2013 Dodge Dart: The First (and Last) Road Trip
February 22, 2013
A compact car is not the ideal vehicle to take on a long-weekend road trip with four people and their stuff. And yet, with all our bigger sedans and SUVs already spoken for, the Dodge Dart was actually the most spacious car available for our weekend journey to Lake Arrowhead. No problem, I thought, we'll just have to make it work.
And make it work we did, as the trunk proved to be suitably ample without the sort of bulges or intrusions that can make a cargo area less useful than its cubic feet would indicate. It does have some nasty spikes in it, but I'll save that for the next blog. The cabin was sufficient for myself (6-foot-3) and my friend Chris (6-foot-4) up front, with our wives in back along with a few items that didn't fit in the trunk. Would there have been more room in a bigger vehicle? Of course, but as far as compact sedans go, the Dart was very impressive and I heard no complaints from my passengers.
With that much weight on board, however, the Dodge Dart's driving dynamics certainly changed. Not surprisingly, the ride was less compliant and the suspension in general exhibited some odd behavior over I-210's concrete surfaces. That's to be expected, though. The much-maligned transmission, perhaps also not surprisingly, didn't take well to the extra weight. It was even slower to downshift from its beloved sixth gear, often leading to a stuttering sensation when applying gentle throttle during cruising.
Once we hit the steep mountain road up to Arrowhead, that high gear obsession got even more tiresome. Ease off the throttle, upshift. Get on the throttle, downshift. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. It didn't take long to slide it over to manual and do it myself.
However, my biggest problem with the Dodge Dart continued to be its seats. As I wrote before, the driver seat is mounted too high and I find it impossible to achieve a comfortable seating position for my 6-foot-3 body. My head is in the roof, the steering wheel doesn't go down far enough and my lower back ends up resting at an awkward angle. Over the course of only two hours, I was more than ready to get out.
Interestingly, and for reasons that have little to do with the Dart, my wife ended up driving home from our little weekend vacation. Though 5-foot-nothing, she too found the seat uncomfortable and found that her back was starting to hurt (she has no history of back issues). On the upside, she was pleasantly surprised about how well the Dodge Dart handled.
Inevitably, the seat comfort issue will keep me from any future Dart excursions. However, as a means for transporting four people and their stuff, it passed quite well.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,173 miles