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Dodge Caliber Test Drive - What Did You Think?



  • canoenutcanoenut Posts: 12
    What a ridiculous opinion piece! How about comparing comparable vehicles? Why not take another AWD hatchback or wagon with an automatic transmission and then you'd be comparing apples with apples.
  • Amen, brother! I think Karl has driven too many super cars to appreciate the Caliber for what it is: a tremendously smart, useful and comfortable vehicle at a very competitive price. Let the tuners whine about the Neon, I want a car i can USE!
  • Karl,
    I had been driving my Caliber STX about 1800 miles before I found about the step in the gas pedal. You push down on the gas, and it is like pushing on air up to a point. Most people would never know to go further. Try pushing it further you might even think you are going to break something. And I think you will be surprised at the power.
    I think you are under rating the performance; you should go back and try it again. You will be surprised.
  • lablover2lablover2 Posts: 106
    i went to a dodge dealer and test drove the caliber sxt yesterday and i loved it! it drove much nicer than the vibe or matrix in my opinion and i liked the added horsepower but still decent gas mileage. the dealer only had one on the lot so i am waiting for more cars to come in-i may go back and put some $ down so i get what i want. seems like they are only taking $500 off sticker plus the $500 rebate, is that about right?
  • orangertorangert Posts: 41
    Yea about right. I got a little over 1300 off. On the lot not an ordered car.
  • Hello people! I just wanted to let you know... I bought a black Caliber SXT, 1.8L, 5speed about 2 weeks ago. I'll only get it in 4-6 weeks, but when I bought the car, it was only after test driving an SE with CVT2. I personally don't like the CVT2 at all. It's clumsy and very noisy! I just can't stand it! I am more of a manual transmission car type guy. With manual, I feel a lot more control over the car. It's easier to get the power you want, when you need it! Anyway, my point is, I went back to the same dealership where I ordered the car this past weekend and, I was pretty surprised when I saw a 1.8L, 5 speed, orange SE Caliber on the lot... Last time I checked, the guys at the dealership told me that they were only going to start getting manual transmissions Calibers in mid-may. So, I'm thinking, maybe I'll be able to drive mine before mid-june... I just can't wait...
    And of course, I asked my salesman to go test drive the orange 1.8L, 5speed... by myself!! You see, I am not a mechanic, but I know enough about cars to be able to tell what's good on a car, what's wrong and what's gonna be my next mod. :shades: Seriously, when you go test drive a car, you should always go by yourself. You can take "all the time you want" to have a look at the car. Nobody to disturb you, to take your attention away from the things you should be able to check when you're by yourself... So, I drove away, test drove the car on highway, curvy roads, city streets, dirt roads... for about 30 minutes. And then I stopped in a parking lot and I listened to the engine, looked under the car, the hood, everywhere! Looking for noises, weakness, things that will fall apart after a couple years. I did find a few little things, but nothing that can't be handled and fixed by the dealership. EX: Look for missing rubber pieces around the doors, the hood and the trunk. These are little things, but it makes a lot of noise when you shut a door and there is one missing. Metal against metal = No good. The car was very quiet, except when you make the engine rev to 6000rpm... but that's normal! The 5speed was never as noisy as the one with the 2.0L with CVT2. Not much road noises. Good stability, good brakes, good suspension. A bit of steer when you accelerate very fast, which could be a problem if you are driving 6 months of the year in winter conditions and you don't have a lot of driving experience. ;) When you are test driving a car by yourself, you can listen to the car without the radio on, with the radio on, windows up, down, etc. I really think it's important to do all those things. That way, you are making sure that you will like the car. An other thing, some car reviews on the Caliber are saying that the 5speed isn't "smooth", it's hard to shift and needs some refinements. I think it's not bad at all, and if you really know how to drive standards, you should know that every new transmission needs a little bit of time to break in and that at a certain engine rev, it's easier to shift. Once I got use to the feel of the 5speed manual transmission of the Caliber, I loved it... and it was very smooth, and fast!!! :)
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Posts: 402
    THANK YOU! for sharing that. We ordered the 5 speed too and only test drove the automatic. Probably a bit risky since we both felt the car we drove had some engine "problems" which is probably the noise from the pulley system but I digress...

    I am glad someone drove the car we ordered and found it to be a good choice! I hope we get ours soon, this Thurs is 6 weeks..
  • Hi caliberchic! Which trim are you getting? What's your location and how much are you paying for it? Did you get a good deal?

    I can't wait to get mine. I've seen 3 or 4 Calibers so far while driving around and they were all from an other province!! It's getting pretty warm and sunny here, I can't wait to take mine for a drive... but I'll need to get it first... :P
  • :mad: :mad: Hello blackcaliber. What City/Town did you see that orange 5 - speed in? I'm approaching an 8 week wait for a 1.8 5 - speed. Very frustrating!!!
  • Airdrie, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Posts: 402
    Hi! We are getting the SXT Sport in Sunburst Orange. We are in MI and are paying apx $19,500. We pretty much paid sticker but we are trading in so we don't have as much leverage as someone else.

    There is ONE white SXT around here. It's the car we test drove, it was actually already sold. I didn't care for that one, it seemed pretty basic. No sunroof, styling extras or anything. It will be funny when I run into that owner with my Caliber, I bet they kick themselves for buying the one on the lot that was missing a lot of the fun things.
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Posts: 402
    I expect my wait will be similar for my 1.8 5 speed. I was told yesterday that it's at a D1 status at the plant and should be moving along now but then again I don't have faith that my sales person really has a clue.

    Be sure to report when yours arrives!
  • gnoonangnoonan Posts: 1
    I just picked up my Caliber RT yesterday, they had to go to Colorado to get it, I live in Oregon.
    I have only had it a little over 24 hours but I love it.
    I do agree they should have put some padding on the console and armrests,oh and the white interior is a little scary.
    I bought the Inferno Red and it is such a hot color, beautiful !
    I think it drives great so far,I will check back in a month or so after I have a little more time with it. :blush: :blush: :blush:
  • moonhunt18moonhunt18 Posts: 33
    where in oregon did you purchase? i got my sunburst caliber sport Dick's Country Dodge in Hillsboro. :D
  • micwebmicweb Posts: 1,617
    The Caliber is on our short list of vehicles to replace our totalled minivan. Although I liked the spaciousness of the minivan, and it got good gas mileage for a minivan (23.5 on a freeway commute, 24-25 on long road trips, Dodge Caravan with 4 cylinder), I am a small car fan at heart, and especially love hatchbacks.

    The Yaris liftback, '07 Rabbit, Caliber, and Impala (wife's choice) are on our list of cars.

    The best Caliber configuration I have found to date is the SXT; only a few hundred dollars separate the SE and SXT once you add air con to the SE and a power window etc. package, and the SXT gives you the larger wheels, a little dress up chrome, and, in my opinion, easier resale since the SE's will come to be viewed as "stripped down" even when they are optioned back up (I'd rather by the cheapest version of the next trim level up, than the most expensive version of the next trim level down).

    It is hard, of course, to find SXT's that aren't loaded up to $18-19K but still include speed control. Basically, we want a Caliber with SXT trim, CVT (which automatically adds the $100 larger engine and the free ABS brakes), and speed control, which stickers here for $17335 or so. Discounts are scarce, just the $500 rebate and between $200 and $600 off from the dealer. IF you can find the exact color and options you want, which is hard, since the cars are selling off dealers' lots quickly and two that were listed on the computer search early in the week were gone by the time I called later in the week. Fortunately, the dealers I contacted through their internet departments are not asking above MSRP or, worse yet, adding senseless accessories and then bickering with you about them. (I still resent Honda dealers in the 60's and 70's for taking a fine, low priced car and turning it into a mid priced car with pinstriping and other garbage.)

    Anyway, the real issue is how the car drives, and it drives very well based on a 15 mile or so test drive last week of an SXT with 2.0 and CVT.

    First, the CVT posed absolutely no issues for me. It felt very much like a conventional automatic, unlike the CVT in a Justy, MINI, and Five Hundred that I have driven before. There was no lurch as the CVT engaged/disengaged when stopping, no run up in rpm (motorboating) while the car speed chases after it. The car just drove away smoothly, accelerated without any oddness, and on the freeway when I wanted more acceleration, "downshifted" slightly and took off. I am sure there is stuff I didn't notice that I would notice over time, but it is obvious that Nissan/JATCO have done a MUCH better job on CVT's that the notoriously suspect European manufacturers used by MINI, Chevy, and Ford(who were so bad, that Chevy just tossed in the towel on their experiment with CVT's in the Saturn).

    Nissan is deeply committed to CVT's - the '07 Altima will be offered with only the CVT as its automatic transmission option next year, and the Altima is a key vehicle in Nissan's lineup. Ghosn talked in an article about having a target of 1,000,000 CVT units sold per year. While this is no assurance the units will be defect free or not have some issues over the years ahead (which is also a problem for the next generation 5 and 6 speed conventional automatics), it does mean resources will be there to fix problems and, like hybrids, there will be a sturdy market in repairs and replacement units. (Unlike the Five Hundred CVT which looks headed for orphanhood.)

    It helps that the CVT in the Caliber is the CVT2 or "second generation" Nissan/Jatco CVT. Since Nissan's own Versa is reportedly coming with a conventional automatic due to CVT shortages, hopefully Dodge has a good contract to keep their own CVT pipeline full and avoid production shortages.

    YMMV - be sure to drive your sample carefully, and if it doesn't feel right to you, drive other samples to see if they are all the same. And if you are worried about reliabity, you have, I understand, until the end of the initial warranty period in which to buy the extended warranty (price is the same during the first year, subject to mileage, but goes up thereafter; you can buy these online from any Dodge dealer separate from your car purchase so check online before you pay full retail at your dealer).

    The Caliber feels much more like a midsize car than a compact. It is solid, heavy, and stable on the freeway. It is VERY quiet in acceleration and cruising, comparable once again to a midsize car. For that matter, cabin room is comparable to a midsize car. Only the "trunk" space suffers - it is shorter than a Malibu, for example, and although the brochure numbers look good, I think they assume stacking above the car's waistline, and aren't based on the space availabe with the tonneau cover in place (which is optional).

    Since I am so close to purchasing, I already started developing some personal strategies for maximizing the use of the Caliber. For example, the car has a "full size" spare tire, at least full size in diameter although the actual tire is not a full-duty tire - it is designed to be taken off as soon as possible (but doesn't have that horrible 50 mph constraint, so far as I could tell). I am not sure is a true spare tire will fit - the existing spare tire might be slightly narrower than was is fitted to the car - but my thinking goes the other way - to removal of the spare tire to open up the resulting large area under the floor forstorage.

    The problem in urban areas is that an "open" trunk design, common to minivans, SUV's, and now the Caliber, is an invitation to theft, even if you dark tint the glass (and the Caliber does NOT come with privacy glass standard). Although all I carry is a little extra oil, tire inflator, and such stuff, maybe an emergency jacket and old pair of walking shoes, potential thieves can't tell the difference between a bag full of non-resaleable stuff and a bag with a laptop or Ipod or cd's. So having an out of sight place (the spare tire compartment) to stuff things would be great.

    The tonneau cover mostly just gets in the way and reduces available haul space for shopping trips. It isn't as bad as a solid cover that becomes a storage issue in itself, but still it gets in the way. After a visit to Costco, we really need to stack high and just leave enough room to see our the rear window!

    So if I were an owner, I might take out the spare tire and store it, put in a can of tire inflator/repair and a small air pump to fix repairable flats, if any; and use the remaining space for storage. The hatch area would also be open on road trips to the kids could reach over to get food and toys. I might also play with the idea of putting a full size tire, but no rim, in the spare tire compartment, which would leave a lot of storage space but give me a back up if I had a non-repairable flat and a tire in my size was hard to locate while on a road trip or after hours.

    I hope other people are thinking of creative ways
  • cuda2000cuda2000 Posts: 3
    I went for a test drive of the SXT version with the 2.0 engine. The car looks cool, but there were a lot of seemingly 'stuck on' body panels, such as the wing on the back of the roof, feels like you could just rip it off with your hands, and cheap plastic compartments, like theres one on the back thats just a molded plastic flap that opens by the wheel well, that remind me of a cheap toy.

    Anyway, the car had only 4 miles on it, so I didn't beat on it, but flooring it from 30mph to 50mph had no power. And at 30 you *had* to floor it to get it to increase speed, the salesman even told me to floor it, because thats the way it drives. It was very strange must be the CVT.

    I'm currently driving a 97 Chevy Cavalier with a 2.4L Twin cam engine and 156,000 miles, which gets 22 city and 32 hwy mpg, so I figured a 10 year newer caliber had to be as peppy, but no, its a dog. I have rented PT Cruisers before and they are even faster than the caliber from my experience. I think I would take a used PT Cruiser over a Caliber. They have more room too.

    And whats with AirConditioning adding $1,000 to the base model? Holy cow, what is this 1975? Since when is AC not standard?

    Sorry to burst all your bubbles guys, but this Caliber all show and no go. For as doggy as the motor is, it should get more than 32 mpg.
  • gljvdgljvd Posts: 129
    Interesting , i just test drove this and the vibe . I like it alot more than the vibe ( i was driving the 2.0l caliber) The cvt2 takes a bit to get used to but once i got used to it , it felt fine .

    It may not get the mpg of the vibe or matrix , but its much bigger inside and on a trip to florida (From jersey) I'd rather get in the caliber than the matrix
  • gregoriusmgregoriusm Posts: 61
    Excellent write-up! Thanks! And you've given me some serious thoughts for that spare tire area. I DO like the "full sized spare with no wheel" idea!

    If anyone can try that and see if a full sized tire will fit, I'd LOVE to know!!!

    Great ideas! :)
  • neely2005neely2005 Posts: 70
    I thought that I'd post this again since there has been a lot of CVT2 Transmission talk in the last few posts:

    "All-round, I love this transmission. Its among the best CVTs Ive ever tried. Interestingly, what might be the best CVT Ive driven overall is fitted to Nissans Murano crossover, a transmission that just happens to be made by the same supplier that builds the Calibers CVT, Jatco; a Japanese company thats partially owned by Nissan. The Caliber CVT is a more sophisticated gearbox than that in the Murano, however, being a newer, more updated CVT2 example, and is probably only bested by the Nissan due to the larger vehicles torque-laden V6 engine - kind of an apples to oranges comparison." /2
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Posts: 402
    And that is why I opted for the manual transmission. The spoiler isn't a solid fixture, it is bolted on at the dealership. Well the larger wing spoiler is anyway.
  • Today I finally got to touch, and drive, a Caliber. In a nutshell, I was disappointed. the car felt good and was comfortable, but although I am reasonably tall (5' 11"), I was unable to see any part of the car in front of the windshield wipers. At first, I thought the adjustable seat would help (the test car was an SE). But, when I sat in an RT and pumped the seat up 'til my head hit the sunroof, I still could see nothing. The Caliber has been almost removed from my list. I am now waiting for the Nissan Versa.
  • calibreathcalibreath Posts: 22
    I have owned Caravans :) for the last 11 years, so that is not a problem for me.
  • Yeah, I guess I'm confused too... I'm 6' tall and can't see the hood of a lot of cars, though I used to own an early-70s Datsun 280z... all you could see was hood :) Not sure I see that this merits removing a car from consideration. You get used to it very quickly.
  • dianicessdianicess Posts: 7
    I drive a Chevy Venture Minvan at work - can't see the hood at all. At least with the Caliber, you know it has a substantial one and it gets a 5 star front impact rating. You have to adapt to any vehicle you drive. I love height of the car-it's just right! Smooth ride!
  • Well I have owned over 25 cars and trucks and on every one of them I could see the front fenders. I guess I am too old to learn to park by intuition. :(
  • neely2005neely2005 Posts: 70
    That's because like a lot of Chrysler Products the car has a "Cab Forward" Design which pushes the Cabin Further to the Front of the car to create more interior space. My Neon is the same, trust me you get used to it pretty quickly and it's a small price to pay for more interior space.
    A lot of new cars (all brands) are like this now.

    BTW: I'm 6' 0" & I didn't find this to be a problem when I test drove the Caliber as I'm used to it from my Neon.
  • k3lli3k3lli3 Posts: 4
    Im in Canmore, Alberta ..... and want a Calibre .... but I dont want to wait. Any ideas how the local dealerships are doing in stocking them????

    Oh yeah ..... I', a manual transmission tupe of girl too!! :D
  • bigtsrbigtsr Posts: 149
    Goto locate retailers by inputting your postal
    You can look at retailer inventories and see what options
    each vehicle is equipped with and how much.
    Word of advice-if you don't want to wait for one then
    buy one on their lot,otherwise you could waiting for
    16 weeks on custom order as I have been doing.
    Good luck!!!
This discussion has been closed.