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So I was thumbing through Car Magazine, and they've already tested a pre-production (for them) Caliber... it's in their "First Drives" section. "APRIL 2006 CAR Mazgazine."

I went ahead and just typed it out.... please ignore the typos because I was hacking through here at top speed.

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Jeep joins the focus group - It's a big, brash Yank called Caliber, and it's also a serious stab at the Golf-sized UK mainstream (P52)


You can call me Cal - Say howdy to America's idea of a family-friendly hatc, heading this way with right-hand drive


By Ken Gibson


- A Dodge Caliber? What is it, an American rifle?
No, this is america's answer to hte Ford Focus but with extra attitude The Yanks think it's a small car, but they thiink Europe s small, so it's actually like an SUV crossed with a id-sized people carrier with room for five tall adults and their gear.

- But doesn't Dodge make pick-up trucks for cowboys?
It does, but it also makes mean cars - not least the Viper, although it's not called the Viper in the UK. The Dodge brand is actually part of Chrysler and Jeep within the DaimlerChrysler empire, but it in fact sells more than both of them in its home country - over 1.3 million vehicles last year.
Now it wants a slice of the European pie, so the Caliber is aimed at British families wanting a taste of the WIld West but who dont want a car the size of a house. Chrysler has done its homework and recons there's a good number of people in Germany France, Italy, and the UK who align themselves with the core values of Dodge: bolt, confident and assertive, in case you need reminding.

- Maybe so. But what makes Dodge think a US car can hack it in the most competitive sector in Europe?
The gold ol' boys clearly think they can cash in on our love affair with all things American. They recon that although there are some great hatchbacks they all look pretty much the same and that there is a place for a chunk of Macho US metal.

- Okay, so it will get the neighborus talking, but is it practical?
It's definitely as practical as most European hatchbacks. The rear seats recline and fold flat, while the front passenger seat also drops down so you can take two mountain bikes, or long awkward objects like a surf board.
Gee, there are some neat touches, like a chilled glovebox that can take four large bottles and naturally, as it's American, there are six cupholders. A decent music system is sstandard and two special seakers drop down from the tailgate so you can have your own mobie disco anywhere and any time.

- It certainly looks a lot less embarrassing than the Chrysler PT Cruiser, but aren't American cars as nimbe as the Titanic and about as economical?
That the Caliber comes from the land of the SUV is clear, but htere's a definite shortage of the yee-ha factor behind the wheel. The steering, handling, and driving from the 1.8 liter petrol I tested were pretty sedate, more pony club than Texas stallion. And the five-speed manual gearchange felt stiff and sticky compared to Eropean rivals. To sum up: adequate but uninspiring. But the cars we drove were American spec and Dodge says the suspension will be tuned to European tastes. There will also be a diesel - the excellent 2.0 from the Volkswagen Golf, no less - and a 2.0 litre petrol four that should offer the missing horsepower, plus economy on par with its rivals.

- Okay, but can you honestly say the cabin quality is better than the usual sub0CityRover Stateside fare?
American cars aren't known for the quality of interior plastics but the Caliber makes a decent fist of matching European standards, falling somewhere between Korean and Japanese. the dashboard is a fairly macho affair with three main dials and a neat centre console in mock aluminium that can be colour0coded to match the paint and seat fabrics. it seems well screwed together but the plastic materials do feel a bit brittleand do not qjite live up to the standard of rivals like the golf and Focus.

- So who's going to buy it?
Dodge's slogan is Take Life by the Horns and it's working for European cowboys who want to look tough on the way to work . The Caliber is not for the shy and retiring type, but blue jean-wearing dudes who enjoy sport and beer at the weekend and have busy kids who need ferrying around. They'll also be someone with an eye for a bargain, because with prices starting at 11,500 (pounds), the Dodge is likely to undercut its European rivals.

- What else has Dodge got in the pipeline?
Plenty. There's the rugged looking Nitro 4x4 arriving next year at around 16,000 (pounds) and an affordable executive car on the way too Even more surprising is the supermini Dodge unveiled at the Geneva motor show. It looks like a Mini on steroids. Oh and don't forget you can still get the Ra pick-up and the frightening Viper supercar if you relish the Full Metal Jacket experience.


INSET: And here's the hot one - Caliber SRT4: 300 bhp for 20k (pounds)
Dodge has a half-century history of turning family cars into tyre-shredding monsters, and here's the latest: a hot Caliber with a claimed sub-6.0 sec 0-60mph time and a price likely to be around 20k (pounds).

A 2.4 Litre turbo four with 300bhp and 260lb ft will make the SRT-4 the UK's most powerful hot hatch when it arrives early next year.

Even though a four-wheel drive system is available on cooking caliber's in the US, the plan is to offer the SRT4 in front-wheel drive only, with a fancy diff to rein in torque steer.


INSET: Dodge Caliber
Price: 11,500 (pounds)
Engine: 1798 cc 16v four, 148bhp @ 6500rpm, 125lb ft @ 5200rpm
Transmission: five0speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance(est): 9.6sec 0-60mph, 125mph top speed
On sale in the UK: summer 2006

RATING: 3 stars out of 5 [***--]
Refreshingly different, well priced

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There are also some rather generic pictures included with this article.... go grab a copy of CAR from your local bookstore!



Oh, also, in the same issue - there are some blurbs about the Hornet concept and the upcoming MPS3 (Mazdaspeed 3). If you want to read how others outside of America perceive automotive stuff, you have to read CAR or Top Gear.

The Caliber's got an important task of anchoring the Dodge brand in the UK (and possibly other parts of the world). While we think of Chrysler as some pseudo-premium brand here in the US - Chrysler's got a rather dumpy image there due to the "interesting" PT Cruiser, "Magnificently crappy" Voyager Minivan, and "cheap-interiored SLK wanna-be" Crossfire.
 

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Interesting. Going to have to go get that issue.
 

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Yeah, thanks dude! The write up was interesting. :D
 
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