- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

With its six available engines and eight coupe/sedan versions, the 2002 Dodge Stratus sits rakishly on the list of midsize family sedans that don't pretend to be all things to all drivers, but do offer both utility and performance.

Topping the Stratus line is the R/T, a front-wheel driver that has a base price of $21,525 and can whip up some driving fun with a 200-horsepower, V-6 engine and five-speed manual transmission. The Inferno red test car sported enough options to total $25,270.

The tester's sporty styling included a serious-looking, but not overblown, rear spoiler and optional aluminum wheels that said it is more than your garden-variety sedan. (The coupe has parts and pieces identical to those of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.)

The driving reinforced that notion, with 192 foot-pounds of torque easily confirming its potential. Even in fifth gear, acceleration at cruising speed made passing possible. Dropping down to third with the facile shifter made quick work of passing and turned freeway merges into quick operations.

A judicious driver likely could make a mockery of the R/T's EPA ratings of 20 and 27 miles per gallon of regular unleaded. The test car averaged 21-plus miles per gallon without being babied during a lengthy mix of suburban, expressway and interstate driving. Nowhere was driving it a real problem unless the lack of view when in reverse is considered a drawback.

Reviewers note, and so will owners, that while the trunk is capacious, the load height is about waist level and the rear seating doesn't fold totally flat. It doesn't seem this would pose an insurmountable problem for buyers initially attracted by the R/T's performance and aggressive looks, primarily the result of a total re-do for 2001.

Reviewers find the Stratus finally competitive with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, and there's an inclination here to give it an edge because of all the equipment and features that are standard, inside and out. What's not to like about its good analog instrumentation, including a 120-mph speedometer, 7,000-rpm tachometer and simple controls.

The power-adjustable and optional driver's seat will satisfy most with its range of adjustability.

Recognize its limitations and assets and the conclusion is apt to be that, yes, the Stratus has come on strong with its range of versions, features and options. Dodge is resurrecting its performance image without abandoning the bread-and-butter segment that simply wants basic family transportation.

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