4 Ways The Dodge Stealth Predicted The Future of Supercars
When the Dodge Stealth appeared in showrooms in the early 1990s it wasn't just a primo example of Chrysler leveraging its partnership with Mitsubishi to rebadge a world-class sports car for pennies on the dollar. It was also a chance for the general public to sample a range of startlingly advanced driving technologies that would eventually have a major impact on the supercar world.
In fact, it's could be argued that as impressive as the Stealth and its Mitsubishi 3000 GT cousin was in terms of power (from an underrated twin-turbo V6 that scooted the cars from 0-60 in less than five seconds), the real wow factor was in the details. The pan-Pacific collaboration was a showcase for equipment and concepts that would eventually end up in some of the most advanced exotic automobiles every produced, all of which continue to form the backbone of the modern sports car experience.
Although it may not have pioneered each and every one of its eyebrow-raising features, it would for the first time bring them all together in a package that would foreshadow the future of high end automotive performance How clairvoyant was the Dodge Stealth in predicting the automotive future? Let's take a look at the highlights.
From 1991 to 1994 the Dodge Stealth R/T Turbo model included a four-wheel steering system that was powered by the vehicle's rear differential. At speeds below 35 mph, there was no movement of the back wheels—you could crank the fronts all you wanted and still have the trailing axle stay ramrod-straight. Above that speed, it provided up to 1.5 degrees of deflection in line with the direction of the fronts, which contributed to improved stability in corners and when changing lanes on a highway.
The Stealth's four-wheel steering came on the heels of both Honda and Nissan having tried their own passive and active versions of the same during roughly the same time period. After the Japanese economic bubble burst, however, this feature would largely disappear from the high performance scene, to be revived briefly by Chevrolet and GMC's heavy-duty pickup platform before once again going dormant.
Today four-wheel steering has made a measurable comeback, with more than twenty sports cars and sedans available with the feature. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz have all implemented 4WS on their various high performance platforms, while BMW, Cadillac, and Audi have done the same for their luxury sedans.
By now, all-wheel drive has become so commonplace that it raises more eyebrows when a performance car doesn't offer it as an option. Back in the 1990s, however, the only automaker that was truly on the AWD wagon was Subaru—with its, uh, wagons—and Audi, which was just breaking through into the luxury space with the Quattro.
In terms of sports cars, aside from much more expensive Porsche 911 Turbo nothing in the Dodge Stealth's class could be had with all-wheel drive (other than its 3000 GT counterpart, of course). Chrysler/Mitsubishi also lead the import AWD charge, too, with the Eagle Talon and the Mitsubishi Eclipse both featuring the technology.
The list of modern all-wheel drive sports cars is as long as your arm, and growing by the day as automakers flock to its ability to manage traction in the face of soaring horsepower. Like the Stealth R/T Turbo, many of them also feature a rear-axle torque bias in order to present more natural handling characteristics and fight against understeer.
One of the most sophisticated features of the Dodge Stealth was its electronically-controlled suspension system. It allowed for variations in damping based on information about vehicle speed, acceleration and deceleration, as well as G forces, taking input not just from the road but also the driver's use of the throttle and brake pedals.
This was cutting edge stuff at the time. Car companies had been falling over themselves throughout the 80s to come with 'drive modes' for their various suspension systems, with electronic controls that delivered comfort when cruising but responsiveness in the corners being the holy grail. The Dodge Stealth's shocks could adjust rebound in real-time to offer a trio of settings ranging from Soft to Medium to Hard, using a motor inside the strut to regulate the flow of hydraulic fluid.
This technology would continue to be refined and installed on almost every exotic automobile from the 90s on to the present day, along the way trickling down into even the most modest sporty compacts seeking to satisfy demanding modern drivers.
It may seem like almost every sports car zipping by on the street now cackles out its tailpipes with a carefully-programmed blast of backfire and aggression. In the 1990s, however, you had to tune your exhaust the old fashioned way with piping, mufflers, and resonators - unless you owned a Dodge Stealth.
The Stealth was one of the first cars to offer an exhaust system that could be actively tuned by the driver from inside the cockpit. By providing control over its valving, the R/T Turbo's exhaust could be set to Tour mode for quiet commuting, or Sport mode for a more raucous note.
Strangely, very few car companies would follow Dodge and Mitsubishi's lead with this feature, and it even disappeared from the Stealth and 3000 GT when the mid-decade refresh came along. This would be another piece of tech that, like four-wheel steering, would lie dormant for many years before making a startling resurgence.
Bonus: Active Aero
This last point is a bit of a cheat. The Dodge Stealth never came with active aerodynamics, as Mitsubishi chose to hold that back for its flagship 3000 GT VR4 model. Still, the 3000 GT is the same platform as the Stealth, and it's worth noting that there was a non-exotic in the 1990s that could be had with all of the above, plus a front splitter and a rear spoiler that would tilt at different angles above 45 mph to improve downforce.
All of this happened way before Porsche started popping up rear wings on the back of the 911 or the Boxster, Lamborghini began directing air via flaps on the Aventador, or McLaren started boosting the wing on the P1 in 'Race Mode.'
Want to find out more about how sophisticated the Stealth was for its time? Check out this complete profile of the most advanced 'American' car of the 1990s.