2007 Dodge Caliber Performance
Opinions of the performance of the 2007 Dodge Caliber vary among reviewers, with some complaining of a lack of power and sluggish handling while others find the performance adequate for the affordable small car class. The Caliber is "a solid daily driver, though hardly much more than that," says Edmunds. "Our impressions of the Caliber were dampened by the lack of driving excitement." But Kelley Blue Book finds the Caliber "as competent around town and on the highway as most of the competition." The car is currently available with three different four-cylinder engines. Buyers interested in performance should note that Dodge has plans to release a high-performance SRT-4 Caliber sometime in 2007, which the manufacturer claims will have 300 horsepower and go from 0-60 miles per hour in less than six seconds. Price and date of release for the SRT-4 Caliber have not been revealed.
Acceleration and Power
SE and SXT models are powered by a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine putting out 148 horsepower, which comes paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Both can be upgraded to a 2.0 liter four-cylinder putting out 158 horsepower, paired with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). R/T models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 172 horsepower, which can be paired with either transmission. An All-Wheel-Drive R/T model is available, though only with the 2.4-liter engine and CVT.
Many reviewers find the engines inadequate for the Caliber's weight. Writing of the mid-level 2.0 engine, Motor Week says, "The engine is slow-revving and a bit noisy when pushed. Add in our R/T's 3,308 pound curb weight, and it all feels a bit sluggish." Automobile.com also complains that the engine "would need to lean on gearing to win a race to 60 mph, and most likely would come up a bit short." But in this segment, the writer points out, "Does this really matter? Hardly." Many reviewers echo that sentiment, saying that the performance of the engines is simply adequate for the class. "The Caliber's mission in life is decidedly more utilitarian than performance oriented," says Kelley Blue Book.
Environmental Protection Agency mileage estimates for the engines say the 1.8 liter will average 28 miles per gallon in the city and 32 miles per gallon on the highway; the 2.0 liter will average 26 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway, and the 2.4 liter will average 23 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway.
Reviewers offer few comments on the manual transmission, but the Continuously Variable Transmission is well-liked. "In everyday driving the Caliber has one of the most refined CVTs we've tried, adapting to changing demands quickly, especially in city traffic," praises Motor Week. Motor Trend agrees, saying, "The CVT is a joy. Although the sensation of not feeling conventional gear ‘shifts' takes getting used to, the transmission's calibration is spot on...It doesn't hunt around as much as many CVTs do."
An AutoStick mode allows the driver to simulate shifting even with the CVT. This feature divides reviewers. "While the idea of engineering artificial gearing into the Caliber's ‘gearless' continuously variable transmission might seem counterproductive, the ability to control the transmission with ultra-responsive manual shifts is very useful," offers Kelley Blue Book. However, some reviewers offer complaints about the AutoStick, like this one from Edmunds: "The simulated shifts felt especially, well, simulated."
Handling and Braking
The handling dynamics of the 2007 Caliber disappointed most reviewers. Motor Trend complains that "its ride and handling fall short of expectations... plowing through corners as if Dodge had benchmarked a full-size truck." The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering has given the Caliber a turning radius among the tightest in this class, but reviewers often found the steering "light" and "numbish," as Motor Trend describes it. Automotive writers find the car very stable, but often complain of body roll. Cars.com comments that "its stability is undeniable when compared to a truck, but one feels the car's height when flinging it around corners, especially in the SXT trim level, which has more compliant, touring suspension tuning and a bit more body roll." Automobile.com says "on the highway the Caliber is uncannily stable, even at higher than posted speeds," but in turns Edmunds complains that "we experienced mucho body roll."
Base SE models come with standard power front disc and rear drum brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard on R/T models and available on the SXT. Few reviewers had much to say of the SE model's brakes, though their performance on braking distance tests is adequate for this class of car. Of the anti-lock brakes, Motor Trend has "no complaints," finding "plenty of stopping power, with just enough pedal pulse to let you know when the ABS cuts in."