Maybe I’m just a cheap date.

Don’t get me wrong – I love power. I love horsepower, especially when I can hear and feel it permeate the entire vehicle. Torque does it for me.

But I have a prudent side. And it was soundly trampled on by my fellow judges who refused to see the light when it comes to the Dodge SRT-4 and its wonderful, lively 2.4L turbocharged DOHC inline 4-cyl. engine.

This little baby thrilled me at all speeds and in all gears. Turn off the radio and sing along as the burble builds to a rumble and intersperses a few crescendos.

Judge Alisa Priddle

This is no ordinary Neon. It has horsepower: 230 at 5,300 rpm. It has torque: 250 lb.-ft. (339 Nm) in the 2,200-4,400 range. And, it has serious output: 96 hp/L for a vehicle that bases at $19,450. It delivers as much pleasure in city driving as running down the highway.

Sure, the numbers don’t quite stack up against the cult-like Subaru WRX STi. That high-performance machine with the turbocharged horizontally opposed boxer 4-cyl. pumps out 103 hp/L. Its slightly larger 2.5L DOHC H-4 delivers 300 hp at 6,000 rpm and 300 lb.-ft. (235 Nm) of torque. Most impressive is the 120 hp/L and 120 lb.-ft. (163 Nm) of torque per liter.

But I can almost get a matching pair of Dodge SRT-4s for the $30,995 starting price of the Subie.

Dodge deserves bonus marks for offering so much bang for the buck – and encasing it in a killer package that is within reach of the modest-income buyer.

It’s much more than a tuner car. It’s my dream date: powerful yet frugal, but definitely fun.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com