19th Sep 2006, 16:15

After test driving the Matrix, Vibe, Scion and Saturn Vue, the Caliber was a pleasant surprise. It was fast, smooth, well equipped for the price and has the advantage of Chrysler reliability (our last Dodge went a quarter million miles with no problems!!). I'm definitely impressed with the Caliber.

22nd Sep 2006, 14:00

The CVT transmission sounds so new, yet it isn't. Back in the sixties DAF (Dutch Auto Fabricator) used such a design. Then it had all kinds of problems with slipping belts. Later Volvo bought DAF and equiped a small Volvo with an improved version. I believe Honda experimented with this design as well. I suppose the Chrysler design is improved yet. It has never been used in conjunction with engines this strong.

I am looking forward to see more reviews by users with high mileage CVT cars.

27th Sep 2006, 18:24

Took a 2 liter Dodge Caliber CVT test drive twice now.

Found out something the second time that I hadn't figured out in the first drive, that may help some questioners to this column.

First, from a "quick" standing start the CVT is very slow from 0mph to say, 15mph, especially if you are starting up a hill, & even if you push the accelerator very hard. Actually, this fact may be nice on a slippery hill, but usually will badly hurt fast acceleration to merge onto a freeway.

Now here is what I didn't figure out during the first test drive. If you push on the accelerator fairly hard, you can get ho-hum to moderate acceleration from the CVT (in this non-thrashy mode) & you sense no gear-shifting as you accelerate from low speeds (say, 15mph) to as high as you want to speed. So the first test drive was not too exciting as far as acceleration (I'm a feather-foot, getting 50+mpg on 2 cars I've owned in the past).

However, on my second test drive, I really pressed very hard on the gas pedal at about 30mph. Suddenly, the gears must have "splayed open", the CVT did seem to shift down like a regular automatic, the engine rpms really went up (showing the engine to be pretty noisy, buzzy, thrashy & not sophisticated), & the acceleration become a bit to somewhat greater than just the moderate acceleration of the "non-thrashy" mode.

Hope this helps for the differing reports on the Caliber's acceleration. As for me (a manual shifter all my life), I like the CVT (if it will give close to the mpg of a manual). If I purchase a Caliber, I will use the CVT almost universally in its "non-thrashy" mode & featherfooting to gain its highest mileage (hope into the moderate 30mpg range). It'll be hard to give up 50mpg tho.

P.S. December 15,2006...Bought an SE Caliber 2 days after this comment. It is the report headed with "Too big & not enough MPG, but CVT is wonderful". At 3000+ miles, I did featherfoot my sweet Caliber to 34.9mpg.

30th Sep 2006, 00:18

Purchased a Caliber on July 29, 2006; it is now September 30, 2006 and the dealer indicated that there is no sign yet that the car will be delivered. I hope this is a car worth waiting for because some reviews about performance and the CVT are cause for concern. All Caliber owners let me know what you think about this vehicle.

17th Oct 2006, 16:14

The CVT is deceptively smooth and gives the impression that the Caliber is actually slower than it really is. I test drove two 2.0 litre CVT Calibers, and did an acceleration test up a freeway entry ramp. I floored the Calibers at the start of the ramp and checked to see what my speed was at the point where the merge line ended on the freeway. Both Calibers hit exactly 70mph at that point from a dead stop. I then took my 2006 V-6 Ford Ranger, which has been very slightly modified with a K&N high performance air filter and Flowmaster exhaust. it reached EXACTLY the same speed (70mph) on the ramp as the Calibers did. I consider that very respectable performance. The Calibers FELT slower, but my test showed they were just as fast as my V-6 pickup. I did the same test with my 4-cylinder Pontiac Grand Am and found it to be 5mph faster than either the Caliber or my truck, but it is an older model with the very powerful "Quad 4" and will outrun most V-6's and some V-8's (including our 275hp mid-sized SUV). In all I am VERY impressed with the Caliber and plan to buy one AFTER one year. I am weary of any first-year model due to the problems one encounters in all first-year models of any car. I'll be looking for updates on here from Caliber owners. I think Dodge has a winner here!!

25th Nov 2006, 18:55

I drove a Caliber on a lunch break from work because my dealership buddy said it was a slow day. I drove a 2007 VW GTi with the DSG transmission right before this, so it probably didn't leave me with a good subjective basis for comparison. It's hard to describe how I thought about it. I've owned used BMWs, Saabs, Audis, Porsches, and have driven tons of cars because of my desire to see how every car in the world drives.

This was my first experience with a CVT, so I was a bit curious to see how it functioned. This car was not only the worst representation of a CVT, but also about the worst example of a car I've seen the modern auto industry produce.

The engine was horribly weak, and the drivetrain lashed and bucked in every which direction, more so than in a manual transmission fwd car with torn motor mounts! The CVT, though I'm sure it improves performance by keeping this thing in it's "power band," actually gives the impression that you're accelerating slower than you actually are. In fact, it might be true, as the CVT took longer than most automatics I've driven to respond to a jab of the accelerator. I wasn't around my favorite on-ramp to see the exit velocity (this is my benchmark for an acceleration test), but I'm sure this would probably be the only car since my Subaru Loyale failing to make 65 mph by the end of the ramp.

The car was absurdly noisy inside from both the road and drivetrain, and this baby had a mere 50 miles on it.

When pushed in a corner it wallowed worse than my mother's Honda Element, with understeer that made feel as if I was plowing snow.

If I'm going to say something nice, I'll probably say that it rides fairly smooth over road imperfections and if you arn't pushing it or trying to evade a potential accident (pretty important), it isn't so bad.

I opened AutoWeek, arguably the auto magazine with the highest objective, journalistic standards, about a month later and read this review of the Jeep Compass, which shares the engine, transmission, basic suspension and unibody structure, design, and materials with the Caliber. It was striking how closely it reflected my observations:

"It has become cliche amoung automotive journalists in the 21st century to note that there are no truly bad cars anymore--nothing so dimly regressive as the unreliable Yugos and Peugeots on which many of us sharpened our fangs 20-odd years ago. For the most part, that's true, but if this particular compass was representative, it's the exception that proves the rule."

"If the ratios (in the CVT) are 'continuously variable,' one has to wonder how it can be engineered to deliver such jarring and jolting through the entire driveline when it decides to shift down."

"Then there's that engine--with peak torque at 4400 rpm, it seems strained. The CVT seeks to maximize time at the torque peak under acceleration, emphasizing the droning, groaning nature of this beast, but it's a coarse bit of machinery regardless."

My point here: Do yourself a favor and drive some other cars before you even get into this one for a test drive. Or you could drive this one first, and with that you may feel compelled to buy the very next car you drive.