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I suppose I should start this off with what I have equipped on my Dart. Although I could put it simply that I have a Limited model, that has everything optioned except for three things. The DCT automatic, the sunroof and the engine-block heater. If I just left it at that, it'd be easier to write, but you wouldn't know what it HAS. So, I'll make it easy; my window-sticker is the best way to get that info down without writing a very long list, so, here it is:
So, now you know what it's got, if you felt like reading that list. I decided against getting the sunroof for two reasons. One, I have a tall boyfriend. At six-foot-four and around 260lbs, he's pretty tall, and having a long body, would've had issue with the space that the sunroof and it's motor would've taken up. That said, he has issues in just about any car that has one. The other reason is because when I ordered the car, we had just moved to Phoenix. That would've put a literal hot-plate four inches from my head. Probably not the best idea in triple-digit climates, despite being able to 'vent'. It's also the reason we didn't get the block-heater. Not gonna freeze the block off with triple-digit temperatures.
As some of you might know, I won my car. So you would think that took budget right out the window. It did, and didn't. I had 26,000 to play with on MSRP from Dodge. Which gave me that very long list of installed options and packages. They came in just shy of my limit, at 25,785. Long-story, short; It was with the help of a lot of people online, and my own skill in Photoshop that helped me win my much-needed new car. Ordered in late November, I received my 'custom-built' Dart on the 5th of February. The full 12 weeks I was told it would take.
Now, fast-forward 6 months, we've moved to Georgia, and my car has taken several trips across the country, and is now at a bit over sixteen-thousand miles. It has peaked at 51.8 miles-per-gallon during one of those trips. However, it averages somewhere in the 30s, because I am not an 'easy' driver. I enjoy driving the curves and acceleration up the on-ramps when I get the chance, and my new home is in a hilly, rural area that has a top speed-limit of 55mph, which I drive in 4th gear most of the time.
There's a lot of people that will tell you the Dart is slow. I don't think it's that simple. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that it's got a few things going for it that the others don't; one is it's size. It's quite a bit larger than most of the compact class. It's nearly the size of it's larger sibling, the Avenger. It even makes the classic Dart's look small. There's also the sound deadening; it doesn't feel as fast as it is, due to the fact you don't hear the road noise, or the engine as loud as you could if there was less deadening. You're almost completely isolated from those forces that your ears pick up. Not to mention the technologies in this car. All of those things come at a price, however. Weight. The car isn't small, and it isn't light, yet it doesn't feel handicapped by it's weight. In fact the weight actually makes it feel very solid in the curves. It can take turns at surprising speeds, doubling the recommended speed limit signs, in most cases, without a peep from the tires. I can also tell you that it's got enough torque to spin the tires with the traction-control on, on dry pavement. That's why I say that it's not a slow car, it just doesn't feel that way. Plus, anybody that has the budget, and the mind to, can always improve the performance. The aftermarket has seen to that, and is still working away at making the little guy faster.
The Dart rides very solidly. The longer wheelbase helps that, but the suspension helps more. It's tuned perfectly, in my opinion, because it has enough feel that you can feel every bump in the road, but every bump in the road doesn't throw you into the roof either. It's not stiff, but it's not loose either. The insulation really helps the road-noise too. I drove across the country five times in the last few months since I've owned my car, and have been across a lot of different road surfaces. It could be just the factory tires, but there are some roads where it sounds like you're on the wing of a jet-liner. I think those roads were in Texas along the lonlier parts of the I20, if I remember correctly. Aside from the noise on those roads, the sound insulation was great. Other than that, I have hit a pothole or two hard enough that I expected a blow-out or damaged wheel, and never got one. The car handled the jolt surprisingly well. No harm, no foul.
The only thing I have really struggled to get used to is the nose. It's got a long bumper, compared to the other cars I've driven, and it's all in front of the tire. Needless to say, I'm not used to it. It's a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to steep driveways, and some speed-bumps. This is the first car I've owned that I've actually had go one wheel at a time over some areas because of the length, and I've driven an e46 BMW. I really do wish that it had a front bumper camera, as well as the ParkSense reverse camera. Due to that, I actually reverse in to park whenever I get the chance.
I suppose next-up is the technologies that make this car a class-leader; the first thing I guess I'll talk about is what everybody loves, the uConnect system. I have automatic everything in this car, except for the transmission, and engine-start, because it's a manual.
The uConnect has the well known 8.4-inch touch-screen. This basically controls all of your options in the car. You can order your automatic high-beams, and turn them off if you choose. It also is your Audio controls, and your climate controls. There are duplicate physical buttons and dials you can use as well, which I usually use just to power on and off the radio and a/c. These are very handy to have, and I think it's great for the technologically disinclined.
I guess I have a couple gripes about the system, however. I find the screen to be a bit too 'hard' to react. You have to actually PUSH the screen (or tap hard) to get the buttons to work. Otherwise it's pretty accurate and well laid-out. Secondly, the voice command can mis-understand you and it gets frustrating if the GPS is not up-to-date and/or does not recognise the name of a store, for instance, that you're looking for, and know is there. We've had this happen once or twice, never a huge deal, because that's what my Droid X2 is for. I just prefer to use the in-car system when I am in my car, and it's handy to look up phone-numbers without digging out my phone. One thing, which is relatively minor, I suppose; is actually on the TFT, or when the mini-map is up on the Radio screen. It shows the channel you're on; while not entirely a bad thing, I would like to see either the name of the channel or the title of the song that's playing instead of “SIRIUS CH. 01h for instance, displayed. The last thing, I think that should be on every Dart with the turbo, is having a Boost-gauge. This would be extremely helpful for people learning how to drive the car, especially if they've never had a turbo'd vehicle before.
Aside from those things, I really love the system; I love how the TFT changes to show you where you're going, and in which direction. It shows almost all the information I could think of, including engine-hours, coolant, temperature, and tire-pressure, individually. I believe the tire-pressure monitoring system is part of one of the option packages now, however. There is a lot more info in that little customizable screen than I should probably write.
I find that the automatic high-beams, are great; as long as you're over 25mph. They apparently forgot about those of us who have to worry about deer, while driving through their neighborhoods. It turns on and off appropriately, occasionally it'll blind itself though, by turning the brights on right near a reflective white sign. Some people might get confused by the words that Dodge used to market these. They do not adjust the output of your headlights, they just turn on and off your high-beams automatically. Nothing more, nothing less.
The rain sensing wipers are great, as long as you remember to turn your car to the off position before rinsing/washing down your windshield at a gas station. You might find that job hard to do with the sensor on. (You can turn it off through the 8.4 option list though, if you want) Quite amusing to watch though. They work great, although if something happens to hit that sensor, the wipers will seemingly randomly wipe across once. They also adjust speed automatically as well. You don't have to do a thing, as long as you leave your wipers in the 'active' zone on the stalk. On the 8.4, you can also have the wipers turn on your headlights automatically, as well.
I also have the automatic headlights. I love them; they are very accurate, and work near flawlessly. I say near, because occasionally I feel that it's dark enough to warrant the lights being on, and the car doesn't, but that's usually dawn, not dusk. However, I sometimes feel like they don't reach far enough forward; but I think that might be more to do with the lack of street lights where I live now, than with the lights themselves. They are the factory HID's, and are on-par with BMW, in my opinion. I only compare to BMW, because I drove behind one once, and wasn't sure who's light I was seeing; turned out that it was mine, not the BMWs.
The last bit of tech that I can speak of, is the Passive Entry system. Easily my most used tech in the car. How it works, is as long as you have the keyfob on you, you can open the front door without disarming the car with the button on the fob; and to lock you just hit the little button on the handle. I find myself doing that far more often than using the buttons on my keyfob. I only use them if I don't remember whether I armed my car or not. It's a great system. The trunk even has a passive entry button. You just can't arm the car from back there.
Onto Aerodynamics. As the marketing people have told you, every Dart has Active Grille Shutters and Under-body Aerodynamic Treatment. The aerodynamic underbody treatment has been a good thing so far. Keeping the Dart aerodynamic and its engine bay clean and unscathed, despite a bit of roadkill-making. Although sometimes the little pieces that stick-down behind the tires will scrape the ground & make it sound worse than it is, coming out of those steep driveways.
However the shutters work absolutely seamlessly with everything else. You cannot feel the difference at all, between whether they're open or closed. They only open when the car needs more air-flow for example if you're hard on the throttle, getting on the freeway, etc; or on a hot day sitting in the sun in traffic. They also open when you park. They do a great job of keeping the mileage up, too. As I said in earlier paragraphs, I have peaked my mileage at 51.8 miles-per-gallon. I'm sure, these things helped quite a bit in doing so.
I think that about covers the stuff people want to know about, I'm sure. I guess I'll hit on the bits of Interior that I haven't hit yet. The 8.4N is probably the high-point of my interior. However I must say that I absolutely love what they call the “island bezel lighting”. Something that I don't think I've read in the reviews, is that it's actually a lot dimmer than the press photos might make it seem. Don't be disappointed in that fact. There's a reason for it; they are trying to minimize eye-strain. If the light was brighter, you'd end up with a ghost-image in you eye after a long night drive. That said, when you're driving at night, you can definitely see it once your eyes adjust to night driving. It's very visible. I ususally drive with mine at full-brightness, however it is adjustable, along with the rest of the white LED mood-lighting inside the car. It's bright enough, without being too bright, and I think I like it that way.
I suppose what's next is the seats; I have the power, leather seats. They're pretty comfortable on day-to-day driving. Long 8-hour or more, however, I felt a bit uncomfortable in them. The back of the seat bottom, is seemingly harder than the center, and it is noticeable if you're in the seat for a multiple-hour drive. I also dislike that the headrests are nonadjustable other than in height. After a few hours it feels like it's pushing your head down, and can be quite annoying, even if the active-head-restraints are safer. The lumbar adjusts both vertically and horizontally, which is nice. I have adjusted mine several times since owning the car; sometimes several times a day, depending on my mood.
The passenger seat, I can't really speak for long-term comfort, since I haven't been in them for more than about an hour since I got the car. That is my boyfriends spot; he fell asleep more often than not, so I suppose it was pretty comfortable for him. Speaking of the passenger seat. I love the storage there; but it's kind of useless when someone is sitting there. I only used it for the first time (other than for holding a terry-cloth for my windshield) a few days ago; to hold an overly-large cup of soda; it wouldn't fit in my cup-holder, no chance in hades; so I flipped up the seat & put it in there; held snug by said terry-cloth & a towel I carry around to cover the wheel and shifter. Worked great, and because the Dart handles so well, I didn't even worry about it flopping over & making a mess through the twisty little roads I travel to get home.
I figure the next question you're asking, is why the towel? Because the Dart can get very hot inside after a day parked in the sun, and the black leather interior doesn't help. Despite being made of plastic, that shiny shift-knob can also get quite hot; so I've become accustomed to putting the towel over both the wheel and shift-knob to avoid being burned. That said, I do not have tint or a windshield heat-shield/deflector yet; working on that one. The back seat is pretty roomy, it must be, if I fit 4 adults in it; two of which are 6'4” or taller. I haven't tried all three boys yet, but my boyfriend and his brothers are all about the same size; probably up to 6'6” in height, and they all have been in the back seat at one point or another as passengers.
As far as build quality goes, the interior has had no issues, except one, that I haven't bothered to go in for yet; and that would be my multi-media port inside the console. It stopped 'hanging on' to my USB thumb-stick and the internals are a little loose. I don't use it enough to worry about remembering to get it fixed at the dealer; although I have to do it eventually. It all works great, otherwise, I just wish it was better packaged. I would rather have had them on the center console than in the armrest, where they might get damaged, if something is thrown in on top of it arbitrarily. I'm just surprised they couldn't find a better packaging option than in the arm-rest. They could've put the CD player elsewhere and used that space for the multi-media port, since few people use CDs these days. It would also have been nice if it 'saw' hard-drives as well as thumb-sticks; although I think that's a hardware thing, not a software thing.
I figure I don't need to go over the styling of the Dart, because if you're looking at this review, you've already decided whether you like the look or not. Although, I will say this; it's one of the few cars that can pull off being stylish and subtly aggressive look at the same time. A lot of other cars try to do both, but end up either confused or overtly one thing or the other. I suppose the only other thing, that I should say in regards to the Limited styling. If you don't like Chrome, but like all the cool stuff that comes with the Limited and want the 1.4L turbo, get it anyway, because it's easier to change the headlights, bumper-cover and door-handles than it is to change all the interior components that make a Limited, a Limited. If you're not stuck on the engine choice, and wouldn't mind some bigger wheels for slightly sportier ride, then get the GT. It forces the 2.4L engine, but has the Rallye black-bumper and headlight look and the Limited's awesome interior, with a few extra flares that make it a GT. It's a great deal for a car packed with the packages that it has.
I think that about covers everything. Although I do have this, in closing to say. A lot of people seem to think that because it doesn't perform on the drag-strip like a Hemi Dart of the past; or it's not rear-wheel-drive, means that it doesn't live up to it's ancestry. The original Dart was not a muscle car, or even a pony car. So, I would like to say that the people that think this car isn't a good car, or thaat it was named inappropriately, seem to be selective about which histories they want it to follow.
Most people like to forget about the cars that weren't high-performance low-production-volume machines. They also like to forget the cars that they want erased from the heritage. Like the 80s Challenger, or the Mustang II, for example. They're only unpopular to us NOW. They weren't exactly unpopular when they were being built. Like most of the Dodge Darts.
The thing is, you can't erase the fact that those high-dollar-auction-bought machines get those numbers because of the rarity, and their relative unpopularity. If they were popular and there were many of them, they wouldn't be on the auction block in the first place. Like the '71 'Cuda or the 440 Darts of the 60s and 70s. They didn't sell well back in their era, so they're worth more now; and that's just a perceived value based on the emotion of the buyer at the time. That's why it's being auctioned in the first place, right? Because someone was hoping “for the right buyer”.
Most of the Darts that were sold back then were sold as daily-driven, driven-to-death slant-six basic models. The slant six has it's own history as being a near bullet-proof engine and drive-train. If it had, it may have also been FWD. That is why we know what a Dart is. Our parents and grandparents drove or at least saw one every day on the way to wherever they were going. They were probably as popular as today's Toyota Camry or Honda Civic.
That is the true legacy the Dart has on it's shoulders. The ability to be driven into the ground & keep going. Might be a little harder today, given that everything is built with an expiration date. Planned obsolescence, is an unfortunate part of today's society. I hope my Dart, however lives up to it's successors' legacy. At sixteen-thousand miles and climbing, it's not doing a bad job. Not at all.
Thanks for reading my long-worded and not exactly well laid-out review of my Dart. I hope it was easy enough to read even if I did jump around a bit.