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Dodge Neon

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blue_neonacr.jpg
A Dodge Neon R/T (note racing stripes)


Year: 1999 (GT2) 2003 (GT5) 
Class: Compact car
Type: 2+2 Coupe (GT2) Sedan (GT5)
 
Country: USA
Host: GT2 & GT5
 
 
Price: $15,070 (R/T, GT2); $18,416 (SRT4, GT5)

Dodge Neon R/T specs, GT2
Construction: unit steel 

Length: 171.8" // Width: 67.4" // Height: 54.8"
Wheelbase: 105"
Overhang: @5 feet 4 inches
Track: 58" [F] 58.1" [R]
Weight: 2,480 pounds
Wgt. Dist: 61/39
Ground Clear:

 
Tires: 195/50R-16
Brakes: vented discs / solid discs
F. Suspension: struts, coils, anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: multilink, coils, anti-roll bar
 
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline 4
Aspiration: normal
Fuel Syst: SMPFi
 
Horsepower: 151 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque:``````
133 @ 5,600
(dealer-quoted)

 Valves / Cyl: 4
Compression: 9.8:1
Bore x Stroke: 3.44 x 3.27"
 

Lbs. per HP: 16.42
HP per Liter: 75.5
Credits / HP: $99.80
 

Redlilne: 7,000 // RPM limt: @7,600

Dodge SRT4 specs, GT5

Construction: unit steel

Length: 175.7" // Width: 67.4" // Height: 56.5"

Wheelbase: 105.0"
Overhang: 5 feet, 10 inches
Track: 58.0" [F], 58.1" [R]
Ground Clr: 6.1"

Weight: 2975 pounds
Aerodynamic drag: 0.35
Steering: powered rack & pinion
>Turn Radius: 37.5 feet

Layout: front engine / front-drive
Tires: P205/50ZR-17
Suspension: MacPherson struts, coils, lower wishbones, anti-roll bars (may have multilink instead of wishbones in rear)
Brakes: vented disc (may have solid discs in rear) with ABS. EBD was option

This car did not receive any maintenance before specs & tests

Engine: 2.4 liter DOHC inline 4
Aspiration: intercooled turbo
Fuel Syst: MPFi
Valves / Cyl: 4
Bore x Stroke: 3.44 x 3.97"
Compression: NA

Horsepower: 217 @ 5,400
Torque: 237 @ 4,500

Credits / HP: 84.86
Pounds / HP: 13.70
Pnds / Trqe: 12.55
Hp / Liter: 90.4

Idle: 750 // Redline: 6,000 // RPM Limit: 7,000  

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Differential: limited-slip on all models

                        R/T                        SRT4
0-60 mph: 9.1 seconds                  7.195
0-100mph: 24.1 seconds              16.819
 
400 M: 16.975 @ 85 mph     15.574 @ 95 mph 
1 KM: 
30.666 @ 111
mph    27.579 @ 123 mph
 
Test TracK: 2:02.825                 1:04.590 (Daytona)
100-zero mph:  NA                       5.183 seconds
 
Neon R/T Top Speed at RPM Limit
1st: 36 mph
2nd: 61 mph
3rd: 97 mph
4th: 127 mph
5th: 143.30 @ 6,700 rpm

SRT4 Top Speed at RPM Limit
1st: 34.5 mph
2nd: 49.6
3rd: 66.5
4th: 92.2
5th: 142.3 mph @ 6,750 rpm (tach / gearing limited) 

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----------------------EXTERIOR-------------------
 
Here's Dodge's answer to all the compact cars out there. The Neon was made to compete with these cars on the tracks as well as in the showrooms, and apparently it did pretty well at both in my country.
 
Those wishing to race a Dodge Neon in GT2 have two choices: the R/T or the ACR. There is absolutely no difference between these two when comparing performance or weight; but the R/T costs $210 more. Why? It has racing stripes! This is fine...the Neon ACR looks rather bland without them. Also, the ACR is 3 mm taller than the R/T, though this could be an error on Gran Turismo's part. One can buy the ACR in up to nine shades, including some metallics. The black racing body with neon (of course) detailing looks pretty fly, too.
 
The Neon weighs in at 2,480 pounds. Weight reductions don't take much off (@200 pound max) but I'd recommend the first two, which helps these cars enter Civic-territory so far as reduced weight goes. At $15,070, the R/T is well-priced, and of course the ACR is even less.
 
The Neon lineage got entirely axed during GT3's day, but returned with GT4. We don't get any pussy-footing Neons in this game though; instead we get the 2003 Dodge SRT 4, a serious FF which puts the Fast and Furious into front-drive. Dodge decided to drop the "Neon" part of this car's name; an effort to make sure it gets its own sort of recognition, I suppose. If I drove this car back in my GT4 days, it's a shame I never made any notation about this. It often did well as a sim-car in this game, blowing away some rear-drives during American Hall races during this game's Hot Rod Competition.  
 
In GT5, this is one of the rare FFs which can get far into rear-drive territory, so far as A-spec racing is concerned, and it also does well occasionally during B-spec. In real-life, the SRT-4 was a short-lived celebration of a car, lasting in production from just 2003 to 2005. As the Neon ended its era, Dodge seems as though they were wanting to go out with a bang, but the idea for the SRT-4 began way back in 1998, as one of Chrysler's brass saw plenty of concept & tuner compact cars at the SEMA car show of that year. It took this guy several years to get the SRT-4 noticed and in production; for some reason Dodge was hesitating here.
 
As seen before with a few other cars during American history, Dodge only expected to sell about 2,500 of these a year, but wound up creating ten times this amount during its 3-year production run (25,000 overall). A variety of performance parts were added to this 'Neon', which will be described in later chapters, but we've got a spoiler up front, skirts on the side, and a small wing on the trunk to start with.   
 
The interior of this one offers somewhat cramped visibility through its windshield, but the center mirror is entirely on-screen, which I like. Now, does this car live up to its Gran Turismo hype?    

 

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------------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------
 
GT2
The engine is a typical 2.0 liter DOHC inline-4, and it drives the front wheels. It's not especially fast, but it does okay once we start helping it along.
 
0 to 60 = 9.1 seconds...quarter mile took 16.975 @ 85mph. I'd recommend the close-ratio (sports) gearbox for almost all racing endeavors, though super-close gears do well at rally tracks (like Smokey Mountain) in a fully-modified car.
 
Stock gears can be used to grab a higher top speed (which turned out to be 143 mph in the test). The power only goes from 151 @ 6,400 rpms to 287 @ 8,000 with full Stage 3 tuning, which aint much, but it is sweet that the Neon does come with a 7,000 rpm competition-grade redline as standard equipment. This helps it go against racy Japanese and Euro hatches in our game. So far as I can tell, the Neon is the only American compact offered in South City. Ford's Puma and Ka are really European cars...Chevy and Plymouth don't even offer us a lighter FWD.
 
To fully spec the engine up, you'll need to spend a total of $76,000, which aint worth it unless you're rich, and can afford to take a few risks! Thankfully, engine balancing is only $10,000 (perhaps since this is a 4-cylinder rather than something with a longer crank), and the computer chip is also on the cheap side, making this car a good buy for someone who only wants to race it in HP-limited events.
 
GT5
By the time this game's SRT-4 was on the streets, Dodge had given this "Neon" a higher-displacement engine, 2.4 liters as opposed to 2.0. I've seen Mopar's 2.4 in plenty of lesser cars; it's usually nothing to fear. But Dodge made sure to call up a bit of devil here. And one of the best things about this car's engine is that there aren't any 'dead revs'. Very often, I can dip those RPMs all the way to 3,000, and there's still plenty of torque to play with.  
 
Though this car only starts with 216 hp before oil change, Dodge made sure to give us plenty to work with. An intercooled Eaton supercharger was the first step, giving this car 66 horsepower more than the ACR and R/T of GT2. Owza!  The SRT-4 also gets a durable 5-speed transmission borrowed from some of their Daimler turbodiesel vans, and matched this with a Sachs racing clutch. Really serious stuff. And we can see the results of all this during the side-by-side comparison up above, where the SRT-4 simply creams an R/T from GT2 by over two seconds. Unfortunately, the R/T gets a better transmission in a way, since the SRT-4's turbodiesel unit is too short to allow this one to get any faster than 143 mph. But so far as acceleration goes, this car is one of the best front-drives out there. 
 
In GT2, we saw some overall power results which were somewhat between tepid and disappointing, in either the ACR or R/T. The SRT-4 makes sure this doesn't happen, as the results below shall now speak for themselves...
      
                      Horses              Torque
Fully Tund: 330 @ 5,700       324 @ 5,100
Stg 1 NA:  353 @ 5,800         340 @ 5,200
Stg 2 NA: 386 @ 5,800          366 @ 5,300
Stg 3 NA: 410 @ 5,900          383 @ 5,400
 
Already, we're blowing away pretty much all the front-drive production cars in GT5, but it doesn't end there.
 
Stg 1 Trb: 520 @ 5,700        531 @ 4,400
Stg 2 Trb: 611 @ 5,400        631 @ 4,900
Stg 3 Trb: 606 @ 6,400        518 @ 5,900
 
There, that's pretty amazing, right?  There were a couple of front-drives in GT2 (the Intrepid and the Cougar) which could make this much power. This sort of FF power has simply never happened in any game after the second one, or so I assumed. So far, I haven't needed any more than 473 horses in this game, during the Tuning Car Grand Prix, so it's nice to know there's even more available if needed. 
 
As we shall see during the next section, the Dodge SRT-4 can do some amazing damage in this game, mostly due to this blatant power. 

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---------------CHASSIS / HANDLING-------------
 
GT2
Other than heavy understeer in hard corners, the Neon handles pretty well. Real-life Neons have a 61 / 39 % front to rear weight distribution according to www.carfolio.com, which is why they'll plow right into walls if too much speed is carried into corners, and the driver isn't very skilled. Sport tires start to lose their edge somewhere just above 65 mph in tighter turns, but they do well with longer curves.

I raced a Neon R/T in the B-license event at Laguna Seca with only sports tires and standard (stock) suspension and won, so I'd recommend either the sports or semi-racing suspension with mid-range damping on both the front and the rear to help lessen this car's lateral movement. Full racing parts are relatively cheap ($15,000) and really are needed only on rally tracks. But whatever you do, learn to brake EARLY to avoid that understeer!
 
GT5
Welcome to the story of the Little Car that Could, once we get to this game. As mentioned, there are no more Neons here, now we're only dealing with the older kid brother of those wimps, and he doesn't like to be associated with them much at all. The SRT 4 resembles the Dodge Neon, it looks like a Neon, but has very little in common. It started with power, now it ends with handling. You'd think that because this car is front-drive, it won't be able to bring anything to the table, even with all its available power. Right?  
 
Dodge began tweaking this car's handling with some 17" Michelin Pilot Sport tires, added bigger brakes with better cooling capacity, lowered the car (compared to regular Neons), and boosted its struts & suspension all around. Yes, we get a lot of power in this car, but it's not all about power.   
 
 It's a shame I never got to race this car in GT4. I do remember seeing them able to keep up in GT4's American Car races (and against some mighty rear-drives, amazingly), and have observed the SRT4 sometimes dominating GT5's Muscle Car Championship. But what is really surprising is that we can also dominate in this front-drive as well. As mentioned, heaps of power are here to help us do so.
 
I drove this car in GT5's Muscle Car Championship (soft sport tires) and then made an uncertain leap to the Tuning Car Grand Prix (hard racing tires). But before doing any of this, I drove it completely stock around Laguna Seca.
 
With an oil change and engine rebuild, my burgundy-colored Neon look-alike gave plenty of hints of things to come, some good and some bad. First of all, power gained from 216 to 237 ... just with that visit to GT Auto. This shows that here we have an engine that's not  so durable (21 horses of power lost over time from a 4-banger?) but also seems as though it will allow us more than those wimpy GT2 machines.  The SRT-4 comes stock with soft radial tires, which makes it difficult to drive in some ways, but if we allow some decent brake-time, the SRT-4 can get to work, and do amazing things. As we shall see, braking is very important in this car.
 
While nearing Seca's many tight turns, the SRT-4 seemed (at first) as though it might not offer any assistance with its braking. Take note: we must start earlier in this car than we might in some other front-drives. If we do so, notice how this car offers us the ability to trail-brake, especially as we get nearer and nearer to apex. Another cool thing about this car (at this level of tune) is its parking brake, which locks those rear tires, causing some violent tweaks and jack-knifes as we're turning. We can do all sorts of interesting things (mostly good things) with tightening cornering lines because of this. Understeer is always something to be aware of, but we can work with this car's front-end, and keep pushing to a minimum, as long as we give appropriate brake-time.
 
Leaving turns is always a joy. Later on, we'll see the Dodge really start to lose traction as some power gets thrown down, but right now, with just 237 horses, the front-end mostly grabs, with some light muscle-slipping every now and again. Since it's easy to keep the 2.4 liter engine within a decent power-zone, the front-end always pulls with noticeable vigor.
 
 
At the Muscle Car Championship, the ante was upped, of course. Now we've added a bunch of parts to this car, modifying its ECM, intake, exhaust, and already we've got more than the Neons of GT2: 309 horses at Daytona, and 300 at Laguna Seca. We're making this power without any turbo or engine stages, too. 
 
The cheap radials are scrapped for soft sports. Gearbox has been completely overhauled, so now we've got 6 speeds instead of 5, and a better clutch on top of this. I kept the flywheel stock; fearing that a lighter one might cause too much torque to not make it to pavement.
 
At the first race at Daytona, the suspension was kept factory-stock, and a limited-slip was not used, just to see if this car would keep the semi-slippery behavior we saw at Laguna Seca. Amazingly, it did, and seemed to have even more traction than before! 
 
"Well duh, Parnelli, you've got much better tires equipped." 
 
Yes I know. But I've also got an extra 70-ish horses, in a front-drive machine, and am finding it's hard to break traction. This is partially because 3rd gear can be substituted for 2nd out of Daytona's (and Laguna's) slowest areas. This is quite a punchy engine, folks. RPMs dip to about 3 grand, yet there is no turbo lag, or lower-end torque-loss of any kind, to worry about. I could also use 2nd gear, if I wanted to get a more exciting launch, but even with 2nd selected, the front-end was still displaying more grip than slip.   
 
The car still gets into some solid cornering lines, still trail-brakes to small degrees, and now we're seeing why it can beat some other rear-drives when Bob is racing. I found myself beating some rear-drives a little too easily, to be honest, which caused me to search for the hardest MCC racing grids I could find.     
 
Now, to the Tuning Car Grand Prix. This car doesn't really handle like a front-drive anymore, once we've got some real power, it really is nothing like a Neon, a Civic, a Golf, or anything else FF. It's completely out of any sort of league those others wallow in. The SRT 4 shares our usual front-drive understeer-at-the-limit with other front-drives, but this is about all it shares.
 
With over 450 horsepower during the Tuning Car Grand Prix, it really begins to feel like a rocketship on wheels, with two thrusters located under both front fenders. This 'rent-a-car' blasts out of slow areas with vicious, thunderous smoke, yet also manages to keep enough traction to vast degrees that it will still get a lead on some others. This means speed is still gained, despite the fact that we're having some fast & furious fun.
 
If you think about it, rear-drives can also lose traction and smoke their tires. The advantage this Dodge has over them is a complete lack of power-oversteer. In a new Mustang for instance, or a Camaro, Viper, and other FRs, we must deal with understeer, and THEN also deal with oversteer. FRs tend to push to varying degrees, in and out of turns, from the front, and then the rear. The SRT-4 mostly only deals with front-end issues. Once this car is lined-up and ready to go, we won't ever have to worry about the rear getting sloppy with a possible spin-attempt. The car's front may be pushing, but it is at least attempting to go straight.   
 
Although GT5's TCGP requires hard racing tires, I accidentally equipped soft sorts during my first race at Suzuka. With these in place, the Neon is sloppy, but still amazingly driveable. The front-end can understeer, but give this car enough braking time, and it's quick to realize how easy it is to take this car TO its front-drive limit, without any understeer at all. Granted, throttle it at all during a moment like this, and there will be some pushing, but the SRT 4 makes it easy to make sure this doesn't happen. With 465 horsepower. And soft sport tires.
 
So with racing tires, what happens is things get even better. The front-end limit of understeer can (and often will) start to snap inwards with grabbing once we switch from braking to coasting, about mid-turn, especially at lower speeds. Hairpins and some esses. It's this inward snap that makes all the difference. Once it happens, now we've got the option to start adding some gas early; sometimes earlier than the rear-drives can. And we can add a LOT of it too. :)
 
There are lots of criticisms though, heh heh. Top of the list: a lack of refinement. Though the SRT 4 is a winner, this is not a beautifully-handling machine, which makes those who sip merlot at the table say "ah, jolly good!" ... the SRT4 is for those who guzzle some Jagermeisster and chase it with energy drinks. Jack & Coke. Its front-end is not very subtle, as it quickly goes from turbo-lag to over-boost.
 
Understeer of all kinds (largely avoidable at Suzuka and Daytona) begins to take all our concentration once we're at Grand Valley, Route 5, and Tokyo, with their higher-speed curves!  At times like this, the Neon will do nothing but understeer, front tires overheating like two donuts in a microwave oven. The driver, any driver, is doing nothing at such moments but sweating. Hoping that when throttle is re-introduced, everything goes swell. Sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn't.
 
Sometimes, small amounts of throttle will cause the front-end to dig in, allowing us a tighter line during larger turns (like at Route 246). But it's easily possible to get greedy. Just a smidge more throttle?  Maybe it will work, but maybe it'll cause the front-end to start taking a WIDER line. Not good at a track with sturdy walls.  
 
The entire car also tends to wallow a lot too, being a Neon underneath all the hype. There is quite a lot of body-roll, even with a height-adjustable suspension cranked down, and sprung high all around, it's noticeable how sloppy this one is. Full-custom parts are not 100% necessary at this point, but boy would they come in handy if we need them.
 
 Braking, which is usually a front-drive's advantage, cannot be relied upon in the SRT-4. Take notice: this car does NOT like late-braking. It does NOT have a lot of the damage control options that other FFs might possess. ALWAYS find the correct zones for this car. Given time to slow down, the SRT-4 can turn-in and occasionally out-brake others, but it will often be at its very limits while doing so.    
 
That's the thing about this one: its lack of refinement, as mentioned, really comes into play here. This one is brutal. It's difficult to find that perfect braking zone, or apply just the right amount of gas out of 2nd or 3rd gear turns, or be smooth at all. This one's always going from nothing to ALL, and then ALL to nothing. Middle-ground it tough to find. Even if we're out of 3rd gear, and into 4th. Sometimes 5th. Notice how those front tires are still slightly overheating. While driving down straight areas at full speed, notice how hard it is to get the front-end to twitch. There's a reason for this!  
 
But this Dodge gets the job done, amazingly. And that's all that counts in Gran Turismo. If I drove the SRT4 in GT4 at all, I have no recollection. The car in this game must have handled much worse than it does in GT5, simply because any race longer than 2 laps would have started to cause its front tires to shred. But in GT5, we've got a career (and a decent amount of credits) just waiting for us.
 
 
 

--------------------PROS----------------------
 
1). Low price, especially in GT2.
 
2). Racing stripes can be bought as an option on the R/T, hence the slightly higher price. But they're worth it for their coolness factor.
 
3). GT2: good beginner car, easy to drive in most of the free, B, and A-license events with relatively few chassis and drivetrain modifications. The Neon does okay in some rallies, too.
 
4). A good, mid-weight FWD. Race-kit available in GT2.
 
5). 7,000 rpm redline standard in the R/T and ACR. The SRT-4 doesn't offer as many revs, but it packs more torque and power.

6). GT2 is the only Gran Turismo so far which has included a couple more basic Neons, so it's got uniqueness here.
 
7). GT5: About as fast and furious as an FF can be. Lots of power in this game, and probably in GT4 as well. Way more power than I've needed so far.
 
8). No power-oversteer to worry about.   

 
-------------------------CONS-------------------------
 
1). GT2: Low power can't be raised much, even after spending a #(@* load of money. Still, the Neon can earn plenty of credits in some enduros and the Tuned NA, for those who are skilled drivers.
 
2). Understeer, understeer, Understeer!
 
3). Body sway can mess up handling capabilities, which are otherwise tight.
 
4). No turbo? This is true in GT2's R/T and ACR.
 
5). Braking isn't so reliable in GT4 and 5. Don't brake early enough in a Civic? You'll probably be okay. The SRT-4 doesn't feel nearly as confident.
 
6). Front-end madness is fun in the later games, but overall leads to plenty of problems.
 
7). SRT-4's transmission feels great at a track like Laguna Seca, but is geared too short for a long list of other places.
 
8). Rather generic-looking, being based on one of Dodge's most famous 'rent-a-cars' of all time. This car also has some very un-smooth polygonal shapes, and did not make the port from GT4 as well as some others.    
 
 
Published: May 25th, 2004
Edited for GT5: January 5th 2015 

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