A new SE model joins the roster this year for the Stratus, a front-wheel-drive sedan scheduled to be redesigned for the 2001 model year. Stratus is built from the same design as the Chrysler Cirrus and Plymouth Breeze. While production of Plymouth's version ended in December, the present Stratus and Cirrus will continue through the end of the model year and new models will be introduced for 2001.
The new SE model slots below the sporty, better-equipped ES as the entry-level Stratus.
Stratus, which comes only as a four-door sedan, shares its cab-forward design with the Cirrus and Breeze. The three cars differ only in front and rear treatment, wheel designs and exterior trim.
The cab-forward design and 108-inch wheelbase (longer than either the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord) give Stratus impressive interior space for its overall length of 186 inches, which is more the size of a compact car than a midsize. The roomy trunk holds 15.7 cubic feet of cargo, and the one-piece rear seatback folds for additional space. The seatback can be released from inside the car or from the trunk, and it can be locked.
Dodge is in a generous mood this year, giving the base SE model power windows, locks and mirrors and an eight-way power driver's seat at no cost. Front bucket seats are standard in the five-passenger Stratus.
Under the Hood
Dodge's generosity extends to the engine compartment with the SE model. A 132-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission are standard, but SE buyers can get a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission at no cost. Don't turn this offer down the 2.0-liter engine is too weak for this car.
The ES model uses a 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 and has the AutoStick automatic transmission, which allows clutchless manual shifting by tipping the shift lever left or right.
Stratus and its cousins at Chrysler and Plymouth are attractive, roomy sedans that perform capably. Sales have lagged recently, so hefty rebates of $1,250 and up make them more attractive from a price standpoint.