The Caliber remains offered only as a five-door hatchback but comes with four different trim levels and four different corresponding engines. The base SE and SXT come with a 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine but can be ordered with a 158-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The sportier R/T gets a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. All Calibers are front-wheel-drive. All three are paired with a five-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The R/T model and the SXT model with the Sport Package include an AutoStick feature for the available CVT automatic, which simulates six gears for more enthusiastic driving.
The Caliber SRT4 performance model has a completely different character than the other models, with a peaky 285-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission with short-throw shifter. The SRT4 is capable of dashing to 60 mph in around six seconds and to a top speed of 155 mph. With its upgraded brakes it can haul down from 60 mph in less than 125 feet. Along with various more aggressive styling cues and a more raucous exhaust, a reconfigurable "Performance Pages" trip computer is standard on the SRT4.
In SE, SXT or R/T form, the Caliber has good performance compared to other small cars in this class--especially when equipped with the R/T's 2.4-liter engine, which provides a little extra power but doesn't sacrifice much in the way of economy.
Interior features are the Caliber's strength. Base SE Calibers come quite simply equipped, but SXT models load on a wide range of popular features, such as alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, power windows, air conditioning and cruise control--for a price that's only slightly higher than the SE. SXT models also bring the Chill Zone beverage cooler, a rechargeable flashlight system and AC household-type power outlets. Then R/T models, in addition to sportier cues like fog lamps, a sport suspension, and chrome and blackout trim, add Boston Acoustic speakers and a subwoofer, heated front seats and other extras.
In either SXT or R/T trim, the Caliber can be loaded with options that aren't usually available on a mid-size sedan, let alone a small hatchback. Examples include the MusicGate tailgate speaker system and Chrysler's UConnect connectivity suite. The system has been expanded for 2009 to include UConnect tunes, which utilizes a 30-gigabyte hard-drive system for music, photos, or movies, and UConnect GPS, which combines those features with calling capability, navigation features, and real-time traffic functions. It's all controlled through a voice-command system or touch-screen. Chrysler's UConnect Web internet service is also offered as a dealer-installed accessory.