2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye Long-Term Road Test

2013 Dodge Dart: Initial Annoyance Gives Way to Begrudging Acceptance

February 11, 2013

2013 Dodge Dart

After my first night in our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye, which combines Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, I had the same reaction as Jay and James. This transmission simply doesn't feel well calibrated to the engine. This small-displacement turbocharged engine needs revs to make decent power. But between the transmission's early upshifts and slow gear changes, it's hard to stay in the power in cutthroat commuter traffic.

At least, that's how I felt after one day in the Dart. Now four days on, I feel like I've made peace with the drivetrain's peculiarities and, overall, the experience isn't any worse than a commute in our CVT-equipped Subaru Impreza. Honestly, once you're up to 70 mph, the Dart feels better than our Impreza, because its engine has more mid-range torque, so once you coax the transmission into the right gear, executing a passing maneuver is pretty much turnkey.

That said, when commuting, I am almost always feathering the gas pedal in our Dart, especially in stop-and-go traffic. This approach would likely annoy passengers (I haven't had any yet), but steady throttle doesn't work for me in this car. See, if the transmission gets any inkling that you're not trying to accelerate anymore, it upshifts. And then, the next time you need to catch a hole in traffic, you've got nothing, and other drivers smell weakness and close that hole right up.

This might sound like a totally unrelaxing way to spend a commute, but frankly, knowing that I'm keeping the power available when I need it improves my disposition. I just pretend I'm patting a small terrier to keep it from panicking and hiding under the bed.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,390 miles


  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    I understand why auto boxes are programmed to get to the highest gear possible and resist downshifting. Thank our always helpful elected representatives. What I don't understand is why every car that even hints at sporting pretentions (and the Dart more than hints) doesn't come with a sport mode that holds gears longer, downshifts sooner, and in DSG boxes, reacts faster to paddle commands. If econo mode is standard and is always the default at start up then it shouldn't impact government economy tests to also offer a sport mode. How difficult and more expensive can it be to add a switch and some extra coding to the computer that controls the transmission. Lastly, there are a bunch of aftermarket tuner boxes out there for engines. Why isn't there something similar for transmissions?

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    And why do comments eliminate spaces between paragraphs. Large blocks of text are a pain in the butt to read.

  • noburgers_ noburgers_ Posts:

    I agree, Erin. If the trannys are calibrated for maximum economy, just add an ECO button so the manufacturer can make its mileage claims, and don't press it if you want driveability. No excuse for all the technology, only to end up with a car that drive like a slug.

  • noburgers_ noburgers_ Posts:

    sorry bankerdanny, I guess I said the same thing you did. unfortunately on this site you have to read the comments first, as they don't appear until you post. I like the old way where they are always visible, whether you want to comment or just read them--no extra clicking

  • yaymx5_ yaymx5_ Posts:

    Reminds me of the automatic transmission in my brother's '05 WRX. When you peg the throttle, here's what happens: 1. a little bit of acceleration. 2. uh, does this thing have a turbo? 3. turbooooo. 4. transmission grudgingly downshifts.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2013 Dodge Dart in VA is:

$166 per month*
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