1989 Dodge Daytona

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$7,336–$9,044

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chicagotribune.com
Perhaps you`d rather have a Daytona Lite, Bud?

For the 1989 model year, Chrysler has come up with a C/S competition package for the base Dodge Daytona dubbed the ``Lite`` because it`s 200 pounds less filling than a Daytona Shelby but still performs just great.

The Lite, or C/S, is a Shelby without all the bells and whistles. It has about $500 worth of frills and all the performance factors of the more expensive Shelby.

The C/S package consists of a 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine with intercooled turbo, 15-inch speed rated unidirectional performance tires, aluminum alloy wheels, performance suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, bucket seats, tilt steering, rear deck spoiler and C/S graphics on the front fenders as a warning sign to fellow motorists. The only other option is a premium cassette radio.

With that package, and the 200-pound diet, what had been a somewhat paunchy Daytona snorts a little fire with the 174-horsepower turbo II 4- cylinder engine that was offered in the Shelby. Maybe that 125 m.p.h. speedometer isn`t only for show.

The 2.2 turbo is teamed with a five-speed manual only and a Getrag transmission that shifted smoothly and raised the question: ``How come a Getrag in a Chrysler car behaves, yet in a GM car becomes finicky?``

The Lite moves from the light rather quickly and remains lively in the straightaways. It`s highly manageable in turns and corners. There seems to be little turbo lag before the power kicks in. The Lite packs a good punch.

We still aren`t sold on turbos, however. We still view turbos as a crutch to be used when an engine lacks power on its own. And turbos require more frequent oil and filter changes.

Chrysler uses turbos because it took the government seriously about mileage standards and rather than develop high-power V-6s and V-8s, it focused on more fuel efficient 4-cylinder engines. The 174-horsepower turbo II obtains 20 m.p.g. city/28 m.p.g. highway.

Though the suspension is stiff, road harshness is held to a minimum. The suspension isn`t noisy, a trait in many Chrysler cars.

Concealed headlamps, a hood bulge to denote power and a spoiler on the rear hatchback lid contribute to the overall performance look that the car delivers.

But, the car is not without drawbacks.

One change we`d love to see is in the seating. The driver sits too low in the bucket and is forced to look up and over the hood and its decorative bulge. You get the feeling of being along for the ride instead of being in command.

Ever visit your child`s classroom in school and have the teacher usher you to one of the desks to sit down? You feel as if you just put on slacks four sizes too small. It results in an uneasy feeling. Same with the Daytona buckets. It would be nice if the seats were three inches higher.

It`s the same down-in-the-valley type feeling as in the Dodge Shadow. You get the impres sion Daytona was designed by 6-footers for 6-footers and let the rest fend for themselves.

Another annoyance is the infant seat that comes with the car, or as Chrysler calls it, the rear seat. Adults would do bodily harm sitting back there. Both seat backs fold to increase cargo-carrying capacity. Best that you put them down and leave them that way and accept the fact Daytona is a two seater.

Daytona is built on a 97-inch wheelbase and is 179.3 inches long overall, just enough room to hold two passengers and cargo.

One final gripe is the manual window lever. We`ve come to expect that you roll the handle toward the dash when you want the window down and toward the driver when you wan the window up. Nice touch without robbing any interior room. And rather than a pull-handle parking brake between driver and passenger seat that robs room and catches your clothes, there`s a parking brake pedal on the floor under the dash.

For the safety-minded,D ytona also comes with a driver`s side air bag as standard.

Base price is $12,765 which compares with $13,295 for the lowest priced Shelby.



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