The Dodge Dart was introduced less than a year ago but Chrysler Group is already looking at ways to extend the brand by offering clever variations of the car, which the company says is finding a market despite a seemingly slow start.
Dodge plans to bring back a sporty version of the compact line originally introduced a half century ago, launching the 2013 Dart GT model during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week.
The decision to preview the Dart GT ahead of the NAIAS also indicates Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne’s determination to make a success of the Dart program, which is the first Chrysler product to be based on a platform jointly developed with Italian ally Fiat SpA.
A key executive from one of Chrysler’s competitors noted recently that one of the problems Marchionne and company are facing in marketing the Dart is that potential customers really don’t think of Chrysler when they shop for a subcompact.
Bringing on the GT version is clearly part of the ongoing effort to raise the visibility of the entire Dart lineup.
“The new Dart GT embodies the best attributes that compact car buyers are looking for, including outstanding style, performance, technology and value,” said Reid Bigland, Dodge Brand president and chief executive officer. The addition of the GT model could hit “the sweet spot in the compact segment, Bigland suggested.
The new model will feature a 184-horsepower version of Chrysler’s 2.4-liter Tiger Shark engine, with buyers offered the option of a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. Riding on 18-inch aluminum wheels, the new model will feature a more sport-tuned suspension than earlier Dart variants with frequency-sensing damping shocks.
The interior will also be upgraded, the Dodge Dart GT getting heated, perforated Nappa leather seats, an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen and 7-inch Thin Film Transistor reconfigurable instrument cluster display, and a power 10-way driver seat, including power lumbar support.
Exterior touches include a Hyper Black, Grille, projector fog lamps, standard class-exclusive racetrack LED taillamps and integrated dual exhaust,
But one of the biggest selling points may be the 2013 Dodge Dart GT’s base price of $20,995 MSRP.
The GT joins a 2013 Dodge Dart lineup which currently includes the Dart SE, SXT, Rallye, Aero and Limited models.
Bigland also noted that Dodge “continues to investigate a high-performance R/T model.”
The original Dart GT appeared 50 years ago in 1963 and included a heavy-duty suspension that set apart its ride and handling from other compact cars of the era.
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