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Dodge Aries

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Dodge Aries
Dodge
Production 1981-1989
Class Compact
Body Style 2-Door Coupe, 4-Door Sedan, 5-Door Wagon
Length 178.6"
Width 68"
Height 52.5"
Wheelbase 100.1 in
Weight 2600 - 2800 lb
Transmissions 4-Speed Manual, FWD
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engines 2.2L (135 cid) I4 (1981-1989)
2.6L (156 cid) I4 (1981-1985)
2.5L (153 cid) I4 (1986-1989)
Power 84-101 hp
Similar Chrysler LeBaron
Dodge 400
Plymouth Reliant
Platform K

The Dodge Aries, otherwise known as a "K-car", is ultimately best described as "the car that saved Chrysler's bacon". The Aries (and its K-car twin Plymouth Reliant) was all new in 1981, replacing the departed Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare. The K-cars were a huge gamble for Chrysler, who had just received loans that were guaranteed by the government prior to their introduction. Had the K-cars turned out to be sales duds, it's very likely Chrysler would not exist today, at least in its present form. But not only were they successful, the K-car chassis spawned multiple spinoffs, not the least of which were sport coupes and minivans (in fact, by the mid-80s the only Chrysler cars that weren't K-car knockoffs were the L-body Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon and the rear-drive M-bodies (Chrysler Fifth Avenue/Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury). The Aries and Reliant would continue through 1989 to be replaced by the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim that same year.

Here's a quick rundown:

1981-1989

1981 was the Aries/Reliant's premier year, base engine was the all-new 2.2L 84 hp I4, available with a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic. Optional was the Mitsubishi-built 2.6L "Hemi" 96 hp I4, automatic only. Bodystyles included a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and a 5-door station wagon. Trim levels were base and SE. Styling was the basic 3-box type. Aries styling differed from the Reliant's only by a different grille and taillights. The K-cars were off to an admirable start in their inaugural year, racking up over 300,000 sales between the Aries and Reliant. There were only minor changes for the 1982 K-cars, such as a counterbalanced hood eliminating the need for a prop-rod. The rear door windows in the sedans and wagons actually rolled down this year (they were fixed in place on the 81 models). Engine choices remained the same as last year. Also the "K" badges were removed from the exterior nameplates. The K-car's first 2 spinoffs happened this year in the form of the new Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge 400, with more upscale surroundings than the Aries/Reliant.

The biggest change in 1983 was an additional 10 hp for the 2.2L I4, to 94 hp. Otherwise there were no real changes to speak of this year. This year's K-car spinoffs were the larger (and short-lived) Chrysler E-Class and New Yorker, and the Dodge 600. All new dashboards with temp and oil pressure gauges were the order of the day for 1984, and all radios were now digital. Both the Aries and Reliant gained the Chrysler pentastar badge mounted squarely in the middle of their grilles. It is interesting to note that 1984 was the only year Aries and Reliant did not carry a "K" on the back of them as a trim line. The "K" had gained somewhat of a bad reputaton as a very common car and Chrysler attempted to distance themselves from this by dropping the "K" (it would return in 1985). The 2.6L I4 received a slight horsepower boost to 101. This year the K-cars spunoff the Chrysler Laser and Dodge Daytona sport coupes and the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans. It should be noted that the various turbo variants of the 2.2L (and later 2.5) engines were never offered on the Aries or Reliant.

The K-cars sported restyled noses and tails in 1985, becoming more rounded at the front and more formal in the rear. The Aries and Reliant again differed only in their grilles and taillights. Despite the changes, exterior and interior dimensions remained the same as before. Engine and transmission choices also remained the same. K-car spinoffs this year included the Chrysler LeBaron GTS and Dodge Lancer, resurrecting an old nameplate last used in the early '60s. For 1986, the biggest change was the demise of the Mitsubishi 2.6L I4, replaced by a Chrysler-built 100 hp 2.5L I4. Fuel injection made its way to both the 2.2 and 2.5 engines this year - horsepower for the 2.2 remained at 97. The only exterior change was the addition of the mandatory Center High-Mounted Stop Light in the rear. Base and SE models continued on both lines.

1987 saw no appreciable changes to the Aries or Reliant other than a stainless steel exhaust system. K-car spinoffs this year were the Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, as well as a new handsome Chrysler LeBaron Coupe. In 1988, following the Omni and Horizon's lead, the Aries and Reliant were now offered in value-oriented America trim, making many previously optional items standard, such as AM/FM stereo, power steering and brakes, etc. Transmissions on both engines gained lock-up torque converters. Spinoffs this year were the larger Dynasty and Chrysler New Yorker sedans.

Other than the station wagon model being discontinued, the Aries and Reliant stood pretty much pat for their final year. Although the Aries and Reliant were at the end of their respective roads this year, the "K-car" platform was by no means dead. Another spinoff this year was the rather curious Chrysler TC by Maserati (the car's actual name), a 2-seat convertible which was a short-lived joint venture between Chrysler and Maserati. The Aries and Reliant were replaced by the new Spirit and Acclaim that were introduced this year, which also used the K platform.

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