In the early 1990s, any vehicle with more than 200 hp was considered ‘a real screamer’. That’s absolutely hilarious by today’s standards, but when the 224 hp Dodge Spirit R/T debuted, its sub-7-second 0–60 capability made it the fastest four-door sedan sold in America (1991–1992). So let’s take a trip back in time, and see just how far performance sedans have come in the last decade-and-a-half…
Thanks to innovators like Lee Iaccoca and Bob Lutz, Chrysler Corp. was able to stave off bankruptcy by underpinning an entire range of cars, using modified versions of the little FWD K-Car platform. One of these (profitable) cars was the midsize Dodge Spirit, which quickly became a staple of government and rental fleets. To get the attention of retail customers, Dodge created a crazy turbocharged version known as the Spirit R/T. It had a manual gearbox, gobs of torque steer, and a mind-blowing 0‒60 time… denim jacket not included.
From the outside, the Dodge Spirit R/T looked very similar to the top-line Spirit ES. Only a keen observer would notice the modest chin spoiler, side sill extensions, and the tiny spoiler that was penciled onto the trunklid. The wheels on the 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T were body-colored 15-inch ‘Eurocast’ (aka Snowflakes), and 1992 models got a new design called ‘Turbo Blade’. In typical early-90s fashion, the entire car was monochrome, and the only available colors were red and white (there were 31 silver cars built in 1992). Beneath all of that redness/whiteness, was a sightly stiffened suspension, and heavy-duty vented 4-wheel disc brakes, with the option of ABS. Although it wouldn’t hold a candle to a 2016 family sedan, the Dodge Spirit R/T was a very competent handling car in its day.
To compete with cars like the Ford Taurus SHO and Chevy Lumina Euro, the Dodge Spirit R/T was fitted with a twin-cam 2.2L 4-cyl, that had a Lotus-designed 16-valve head, and a big intercooled Garrett turbo. The end result of all this mechanical witchcraft was a lusty 224 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque, which was enough to earn an official 0–60 time of 6.5 seconds (Car and Driver did the deed in just 5.8 seconds), and a top speed of 142 mph. At a time when the world ran on DOS—and Michael Jackson wasn’t a complete creepazoid—the Dodge Spirit R/T was the coolest four door around. Maybe it’ll be cool again someday.
Dodge Spirit R/T Production
1991: 1,208 — 774 red, 434 white
1992: 191 — 92 red, 68 white, 31 silver