The new Dodge Dart is heavy, and it’s a bother.
Before I write a new car review, I like to do some background research — which helps provide context and hopefully makes the published review informative. Well, I found some interesting information while doing some background research on the new Dodge Dart. Actually, the information concerned the old Dodge Dart — last sold new in 1976.
That year, Dodge offered a high-mileage version of the Dart called the Dart Lite (the Plymouth Duster version was called Feather Duster). To be precise, it was an option package that included a specially tuned version of the famous “slant six” 225 cubic inch engine, teamed up with an overdriven four-speed manual and a mileage-minded 2.94:1 rear axle ratio (vs. the standard car’s 3.21:1 ratio). Also included were lightweight body parts such as an aluminum hood and trunk lid bracing — which cut about 200 pounds of deadweight off the already-lightweight car. The result was 36 MPG on the highway.
The package added $51 to the cost of a ‘76 Dart — which had a base price of about $3,300.
Now for some context:
The new Dodge Dart — a much smaller car, equipped with a much smaller four-cylinder engine — gets exactly the same 36 MPG on the highway as the ‘76 Dart Lite/Feather Duster. This is startling, given the new Dart has the benefit of almost four decades of engineering advances — including such things as a six-speed manual transmission, direct port fuel injection, and vastly better aerodynamics. Yet the 2013 car only manages to match the mileage of the 1976 car — a much larger car, with a much larger engine fed by a carburetor and without even an Atari-level computer running the show.
This is seriously sad. Tragic, even. It’s also a measure of how much progress hasn’t been made since the mid-1970s as regards vehicle design. Or rather, a measure of how much progress in engineering and design has been obviated, negated or otherwise rendered “net zero gain” (or loss) by government diktats. Everything from weight-adding “safety” diktats to thou-must-burn-corn-alcohol-laced fuel diktats (which have reduced the fuel efficiency of new cars by 3-4 MPG, on average, relative to what they’d otherwise achieve if they were fed 100 percent gasoline).
The old Dart — a mid-sized car by modern standards — weighed about 2,700 lbs.
The new (2013) Dart — a compact-sized car — weighs 3,186 lbs.
That’s about 500 pounds of additional deadweight — in a car that’s more than a foot shorter overall than the old model (183.9 inches for the ‘13 vs. 196 inches for the ‘76) and which is FWD and four-cylinder powered vs. rear-drive and six-cylinder powered.
The new Dart also has a starting price of $15,995.
Let’s call it $16k to make the math easier — vs. $13,554 (and change) in inflation-adjusted terms for the 1976 Dart.
So, to sum up:
For about $2,441 more — the price of a new Dart vs. the cost-when-new of a ‘76 Dart — you get the exact same 36 MPG.
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