The Caliber is a small economy car. That's a fine idea. America certainly needs more fuel-efficient vehicles. The problem is that the Caliber's exterior says "Zoom" while its drivetrain says "Zzzzzzzz...."
With its 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission set to maximize mileage, the Caliber isn't just "not particularly fast." This thing is s-l-o-w.
Chrysler is working on more advanced drivetrains, including hybrids, that could do a better job of maximizing both performance and fuel economy.
Another area of concern is interiors. Chrysler describes the inside of Dodge cars as "purposeful," meaning they lack unnecessary ornamentation or design elements.
Chrysler has used this notion, however, to abdicate any responsibility for actually designing the interior of a Dodge car. Instead, they look and feel like chunks of scratchy plastic snapped together in any way that worked.
Recognizing this, Chrysler established a new interior design studio last year. It's a good idea and certainly needed, but it's amazing that it took Chrysler so long to realize it.
What Dodge might really need, though, is another brand to take the mantle of "fuel-efficient economy," allowing Dodge to keep its performance image unsullied.
Now, where did they put those little Plymouth sailboats?