2013 Dodge Dart: Initial Annoyance Gives Way to Begrudging Acceptance
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.
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