The new Dart… updated

It seems that every time I drive a new Dart, the experience is different. I don’t think it’s me, though. Most cars I get two versions of seem nearly identical, even, back in the old days, when I got four different brands of the same GM crossover.

This time I got a Limited, which is a highly optioned car, with the 2.4 and automatic. Every Dart but Aero (1.4) and SE (2.0) get the 2.4 now, and the same automatic is on all but Aero. The GT has a performance axle ratio for faster acceleration at the cost of economy. A turbo (300-340 hp?) is coming… but it’s still not here.

The seats hurt every time I sat down but were okay after that; they were hard, though. The headrest once again tried to vibrate the back of my head, so that I sat hunched forward to avoid it. This isn’t rocket science and the Dart is the only Chrysler or Dodge with this issue.

The transmission was not designed for the car, rather obviously, especially since it’s supplied by Hyundai. FCA didn’t have one that fit and the nine speed was delayed and then needed for new launches (Cherokee, 200, and soon minivans) so they went shopping for a six speed. Chrysler tends to use firm feeling automatics, compared with other companies, so the powertrain just didn’t feel right.

The 2.4 is still weak in the low-rpm range though its peak horsepower and torque are good, and I, like many others, am still waiting for a real Chrysler — okay, FCA — four cylinder, not something based on a Hyundai block that was then worked over by Mitsubishi, Mercedes, and Chrysler to make it work and incidentally give Hyundai a great education in how to fix their biggest engineering deficit. It really calls out for the nine-speed, but heck, it felt better in the old 200, too — the old 200 that used Chrysler’s six-speed automatic.

These are things I didn’t really spell out in the Allpar review of the car, though you can find them there, along with lots of other stuff. Lest you think I’m being harsh, the Dart has a terrific suspension for whipping around turns, handles dirt and water on the road well, probably has the best interior in the class, and is larger than most “compacts.” Yes, I did like the Dart — but I wish my test car had been a five speed. Then again, if it was, my 2015 Dodge Dart review at allpar.com would have been less applicable to most buyers.

If you can drive a stick and you want a Dart, get the stick.

As for the name… well, I still think of Darts not in terms of the GTS and such, but in terms of the much more common slant six cars. (Nearly all Darts sold had either the slant six or the base “economy” 273/318 V8 and would have been easily whupped at a red light by the Limited). This car does fit into that segment, and as the owner of a 1974 Valiant — a car nearly identical to the Dart — I can say that the interior space is quite similar. The old Dart is wider but the new one is longer (inside) with the new one having a bigger trunk.

I’m still waiting for the Dart to be turned into a rear wheel drive challenger to the Mustang and Camaro, and for the front-drive car to be renamed “Valiant by Chrysler” … with a nine-speed.

See my review at allpar.