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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Dodge Stratus Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Dodge Stratus Overview

Sky-High Performance at a Down to Earth Price

The Dodge Stratus sedan offers a pleasing combination of traditional family sedan attributes married to a taut chassis and racy good looks. In the crowded field of midsize sedans, the Stratus stands out with its aggressive new front and rear styling, roomy interior and lengthy list of standard equipment.

For 2003, Dodge has added a high-value trim called the SXT that includes 16-inch cast aluminum wheels, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, AM/FM CD premium stereo and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat—all for around $18,000. The SXT is powered by a gutsy 2.4-liter 16-valve engine that makes 150-horsepower and is teamed to a standard 4-speed automatic transmission. Though a manual tranny would make driving the Stratus all the more fun, the automatic does a good job of distributing power when and where you need it. Passing power is fairly impressive for a four-cylinder and acceleration is acceptable. You may notice that the engine is loud under full-throttle acceleration, but once up to speed, all is quiet under the hood.

The rest of the Stratus line remains unchanged. The entry level SE shares the same engine as the SXT, but offers fewer standard items; it is also much less expensive and still offers a good value for budget minded families. For those seeking a bit more luxury, Dodge offers the ES trim, which comes standard with power driver's seat, manual lumbar support, fog lights, overhead console and 2.7-liter V6 engine rated at 200 horsepower. Options for the ES include leather seats, premium audio and a power sunroof. The most exciting model in the Stratus line up is the performance-oriented R/T; with its revised front bumper, white-faced gauges and an honest to goodness five-speed manual transmission, the Stratus is finally complete as a true driving enthusiast's car. For those that still want the fun of shifting for themselves, but can't cope with a live clutch, Dodge offers the AutoStick automatic transmission that allows you to choose your own gears by tapping the shift lever forward and back.

The Stratus has two very strong advantages over many of its competitors. The first is interior room, or to be more precise, rear-seat legroom. The cab-forward design maximizes interior space while at the same time minimizing the amount of overhang beyond the wheel wells. This design also blesses the Stratus with an enormous trunk that can be expanded by folding down the split rear seat. Interior comfort is excellent for passengers both front and rear, with firm foam padding and good lateral bolstering to hold you in place when rounding sharp turns. The Stratus' neatly organized dash and instrument pod are a refreshing change from overly-complicated electronic setups. You'll find operating the heating and audio controls requires only the most minimal diversion from the road ahead. There are new fabrics on the seats and door panels that add a bit more individuality to the Stratus than in previous generations. One drawback of the cab forward design may be felt by taller drivers who may find that they are staring out through the tint band at the top of the windshield. On the safety front, you'll find every Stratus is equipped with two-stage front airbags, three-point seat belts at all seating positions and optional front seat side-impact airbags.

The Stratus' second advantage can be found once you clear the end of your driveway. On the road, the Stratus performs like a much more expensive touring sedan. Its steering wheel is heavily-weighted and allows for quick turn-in and rapid-fire maneuvers. With the powerful V6 under the hood, the Stratus can get ahead of itself when pushed hard and will begin to exhibit signs of understeer; but most front-wheel drive cars suffer from this characteristic and it will be the rare circumstance when you are driving the car as hard as we were. For most spirited drives, the Stratus is more than capable and feels terrifically confident even at high speeds. That these comments can be made about the sporty R/T are understandable, even expected; but when you consider that even the SXT earns high praise for its suspension, handling and braking characteristics, that's saying something about the overall design and dedication the Dodge team has put into the Stratus sedan.

For the ultimate ride, Dodge offers a Performance package that includes ABS brakes with European brake pads, ungoverned top-speed, larger front and rear stabilizer bars, performance exhaust and Michelin Pilot HX performance tires.

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