Nowadays, clever thing is known for putting ridiculously powerful engines in muscle cars and SUVs. This is evident in vehicles such as the Charger King Daytona, the Challenger SRT Hellcat and the Durango SRT. However, the trend did not start there. Some claim it all started in the early 2000s with the Neon SRT-4.
The Neon SRT-4 was not powered by a V8 engine, nor was it rear-wheel drive or even four-wheel drive. The Neon SRT was one of the first compact sedans to receive a performance treatment. The prices of these cars are extremely tempting, especially now, but there are also some downsides to the Neon SRT-4. So let’s go there, shall we?
10/10 (We love) The Dodge Neon SRT-4’s crazy engine
Under the hood of the Neon SRT-4 nestles a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In its first year of production (2003), this powertrain delivered 215 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque, but eventually grew to 230 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque for the rest of its life. Please note that these are figures claimed by Dodge itself.
There have been instances where these engines were tested on a dyno and noted that they produce quite a bit more power than originally stated by Dodge. Some owners found their SRT-4s put out more than 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. But it gets even wilder…
9/10 (We love) The Dodge Neon SRT-4 . manual transmission
The Dodge Neon SRT-4 gear lever was the perfect example of what a gear lever wants in a car. Rather than being leather-wrapped like in today’s Supra, the Dodge’s stick shift was bare metal and delivered a satisfying punch.
It may have only had five gears instead of the traditional six, but you only needed five. The shifts weren’t smooth, they were rawer and it felt like you were one with the machine. And it was fast, much faster than anyone expected.
8/10 (We Love) The acceleration of the Dodge Neon SRT-4
As we mentioned, there were two slightly different engines in the Dodge Neon SRT-4. The 215 horsepower powertrain of the first model year 2003 could catapult the Neon to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. While that’s fast, Dodge wanted it to be even faster.
After the slight power increase in 2004, the Neon SRT-4 was able to go from 0-100 km/h in a whopping 5.3 seconds. While you might argue those numbers are insignificant compared to modern performance cars, keep in mind that it was almost a whole second faster than the Mini Cooper JCW at the time.
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7/10 (We Love) The Dodge Neon SRT-4 is fun to drive
There are a few factors that determine whether a front-wheel drive performance car is fun or not, the main one being the handling. If it wasn’t obvious enough, judging by the large rear wing atop the trunk lid of the Neon SRT-4, this Dodge sedan rocketed through the corner in ways we never imagined a Dodge could.
In addition, it also suffered from heavy torque control, even with the differential lock. Many might argue that torque control is an Achilles’ heel, but that’s not always the case. The Neon’s torque control was dangerous, yes, but it was also fun and added to the exhilarating driving experience.
6/10 (We Love) The tuning scene for the Dodge Neon SRT-4
There’s no question that the Neon SRT-4’s powertrain was a mighty one, but that didn’t stop the tuners from squeezing even more power out of the tiny four-pot. There have been several creators on YouTube showcasing their 460 horsepower Neon SRT-4s, but there are more customizations that aren’t just about power.
Objectively, the stock Neon SRT-4 wasn’t the prettiest car ever to roam the streets. It may have been savage and epitomized that perfect Fast & Furious aesthetic, but for some it was also in bad taste. As a result, people have modified their neons by knocking them to the ground, wrapping them in bold colors and the list goes on. Some were definitely better in taste than others…
5/10 (We Love) The race car interior of the Dodge Neon SRT-4
The interior of the Neon SRT-4 was stripped to save as much weight as possible. After all, it’s no easy task to build a compact sports sedan that weighs just 2900 lbs. There was also an ACR version of the Neon that was equipped with even lighter parts, such as reinforced sports seats with space for racing harnesses.
In addition, the SRT-4 had boost gauges on the A-pillar in case you wanted to see them. All of this resulted in the Dodge Neon SRT-4 weighing less than its alleged four-wheel drive competitors, the Subaru WRX STI, and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
4/10 (We love) The sound of the Dodge Neon SRT-4
It’s not often we say that a turbocharged four-cylinder engine sounds good, but there was something special that the Neon SRT-4 had – or rather, a flaw. That’s right folks, the Neon SRT-4 didn’t have a muffler.
On a cold start, the lack of a muffler isn’t obvious, but as the engine warmed up and your ears got lusty, things changed. More often than not, the SRT-4 would backfire and announce its presence to the world, but in a good way… just listen to this.
3/10 (We Love) The Dodge Neon SRT-4 Is Affordable
When the Dodge Neon SRT-4 hit the market in 2003, it had a base price of just $19,995, eventually growing to $20,700 in 2005. That’s all the Neon SRT-4 cost new. On the second-hand market, these are even more of a bargain.
Unfortunately, these aren’t for sale as often as they were a few years ago. Take this 2003 Dodge Neon SRT-4 that was sold on Bring a Trailer two years ago. It only had 17,000 miles on it, but it eventually sold for just under $10,000.
2/10 (Why We Would Never Buy) The build quality of the Dodge Neon SRT-4
Remember how we said the Neon SRT-4’s interior was all about weight savings? Well, there’s a difference between saving weight and being cheap – Dodge had yet to figure that out. The SRT-4’s attention to detail was appalling. Take, for example, the subwoofer in the trunk (yes, it is supplied ex works). Dodge wasn’t even going to hide or integrate the exposed cables.
But the cabin space is worst of all… Everything was plastic – and we mean everything. Not a shred of leather had been found in the cockpit; not the dashboard, the seats or even the steering wheel. Sometimes more is better, and less is worse.
1/10 (Why We Would Never Buy) The Used Condition of the Dodge Neon SRT-4s
Remember how we said a low mileage Neon SRT-4 sold for just under $10.00? While that’s true, it’s also worth mentioning that these cars tend to be forgotten – the BaT example is one of them.
These cars were stereotypically owned by individuals who needed speed, but not the thickness of the wallet to support their ambitions. More often than not, these individuals would also end up wrecking their cars as they are not very experienced drivers. So there aren’t many unscathed Neon SRT-4 models out there anymore, so if you find one cheap, chances are it’s had a rough upbringing.