The Caliber's combo of boost and peaky tire grip means launching it effectively is a bog-or-boil affair. Even identical-rpm launches could produce either result depending on how quickly wide-open throttle is used. Also, the 2-3 shift was sometimes difficult. Front tires nibble like a hedgehog and the whole car zigzags down the strip. The Neon-based SRT-4 was better. Also, pedaling: It didn't work while the tires were spinning -- probably thanks to slow throttle reponse and heavy wheel-tire combo.
The SRT-4's pedal softens somewhat during hard driving, but doesn't ever fade dangerously. Braking distances were relatively consistent over four stops from 60 mph.
Constant meddling from non-defeat ESP produces highly repeatable but lackluster results on the skid pad. Just as the car begins to do all the right things in the slalom, the ESP begins grabbing brakes. Quick transitions and good rotation are not allowed. Steering is rather good, communicative and light. You've got to run it against the ESP to get a quick run -- "less is more" approach doesn't work here.