Ask your average car buff to define what a traditional American four door sedan is. After pondering the question for a moment, what may come to mind is a big, rear wheel drive sedan with plenty of room, a big trunk, and definitely available V-8 power. It is a formula that worked and was extremely successful in America for decades. In 2012, however, the Charger is in a class by itself. The Ford Taurus is a fine car, while Chevy’s Impala has been in need of replacement for years, but neither of those company’s largest offerings have the formula of the classic, American full-size four door sedan. The question is, does that old formula still work in 2012? Or is the Charger just a rolling anachronism of a time gone by? Read on to find out.
The Charger returned to the Dodge line as a 2006 model after a long absence, and was a radical departure from the front-wheel drive Intrepid it replaced. Instead of the smooth, jellybean Intrepid, the Charger was in your face with aggressive styling. Well received at first, the Charger suffered from the malaise and lack of product development that was rampant at Dodge for the latter half of the 2000’s. As we know now, Dodge has undertaken an enormous initiative to update its cars, and the Charger finally received its first major revision in 2011.
The Charger remains the most aggressively styled mainstream full-size sedan available today. While the Charger may have Mercedes-Benz sourced bits mechanically, from the outside the Charger is full on, wave the flag American and proud of it. The sculpted hood and sides recall the muscle car the original Charger was, but xenon and LED lighting keep the Charger from being a rehashed retromobile. Our test car, finished in Redline Pearl was easy to spot, and you won’t mistake the Charger for any other car. With the Charger, Dodge has managed to style a full-size sedan with serious muscle car undertones yet manages the fine line from going over the top. Yes, it’s aggressive, but you won’t feel like a fool at the country club or rolling up to the valet at your favorite restaurant.
If the Charger had one glaring flaw, it was its interior. Plagued with cheap materials, blocky, uninspired styling, the cabin of the Charger was pretty depressing. Dodge has thankfully righted the ship, and I am happy to say the new Charger’s cabin was a revelation. When Dodge delivered the Charger, I swung upon the door, and upon seeing the gorgeous black and tan interior, I was dumbfounded at the light years of progress the interior designers at Dodge had made. Our Charger was brimming with the latest in technology but managed to be very user friendly. And the basic ingredients that made the Charger a success at first were there-a roomy cabin, spacious rear seat and large trunk.
Buyers have some compelling choices for engines with the revised Charger. In the past, a V-6 Charger had ‘rental car’ written all over it. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. The base Charger receives Chrysler’s new Pentastar 3.6L V-6, good for 292hp. The Garage first sampled the new engine in the Charger’s little brother, the Avenger, and we came away impressed. While a five-speed automatic is standard on the base car, a new eight-speed automatic is available that offers substantially better fuel economy. Our test car was an R/T, which means we had the 5.7L Hemi V-8, belting out a healthy 370hp, paired to a five-speed automatic. V-6 and V-8 Chargers are available with either rear or all-wheel drive. In spite of a powerful honking Hemi residing under the hood, our Charger R/T was very low key on start up and puttering around town. You really had to stomp on it to hear the wrath of that glorious V-8, which pushed the big, heavy Charger with ease. The Charger never lets you forget it is a big car, but that said handling is pretty sharp, yet far more refined than I had expected. I don’t say this often, but the Charger R/T is a car that would be perfect to drive cross country.
The base Charger starts at $25,595USD, which I consider a more than fair starting point. Our test car was the R/T with all-wheel drive, which starts at $32,145, and comes well equipped. Our tester included the Max package, which added ventilated front seats, SiriusXM Traffic, Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring, back up camera, Garmin navigation, nine speaker premium audio, power adjustable pedals, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, and heated/cooled cupholders. Other options included the paint, power sunroof and rear spoiler. Including delivery, our Charger R/T rang in at $40,645. Cheap? No, but for the size, power, comfort and up to the minute technology and all-wheel drive to boot, the Charger R/T represents quite a bargain for what you are paying for.
There are those out there who might consider the Charger to be an automotive dinosaur, but I would have to disagree. Options for people wanting a full-size sedan are plentiful, but how you can you get excited about an Impala or Toyota Avalon? The Charger represents the size, swagger, presence and power that were once the hallmark of the American family car that Chevy and Ford have shied away from. While it pays homage to its past, the Charger is bristling with the latest in technology. For features and bang for your buck, the Charger is tough to beat.