The bar for North American-built sports coupes has been raised to astronomical heights in recent years. The Mustang GT350R has a high-tech 526 horsepower VooDoo V8 engine and carbon fiber wheels, while the supercharged Dodge Challenger Hellcat offers up a stout 707 horsepower. Oh, and don’t forget the refined 2016 Camaro SS and its 455 horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and magnetic ride control suspension.
Once upon a time, North American sports coupes weren’t packed with so much technology, however we’re not talking about the muscle cars of the 1960s and ‘70s. You only have to go back to the early 2000s to find a good example of a cheap American two-door that offered little in the way of performance and refinement – say, 2002.
That was the year Car & Driver pitted the then-new 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T against the 2002 Monte Carlo SS and 2002 Mustang GT. We thought the Mustang had this triple test in the bag thanks to its 4.7-liter V8 engine and comparative performance over the V6-powered Dodge and Chevy, however its unrefined character and dated technology relegated it to second place.
If you can believe it, the winner of this test as the Dodge Stratus R/T, which C&D praised for its “comfort, athleticism and best-in-test good looks.” The Stratus doesn’t command such praise today, but it’s interesting to note one of the most respected automotive publications in the world loved it upon first impressions