Dodge has dropped the SE Plus version of its midsize Stratus sedan for the 2003 model year, but the automaker has added a value-priced SXT model. The lineup also includes SE, ES and sporty R/T sedans.
The sedan versions in the Stratus lineup are created by DaimlerChrysler and manufactured in Michigan. The Stratus coupe, on the other hand, is classified as a compact in size and is manufactured at a Mitsubishi plant in Illinois. All models were redesigned for the 2001 model year. The Chrysler division offers an equivalent Sebring sedan and convertible, but Dodge has no soft-top model.
The Stratus sedans styling resembles that of the Stratus coupe, 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.
The Stratus sits on a 108-inch wheelbase and measures a bit more than 191 inches long overall. The tires are 15 inches in diameter on the SE sedan, but 16-inchers are standard on the ES model. The R/T sedan features a rear spoiler, a specially tuned suspension and 17-inch tires.
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, door locks and mirrors. The standard four-speaker stereo includes a CD player. An eight-way power drivers seat goes into the ES sedan.
Under the Hood
The base SE and SXT are equipped 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 in the ES and R/T sedans and optional in the SE. An AutoStick feature for the automatic transmission, which permits manually selected gear changes by tipping the gearshift lever, is standard on the SXT and R/T. A five-speed-manual transmission is available in the R/T.
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 are optional. Antilock brakes are standard on the R/T and optional on the other models.
Expect no surprises from the Stratus, which delivers a pleasant driving experience but doesnt try to be anything more than a family sedan. That perception might change a bit when youre behind the wheel of the R/T.
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 large trunk. Harsh pavement can produce some unpleasant reactions, but 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 worth a close look.