Dodge Stealth Review

Dodge Stealth Review

When you hear "Dodge," what comes to mind? Truck commercials featuring a couple of Hemi-obsessed rednecks? Tire-melting muscle cars? Or maybe Grandma's '73 Dart with a 318 V8 you couldn't kill (no matter how many brake stands you did with it)? How about a sport coupe with a twin-turbo V6, all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering? For many people, that last association is a bit hazy.

But in reality there was indeed such a car -- the Dodge Stealth. Thanks to its partnership with Mitsubishi during the 1990s, Dodge offered the Stealth sport coupe, which, depending on trim level, offered a lot of show with little go, a lot of show with respectable go or a lot of show with a lot of go.

Essentially a restyled variant of the Mitsubishi 3000GT, the Stealth was either front- or all-wheel drive and powered by engines ranging from a mild 164-horsepower V6 to a twin-turbo version with nearly twice the power. With its low nose, muscular haunches and wide stance, the Stealth was a model of early-'90s cool.

The coolest was the 300-hp (later 320) twin-turbo Dodge Stealth R/T that could run with the fastest sports cars of its day. The security of four driven wheels put it at ease doing so, and strong grip, strong brakes and styling that turned heads for six straight years rounded out the package. In short, the Dodge Stealth, at least in twin-turbo form, commanded respect.

However, it wasn't quite a model of efficiency. Contained within that somewhat bulky body was a jet aircraft-inspired cockpit that could be cramped for taller folks and a pair of rear seats best left to transporting gym bags. And the curb weight of the top twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive version, which also featured four-wheel steering, approached 2 tons. The Stealth also had a pronounced frontal weight bias that prevented it from feeling nimble, even though its outright handling was competent. Serious enthusiasts also felt that its steering and shifter were vague, and its chassis less connected to the road than other sports cars'.

As a choice for a used sport coupe, the Dodge Stealth is either a poser or a serious performance car, with a wide gulf between the two. Base models look flashy but don't provide performance matching their looks. The mid-line trims offer competent performance, but it's the R/T Twin Turbo that has the goods to back up its exotic car looks. Potential buyers should know, however, that the complex nature of the top Stealth means there are more things that can break, and sports car purists looking for a more involving drive would be better served by competing cars like the Mazda RX-7 or BMW M3.

Most recent Dodge Stealth

The Dodge Stealth ran from 1991-'96 and initially came in four trim levels: base, ES, R/T and R/T Twin Turbo. Base versions were powered by a 3.0-liter V6 with 164 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque. The ES and R/T stepped up to the plate with a 24-valve DOHC version with 222 hp and 201 lb-ft of torque. The R/T Twin Turbo boasted 300 hp and 307 lb-ft. Performance of the latter was thrilling, with zero to 60 mph taking just over 5 seconds.

All except the R/T Twin Turbo were front-wheel drive and offered a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The R/T Twin Turbo had all-wheel drive and didn't offer the automatic.

Base cars offered swoopy looks but little else. The ES provided the more powerful V6, 16-inch alloy wheels and foglights, while the R/T featured 17-inch alloys, a body kit (that gave it a pinched waist look), rear spoiler, antilock brakes, full power accessories, air-conditioning and an upgraded sound system. The R/T Twin Turbo added the powerhouse engine, all-wheel-drive system and four-wheel steering.

The Dodge Stealth received steady changes over the years. After some across-the-board content upgrades for 1993 (such as standard leather for the R/T Twin Turbo), the first major freshening came in 1994. Reworked styling replaced the pop-up headlights with projector units and the interior gained a second airbag. The ES trim was dropped while the R/T Twin Turbo became an even stronger performer thanks to a boost from 300 to 320 hp, the addition of a 6th gear to the gearbox and upgraded brakes.

The following year the R/T Twin Turbo gained 18-inch alloy wheels. The Stealth's last year, 1996, brought a new rear spoiler, a body-colored roof and the R/T Twin Turbo's option of chrome wheels. (Mitsubishi's 3000GT remained in production until 1999.)

For the serious driving enthusiast, the non-turbo Stealths are a bit of a letdown. Still, the 222-hp Stealths could serve as a decent (and likely more reliable) alternative to domestic-brand coupes like the Ford Mustang V6 or Chevrolet Camaro V6.

Assuming one can be found in good condition, the real incentive to buy the Dodge Stealth is the R/T Twin Turbo. Although the basics remained intact throughout their run, the 1994-'96 models are a little more desirable due to the extra power and additional gear in the transmission. Also, the R/T would make a true year-round sports car thanks to its all-wheel-drive traction.