By Drew Johnson
Monday, Jul 8th, 2013 @ 10:20 am
 
Dodge has officially begun production of its sportier Dart GT model. The new model ushers in a previously unavailable 2.4L four-cylinder engine, which Dodge believes could become the "sweet spot" for Dart sales.

Dodge announced on Monday that it began production of the 2013 Dart GT last week at its plant in Belvidere, Illinois. The first units of the Dart GT should begin arriving in dealer showrooms within the next few weeks.

Set to top the Dart range, the GT model includes upgraded features like frequency-sensing damping shocks, 18-inch wheels, LED taillights, dual exhaust outlets and a full leather interior, but the big news resides under the car's hood.

The GT will be the first Dart model offered with Chrysler's 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir2 four-cylinder engine, which promises 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. Until now, the Dart's top engine billing has been a 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder which, while offering decent performance, has been hurt by its lack of a conventional automatic transmission.

Following its launch in the GT, the 2.4L will spread to other Dart models. Dodge brand chief Reid Bigland said in an interview earlier this year that the 2.4L paired with a torque converter six-speed automatic could eventually become the Dart's best-selling powertrain.

Buyers will be giving up some fuel economy for the engine's added driveability, however. When paired with a six-speed automatic the 2.4L returns 21mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway (24mpg combined), which trails the 1.4L's 27/37/31mpg city/highway/combined ratings.