One of the most interesting cars at this year’s Philadelphia Auto Show wasn’t one of the show’s most expensive cars, or one of the show’s fastest cars. It wasn’t even one of the prettiest cars. In fact, the mere mention of the car’s name drew giggles from some of the media Friday morning.
Yep. Chrysler is bringing it back.
The idea isn’t anything new. Manufactures have been bringing nameplates back from the dead for years — Malibu, Beetle, Boss 302, Datsun Z, Challenger, Charger — but here’s the thing: those cars were cool in their heyday, and the current versions of those cars are cool too (OK, not so much with the Malibu).
As strange as this is I’ve heard just about as many “Dodge Dart” jokes as I’ve heard “Pinto” or “Escort” jokes. (Don’t get any ideas, Ford.) Why travel back in time to the days of gas shortages, dog dish hubcaps and vinyl roofs?
“Well, for a couple of reasons,” Dodge spokeswoman Kathy Graham said. “The dynamics of this class include empty nesters, and ‘Millennials.’ Darts got a very favorable response with our empty nesters. And the cool thing about ‘Millennials’ is that there’s nothing. So it’s totally up to us to give the Dart its character.
“We researched a number of names and ‘Dart’ actually resonated the best,” Graham continued. “If you think about it, a dart flying through the air, it’s very aerodynamic — it moves, it’s agile, and that’s really what we think about this car.”
The car is more than a retro name though. It’s significant in that it marks the first joint venture between Chrysler and its parent company Fiat, which purchased more than 50 percent of the company less than a year ago.
Instantly recognizable as a Dodge, with its crosshair grille and LED tail lamps that span the stern, the Dart shares a chassis with the Fiat Giulietta. It’s good looking, but not threatening. Amorphous. It could be the illegitimate child of the Hyundai Sonata and the BMW F30.
“With its dynamic curves and lines ... it’s one of those cars that you’ll want to wash by hand,” Graham said.
Power comes from one of three 4-cylinder engines: a base 2.0-liter with 160 hp; a 2.4-liter with 184 hp; and a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine sourced from Fiat.
Turbocharged engines are so fashionable right now …
However, the car on display for members of the press to tinker with probably didn’t have any of those engines sitting in the bay — the clutch pedal and the chrome six-speed shift knob appeared to be props, not hooked up to anything.
Aside from the dummy shift knob, the interior was pleasant, with high quality plastics, a monster interface screen and two-tone leather with contrasting stitching and piping. The slanted Dodge logo on the gauge cluster is a little cheesy.
Strangely, the Dart is slated to replace the hatchback-esque Dodge Caliber and not the super-uncompetitive Avenger — which isn’t going anywhere, according to Graham.
The Dart will go into production in quarter two of this year.
If you go ...
Don't miss ...
- The best paint job of the show — the BMW M5's Frozen Gray matte paint. It looks like shark skin. See the photo.
- Subaru pays homage to its old sports cars, the XT and the SVX, while introducing its new RWD sports car the BRZ. Alphabet soup! See the photos.
- And don't miss the new Porsche 991 911 Carrera. It now says "911" on the rear decklid ... as if you didn't know what it was. See the photos.
- For Bimmer fans, the new F30 BMW 328i and 335i are on display, as is the new M5. The F30 is going to take some getting used to ...
- Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 29, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Monday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. 10pm
- Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Sunday, Feb. 5, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Adults, age 13 and up: $12
- Children, age 7-12: $6
- Children age 6 and under: Free
- Seniors, age 62 and up: $6 (weekdays only)