- 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T

The Dodge Spirit R/T is America's Long-Forgotten Sports Sedan.

A throwback to America's forgotten sports sedan, the Dodge Spirit R/T.

7w ago
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When you think of a sports sedan, you tend to think of something of attentive but subtle looks and a powertrain delivery of a large motor that sometimes comes naturally aspirated and sometimes with added turbos or supercharger. What usually comes to mind when you think of a sports sedan is something of German descent. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are the trio that produces the latest and greatest in sporty sedans.

However, the Americans too at one point had some sports sedans of their own that were remarkably powerful in their time and still today are just as powerful against some new vehicles. One, in particular, is the Dodge Spirit R/T.

A full-sized family sedan with a 2.2-liter inter-cooled turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This of course was a tuned version of the same engine fitted to the Dodge Caravan in the 1980s. Of course, the Caravan eventually got an upgrade from a 2.2-liter inline-four to a 2.5-liter inline-four. The Spirit's engine produced an overwhelming 224 horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque. It might not sound like a lot but for 1991 it was a fair amount. It was also in similar lines with the Ford Mustang 5.0-liter V8 with a slightly lower price tag.

It was based on Chrysler's K-platform. A boxed-like design that was undesired by some and lacked the unique curved body exhibited in the 1970s. Although, with that in mind, while aerodynamics were not in Chrysler's field of view, occupant and cargo space were. Along with fuel economy.

1991 Dodge Spirit R/T

1991 Dodge Spirit R/T

With enough room for a full spare tire and your luggage, it was the ideal family sedan and track day car.

Further said, this was in fact Dodge's first attempt at a sporty sedan since the discontinuation of the Charger in the early to mid-1980s. It and the Dodge Viper were among the only sport-like vehicles being produced at the time by Dodge and it was a true success.

1982 Dodge Charger 2.2

1982 Dodge Charger 2.2

However, while the Dodge Spirit R/T could do sub 7 seconds 0-60 times and a 15-second quarter-mile, it had some serious issues. Those issues being cost, a lack of options, severe turbo lag and torque steer. The Dodge Spirit R/T came fairly basic, leaving it up to the consumer to add options as they felt necessary. One of those options being anti-locking brakes. The Spirit stopped from 60 to 0 mph in just 130 feet. The mushy pedal feel and constant brake lock-up make for severe tire wear and unsafe stopping. Therefore the ABS option is a must.

Then there is the cost. At $17, 806 dollars it comes more expensive than the Ford Taurus SHO while being in similar price territory to the Ford Mustang base model. For a sporty family sedan, the Dodge Spirit R/T was a success, even with the lack of options and style it is still a large price to ask for what you're getting.

Dodge Spirit R/T advertisement.

Dodge Spirit R/T advertisement.

Finally, the turbo lag and torque steer make it impossible to properly utilize the vehicle to its maximum capacity. At roughly 3,000 RPM the throttle response jumps and the car takes off vigorously. However, for the first 3,000 RPMs, there's nothing. It is something Dodge should have addressed but did not and for that, it was a serious flaw in the car's performance.

Overall, the Dodge Spirit R/T is among many of America's long-forgotten sport sedans. Although, unlike competing rivals, the Dodge Spirit R/T provided great performance at a budgeted cost. There were disadvantages to the vehicle. The lack of vital options such as ABS, the severe turbo lag, and the torque steer created formalities that made the Dodge Spirit R/T an unpopular vehicle. With that in mind, Dodge still managed to make a full-sized family sedan stand-in in similar performance categories to that of the Ford Mustang and other muscle cars. That is an accomplishment on its own that does not go unheard of and is why the Dodge Spirit R/T is by far one of Dodge's greatest, and first sport sedan accomplishments.

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Comments (11)

  • Love it

      1 month ago
  • I myself worked for Chrysler/ dodge when these were out and about, all you english gents should love the fact that these had the turbo III engine that was a dohc engine and the head was designed and made by lotus.

      1 month ago
  • I had an old 2 door Dodge Shadow in the shop years ago. It had the 3.0 and a 5-speed. It was crazy, the lady special ordered it from dodge.

      1 month ago
  • My first car was a 91 Dodge Spirt ES Turbo with 5 speed. Loved that car. Total sleeper.

      1 month ago
    • That's awesome. The ES Turbo was a great car in its day.

        1 month ago
  • I worked at a Dodge/Chrysler dealership when these came out. The Omni was actually faster. Handled better too.

      1 month ago
    • So I've read. So fascinating to learn you worked in the showroom when these were on sale.

        1 month ago
    • Detail shop, mostly. Prepping brand new cars fresh off the truck, as well as detailing used cars. Basically restoring their finish, inside and out. I also worked as a courtesy driver for a period of time, and one of the cars we used was an Omni....

      Read more
        1 month ago
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