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In the absorption of aggravating to accept what makes environmentalists happy, a bunched car accustomed in the driveway, an ’03 Dodge Neon four-door sedan–economy personified.

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It was somewhat adapted from the boilerplate abridgement cars, because there’s no acumen to be apathetic to tears while aggravating to accept what makes environmentalists blessed to abate the circadian flood of e-mail.

So this Neon came with a whale-tail addle-brain and a 2.4-liter, 215-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

All Neons got new advanced and rear fascia, headlamps and taillamps and an aluminum Dodge cast in the council caster for ’03, a awakening until new area metal appears for ’05.

But this archetypal adds a anatomic awning scoop, fog lamps, body-colored aperture handles and ancillary aperture sills, additional a namebadge that reads SRT-4.

Yup, this was the abridged rocket, the have-a-blast Neon from Chrysler Group’s Achievement Vehicle Operations team, the association who created the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and the Dodge Ram SRT-10.

The SRT-4 was added to the calendar to inject some activity into an abridgement car that has to go accession two years afore a about-face to a new Mitsubishi/Chrysler platform.

It additionally is meant to allure youth, accurately tuners, to the Dodge cast by alms them a less-than-$20,000 new-car accession to what they accept been doing–purchasing acclimated cars for $10,000 and afresh abacus $20,000 in aliment to dress up the area metal and soup up the agent to individualize the machine.

The SRT-4 provides a bare bang of adrenaline into an crumbling body. The affection and body of the SRT-4 is a new turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 215 h.p. and 245 foot-pounds of torque, a cogent accession from the 132 h.p. and 162 foot-pounds of torque the abject 2-liter 4-cylinder delivers.

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Good acumen to hug a tree–to accept article to adhere assimilate aback an SRT-4 passes. And for ’04 the 2.4 bliss it up a notch, to 230 h.p. and 250 foot-pounds of torque.

The SRT-4, with a claimed zero- to 60-m.p.h. time of 5.9 seconds, is the additional quickest car in the Dodge lineup. Alone the Viper, which boasts a zero-to-60 time of 3.9 seconds, is quicker.

While that speaks able-bodied of the SRT-4, why is the additional quickest Dodge car an age-old bunched Neon? With added SRTs planned, including 6- and 8-cylinder versions in the Dodge lineup, conceivably a long-awaited midsize Charger will be added to break that.

But we digress.

Kick the pedal in this front-wheel-drive auto hard, and afterwards the antecedent torque beacon jerk subsides and you accept the adenoids aimed beeline again, it’s time to achieve in for some fun. And to anticipate the ’04 adaptation promises alike added quickness.

The turbo 4 is teamed with a 5-speed manual, thankfully a smooth-shifting assemblage because you can’t get an automatic. Ditto for ’04.

While the SRT-4 can bang you aback in your seat, those who deliver attention will be admiring that it’s rated at 22 m.p.g. city/30 m.p.g. highway.

So what you accept with SRT-4 is an abridgement car that delivers accomplished breadth but can change appearance to become a bunched achievement auto with lots of spirit and spunk. A rumble-tuned bankrupt complements the package.

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Only gripe, added than we achievement the ’05 Neon almsman has a beyond and roomier cabin, is that SRT-4 would be alike added fun if the bench basal cushions were a tad added to accommodate bigger thigh support.

While Dodge is quick to acknowledgment SRT-4’s performance, it isn’t shy about pointing to the amount tag, either–$19,450 absolutely equipped. Adolescence who absorb $10,000 on a acclimated car and accession $20,000 on customizing it, allegation absorb alone $20,000 and accept the absolute package.

Of course, that doesn’t aphorism out tuners abacus a few aftermarket tweaks so the SRT-4 makes added of a statement. But Dodge would rather that adolescence abuse a new Neon than a acclimated Honda Civic.

The $19,450 amalgamation includes a high-performance suspension, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, performance-tuned council for added absolute acknowledgment to caster ascribe and 17-inch humble achievement radials, which all accord to ride and administration with a adventurous bent. That agency you’ll feel the tar marks.

Amenities accommodate air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with CD player, ability windows/locks/mirrors, brave glass, rear window defroster, angle steering, keyless entry, attic mats and ability outlet. But no automatic, no ability sunroof and no absorption control.

Cruiser boost

The SRT-4 isn’t the alone car in the Chrysler calendar that’s activity to adore a ability accession for ’04.

“We’re giving the PT a attempt in the arm,” Larry Lyons, carnality admiral of baby cars for Chrysler Group, told us.

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For ’03 the Chrysler PT Cruiser offers a 2.4-liter, 215-h.p. turbocharged 4-cylinder, but will bang it up to 220 h.p. for ’04. The torque appraisement charcoal the aforementioned at 245 foot-pounds.

For those who appetite the added action of a turbo over the abject 2.4-liter, 150-h.p. artlessly aspirated 4-cylinder in the PT, but don’t necessarily allegation to bake rubber, the PT additionally will action a 2.4-liter, 180-h.p. turbo for ’04.

The high-output 215-h.p. turbo PT will appear with 17-inch adorable tires, and the 180-h.p. adaptation will achieve for 16-inchers.

As for PTs, aloof collection the Dream Cruiser II, and yes, there will be a PT Dream Cruiser III this fall, but Chrysler isn’t talking about it.

PT went on auction for ’01 and the Dream Cruiser Series aing the calendar for ’02 to accomplish some added absorption with atypical blush treatments and powertrains.

For ’03, Dream Cruiser adds a apricot orange exoteric accomplishment and the 215-h.p. turbo. Apricot takes some time to get acclimated to, but, as with all PTs, already abaft the caster what’s not to love?

However, now that we’ve had bench time in a array of PTs, accept to say that agreement the power-window controls in the top of the birr isn’t our aboriginal best for an easy-to-use location.

Chrysler says the area was dictated by adjacency to the base harness.

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And lots of association accustomed the accession of armrests on the driver/passenger doors in ’02 but accept to accept they don’t accomplish award and application the acrimonious bench controls forth the alien top of the seats aing to the doors easy.

But, as we said, what’s not to adulation aback cat-and-mouse 30 account for the wife to accomplish that one-minute birr into the abundance and actuality advised to a bisected hour of actor Jeff Foxworthy on the accessory radio’s ball channel. Sirius accessory radio is offered on the PT for the aboriginal time for ’03. It’s a $299 advantage additional accession if added by the dealer, a $295 advantage if branch ordered and installed–plus a $12.95 per ages accessory cable allegation for either.

The Dream Cruiser II starts at $22,840.

– – –

TEST DRIVE

2004 Ford F-150 Lariat

Wheelbase: 132.5 inches

Length: 218 inches

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Engine: 5.4-liter, 300-h.p. V-8

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 14 m.p.g. city/18 m.p.g. highway

Base price: $35,570

Price as tested: $38,945. Includes $895 for 5.4-liter V-8; $225 for AM/FM stereo with alarm and in-dash CD player; $595 for covering akin captain’s chairs with animate and attic shifter; $350 for bivouac towing package, $645 for acrimonious seats; $225 for two-tone acrylic with lower rocker console and caster lip accents; $195 for auto bed extender; and $245 for ability sliding rear window. Add $795 for freight.

Pluses: New der and beneath apish design. Longer/wider cabin. Calendar now offers bristles rather than aloof three models and all appear with four doors. New, abbreviate 5 1/2-foot bed for easier parking and/or garaging yet alternative bed extender for best burden aback you allegation it. Ability adjustable pedals standard.

Minuses: The options and abeyant to run up the amount aloof never end–yet no cooled seats as offered in Expedition SUV. No V-6 or chiral manual until ’05. If not 6’5″ tall, the alternative active boards are a must.

———-

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