Or Calibre, if you are writing using British English.
I only remembered this one because I saw an example other day. I didn’t know what it was so I thought it must be one of those Chrysler things. Or Dodge things. Or maybe a Plymouth. Whatever. There was a time when American car interiors were cherishably bad. They might have been a bit careless but they had a humour and brio to them. The Calibre’s is simply bad and dispiriting but is a great example of when simple (good) becomes banal (not good). All the great simple designs have a twist or an inflection or a grace note. This set of straight lines (above) is
what a rookie designer thinks a VW looks like inside. He thinks it’s all straight lines and rectangles and flat planes. Guess again. All those “boring” shapes inside a Polo or Golf have been worked over to the same extent Michelangelo worked over the roof of the Sistine Chapel. They are lively. They have entasis. The lines and surfaces inside the Calibre simply strike one as crude.
Some facts. The Calibre not that big: four and a half metres. It’s not that heavy: 1350 kilos or so. Chrysler gave a it a decent mix of engines, all of them bigger than a European car of 1300 kilos. You could get a 1.8 and 2.0 and 2.4 litre petrol and a 2.4 litre petrol. That’s not an error. There were two 2.4 litre petrol engines and I don’t know the difference. A 2.0 litre diesel could also be obtained. In the course of its life four different automatic boxes served the cause of dragging the Calibre around the place. Four? Again, I am not sure if these served at the one time or in series. I really don’t want to know this kind of thing. You don’t either.
The exterior form suggest it could just have been a useful small estate car. It’s jacked up and some versions had all-wheel drive. With a big load bay it could have been a very poor man’s Subaru Forester. For some reason, the designers left a huge wedge of airspace outside the car’s tailgate. I suppose this was because a more vertical tailgate would look too square. A semi-raked tailgate (for it is not a fastback) was offered to make the car look sporty in the way none of the rest of it is.
In many ways, this car is complelely in line with Chrysler’s tradition of completely empty styling. The car isn’t very tough. It isn’t very commodious. The huge grille is mostly black plastic. The aesthetics are all over the place: part off roader, part sporty fastback (the bit around the tailgate, I mean), part medium-sized family hatchback. What do others think?
Honest John thinks “it’s easy to drive, practical and cheap”. Car and Driver thought it was roomy but uneconomical. Edmunds gave the car four out of five stars and said “Versatile interior, fuel-efficient powertrain choices, availability of all-wheel-drive system.” And: “Lackadaisical acceleration, many safety features are optional.”
Autocar was harsher: “The Caliber is underwhelming and outlcassed. Dodge has throughout confused value for money with cheapness.” That’s more like the kind of brutal kicking I was looking for. Finally, Car magazine were surprisingly charitable. I expected them to say “Less handling ability than a wheelie bin and looks worse than a blue-bottle sitting on a weeping sore” but they said “The Caliber’s an interesting attempt to breathe new life into the rather predictable hatch market. On ability, rivals have it licked, but it’s distinctive, practical and good value. Worth a look, in other words.”
I don’t dislike this car because it is cheap or not very fast. I dislike it because it fails to do what it promises. It’s not modern, or classical or cleverly retro. Rather it’s a mix of carelessly conjoined themes and promises a toughness out of all proportions to its expected role in life.