By Patrick Rall
It is all but official that there will eventually be a Street and Racing Technology variant of the sporty new Dodge Dart. There is even a leaked image of what many believe to be the Dart SRT4 shown above. While we don’t have any idea when it might actually arrive, it is one of the vehicles that Mopar lovers are certain will eventually hit American dealerships. We expect that it will have a sport tuned suspension, high performance brakes, a powerful turbocharged engine and a close ratio manual transmission but it has long been a debate whether the Dart SRT4 would have all wheel drive (AWD). Some insist that to compete in the sport compact segment that has long been dominated by the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Subaru Impreza WRS STi, an advanced all wheel drive would be a must. Others disagree and that is how we come to this week’s question – does the Dodge Dart SRT really NEED AWD to compete?
The Mitsubishi Evo and the Subaru WRX STi are both four cylinder turbocharged models with a chassis that is roughly the same size as the current Dodge Dart’s. The Evo and STi both use turbocharged 4-cylinder engines to make around 300 horsepower (Evo makes 291, STi makes 305) and it is widely believed that the SRT engineers are fully capable of putting together a turbo 4 that can pump out 300 horses. Where the Dart does not match up with the other two C-segment sedans is in the fact that they both feature standard all wheel drive while the Dart is currently only available as a front wheel drive model. This means that the Chrysler Group would have to develop the advanced all wheel drive system for the Dart SRT4 for use in the US market and that comes with a hefty cost that could drive up the price quite a bit. However, when you remove the cost of R&D from the equation of adding AWD for the Dart SRT4, it would certainly make sense for people to want a high performance Dart that spins all four wheels.
What is hurting the case of those demanding an all wheel drive SRT Dart is the fact that the old Dodge Neon SRT4 was so damned good with the front wheel drive. While there were some obvious limitations to spinning only the front wheels with its turbocharged 4-cylinder, those problems didn’t stop the Neon SRT4 from beating just about any comparably priced performance car in the US market. The simple fact that Dodge did so well with the front wheel drive Neon SRT4 shows that the Chrysler Group knows how to make a front wheel drive performance car that can rock and roll against the all wheel drive and rear wheel drive performance models even though all wheel drive would add that extra touch of performance.
Finally, the Dodge Dart SRT4 would likely be one of the least expensive performance models sold in America if it indeed debuts with front wheel drive only. The top of the line Dart Limited fitted with the 1.4L turbocharged engine barely cracks into the low $20k range whereas the Evo and STi both start around $35,000. If the Dart SRT4 packed a 300ish horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder, a 6-speed manual transmission and a price in the $25,000 range, it would crush the competition in terms of price while also doing no worse than being very, very competitive in terms of overall performance.
Do you think that the Dodge Dart SRT4 needs to be all wheel drive or would a front wheel drive model with a lower price be just what the company needs to conquer the sport compact segment? Click here to head into the forum to give us your two cents!