By David Colman
For: Alfa Flair, Build Quality, $ Value
Against: Underpowered, R/T Not Immediately Available
Okay, let’s get the important stuff out of the way upfront. No, it doesn’t have a Slant Six under the hood, a push button automatic on the dash, or Tinker Bell script reading “Dart” on the rear fender. The new Dart is the first offspring of the US government-brokered shotgun marriage between Chrysler and Fiat. Fiat, which owns Alfa Romeo, supplies the Dart with a stretched Alfa Giulietta platform. Chrysler, which owns Dodge, supplies the USA build facility, heritage nameplate, and dealer network. The result is a marriage made in heaven – an Alfa Romeo for the price of a Dodge!
The first Darts go on sale in July, 2012. Eventually 5 different models will be available. The range begins with the SE, with disc brakes at all 4 corners, 10 air bags, and a base price of $15,995. One step higher in the pecking order is the $17,995 SXT model, with such upgrades as 17 inch wheels, power mirrors and door locks, and keyless entry. A sportier Rallye model, with dual exhausts and black chrome headlamps, retails for $18,995. The Limited version – which we drove – adds Garmin Navigation with a 7 inch dash-mounted touch screen, 10 way power seats, and rear view camera monitors, for $19,995. A 2.0 liter “Tigershark” motor producing 160hp and 148 lb.-ft. of torque powers all 4 models. A 1.4 liter, turbocharged, 168hp motor is optionally available for $1,300. Dodge will also introduce a more powerful R/T Dart later in the model year. The $22,495 R/T will benefit from a 2.4 liter “Tigershark” powerplant producing 184hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque.
To convert an Alfa Giulietta platform to Dart duty, Dodge widened the tub 2 inches and added 10 inches in length. The chassis is constructed from 68 percent hi-strength steel, and the car is built in the United States. A series of baffles and underbody streamlining panels insure that the Dart’s coefficient of drag (Cd) is just 0.285. Body panel gaps are remarkably tight, and wind noise inside the cabin is nil.