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By Jim Flammang
April 15, 2002
Vehicle Overview Side, curtain-type airbags are a new option for the midsize Stratus sedan. Early in 2002, a limited-production R/T sedan is scheduled to join the existing R/T coupe, incorporating a rear spoiler, a specially tuned suspension and 17-inch tires. Both the sedan and compact Stratus coupe were redesigned for 2001. The sedan was created by DaimlerChrysler and is manufactured in Michigan. The Chrysler division also offers a Sebring sedan and convertible, but Dodge has no soft-top model.
The Stratus coupe is based on the same platform used by the Mitsubishi Galant, and while DaimlerChrysler designs both cars and builds them at its Illinois plant, the engines are from Mitsubishi. They are classified as compact cars by the cars.com measuring standard, due to their shorter wheelbases. Here, too, Chrysler has an equivalent under the Sebring badge. Offered in SE and the upscale ES trim levels, the Stratus sedan can be equipped with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine.
Exterior The sedans styling resembles that of its coupe cousin, even though the two body styles share no sheet metal. Chryslers Sebring sedan uses the same roof and side panels as the four-door Stratus, but the two have different front and rear styling. Dodge is notable for its crossbar-style grille, which gives a considerably different front-end look than that displayed by the Sebring series. On a 108-inch wheelbase, the Stratus measures just over 191 inches long overall. Tires are 15 inches in diameter on the SE sedan, but 16-inchers are standard on the ES model.
Interior Five-passenger seating includes two front bucket seats and a 60/40-split, three-place rear bench that folds to yield additional cargo space. Trunk volume is an ample 16 cubic feet, but the opening is rather small and high. An abundant standard-equipment list includes air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt steering column, a rear-window defroster, and power windows, locks and mirrors. The standard four-speaker stereo includes a cassette player.
Under the Hood The base Stratus SE comes with a 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. A 200-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 is standard on the ES sedan and optional on the SE; this engine is borrowed from Dodges full-size Intrepid sedan. An AutoStick feature for the automatic transmission permits manually selected gear changes by tipping the gearshift lever; it is optional on the ES sedan.
Safety Multistage front airbags deploy at one of three levels, based on impact speed and crash severity. Curtain-type airbags that deploy along the side windows and antilock brakes are optional.
Driving Impressions Expect no surprises from the Stratus. It delivers a pleasant driving experience but doesnt try to be anything more than a family sedan. But that perception might change when the new R/T sedan joins the lineup.
The V-6 engine is potent and quiet, but the four-cylinder actually performs with sufficient eagerness to satisfy most owners. The smaller engine produces a tiny amount of additional noise from beneath the hood. The Stratus is easy to drive and maneuver, and it offers a spacious interior, comfortable seating and a big trunk. Though harsh pavement can produce some unpleasant reactions, the ride is generally smooth and easy. Considering its road-going behavior and how much equipment is standard for a reasonable sticker price, the four-door Stratus is well worth a close look.