Would you enjoy being the envy of all the teenagers in your neighborhood? Does turning the heads of 16-year-olds turn you on? Did you have to make do with a clapped-out Volkswagen in your younger days when all your buddies were driving hot Firebirds or Mustangs?
Has Chrysler Corp. got a car for you.It's called the Dodge Stealth, and any resemblance to the fighter plane that delivered the goods in Iraq is purely on purpose.
But this Stealth is anything but stealthy. People could see me coming two blocks away in the arrest-me-red job I evaluated for five days last week. Especially people under the age of 18 or so. Grown-ups didn't pay much attention to this low, lean and definitely mean machine, but the fresh-out-of-drivers-ed set sure did.
Why couldn't I have had this car in high school when I really needed it?
Maybe because no one drove Japanese cars when I went to high school. Except for the elitist few who somehow managed to talk their folks into buying them an MG, or the oddball VW driver (a friend of mine had what was believed to be the first Beetle in Utah), it was all Detroit iron.
Did I say Japanese car? Sure did. The Stealth is, for all purposes, a Mitsubishi wearing a Dodge logo. Advantage import, as Lee Iacocca definitely would not say. This isn't really a Japanese/American hybrid, or even a Japanese car made in Ohio, a la Honda. Except for some styling input by Dodge, the Stealth was engineered and built in Japan by Mitsubishi using Mitsubishi mechanicals (the Mitsubishi version is called the 3000 GT.)
A news story this week suggested Chrysler is thinking of selling all or part of its 50 percent stake in Diamond-Star Motors Corp., its joint auto building venture with Mitsubishi. That strikes me as a mistake. Aside from its vaunted minivans, Chrysler's joint venture Mitsubishi cars have been among its best products.
But back to the Stealth. It comes in four versions. The base Stealth, the car I evaluated, the Stealth ES, the Stealth R/T and the top of the line, the car guaranteed to put your driver's license in jeopardy and get your insurance canceled permanently, the Stealth R/T Turbo.
Prices range from a base price of $16,600 for the plain vanilla Stealth to $29,267 for the R/T Turbo whose only options are a CD player and leather seats. The other two, naturally enough, fall between them - the ES at $18,056 and the R/T (non turbo) at $24,155.
Despite being the bottom of the line, the base Stealth I drove is no stripper. Unless you crave to make a serious statement at the stoplight drag derbies, it has all a reasonable person would need (although "reason" is not the motivating factor for buyers of any Stealth). With options of a 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows, door locks and cruise control and an upgraded stereo, sticker price was $19,297.
It is powered by a 12-valve 3.0 liter V6 generating 164 hp at 5,500 rpm. Standard features include a driver-side air bag, AM-FM stereo, four wheel disc brakes and independent rear suspension. A 5-speed manual transaxle is standard. Gas mileage is rated at 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.
Inside, it's definitely sports coupe territory. Front seats are well designed and supportive but head room is tight. The "back seat" - the Stealth is a "2+2" - is a laugher. Even my 6-year-old couldn't hack it back there, but anyone who buys a Stealth while telling his wife it's a "family car" deserves whatever the judge and her attorney do to him. (I know I keep referring to Stealth buyers as "him," but I just don't see many women wanting this car. If that's a sexist statement, excuuuuse me.)
As with virtually all Japanese designs, the dash layout is superb and all of the gauges, switches and buttons have that quality look and feel that used to be reserved for cars made in Germany. It takes all of 30 seconds to feel at home in a Mitsubishi - oops, I mean Dodge - cockpit. All of the controls are right where logic says they should be.
Handling, as you would expect from a "sports GT" is top rate although not, in my opinion, as awe inspiring as one of this car's major competitors, the Nissan 300 ZX. Still, for the driving we all do 99 percent of the time (real life, not car ads) it is more than enough. More important, it is smooth and quiet on the freeway while still fun to take for a run up Big Cottonwood canyon where owners of such cars like to pretend they're Ayrton Senna on his day off.
If you buy a Stealth let me know. I'm the guy in the "sensible" family sedan who'll be eating his heart out.