Stratus coupes.
The Stratus coupe is fun to drive as well. It's sportier and feels tighter and more refined than the sedan, particularly on rough roads. Improvements to the coupe last year reduced noise, vibration and harshness. The Stratus is larger than some of the other coupes on the market, adding to its practicality.
The Dodge Stratus is fun to drive. The available V6 engines deliver spirited acceleration performance. Slamming the throttle down results in quick response allowing the driver to quickly to overtake slower cars. Like most mid-size cars, the Stratus coupe and sedan are front-wheel-drive.
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 twin-cam engine generates 150 hp at 5200 rpm and 167 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm and is rated 21/30 mpg.
The 2.7-liter twin-cam V6 available for the sedans generates 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 gearbox is clunky, but fun to shift in a muscle car sort of way.
The SE coupe comes with a 2.4-liter single overhead-cam four-cylinder engine 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. The coupe's four-cylinder engine sounds sporty and delivers good acceleration performance.
The SE coupe handles well, is fun to drive and offers a sporty experience. It's relatively quiet on nasty, rough roads. Dodge made improvements to the coupe for 2003 to reduce noise, vibration and harshness. The coupe's suspension seems to manage bumps better than the sedan's suspension and there's less cowl shake (the tendency of the dash to vibrate on rough roads).
The R/T coupe comes with a 3.0-liter V6. That's more displacement than the sedan's V6, but the coupe engine features single overhead cams. The coupe's V6 is rated 200 hp at 5500 rpm and 205 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. It generates brisk acceleration performance.
The 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.
Coupe or sedan, the Dodge Stratus is sporty and fun to drive. Throaty V6 engines deliver strong acceleration performance and cockpit-like interiors give them a muscle-car sports appeal.
Stratus 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 and roominess.
Dodge Stratus offers attractive pricing, however, and big cash rebates and other incentives are available.