Finally revealed in full, the 2013 Dodge Dart arrived at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show bristling with attitude and promise. Its high-profile style, outstanding technology and a baked-in fun-to-drive character are matched with a selection of fuel-efficient powertrains, class-leading safety features and a spacious, well-finished passenger compartment. Offering the choice of SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T trims, Dodge's first compact sedan offering in seven years seems well positioned to lure buyers into the showroom for a closer look.

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As hinted at in the previously released teaser images, the exterior of the new Dodge Dart embodies a good deal of the divisional DNA, from a stylized interpretation of Dodge's signature gunsight grille to its available full-width Charger-inspired "racetrack" LED taillamp. The front-drive Dart's relatively long (106.3-inch) wheelbase and wide track contribute to both its more aggressive stance and better interior packaging while a host of aero optimization details - including full underbody panels and Dodge's first application of an active grille shutter system - allow it to vie for cleanest-in-class honors. While wheel/tire combos are limited to 16-inch standard and 17-inch options on all lesser Dart models, the primo R/T comes with an 18-inch fitment.

Displaying what Klaus Busse, Head of Interior Design, Chrysler Group LLC, calls "the first of our next-generation interiors," the Dart's well-finished and intuitively configured cabin boasts a bounty of desirable features and exclusive technologies along with what Dodge says is best-in-class passenger space and exceptionally comfortable seats, front and rear. Loads of soft touch surfaces, innovative ambient lighting and colorful trim elements complement features like an available driver-definable 7.0-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) gauge cluster and UConnect infotainment system with its class-leading 8.4-inch touchscreen.

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The 2013 Dodge Dart is the first Chrysler Group offering to be spun from a Fiat Group design, in this case, a stretched and extensively re-engineered Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform now dubbed "CUS-wide" (Compact U.S. Wide) modular architecture. The redesign included incorporating no less than 68 percent high-strength steel into the structure, endowing it with exceptional strength as well as lightness. The Dart's suspension has been tuned to maintain sporty Euro-flavored control with superior ride comfort and noise rejection capabilities while its advanced quick-ratio electric power steering unit is fully integrated with the standard electronic stability control system. All Dart variants also come with traction control and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

Dart buyers will have a choice of three different four-cylinder engines and a trio of transmissions. Base motivator is a Chrysler-designed "Tigershark" 2.0-liter that makes 160 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. It can be backed by the Fiat-designed six-speed manual that's standard across the board or an optional Powertech six-speed Autostick automatic. Those seeking a bit more underhood intensity can step up to a Dart fitted with a Fiat-designed 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo, a turbocharged/intercooled alternative that uses the automaker's trick electro-hydraulic valve lift and timing control actuation control system to crank out 160 ponies but a stout 184 lb-ft of twist. Its exclusive autoshifter option is a new six-speed dry dual-clutch (DDCT) unit that's been specifically designed for lighter-vehicle applications.

Both of these Dart powertrains will be available from the start of production, which will commence in the second quarter of 2012 at Chrysler Group's Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Ill. By fall, the new Tigershark 2.4-liter with even more sophisticated MultiAir 2 technology also will come on line. Destined for the Dart R/T, it's slated to make 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque whether paired with the manual gearbox or Autostick automatic. Pricing information on the 2013 Dodge Dart will be released closer to its on-sale date.

 

This story was updated on January 9, 2012, with new information and photos released in conjunction with the world premiere of the 2013 Dodge Dart at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

 

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