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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Dodge Stratus Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Dodge Stratus Overview

Take the Road by Storm

The Stratus coupe is one performance car that doesn't make you settle for less. So many coupes today pretend to provide room for four, but don't really have much of a back seat; others claim true performance heritage but don't allow you the fun of shifting your own gears. Compromise seems to have become the norm for those shopping the dwindling field of midsize sport coupes, but not for those who have the Dodge Stratus at the top of their shopping list.

The Stratus formula is one that has worked well over the past few years. It starts with the excellent platform provided by Mitsubishi's Eclipse coupe, stretches it out to create a roomy back seat and then wraps the whole package in a very distinctive Dodge attire. The Stratus is assembled in the United States at the Mitsubishi/Chrysler joint venture plant in Normal, Illinois.

For 2003, the Stratus gets a new front and rear fascia, new wheels and an improved dash and interior design. The Stratus' new look is in keeping with the numerous Dodge concept vehicles that littered the floor at this year's Detroit auto show; angular lines, large headlights and the familiar crosshair grille are the calling cards of future Dodge products. The SE trim is augmented by an SXT model that adds keyless entry and 16-inch wheels; the R/T continues as the top performance model.

If high-end performance is not your primary objective, you'll probably be happy with the Stratus' standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a healthy 147 horsepower. With this engine under its hood, the Stratus feels light on the road, easily maneuverable with a nice balance between front and rear. The suspension set up on the SE and SXT tends to lean toward comfort over performance, but you will still find these sporty coupes offer hours of driving enjoyment combined with a very livable ride. Another bonus for the Stratus is its 16-gallon fuel tank that allows you to cruise an average of over 450 highway miles on a single tank of gas.

If you like the SE's subtle styling cues but want the power and performance that only a V6 can offer, you can now choose the 3.0-liter engine from the R/T model as an option. The 2.4- liter comes standard with a 5-speed manual while the V6 is offered only with the 4-speed automatic. SE and SXT come standard with power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, air conditioner, height-adjustable driver's seat, AM/FM stereo with in-dash four-disc CD changer, cruise control and tilt wheel.

The real monster of the Stratus line is the awesome R/T model. With its aggressive suspension settings, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and 4-wheel disc brakes, the R/T is all business. The R/T not only looks terrific, it sends chills down your spine (and your white-knuckled passengers) at every onramp approach and s-curve. You'll find the V6 brings this car to life, with good low-end torque for quick passing and jack-rabbit off-the-line starts. Handling is vastly improved over the base model, due in part to the thicker roll bars and stiffer shocks, but mostly because of the tenacious 17-inch Goodyear performance tires. The R/T also offers the option of Chrysler's AutoStick automatic transmission that allows you the pleasure of selecting your own gears without the burden of operating a clutch pedal. If you decide to go with the AutoStick, you will be offered the added security of low-speed traction control, a worthwhile option especially for those who drive in snow and rain.

No matter which model you choose, you'll find a new interior treatment highlighted by a redesigned instrument cluster and new center console. The Stratus' speedometer and tachometer are deeply recessed in a hooded pod that protects them from the sun's glare; R/T models have white-faced gauges for even better clarity. The Stratus seats are of a low-back bucket variety with adjustable headrests. They provide good lateral and lower back support and can be equipped with a 6-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar support. Between the front seats is a wide center console with two large cup holders and deep storage area perfect for hiding CD's and cell phones. The shift lever resst exactly where your hand naturally falls and is angled down so as not to block the heater controls.

Dodge allows you to equip your Stratus however you see fit by offering such options as power glass sun roof, two-tone dash and door panels, leather interior, Infinity sound system with seven speakers and steering-wheel mounted controls, chrome wheels and side-impact airbags.

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