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1997 Dodge Stratus Review
A bargain with some personality.
Reviewed by Automotive on
The 1997 Dodge Stratus continues along the established Chrysler lines of providing adequate midsize sedans for low prices. The Stratus stands out from its competitors by using a cab-forward design to create an interior that looks closer to a full-size sedan while maintaining the overall body of a midsize car. It also stands out by providing a simple, family friendly vehicle with an able powertrain and a comfortable ride.
In only its third year of production, the Stratus has already made a name for itself. Very little changes for the 1997 Dodge Stratus. Most of the changes occur for comfort or cosmetic reasons. The only notable performance upgrade includes the availability of Chrysler's AutoStick automanual transmission.
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 2.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed manual
Models: Dodge Stratus, Dodge Stratus ES
Very little changes for the 1997 Dodge Stratus from the previous year. Some minor body styling changes appear, and new colors become available. Underneath the hood, the optional 2.4-liter four-cylinder receives some adjustments in order to run more quietly. The Chrysler AutoStick automanual transmission now provides an option for all engine and model choices. Inside the cabin, the rear heat ducts now allow the rear-seat passengers to get more heat, while the sound system and center console have been updated, as well.
The exterior styling changes seem very minor on the 1997 Dodge Stratus. Overall, the Stratus still has subdued, yet unique, styling. The cab-forward design allows for the midsize car to appear smaller from the outside. The change to a body-colored grille now makes the front end seem to protrude less. The black molding around the bottom of the trunk lid is gone, and wheel covers have been updated on the base. These changes give the 1997 Dodge Stratus base a little bit more class and prestige.
The interior shows where the 1997 Dodge Stratus really makes an impact. Due to the cab-forward design, it offers greater cabin space than its midsize competitors. This allows for plenty of room in the front seats and class-leading space in the rear seats. The interior also seems well-appointed, as the instrumentation, levers, and switches all feel substantial. The ergonomics for the driver are sound; everything sits easily within reach and visible. The trunk offers a great deal of cargo space, with the trunk lid sitting very high. This causes the Stratus' major flaw in this department, in that the high rear deck lid causes poor visibility out of the rear window.
Performance & Handling
The 1997 Dodge Stratus suffers from some performance-related quirks as Dodge seems to have issues reconciling its transmissions and engines. Dodge does not allow the five-speed manual to pair with the V-6. Because of this, the four-cylinder coupled with the manual actually offers the best performance option, especially when the driver needs acceleration and handling. The V-6 proves more powerful and better suits highway cruising or hitting high speeds. The AutoStick is available with the V-6, and makes a definite performance upgrade from the standard four-speed automatic. It provides a little performance boost in terms of speed or acceleration, but it allows for smoother, more consistent driving. This includes smoother, firmer shifts and the ability to manually downshift to maintain speed while going up an incline. The handling feels crisp and precise, surprisingly so for a larger car. The ride feels smooth, and the modifications to the 2.4-liter quiet the high-torque engine.
The 1997 Dodge Stratus comes with standard four-wheel anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger front airbags. The cab-forward design causes some safety concerns, though. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration awards the Stratus three out of five stars for driver front-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Stratus “Poor"" ratings for leg and foot protection and a grade of ""Poor"" in terms of overall safety.
EPA Fuel Economy
Dodge Stratus, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, manual: 23/34 mpg city/highway
Dodge Stratus, 2.4-liter inline four cylinder, automatic: 18/28 mpg city/highway
Dodge Stratus, 2.5-liter V-6, automatic: 18/26 mpg city/highway
- Cavernous interior
- Plenty of trunk space
- Great value
You Won't Like
- Awful rear visibility
- Poor engine and transmission combinations
A bargain with some personality.
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