The sport compact industry is undoubtedly dominated by import manufacturers, with Hondas, Acuras and Toyotas comprising the majority of car owners in this niche crowd. A few eyebrows have been raised over at the Domestic camp and they have frantically worked around the clock trying to break into the sport compact scene. Ford was the first, with the Focus powered by an anemic 2.0-liter engine, which was known to fail under boosted conditions. The General Motors camp did one better with the release of the Chevy Sunfire and Cavilier, and the Saturn Ion powered by the rather stout Ecotec 2.0-liter engine that is capable of producing 1,000 hp in full race turbo trim.
But of all the domestic import fighters, we give the thumbs up to the Dodge camp with the release of the Neon SRT-4. Priced around $20K, the SRT-4 offers you the most bang-for-the-buck, imports included. Rated at 220 hp at the flywheel, the front-wheel-drive Dodge really delivers a good kick in the butt when the throttle is smashed. More importantly, the Dodge engineers rated the 2.0-liter turbo engine rather conservatively and we have witnessed SRT-4s producing 220 hp to the wheels!
We thought 220 hp was a good starting point and wanted to see how well the SRT-4 engine reacts to engine upgrades. Our baseline on the Dodge proved our theory correct as our stock tester generated 218.8 hp and 222.8 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. Our guess is the engine makes about 240 to 255 hp at the flywheel. Our first round of modifications came in the form of a free-flow intake system from K&N, constructed from mandrel-bent aluminum piping with a low-restriction filter element. On the dyno, the low-restriction intake system paid dividends and horsepower increased to 222.3, while torque was bumped to 227.5 lb-ft. The largest gain was realized at 5800 rpm with a gain of 11.1 hp and 10.9 lb-ft of torque.
Up next was the Billy Boat Performance Exhaust system. The system utilizes a full, 3-inch T-304 stainless-steel, mandrel-bent system for the SRT-4. B&B offers two systems: a cat-back and a full race system. We elected to use the full race system, which comes with an additional stainless-steel downpipe with a built-in catalytic converter. On the dyno, the exhaust system can be as overbearing as it is loud. But the system proved worthy as horsepower jumped to 229.6 hp and torque checks in at 231.0 lb-ft. Power gains were realized throughout the rpm band, with gains as high at 8.6 hp and 5.1 lb-ft of torque.
Last on the list of modifications came by the way of a GReddy Profec B electronic boost controller. On the dyno, we were noticing the SRT-4 engine would peak at 14.0 psi and drop rapidly after 5000 rpm, with the boost gauge finally registering 11.0 psi at the end of the pull. With the Profec B electronic boost controller installed, we were able to increase boost pressure to 16.0 psi. However, the turbocharger still couldn't keep up with the heavy-breathing SRT-4 engine and the boost needle would still drop after 5000 rpm. On the dyno, the extra boost pressure skyrocketed horsepower output to 249.7, a jump of 26.5 hp. Peak torque checked in at 252.0 lb-ft, a gain of 22.5 lb-ft.
What a difference three simple bolt-ons make on the Dodge. After all the modifications were installed, we gained a total of 30.9 hp and 29.2 lb-ft of torque. On the road, you're pushed into the seat as the turbocharger screams to life. First and second gear tire shredding can be performed in an instant. The only thing left to do is to take this baby out and have some imports for lunch.