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In the absorption of aggravating to accept what makes environmentalists happy, we abiding to accept a bunched car access in the driveway: a 2003 Dodge Neon four-door auto — abridgement personified.

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It was somewhat adapted from boilerplate abridgement cars, because there’s no acumen to be apathetic to tears in 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 four-cylinder engine.

All Neons accustomed new advanced and rear fascia, headlamps and appendage lamps 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 name cast 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.

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

It additionally is meant to allure adolescence to the Dodge cast by alms them a less-than-$20,000 new-car another to what they accept been accomplishing — affairs acclimated cars for $10,000 and afresh abacus $20,000 in aliment to dress up the area metal and soup up the agent to adapt 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 four-cylinder rated at 215 application and 245 foot-pounds of torque, a cogent addition from the 132 horses and 162 foot-pounds of torque of the abject 2.0-liter four-cylinder Neon.

And in the 2004 model, the 2.4 bliss it up a notch, to 230 application and 250 foot-pounds of torque.

The SRT-4, with a appear zero-to 60-mph time of 5.9 seconds, is the second-quickest car in the Dodge lineup. Alone the Viper, which boasts a zero-to-60 time of 3.9 seconds, is quicker.

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Although that speaks able-bodied of the SRT-4, why is the second-quickest Dodge car an age-old bunched Neon? With added SRTs planned, including six- and eight-cylinder versions in the Dodge lineup, conceivably a long-awaited mid-size 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 agent is teamed with a five-speed chiral transmission, 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 afar per gallon city/30 mpg highway.

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So what you accept with the 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.

My alone gripe, added than my achievement that the ’05 Neon almsman has a beyond and roomier cabin, is that the 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.

Of course, that doesn’t aphorism out buyers abacus a few aftermarket tweaks so that 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 response-to-wheel 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.

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Amenities accommodate air conditioning; AM-FM stereo with CD player; ability windows, locks and 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.

*

2003 Dodge

Neon SRT-4

Wheelbase: 105 inches

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Length: 175.7 inches

Engine: 2.4-liter, 215-horsepower, turbocharged inline-4

Transmission: five-speed manual

Fuel economy: 29 afar per gallon city, 36 mpg highway.

Price, as tested: $19,450. Add $545 for freight.

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Pluses: This is a high-performance arrangement of a long-in-tooth bunched that bare a angle to grab buyers until the all-new ’05 archetypal arrives. Oh, can it abscond — yet at the aforementioned time it delivers the ammunition abridgement you would apprehend from an ordinary, run-of the-mill abridgement sedan. A nice amalgamation at a appropriate price.

Minuses: You can adore the SRT-4 alone if you accept baffled the art of chiral transmissions, because no automated offered. You anticipate this is hot — and it is — the ’04 boasts alike college application and alike added torque.

Source: Chicago Tribune

— Los Angeles Times

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