TIP:To see historical photos of the original Dodge Dart use the photo slider, scrolling to the right.
To my eyes, Dodge has done a great job fusing together that masculine Detroit look from the Charger into a slick little four door. Most importantly, unlike the Dodge Caliber it replaces, it doesn't look to be a step down from other imports or domestics in it's class.
If anything, it breaks new ground with a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) gauge cluster display. The cluster allows the driver to switch between different display modes. It also has an available ambient lighting system that outlines the cluster and center stack. Ambient lighting can also be had in the foot wells, door handles and other areas.
Dodge says this one is all about customization with 12 exterior colors, 14 interior color and trim combinations, six wheel options, three engines and three transmissions. In a nod to the Journey's practicality, there's in a flip open seat with extra storage (see photo).
The EPA has certified the Dart will break will hit that magical fuel efficiency rating of 40 miles per gallon. The top engine will be a 2.4-liter turbo, making 184-horsepower.
“The Dodge Dart was a dream to design,” said Joe Dehner, Head of Dodge Design — Chrysler Group LLC. “The Alfa Romeo-based architecture allowed us to design an exterior with great proportions that say ‘fun-to-drive’ when you look at it. Add in the Charger-inspired ‘racetrack’ taillamps, a new, sleek crosshair grille and piano black accents, and it all adds up to a performance-inspired design with just the right amount of attitude.”
Although the Dart will share some Italian underpinnings, it will be built at Chrysler's plan in Belvidere, Ill. The Dart nameplate has a long history, originally built between 1960 and 1976. At one point body styles included a 2-door hardtop, convertible and 4-door sedan. Right now there's no word on whether the next-generation will expand beyond the 4-door sedan.
As for the future, the new Chrysler is just getting started. Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Machionne told The Detroit Free-Press "the big stuff is coming in '13."
In the meantime, things are going better than expected. The Free-Press reports Chrysler will announce a 2011 profit that is expected to approach $600 million, its first full-year profit since 2005.