By Patrick Rall
We learned recently that the Dodge Dart SRT will arrive in December of 2016 – presumably as a 2017 model year vehicle – with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and an all wheel drive system. Unlike the Dodge Neon SRT4 and the Dodge Caliber SRT4 that relied on front wheel drive to attack the sport compact segment, the Dart SRT is aiming even higher with all wheel drive. Where the Neon SRT4 was a strong competitor for the likes of the Honda Civic Si, the Acura RSX and the Nissan Sentra SE-R (with massive success); the Dart SRT will take on the Subaru WRX STI. The Neon SRT4 was competitive with the Subaru in many ways back in the mid 2000s, but the lack of AWD limited the Neon. ON the other hand, the Dart SRT will pack an advanced all wheel drive system so there is no reason that it shouldn’t comfortably compete with the Subbie…although it will need more than just all wheel drive to compete with the top dog in the current sport compact segment.
The current (and brand new) Subaru WRX STI uses a 2.5L turbocharged Boxer engine and a 6-speed manual transmission to send 305 horsepower and 290lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a high tech all wheel drive system. The STI also features a sport tuned suspension and high performance brakes to make sure that it handles just as well as it launches. It should be noted that the 2015 WRX STI weighs 3,386 pounds.
The new Dodge Dart sedan with the 1.4L turbo engine weighs just under 3,300 pounds, but that is with front wheel drive only. Dodge will certainly have a challenge on their hands in adding the all wheel drive setup without making the Dart SRT much heavier than the WRX STI that will serve as its best competitor. Fortunately, the 2017 Dodge Dart SRT will be based on the new Dart that is set to debut in 2016, so the company has some time to work on getting the curb weight down for the new SRT model. Provided that they get the curb weight under 3,400lbs, the SRT Dart would (in theory) need around 325 horsepower and 325lb-ft of torque to compete with the STI. The STI will almost surely see an increase in power between now and then, so 325 in both columns should be safe numbers for the Dart SRT.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that the Dodge Caliber SRT4 made close to that back in 2009, even though the official horsepower rating was only 285. Even if SRT went with the exact same turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that they used in the Caliber without any real changes, there should be no issues in hitting 300hp and 300tq. Best of all, the infusion of induction technology from parent company Fiat should allow the new Dart SRT engine to make just as much power as the “old” 2.4L mill from the Caliber and Neon while also weighing less and likely being far more efficient.
Considering that the Dodge Neon SRT4 and the Dodge Caliber SRT4 both had turbocharged 2.4L engines and the current Dodge Dart GT is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.4L engine, I fully expect to see the 2017 Dart SRT powered by a turbo-fed 2.4L. Of course, that is several years away so I would also expect that the Dart SRT motor could be from a new family of engines, but the results should be the same in terms of power while likely being far more efficient.
In any case, I expect that the 2017 Dodge Dart SRT will pack a turbocharged 2.4L engine that sends around 325 horsepower and 325lb-ft of torque (possibly even more torque) to all four wheels via a proper manual transmission and an advanced all wheel drive system. With a curb weight around 3,300lbs and a chassis that has been retuned for better performance and fitted with both a high end suspension and braking system – I expect that the Dart SRT will comfortably challenge the Subaru STI while easily crushing any other sport compact sold in America.