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Dodge Spirit

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Dodge Spirit
Dodge
Production 1989-1995
Class Compact
Body Style 4-Door Sedan
Length 181.2"
Width 68.1"
Height 53.5"
Wheelbase 103.5"
Weight 2800 - 3100 lb
Transmissions 5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
4-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engines 2.2L (135 cid) Turbo I4 (1991-1992)
2.5L (153 cid) I4 (1989-1995)
2.5L (153 cid) Turbo I4 (1989-1992)
3.0L (181 cid) V6 (1989-1995)
Power 96-224 hp
Similar Chrysler LeBaron
Plymouth Acclaim
Platform K

Using an old AMC nameplate, the Dodge Spirit, along with the Plymouth Acclaim and the latest car (among numerous) to use the Chrysler LeBaron name, were all introduced in 1989 to replace the previous Aries, Reliant and LeBaron respectively. They were built on the old K-car platform but were stretched 3 inches. These were more modern and comfortable than the outgoing K-cars they replaced, and offered options such as turbocharged and V6 engines that the previous offerings did not (except the previous LeBaron, which did offer a turbo option). The LeBaron was of course the more upscale of the three, whereas the Acclaim was offered as more of a value-for-the-money model, with the Spirit right in between. The Spirit and Acclaim would be offered through the 1994 model year and 1995 as a fleet model only (except the LeBaron) to be replaced by the Stratus and Breeze. The LeBaron would be offered through 1995 to be replaced by the Cirrus. This report covers the Spirit, Acclaim and LeBaron except where noted.

Here's a rundown from year to year:

1989-1995

The 1989 Spirit/Acclaim/LeBaron were offered in base, LE and ES trim, with the 100 hp 2.5L I4 as the base engine. Optional were the 150 hp turbo 2.5L I4, or the Mitsubishi-built 141 hp 3.0L V6. Transmission choices were a 5-speed manual (available on I4 engines), a 3-speed automatic on the 4-cylinders and a 4-speed automatic on the V6. Virtually all car magazines and owners alike praised the Spirit for being a much better built and surefoooted car than the Aries ever was, and ended up as a solid contender to the Ford Tempo and Chevrolet Corsica, and even compared favorably with the contemporary Nissan Stanzas and Toyota Corollas of the day. Chrysler made no real changes to the Spirit, Acclaim or LeBaron in 1990 other than the usual new color choices, and a standard driver-side airbag.

1991 proved to be an interesting one for the Spirit. A new model was introduced, the R/T, using a classic Dodge badge from years past. The R/T used a 224 hp DOHC turbo 2.2L I4 engine, had 205/60R15 tires, a mandatory 5-speed manual transmission, and was available only in red or white. Car and Driver magazine pitted a Spirit R/T against a Chevrolet Lumina Z34 and a Ford Taurus SHO in a comparison test, and the Spirit trounced them all in the 0-60 and 1/4 mile tests. Capable of 0-60 in a mere 5.8 seconds (still very respectable even by today's standards), Car and Driver claimed "unless you're piloting a Corvette ZR-1 or a cruise missile, you'd do well to lay low if a Spirit R/T rolls along side you at a stoplight". Only 1208 were sold this year. The R/T package was not available on the Acclaim or LeBaron. All other Spirit models and drivetrains remained the same as years previous.

In 1992, the blistering R/T continued for one more year, with a limited production of 191 cars, with silver added to the color option list. No changes were made to any of the other models. In 1992 through 1995, Chrysler offered flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) of the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim. Some Chrysler minivans were likewise offered flexible-fuel versions at that time. This was an answer to the Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT).

This was the first production year that Dodge offered “flexible-fuel” vehicles to the public. The 2.5L I4 engine was equipped with fuel sensors that automatically adjusted to the fuel in the system. These engines adapted to run on unleaded gasoline or a blend of gas and methanol. (M85 Fuel is a mixture of 85% methanol and 15% premium unleaded gas used to power flex-fuel vehicles.)

Using the "M85" blended fuel, the engine produced 106 horsepower and delivered 145 pound-feet of torque at 2400 rpm, compared to only 135 pound-feet using unleaded gasoline. This Chrysler sensor pioneered flex-fuel capability in cars in that era and for years following.

The wild-child Spirit R/T was gone for 1993, and the Spirit got back to normal again. Base, SE and LE models continued. No changes were made to any of the previous drivetrain choices, but all cars received a new taillight design this year that stretched all the way across the rear of the car. There were no changes in 1994 to the Spirit, Acclaim or LeBaron in what was to be their final model year. The Spirit and Acclaim were offered only as fleet models in 1995, but the LeBaron would still be offered to the general public that year. The Spirit and LeBaron were superceded by the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Cirrus that same year, but the Acclaim's replacement, the Plymouth Breeze, would not be introduced until 1996.

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