2013 Dodge Dart GT review: Little brother Charger needs little brother Hemi

 2013 Dodge Dart GT

2013 Dodge Dart GT

Think of the Dodge Dart as the Dodge Charger’s little brother and you won’t be far wrong.

Think of the Dodge Dart GT as a downsized Charger R/T, however, and you’ll be disappointed.

It’s not that there’s anything specifically wrong with the 2013 Dodge Dart GT, it’s just lacking something that’s right. Putting it right up front, it’s the engine. There isn’t enough of it.

2013 Dodge Dart GT interior

The 2013 Dodge Dart GT interior is all function and style. (click to enlarge)

The 2013 Dart GT lives in as parallel universe to the Dodge Dart Limited. While the Limited builds off the mid-range Dart SXT with luxury added, the Dart GT sportifies the Dart with a special sport suspension and sport calibration for its electric power steering, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and integrated dual exhaust.

There’s more, though they don’t up the performance ante of the Dart GT, thing such as perforated Nappa leather seating (heated front, contoured though with only moderate bolstering for sporty driving), heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated outside mirrors with turn and puddle lamps, Keyless Enter ’n Go with push-button and remote start, the full Uconnect suite with the huge Chrysler/Dodge 8.4-inch rearview mirror and more. Check the window sticker posted with this review for a full list.

2013 Dodge Dart GT back seat

The back seat of the 2013 Dodge Dart GT shows off the perforated-with-red-holes leather seating. (click to enlarge)

Outside, the 2013 GT is recognizable by a black fascia with “Hyper Black” grille, dark-tinted automatic headlamps, projector fog lights and out back, the “racetrack” taillight—it’s a single large loop around the rear of the car, and dual exhaust, plus the usual badging.

But there’s the problem. The dual exhaust is mostly styling. Officially at least, there’s no more power than the Dart SXT or Dart Limited. All three models come standard with the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 I-4 engine, rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. The Dart GT has a raspier exhaust note than we remember with the 2013 Dodge Dart SXT that we drove.

2013 Dodge Dart GT engine

The 2.4-liter engine in the 2013 Dodge Dart GT needs more oomph. (click to enlarge)

Transmission choices are a standard-equipment six-speed manual transmission (for the SXT and GT models) or an optional six-speed automatic transmission (standard on the Limited model). The automatic in the GT we tested was state of the art—and the art is pretty good these days—but there’s not particularly anything distinctive about it. It could be manually shifted, but via the console-mounted lever rather than paddles, and it wasn’t terribly inspiring.

And, well, we’d hoped that a Dart named GT would come with a bit more gumption. While 186 horsepower is, well, average, it seems that the Grand in Grand Touring would bring grander acceleration. Maybe we’ll have to wait for the Dart R/T…and please tell us there’s a Dodge Dart SRT in the works.

2013 Dodge Dart GT

2013 Dodge Dart GT (click to enlarge)

The sport suspension in the 2013 Dodge Dart GT lived up to its name, however. On the winding roads of our test venue, the GT’s handling was balanced and sharp and without the kickback that often comes with front wheel drive. The relative deficit under the go pedal wasn’t as obvious in the twisties, but we would have appreciated more torque in the uphills.

All that said, our test 2014 Dodge Dart GT has a base price on the window of $19,995—just enough to keep the base price under twenty grand—although not really. All the stuff that makes a Dart GT and Dart GT is in something called Customer Preferred Package285, which carries a sticker price of $1,000.

On the other hand, on the Dodge website, the base price for the 2013 GT is $20,995…and there’s no preferred package listed. Is there any reason for this inconsistency?

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