2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye review: Drop the ‘e’ and nobody gets hurt

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

Can we please drop the “e”? We know that Dodge is hyping its heritage with the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, and that heritage dating to the Sixties includes the cloying use of the “European”—or is it that the Olde English—way to spell “rally.” But no, it really isn’t. So can’t we, while keeping the elements of the 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye Appearance Package…just lose, discard, and obliterate the trailing “e” in “Rallye.”

There’s nothing wrong with the, um, Rallye Appearance Package itself. It’s a $395 group of items that’s a pretty good bargain, including 17 x 7.5-Inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels with 225/45R17 all-season tires, “touring” suspension with a rear stabilizer bar, fog lamps, dual exhaust, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, the latter with buttons for audio and cruise control—the Chrysler Group has one of the best multi-function steering wheels in the business—and of course, “Rallye” badging and because it’s called an appearance group, there’s a special blacked out grille.

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye instrument panel

The 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye instrument panel is marked in crisp white and red on black. (click to enlarge)

The Rallye Appearance Group is available on the Dart SXT trim level only. The SXT starts at $18,595, and with our test vehicle altogether with other options, including the Uconnect Touch Screen Group and Uconnect audio group, plus Sirius XM satellite radio brings the bottom line to $22,520.

The SXT is part of a simplified product line for Dart in 2014. For the Dart’s inaugural year, Dodge bragged that 10,000 combinations of models and options were possible forh the Dart. Seasoned heads raised eyebrows, as most manufacturers—Honda most notably—reduce the number of build packages for manufacturing simplicity and reduced costs.

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye interior

Our test 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye interior was finished with off-white door panels and stripes on seats. (click to enlarge)

Well, for 2014, Dodge didn’t go the Honda five sizes fits all scheme, but clustered groups of individual items that buyers bought together to make packages, based on their experience in the model’s first year. Think of it as putting the sidewalks where walkers had left paths through the grass.

For 2014, the lineup is composed of the SE at 15,995. The SXT at $18,495, among other things, replaces the two-liter Tigershark I-4 with the 2.4-liter Tigershark, which becomes standard across the line. Apparently not very many people walked the 2.0-liter path.

The 2014 Dodge Dart SXT is where the package action starts. In addition to the Rallye Appearance Group, there’s a Sun and Sound Group, Cold Weather Group, and a Uconnect Touchscreen Group, also with a Garmin Navigation Group.

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye engine

Like most other Darts, the 2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye is powered by the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine. (click to enlarge)

The Dart Limited starts at $22,995. It’s how you say “loaded” in Dartspeak. The Dart GT, on the other hand, adds sport suspension and other items to the Dart SXT, and is where—at least until (we hope) an SRT version arrives—the Dart factory sport compact activity resides. In addition to a laundry list of individual items bundled in, the Dart GT model also offers the Technology Group, Garmin Navigation Group, the Sun and Sound Group and Hyper Black aluminum wheels.

The high-mileage Dodge Dart Aero is the only model available with the 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine, and with either the six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed DDCT. The Aero lives up to its name with extra aerodynamic tweaks, plus other fuel-saving pieces for an EPA fuel economy mpg rating of 28 city/41highway with the manual gearbox.

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye (click to enlarge)

The Dodge Dart SXT, however, is the volume model, and for $395 it might as well look good, and as a baby Charger, it carries it off well. And this is what the Dodge Avenger really wanted to look like.

Our test Dart Rallye looked the part inside as well as out, in charcoal with off-white—Dodge calls it “light tungsten”—accents in the door panels and dual stripes on the cloth seats. It’s a good thing the pre-Fiat takeover interiors were so cheap. Dodge (and other Chrysler Group brands) is overcompensating with quality materials now, including extensive soft-touch surfaces from high-frequency touch places to look-it’s-even-soft-touch-here places.

The 2014 Dodge Dart’s dash and instrument panel mimics those of the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger with a red light-up “racetrack” accent around the gauges and multi-information display. The dials have red and white markings on black with a white-on-black info center between the speedometer and tachometer. It’s all very professional and upscale for a compact sedan.

The seats are supportive and bolstered enough for vigorous street driving or even track use, and are hours-in-the-saddle comfortable. The suspension, which is well controlled for a “touring” calibration, rattled over our rocky road test like there were bushings missing. Apparently it didn’t hurt anything but just sounded bad.

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye

2014 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye (click to enlarge)

The almost-universal-for-Dart 2.4-liter engine is rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s not the most muscular engine in its class, despite the relatively large displacement. But while the Dart’s performance with the automatic transmission falls somewhere south of Thrilla Gorilla, it’s fun enough if you keep it revving while driving on a winding sports car road. But for a relatively large four-cylinder engine, we expected more in the torque department and at a lower rev range.