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Chrysler Corporation's so-called "cloud cars" were the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Cirrus and the Plymouth Breeze. The Stratus was aimed at "30-something boomers" who wanted value and versatility in a sedan and customers who would ordinarily consider an import before a domestic car, but didn't want to give up the expressive styling of a sport coupe. Positioned right in the center of the tough front-wheel drive compact sedan market, it competed with the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique, Honda Accord, Mazda 626, Nissan Altima, Pontiac Grand Am and Toyota Camry. It was the only sedan in the group to take advantage of Chrysler's "cab-forward" design, which allowed more interior room and trunk space than most of its competitors.

To appeal to this "import-intender" customer, the design team focused on the five features these buyers said they look for, styling, packaging of comfort and convenience features, safety, dependability and a fun-to-drive feel.

This 5-passenger sedan contained front bucket seats, and the most rear-seat legroom and the largest trunk in its class. The trunk had a lockable pass-through, full-folding rear seats and a remote trunk release.

Year-to-year changes[]

1995[]

Stratus replaced the aging Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim twins when they were discontinued at the end of this model year, as well as the Dodge Dynasty.

Like the Avenger coupe, the Stratus was available in base and ES models -- the latter offering improved handling and performance, as well as a higher level of standard equipment and other upgrades. Both models featured standard dual airbags.

Base engine was a 132-hp 2.0-liter sohc 16-valve 4-cylinder. In December 1994, a 140-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve Four entered production. Top-of-the-line engine was a 164-hp 2.5-liter 24-valve sohc V6. A 5-speed manual transaxle was standard on the 2.0-liter engine. A 4-speed automatic came with the 2.4-liter Four and 2.5-liter V6.

1996[]

For 1996, the Stratus had front and rear double-wishbone independent suspension. That and a stiff body structure made Stratus a responsive handler. Speed-sensitive steering and larger wheels and tires made the ES even better on twisty roads. Antilock brakes were optional for the base model and standard on the ES. The standard powertrain for both the base car and the ES was a 2.0-liter 132-hp 4-cylinder matching to a 5-speed manual transmission. To get a 4-speed automatic on either model, you would have needed to upgrade to the 2.4-liter 150-hp Four or the 2.5-liter 168-hp V6.

Like the import brands it battled, Stratus offered plenty of standard features: air conditioning, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted switches, rear-window defroster, tinted windshield, dual remote-control mirrors, 4-speaker cassette stereo and speed-sensitive intermittent wipers. The ES added foglights, driver's seat lumbar adjustment, power mirrors and door locks and upgraded interior trim.

1998[]

The 2.0-liter engine was dropped from the ES, making the 2.4-liter engine now standard on all ES models.

1999[]

The 2.4-liter engine was the next to discontinue, so all 1999 Stratus ES models now had standard V6 engines.

2001[]

The Stratus was redesigned this year, with production beginning on July 17, 2000. A 2-door coupe was also added to the lineup. The coupe remained on sale until 2005, while the sedan lasted through 2006.

Retail prices[]

Model year(s) Trim level Transmission List price Destination charge Effective date
1995 Base 5-speed manual $13,965 $535 December 5, 1994
1995 Base 4-speed automatic $14,695 $535 June 12, 1995
1995 ES 4-speed automatic $17,430 $535 June 12, 1995
1996 Base $14,460 $535 August 7, 1995
1996 ES $16,110 $535 August 7, 1995
1997 Base $14,990 $535 July 27, 1997
1997 ES $16,785 $535 July 27, 1997

Gallery[]

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