February 19, 2014
After 20 minutes of indecision, I made up my mind. Our 2013 Dodge Dart would get me to San Francisco or I would abandon it on the roadside trying. After slipping, sputtering and smelling of burnt something, I pulled the Dart off the highway several miles from Kettleman City, an interstate outpost town in California's San Joaquin valley.
The problem started with what felt like a fuel interruption during a sixth-gear pass on a semi. Not much later, the check-engine light illuminated, and the Dart starting skipping a beat and losing power in its lower gears. After letting the powertrain cool, checking fluids, flipping through the manual, cycling the ignition, and repeating incantations to the guardians of road trips, I drove the Dart gingerly around the back of the strip mall where I'd parked. It struggled with acceleration through the first three gears, but seemed to hook up in fourth.
I made a furtive pass at the interstate on-ramp, but chickened out and U-turned back to the gas-and-snack complex. The car just didn't feel highway worthy. But after several more minutes of internal debate, more looking and sniffing around under the hood (something was smelling burnt, but I couldn't pinpoint the source or smell), and generally pretending my mechanical theories had validity, I had to do something. And that something was not waiting for a tow truck and a rental car to get me the rest of the way to San Francisco.
February 4 , 2014
It's always a fun day when you start driving for the Bay.
I was getting a late start on my weekend plans in San Francisco, but figured with some luck, I'd be in the city by 7:00 p.m. I'd take the lazier US-101 route on the return trip, but I needed to make time on the arrival leg. The nav system chose the usual, technically shortest route across the East Bay into the city, but the Bay Bridge on a Friday night is no joke. Instead, I chose my preferred route up Interstate 5, west across Highway 152, then US-101 up through San Jose and Silicon Valley.
I made good time out of Los Angeles. I had an open sunroof, trail mix and jerky, and loaded playlists. Our 2013 Dodge Dart would be fine carriage for the 800-some round-trip miles. Once in the city, I'd park the car until Sunday afternoon.
Trouble began near Kettleman City, about halfway through the route in western California's agricultural badlands.
November 21, 2013
The Las Vegas Strip is 280 miles from the Edmunds.com offices. I probably could've squeezed an additional 60 miles of range out of our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye by hypermiling on my road trip to Vegas. And I might've made it back from SEMA without stopping to gas up, but in the end, I still drove the Dart 506 miles on just one tank of gas.
September 24, 2013
Push forward to downshift, pull back to upshift. Did Dodge get it right?
September 19, 2013
Our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye and I have a history. A history of me breaking things on it, that is. First it was the outer door handle coming off in my hand, then the center armrest bin latch fell off.
But I'm trying to put those behind me because, I like driving this thing.
September 17, 2013
Southern California is in the middle of a heat wave. It's been 95 to 100 degrees here every day for more than a week. It's uncomfortable both for humans and for small boosted engines burdened with the weight of a compact sedan. It's this three-week period every year when we rediscover one of the primary downsides of small turbocharged powerplants.
September 16, 2013
Despite the fact that they've got racing stripes down their center which are both visible and obvious to one's backside, the 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye's seats are pretty good.
September 10, 2013
I hadn't driven our 2013 Dodge Dart before this week. And other than a few comments about its transmission, I had no prior impressions. Here's my first observation. At 70 the engine is cranking at about 2,600 rpm in sixth gear, which is enough to be noticeable — disturbing, even — in the cockpit.
September 6, 2013
I can't fully explain why, but I find the 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye's speedometer tough to read quickly sometimes. And when it comes to staying close to the legal limit, an easy-to-read speedometer is nice to have.
I think the problem is that I get confused as to whether the white or red hash marks are indicating "0" or "5" of the current mph, if I'm just glancing over.
July 10, 2013
Our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart has sensitive brakes. You roll to a red light or a stop sign, roll onto the pedal gently, then lurch. Even light pressure brings a quick clamp. This proves useful for unexpected slowing at highway speeds, and indeed our Dart slows itself better than most in its class. The Dart requires 117 feet to stop from 60 mph; most in the class require 120 feet or more.
June 27, 2013
My wife and I recently headed to the pet store in the 2013 Dodge Dart to buy a big bag of dog food.
As Kelly recently pointed out, the remote trunk release is nice, but it doesn't open the trunk all that much. No problem, it's got that "lightweight lid" she talked about.
June 13, 2013
Today Chrysler issued a recall notice for nearly 15,000 2013 Dodge Dart sedans equipped with the 1.4-liter engine and dual-clutch transmission.
Yep, that's the spec for our long-term Dart.
June 12, 2013
You can tow any car behind a motorhome if you bring a trailer. But motorhome aficionados rightly consider trailers to be a pain in the butt because they represent extra towed weight and a storage problem. They'd much rather tow the car on its on wheels with a simple tow bar in so-called four-down or "dingy" fashion.
Easy is the watchword here. Motorhome touring is supposed to be fun. A dinghy vehicle can be quickly unhooked and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awnings unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode.
Of course there are mechanical implications for the car involved.
What does this mean for the 2013 Dodge Dart? Can you tow one of these with a motorhome?
June 11, 2013
I met a friend of mine the other night at the movies. Afterwards, as we were walking back to our cars in the parking garage, my friend, who isn't what you would call a "real car person" (whatever the definition of that is anyway), asked me what car I had tonight.
"Dodge Dart," I said.
"Oh, cool!" she said. "Can I see it?"
June 7, 2013
As you can see from this warning sticker, Dodge doesn't recommend putting more than 825 pounds of total weight in the Dart. Seems reasonable until you start doing the math.
May 30, 2013
I'm loving our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart right now. I just spent the better part of a week living in the Dart and I'm hesitant to give up the keys.
May 14, 2013
As is often becoming the case these days, our 2013 Dodge Dart features an optional engine that's actually smaller in displacement than the base setup. With the help of a turbocharger, this 1.4-liter engine manages to deliver 40 extra pound-feet of torque over the 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Horsepower remains equal between the two engines.
April 15, 2013
Confession: I'm very picky about how people drive. Basically, hands at 9 and 3, always pass on the left and always look ahead. Amazingly there's a bunch of people who don't know any of this. Cough::Angelenos::cough. Well, last weekend I was passenger to one such person. He drives with both wrists at the 12 o'clock position and also sticks to the speed limit (driving 70 mph in a 70-mph zone, but I tried not to be too mad at that since he probably was just worried about fuel economy). ANYway, you're probably wondering what this has to do with our 2013 Dodge Dart.
April 11, 2013
In a previous update I wrote about how our 2013 Dodge Dart successfully took on my family's large collection of stuff for a four-day, 700-mile road trip. For this installment I've got a report on how well the Dart drove.
April 3, 2013
We've generally written nice things about the 2013 Dodge Dart's handling capabilities. In our road test, for instance, we observed that the Dart "is surprisingly satisfying to thread through a smooth canyon road if you're just trying to make brisk work of it and not set a time-to-distance record." But I've also seen some feedback elsewhere claiming that the Dodge is a little more ho-hum. Curious to find out for myself, I drove our long-term Dart on a local, curvy road.
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.
February 20, 2013
Some editors have already pointed out the annoyances of the 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye's dual-clutch transmission. Basically, it's slow to react and easily confused. Since those are two deficiencies I've also been accused of on several occasions, I probably shouldn't be throwing stones.
Instead I'll focus on some of the redeeming qualities. Such as the perfect throttle blips on manual downshifts.
February 19, 2013
I need to get something off my chest. I kinda dig the rumbly, slightly agricultural note that emanates from the twin-outlet exhaust system on our 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye long-term car.
I'm not saying it's a beautiful sound. But the deep burbling as you trundle around at low revs sounds mean. Especially with the windows down.
February 18, 2013
This is the gas cap for our 2013 Dodge Dart. You might notice that it makes no recommendation as to which kind of gas the engine prefers "for best performance" or any such nonsense.
It's a bit strange given that our Dart has the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Or at least it's strange to anyone who grew up driving a turbocharged car that required premium swill just to keep it from detonating itself to death.
February 11, 2013
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.
February 6, 2013
It's no understatement to call our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye a big car for its class. Among economy sedans, it's the longest (183.9 inches) and widest (72.0 inches), even if its wheelbase (106.4 inches) is right in line with the Hyundai Elantra and Nissan Sentra.
After commuting to work in the Dart for the better part of a week, I think it lives up to that big footprint. Specifically, it rides like the small midsize car that is and feels substantial going down the road, something Dan noted in our first drive and Jay in our full test of a conventional manual-shift SXT Rallye.
Together, the suspension calibration and 225/45R17 Continental all-season tires strike a good balance between compliance and control. The Dart soaks up impacts neatly without resorting to the floatiness you get in some competitors. At the same time, it rarely crashes over ruts and it copes with the rain-grooved/washboard sections of the I-405 freeway without feeling busy. It reminds me a bit of our long-term Chevy Cruze in this regard, and I prefer it to our Subaru Impreza.
January 28, 2013
Flummoxed. That's the best word to describe our Dodge Dart's dual-clutch automated manual transmission, because I'm not sure if it realizes what it's actually supposed to do. "I know I have gears and there's an engine bolted to me, but what is my goal here again?"
Jay Kavanagh already described quite well this transmission's issues. In short, it's slow to respond, gets caught in the wrong gear and exhibits some downright strange behavior. At one point when stuck in traffic Friday, the tach was racing at 4,000 rpm and the engine was growling in its unflattering dieselesque tone, and yet there was absolutely no semblance of forward motion as a result. It was like I had the clutch pedal in.
These aren't the same complaints levied against the Ford or VW dual-clutch transmissions. Those are mostly a matter of an automated manual transmission behaving differently than a traditional automatic. Things like creeping into a parking spot or movement on a hill. You may get used to it, you may end up deciding you don't like it, but you probably won't be left wondering, "what's wrong with this thing?"
Now, as Jay said, it's not quite as bad as single-clutch automanuals and I'm quite certain it puts the power down better in a simple gun-it acceleration run than a torque converter automatic would. However, there are problems here, and the news today that Dodge is planning a nine-speed automatic for the Dart sounds like its replacement could be on the way.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 1,916 miles
January 22, 2013
Our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart has the optional, $1,300 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
While we're still exploring how this combination handles the rigors of day-to-day use, we don't have to wait any longer to see how it performs on the track.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor
January 21, 2013
Our long-term 2013 Dodge Dart is equipped with the optional automated manual transmission. Chrysler calls it DDCT (Dual Dry Clutch Transmission). It is the sole gearbox available with the 1.4-liter turbo engine other than the row-it-yourself manual. And it is...how do you say...not good.
It's down to its molasses-slow (albeit very smooth) shifts and an easily-confused calibration. Go ahead, DDCT, complete that gear change. Aaaany time you're ready. It's not quite Smart ForTwo bad, but it's bad. If you floor the gas, you're waiting a good couple of one-thousands until it finally realizes "oh, you wanted to go?" and goes on safari to hunt down a suitable cog. And it gets tripped up easily in conditions that involve slowing down and then briskly speeding back up.
Taking matters into your own hands by slotting the lever into manual mode doesn't solve it, either. Too slow to respond to commanded shifts, and then you still have those belabored gear-change speeds.
It is unfortunate that the gearbox tends to overshadow the things the Dart does well. I am fairly certain you'll be hearing many DDCT-related gripes in the ensuing months.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor