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2007 Dodge Caliber CUV Review : Road test, specs, photos 2007 Dodge Caliber New Car Review

by Bob Plunkett

Twisty switchbacks on Route 88 through Arizona's Superstition Mountains fail to impede our momentum due to the sure-footed stance and easy-driving traits of a new small-scale SUV from the Dodge Division of DaimlerChrysler.

2007 Dodge Caliber CUV Review : Road test, specs, photos

This five-door hatchback-styled wagon, sized for the compact class and riding on a car's chassis with front-wheel-drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction, goes by the tag of Caliber. It's the best-priced car in Dodge's 2007 line and the one replacing the aged Neon.

Caliber offers a lot more of a car than Neon, in terms of structure and powertrain, safety equipment and cabin content, and for MSRP figures which undercut Neon. But what is Caliber -- sporty little touring car or gear-hauling SUV?

Actually, it's a bit of both.

Caliber defies the traditional body-on-frame organization of a SUV built on a truck chassis by instead using the unified structure of a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car, namely DaimlerChrysler's stiff new global platform. It also employs the independent suspension of a car.

"But what is Caliber -- sporty little touring car or gear-hauling SUV? "

Instead of the solid rear axle of a typical truckish SUV, Caliber gets independent suspension elements for every wheel. This brings more control over the vehicle for a driver and more comfortable ride sensations for riders. With the car-like suspension and quick-to-respond rack and pinion steering aboard, Caliber seems to eliminate all of the effort required to drive a sport-ute, and in urban traffic it's easy to maneuver and behaves like a small sedan rather than a truck.

It looks cool too -- so sleek with the arching roofline of a rakish coupe despite a pair of doors hanging off each side, a powerful in-your-face prow and the crisp tail of a hatchback wagon. The chiseled body features a stepped-hood bulge behind a horse-collar grille thrust forward and marked in shiny cross-hair chrome. Twin headlamp clusters are huge and wrap around the front corners into broad-shouldered fenders. And note the black trim strip extending from the base of a canted windshield over flank doors to an integrated rear-roof spoiler. Front and rear overhangs have been whittled away and wheels on the four corners are proportionally big, conveying an impression of strength and power.

Despite the classification as a compact car, Caliber has a passenger compartment of generous scale with seats for five and ample space in the tail section for stowing gear. Layout of the cabin consists of a pair of contoured buckets up front and followed by a bench broad enough for three but with indents for two. Seatbacks on the second row split in 60/40 sections and fold down to extend the floor of the rear cargo bay, which has 48 cubic feet of room with rear seats flat or 18.5 cubic feet with seatbacks raised. And the deck of the cargo bay is covered in washable and removable vinyl to make cleaning easy.

Clever concepts make life comfortable inside Caliber:

Chill Zone -- a bin below the dashboard to cool four 20-oz. bottles or cans.
Sliding armrest -- to fit a petite driver.
110-volt power outlet -- to juice electronic gear.
Light-ringed cupholders -- the blue-green glow rings are easy to find in the dark.
MusicGate -- a premium sound system by Boston Acoustics with twin speakers on the tailgate that swing down to face rearward for a tailgate party.

Instruments on the dashboard include white-faced analog gauges housed in chrome-rimmed binnacles.

At the center of the dash is a cluster of stacked controls for climate and audio systems. Below the center stack, a floor-mounted console cradles the transmission's shifter lever in a squared gate.
2007 Dodge Caliber CUV Review : Interior : Road test, specs, photos

Measures for passenger safety in the cabin extend from the sturdy safety-cage construction to front seatbelts with load-limited and pretensioning apparatus, backseat restraints with upper and lower anchors to mount a child's seat, smart multi-stage air bags up front and curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows for outboard seats in front and back.

Caliber also has active safety systems designed to avoid accidents, including the quick-response rack and pinion steering system and optional equipment like the anti-lock brake system (ABS) and anti-skid devices via the electronic stability control (ESC) system coupled to all-speed traction control (ASTC) and hydraulic brake assist (HBA).

Dodge offers three different four-cylinder engines to propel Caliber through three trims tagged as a base SE, sporty SXT and the performance model, Caliber R/T. Price-leading Caliber SE packs a 1.8-liter plant with dual variable valve timing (VVT) to generate 148 hp at 6500 rpm plus torque of 125 lb-ft at 5200 rpm. It comes with a five-speed manual shifter.

Caliber SXT uses the 1.8-liter engine or a 2.0-liter VVT four-pack which climbs to 158 hp at 6400 rpm with 141 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm. The 2.0-liter engine links to a continuously variable transaxle (CVT).

Caliber R/T (the initials signify "Road and Track" in recognition of Dodge's muscle car heritage) totes a 2.4-liter VVT rendition that makes 172 hp at 6000 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. With the 2.4-liter plant, the CVT gains a six-step AutoStick. Also, Caliber R/T with the 2.4-liter engine adds an on-demand AWD device with electromagnetic control of the front/rear torque split, which defaults to FWD.

Even the entry-issue Caliber SE brings a long list of standard equipment including the curtain-style air bags, rear seatbacks split 60/40, illuminated front cupholders, front console sliding armrest, vinyl-clad cargo floor and auxiliary radio input jack.

Prices begin at $13,425 for Caliber SE. Caliber SXT shows the MSRP at $15,425, while Caliber R/T tallies to $19,425.

2007 Dodge Caliber
Compact crossover SUV
Model options:

Caliber SE
Caliber SXT
Caliber R/T

Engine size:


I-4: 160 @ 6,500 rpm
V-6: 221 @ 6,250 rpm

1.8-L: Manual/5
2.0-L: CVT2
2.4-L: CVT2/AutoStick


103.7 inches

Overall Length:

173.8 inches

Rear/Front Drive:

1.8-L: FWD
2.0-L: FWD
2.4-L: AWD


Power rack and pinion


SE: Power disc/drum, opt. ABS
SXT: Power disc/drum, opt. ABS
opt. Power 4-disc/ABS
R/T: Power 4-disc/ABS, opt. ESP/ASTC/HBA

Air bags:

2 (front)
4 (side curtain)

Fuel Economy:

1.8-L: 28/32 mpg
2.0-L: 26/30 mpg
2.4-L: 23/26 mpg


SE: $ 13,425
SXT: $ 15,425
R/T: $ 19,425