What's New for 2000
A new entry-level SE replaces last year's Base model and comes with so much standard equipment. The upper-level ES steps up to a 2.5-liter V6, and new colors also debut.
You want a car with room for five, oodles of cargo and interior space, and no-charge extras like air conditioning and eight-way power seats? Don't turn the page! With the Dodge Stratus you nab a midsize sedan with access to it all. Plus, the Stratus looks more stylish than its corporate cousin, the Chrysler Cirrus, thanks to its soft bulges and extreme cab-forward design that lend an air of character you can't always find in sedans.
Dodge's 5-year-old midsize returns with a new entry-level model, the SE. Now, you might be thinking entry level basically means a body, tires and a bunch of holes in the dash where the pricey options should go. Nope. The SE has standard A/C, a tilt steering column, tinted glass, a rear window defroster and a full-folding rear seat with a lockable seatback. And, for no additional money down, you can pump up the power parts, in the form of the windows, locks, mirrors and driver seat.
If all of that hasn't tantalized you enough, the Stratus also comes in a higher-end ES version. Optional upgrades include leather seats (free), an in-dash CD, remote entry and a security system. If you forego those, you still end up with the standard 2.5-liter V6, an AutoStick, lumbar support and fog lamps, among other features. If you want to impress your pals by spotting the difference between the ES and SE, here's your tip: The SE comes with steel wheels, while the ES has cast-aluminum. Not free but still available to both the SE and ES are such bonuses as a sunroof and a Cold Weather Group (engine-block and battery heaters).
Last year's 132-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four returns as the standard engine for the SE, but for no extra charge, there's an optional 150-horsepower 2.4-liter inline four. The 2.4-liter is hooked to a four-speed automatic transaxle, while the 2.0-liter buyers will be doing the work themselves with a five-speed manual transaxle. Available only to the ES is a 2.5-liter V6 putting out 168 horsepower, and it's mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle with the AutoStick. When you pop the hood, you'll appreciate that the vital fluids are well marked. Large block letters and yellow trim highlight the oil dipstick, coolant reservoir and windshield wiper fluid, among others.
Tucked underneath the Stratus is a modified double-wishbone independent suspension. The SE stops via power front disc and rear drum brakes, while the ES brings it to a halt with four-wheel ABS disc brakes; if you have the four-cylinder, it's a front-disc/rear-drum ABS combination. The steering system also varies between the models, with power rack-and-pinion standard for the SE, but speed-sensitive, variable-assist rack-and-pinion for the ES.
When the redesigned Stratus bows in 2001, it'll also be slightly larger, but the 2000 model is nothing to sneeze at. Pop the trunk and you'll find 15.7 cubic feet of storage. It's easy to load that space up with stuff too, because the lid opens up high and wide. No banged heads on protruding trunk latches here.
The Stratus is about ease of use and operation, as well as affordability. Perhaps it isn't as soul stirring as the Ford Contour V6, or as beautifully engineered as the Honda Civic, but it is a fantastic value, and we recommend that you consider the Stratus if a family sedan fits the bill.