After a disappointing decade of lackluster sedan sales in the 1980s, Dodge began the 1990s with a fresh slate. In place of the box-shaped four doors powered by clunky V-8's and weak 4-cylinders, the company rolled out something they called 'cab forward' design. This fresh look stretched the vehicle's passenger compartment and created a long, sloping windshield that defined the car's overall styling. Cab-forward vehicles managed to maximize the interior room of Chrysler / Dodge's new four-door platform, and their mid and full-size cars were incredibly spacious, especially compared to some of their competition who were still making use of older engineering.
Leading Dodge into the cab-forward revolution was the Intrepid, a sedan unlike any other that the company had ever produced. The vehicle's wind-swept appearance made it look as though it hailed from some distant future, and it stole the thunder from the Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus when it debuted in 1993. For a time, the car enjoyed no real competition in terms of its unique styling, but eventually other manufacturers caught up and Dodge was forced to update the vehicle in 1998, rounding some of its straight lines and smoothing out the front end.
The real future of Dodge's full-size sedans, however, didn't lie in the front-wheel drive direction pointed out by the Intrepid but would in fact revive the rear-wheel drive platforms that had been so popular in the 60's and 70's. Borrowing the chassis and engine choices available from the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger grafted an aggressive, almost menacing face onto a muscular sedan design that harkened back to the days of the Dodge Super Bee. The vehicle found instant success amongst buyers who had been craving a powerful, affordable sedan that was drive by the rear wheels but didn't hail from Europe.
The final piece of Dodge's sedan puzzle past the year 2000 would also have a high performance flavor. By taking the compact Neon and turbocharging its engine, the automaker was able to create a vehicle that captured the imagination of the youth market. Dubbed the SRT-4, the hot entry-level car was also backed by an innovative program of factory upgrades which helped to transform the sedan into an extremely quick machine while in most cases still preserving the original warranty.
These three vehicles represent the best used sedans available from Dodge, and this article examines each of them in order to help buyers ascertain which four-door might suit them the best.
1998 - 2004 Dodge Intrepid
There are not many vehicles which can lay claim to styling that is truly timeless, but the 1998 - 2004 Dodge Intrepid comes close. While some may interpret the term to mean a design whose beauty is such that it rings through the ages, a more-literal interpretation of 'timeless' indicates that the Intrepid looks as though it could have been produced as recently as yesterday. The vehicle's general oval shape has aged quite well, and although it contrasts with Dodge's currently bulky product lineup it manages to fall in line with other general trends found through the marketplace.
The base Dodge Intrepid is powered by a 2.7-liter V-6 that produces 200 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. This decent output is coupled with fuel economy rated at 21 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 on the highway. Initially, the only upgrade available was a 225 horsepower 3.2-liter engine, but this was eventually succeeded by Dodge's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 that made a maximum of 244 horses in the R/T edition of the vehicle. A 4-speed automatic is the only available transmission regardless of engine choice. The Intrepid is not a particularly quick car, but it does hold its own against other sedans of its era and is still an acceptable performer even today.
One of the best features of the 1998 - 2004 Dodge Intrepid is its interior. Rear passengers will find themselves with seemingly acres of room to take advantage of, and two adults can easily stretch out over the course of a long trip, with a third sitting comfortably in the middle on shorter journeys. The dashboard feels quite far away from those seated in the front, thanks to the long windshield. Leather seats and automatic climate control can be ordered to spruce up the vehicle's overall equipment level.
When it comes to used sedans, the 1998 - 2004 Dodge Intrepid stands out thanks to its excellent interior design and prescient styling.
2006 - 2007 Dodge Charger
When the 2006 - 2007 Dodge Charger was unveiled in the mid-2000's there were some diehard fans of the brand who were scandalized by the fact that the newest extension of the Charger name carried two more doors than the traditional coupe. Dodge claimed that the market for larger coupes was not nearly as strong as for sedans, and they went out of their way to give the Charger a design which would be pleasing to the eye and also get the blood flowing when the accelerator pedal was mashed to the floor.
To achieve this second goal, the top of the line Charger is equipped with a 5.7-liter, 340 horsepower Hemi V-8 that also produces 390 lb-ft of torque. This is matched with a 5-speed Autostick transmission, and allows the R/T model of the vehicle to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 6.2 seconds. A slightly quicker Daytona version of the vehicle is also available. The standard engine in the 2006 - 2007 Dodge Charger is a 2.7-liter, 190 horsepower V-6, and mid-range models can be outfitted with a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces a very healthy 250 horsepower. On the exclusive side, a 6.1-liter, 425 horsepower Hemi V-8 is available in the limited edition SRT-8 versions of the car.
The Charger's interior is composed largely of straight lines and rectangular shapes, with the exception of the 4 round dials that provide the driver with information on the vehicle's speed, rpm and engine status. Seats are well bolstered and comfortable, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that is mounted inside the center console can be ordered to help keep the kids quiet on a road trip.
The 2006 - 2007 Dodge Charger might not bear much resemblance to its original namesake, but with blistering performance and a practical interior package it makes for an interesting used sedan re-imagining of a classic.
2003 - 2005 Dodge Neon SRT-4
In the world of sport compact performance, domestic sedans traditionally had a hard time getting any respect in a field dominated by strong entries from Honda and other Japanese manufacturers. That all changed with the introduction of the 2003 - 2005 Dodge SRT-4. While Dodge had released track-oriented editions of their Neon sedan in the past, they had mostly focused on suspension and chassis improvements. The SRT-4 was the first real attempt by the company to boost the power of the platform and put it on a more equal footing with the competition.
To accomplish this, the standard Neon underwent several changes, most notably to its engine. A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder was swapped in for the standard 2.0-liter, and it was then turbocharged to produce a conservatively estimated 230 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission was yoked to an upgraded limited-slip differential, and the vehicle's brakes were enlarged and the suspension re-tuned in order to keep the car firmly planted during hard acceleration and rapid cornering. The SRT-4 has a completely different driving experience in comparison to the regular Neon, so much so that Dodge abandoned the Neon moniker when marketing the sport version of the car.
The 2003 - 2005 Dodge SRT-4's interior is also a marked departure from the norm. The vehicle's seats are meant to evoke the same body-hugging buckets that are found in the Viper, and aluminum trim has been applied to the interior panels as well as the pedals in order to give the sedan a sportier feel even when the vehicle is sitting still. A different shift knob and an upscale gauge package round out the effect.
There are few compact cars that feature an engine as responsive as the 2003 - 2005 Dodge Neon SRT-4, and combined with the availability of dealer-installed upgrade packages, the diminutive used sedan is an inexpensive way to rule the local streets and strips.