|Factory Hot Rods:
SRT-4 Extreme Lightweight
Mopar doesn't screw around. Whether it's
designing upgrades for Dodge's latest lineup of hot rods or
custom-building one-off track machines, these guys know how to go fast.
The most recent example of this overpowered nonsense is the SRT-4 Extreme
Lightweight--the quickest and fastest front-wheel-drive car we've ever
Settle down. It doesn't run a 10. Or even an
11-second quarter mile. It runs a 12.5-second e.t. at 119.2 mph. And, yes,
that's very, very fast. Porsche Turbo territory. Corvette Z06 territory.
And, yes, Viper territory. But it doesn't tell the whole story. The whole
story is that the Lightweight has a power-to-weight ratio of 6.7 lb/hp,
pulls over 1.0g on our skidpad, splits our slalom at an impressive 74.9
mph and stops from 60 mph in 109 feet. By the numbers, this is hands down
the most impressive front-drive car we've ever tested. And it's American.
After our test the SRT-4 Lightweight
went back to Michigan, where DaimlerChrysler engineers slapped
on drag slicks and ran one 11.83-second pass at 123 mph in
In all fairness, we can't very well compare this
car with 'Vettes and Vipers. It has no interior, it has no side glass in
the front windows, and half of its body is made from carbon fiber. But it
is a Neon. So pointing out it's as quick as the mighty V10 snake seems
appropriate. For comparison, it ran 1.5 seconds quicker in the quarter
mile than a stock SRT-4 we tested the same day. It also pulled .14g more
on the skidpad and zipped through our 700-foot slalom 2.9 mph quicker. And
from 80 mph it stopped 12 feet shorter than its stock brethren. Serious
Again, you won't catch us commuting in the
Extreme Lightweight. With one Recaro racing seat, a harness and a roll
cage as the only interior amenities, it's clear this car was built to
impress in only one arena. And in that arena, it's staggeringly quick. On
the Streets of Willow road course it had the exact same effect on our
attitude about front-wheel drive as it did on its own front
This much power has no place driving the front
wheels of anything on a road course. Was it impressive? Absolutely. Was it
fast? Unquestionably. Was it balanced and predictable? Well, not really.
But it was one hell of a lot of fun. Turn the Lightweight into a corner
and it responds instantly--just like you'd expect of a car with this much
rubber and significant spring rates.
Trouble is, when you get into the gas at corner exit,
the Lightweight cooks both its front tires so severely it refuses to
change direction at the next corner. It's entertaining and terrifying all
at once, really. The only hope is to balance the throttle against the
brakes with your left foot at corner exit to quell the Lightweight's
instant boost response and keep power delivery to the front wheels in
check. Luckily, there's a set of gigantic Stoptech brakes up front to
handle the task.
Keep this brake/throttle tug of war up in the
100-degree heat of the California desert for very long and the Lightweight
turns itself into a hugely destructive mass of thermal and kinetic energy,
But still, it's a hugely entertaining mass of energy.
Not so surprisingly, driving the Lightweight is a lot
of work. Both feet are constantly busy with the pedals, your arms are
fighting against 383 lb-ft of torque fed through the Quaife limited-slip
differential and your neck is balancing your head against the loads
created by sticky Michelins and massive power. The only saving grace is
there's not much shifting required to keep the beast on boil, as the
Lightweight produces a minimum of 360 lb-ft of torque between 3000 and
5000 rpm. Still, its lap time of 1:30:35 was more than 6 seconds quicker
than the stock SRT could manage and was by far the quickest of the day.
When it comes to driving there's really no
similarity to the stock SRT-4. The Lightweight is in its own freakishly
overpowered world. The stock SRT-4 is soft, quick and relatively
civilized. The brakes on the stock SRT-4 are the first component to suffer
on the track. Within a few laps, the pedal softens and the rear wheels
begin to hop under heavy braking. The Stoptechs on the front of the
Lightweight work flawlessly, producing consistent pedal feel stop after
The Lightweight has impressive ride quality for a car
this hard-core, but that's where the civility ends. It's brutally fast,
smells of race fuel and feels like a submarine inside. And we really mean
brutally fast. It recorded among the quickest zero-to-100 times we've ever
seen at 9.6 seconds--beaten only by all-wheel-drive cars.
It's this straight-line acceleration where the
Lightweight really shines. Obviously, it has difficulty putting power down
off the line, but once it's hooked up we can't think of anything that
crushed us into the seat with such authority. It took BFGoodrich drag
radials to produce the 12.5-second quarter-mile time we mentioned earlier.
They were used in conjunction with the dial-a-boost set to the second
setting, which is designed for use with drag radials and limits boost in
Amazingly, all that power comes from a stock SRT-4
engine and cooling system fitted with Mopar's Stage 3R upgrade and
utilizing the Stage 2 turbo toys. The only other engine mod is the
side-exit 2.5-inch exhaust. That's it. Get yourself a Stage 3R, some
100-octane fuel and make 369 hp to the wheels. Don't expect the rest of
the Lightweight to be so easy to duplicate.
A big part of the speed here is courtesy of the
unobtainable Mopar diet. A small crew of fabricators and engineers were
responsible for finishing this car for the SEMA show in 2003 and had
plenty of DaimlerChrysler resources at their disposal. O.E. levels of
refinement are obvious in the quality of the final product. The doors, for
example, look exactly like the stock doors inside and out--until you try
to shut one and it doesn't have enough momentum to compress the seal and
engage the lock mechanism. Body panels of this weight and quality are rare
in the aftermarket.
The hood, doors, rear fascia and diffuser were
all made of hand-laid and vacuum-bagged carbon fiber in the
DaimlerChrysler plastics shop. So were the front fascia and splitter,
which include brake duct cutouts. The decklid was hand-laid and bagged,
then cooked in the autoclave at Multimatic, Inc.
The rear glass is from 3/16-inch polycarbonate
also from the DaimlerChrysler plastics shop. Literally everything is gone
from the interior including the seats, carpet, trim, wiring, airbags and
sound deadening. In total, the weight saving is 405 pounds, shaving the
total weight down to 2,495 pounds, according to DaimlerChrysler.
The suspension is all Mopar and parts-bin Dodge.
Mopar Stage 3 coil-overs with 260 lb/in. springs in the front and 170
lb/in. springs in the rear suspend the Lightweight. The front anti-roll
bar is a 26mm solid bar from a PT Cruiser Convertible and the rear bar is
a 19mm solid bar from an export-market Neon. Michelin Pilot Sport Cup R
compound tires sized 225/45ZR-17 are mounted on 17x8-inch SSR Competition
wheels, and the whole mess is brought to a stop by 12.9-inch Stoptech
rotors and four-piston calipers.
So what's the coolest thing about the quickest
front-drive car we've ever tested? It wasn't the crazy power. It wasn't
the impressive numbers. And it wasn't even the the carbon body panels.
Driving the Lightweight on the street made it impressive. We made the trip
from our Orange County office over the Angeles Crest Highway about 100
miles to Willow Springs Raceway without one driveability glitch.
The fact that a car can be this focused and still be driven normally is
amazing. In fact, there's no reason this car couldn't have all the
comforts of a real car re-installed and be driven daily. It's that good
|2004 DODGE SRT-4 EXTREME
||Inline four, iron block, aluminum head, turbocharged and
||Mopar Stage 3R turbo (Mitsubishi TD05HR-15GK2-10cm2), 2.5-in.
side-exit exhaust w/Borla resonator, straight mid-pipe
|Engine Management Mods:
||Mopar Stage 3R ECU, 682 cc/min. injectors, Mopar 180-lph fuel
pump, returnless fuel pressure regulator, Mopar Turbo Toys
intercooler sprayers, dial-a-boost and 100-octane switch
||Front engine, front-wheel drive
||Mopar prototype high-capacity clutch, Quaife torque-biasing
||Mopar Stage 3 coil-overs, PT Cruiser 26mm solid anti-roll bar
||Mopar Stage 3 coil-overs, 19mm solid anti-roll bar (export Neon)
||Stoptech four-piston calipers, 12.9-in. two-piece rotors,
||Stock rotors and calipers, line-lock solenoids
||17 x8-in. 35mm offset SSR Integral
||Road course: 225/45-17 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup, Dragstrip:
225/45-17 BFGoodrich g-Force T/A Drag Radial
||Carbon-fiber hood, doors, decklid, rear fascia and diffuser.
3/16-in. polycarbonate rear window, stripped interior, removed A/C
compressor and condensor
||2900 lbs. (wet)
||2495 lbs. (wet)
|Slalom Speed (700-ft. slalom):
|Lateral Grip (200-ft. skidpad):
|60-0 stopping distance:
|70-0 stopping distance:
|80-0 stopping distance: