The 4-door sedan has traditionally been the family car, while 2-door coupes like this were aimed at single drivers who valued personality and performance. But getting married and settling down rarely dampens a car fan’s thirst for driving fun. So to ease that thirst, Dodge has given their popular, affordable, mid-size 4-door, the Stratus, a dose of coupe-like style. The result is the 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T sedan, a family 4-door for folks who aren’t quite ready to settle down?
The 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T sedan certainly looks sportier than your average family 4- door, and sportier than the standard Stratus as well. The flashy bits include a body-color grille, and standard fog lamps, body-color side moldings, a rear deck-lid spoiler, and polished 17-inch alloy wheels wearing R-rated 215/50 series tires.
So the show is outside, but the go is under the hood. It’s Chrysler’s 2.7-liter twin-cam V6, with a stout 200 horsepower, and 190 pound-feet of torque. And it’s bolted to a real MT, that’s manual transmission, a 5-speed, which is good news for enthusiasts. Even though the linkage is a bit stiff and sluggish. You don’t run through the gears you jog.
Nevertheless, we managed a spirited 0 to 60 time of 7.5 seconds. And a quickest 1/4 mile of 15.9 seconds at 91 miles-per-hour, thanks to the strong response of the V-6 at low rpm. It’s not as refined as some import-badged V6s, but the 2.7 does deliver good solid power where and when you need it.
The Stratus R/T is also set up to deliver the sportier side of handling with a performance tuned suspension. Double wishbones up front, and multi-links in the rear. When pushed hard, there is great grip at the rear, but safety minded front end push slowed the R/T’s progress through the corners. Well, it’s still a front drive family car. There was also more body roll than one would expect in a sport sedan. The power rack- and-pinion steering is quick, but offered little feedback.
Braking is by 4-wheel discs, with standard ABS. Stops averaged a longish 134 feet from 60 miles-per-hour. Pedal feel was a bit on the soft side, but the R/T always stopped straight and stable.
It’s in the less demanding, but more typical, arena of daily driving that the Stratus R/T is at its best. The platform that suffered a little in our tight slalom offers a smooth, solid ride. The car nips easily through tight urban traffic, and feels light and tossable on country roads. So this R/T is not so much a converted sport sedan, as it is a livelier, more responsive version of a trusted family friend.
And with all the room and comfort that we’ve enjoyed in every Stratus we’ve tested. The R/T has the same large 94 cubic-foot interior, but with a more business like look, that includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, faux carbon trim on the dash, and cloth upholstery on nicely supportive bucket seats. So it’s handsome, not stark.
To park the handsome 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T in your garage, you’ll have to shell out at least $22,150. Our well-optioned test car carried a sticker of $25,240. But, given the incentives available, and an above average powertrain warranty, the R/T is almost a sporty sedan steal.
While we wouldn’t put the R/T up against an Audi A4, this Dodge provides far more driving fun than a standard 4-door kiddie hauler, without the ride harshness or the expensive upkeep of a true sport sedan. The Dodge Stratus R/T sedan reminds us that while settling down is all very well, one should never settle down completely.
Engine: 2.7-Liter Twin-cam V6
Torque: 190 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 7.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 91 MPH
60-0 MPH: 134 Feet
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 28 MPG Highway