Review: 2013 Dodge Dart Limited – Part 2

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You’re looking at the engine under the hood of the Dodge Dart Limited that I’m driving this week. The “TigerShark 2.0″ engine puts out 160 horsepower and 148 pound feet of torque from 2 litres of displacement. If those numbers are familiar, it’s likely because you either own or had a look at the current Ford Focus which has the same horsepower and two less pound feet of torque from the same amount of displacement. Keep that in mind as I go along here.

This engine is pretty good at what it does. Getting up to speed doesn’t tax the engine at all. Passing cars at highway speed is no issue and it feels like it has a lot more torque than the 148 pound feet that it is rated at. If you are someone who wants a lot more than this engine offers, Dodge has two more engine choices on tap. They have a 1.4 L 4 cylinder turbo engine which has 160 horsepower and 184 pound feet of torque, and a 2.4 L 4 cylinder engine which has 184 horsepower and 171 pound feet of torque. Though you have to go up to the GT trim level to get the latter.

Having said that, the 2.0 L that I’m driving is mated to a six speed automatic transmission. This combo keeps the engine noise to a minimum. I’ll also note that because you have six gears on tap, cruising on the highway is very quiet. It has a very refined feel to it. The second thing that this combo does is give you great fuel economy. I tested the Dart on the 23 KM route that I test all of the cars I review on. It encompasses city and highway driving which makes it a realistic test. I got an average of 7.4 L/100 KM in heavy traffic. I then tested a second time in better traffic and got 7.1 L/100 KM. Seeing as it’s rated at 8.6 L/100 km city and 5.8 L/100 km highway, and those figures tend to be optimistic, I have to say that I like the efficiency that this engine is capable of. Another thing to note is that I’m testing the Dart on the coldest days of the year thus far with temperatures as low as -11 C during the day. That usually hammers fuel economy. That means that this car can do better in warmer temperatures.

Now, I couldn’t help comparing it to the Ford Focus that I drove a few months ago on a business trip. This is what I said about the transmission in that car at the time:

However that get up and go was surely impacted by a rather crappy transmission. Ford decided to use what’s called a dual clutch transmission for the automatic variant. This setup has two clutches. One for the odd gears and one for the even ones. The idea is that this type of transmission can make lightning quick shifts and save gas at the same time. Well, Ford got the fuel economy part down right as I used way less gas than I normally would on a four day trip in the US. However, the transmission shifts were slow. Compared to some VW products that I’ve driven with dual clutch transmissions, that was very disappointing. In fact some Google searches found that I am not alone in feeling this way as Consumer Reports hit them pretty hard over this.

The six speed automatic transmission I’m driving isn’t a dual clutch one like in the Focus, but it shifts brisky for the most part when called upon and it performs much better than the transmission in the Ford Focus. It can also be shifted manually. But you’re best to leave it in drive because it works so well when left to do its own thing. Now if you want a dual clutch transmission, they’re available with the two upscale engines.

Here’s the bottom line: I like the power train inside the Dodge Dart. I could easily live with the power output and the lower gas bill. I think that most people will like it as well.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the interior. It has a few unique features that I’ll be highlighting.

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