Dodge brought back a famous model name from its muscle-car past for the 2006 model year with the launch of the Charger. From 1966 to the early 1970s, Charger coupes were among the most potent and most recognized muscle machines on the market. The Charger competes with other revived muscle cars, including the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Impala and Pontiac Grand Prix. For 2008, Dodge redesigned the instrument panel and added more standard features to the R/T and SXT models.
Chargers come in base SE and performance-oriented R/T trim levels. An SXT package is also offered. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but SXT and R/T models are available with all-wheel drive.
Incorporating a fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System, the available 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 produces 340 horsepower, which is good for 0-to-60-mph acceleration in less than 6 seconds. A Daytona R/T package that packs a Hemi V-8 with an extra 10 hp is also offered. Selecting the high-performance SRT8 sedan gets you a 425-hp V-8, Brembo brakes, a race-bred suspension and 20-inch aluminum wheels.
Dodge says the Charger combines modern coupe styling with four-door functionality. The Charger has a bold crossbar front end and a short deck. There are minimal wheel flares, and a long bodyside crease meets another crease at the rear doors.
Dodge claims the car's front-to-rear weight distribution is close to 50/50. Three levels of suspension tuning — topped by a Road/Track Performance Group — are available. Standard tires measure 17 inches in diameter, but 18- and 20-inch tires are optional.
Offered as an option on the R/T, the Road/Track Performance Group package — which already included a revised steering gear, 20-inch chrome wheels, load-leveling shock absorbers and a retuned suspension — adds a hands-free communication system and remote start for 2008.
Exterior colors Dark Titanium and Light Sandstone replace Marine Blue and Silver Steel. Steel Blue is available on the SRT8.
The Charger's five-occupant interior features front bucket seats and a rear bench. A 60/40-split folding rear seat is standard. The instrument panel and gauge cluster have been redesigned, and there's a new material for the cloth seats for 2008.
Standard SE equipment includes front-seat lumbar support; a manual tilt/telescoping steering column; a power trunklid release; remote keyless/illuminated entry; cruise control; and power windows, locks and mirrors. The SXT package adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, an eight-way power driver's seat, illuminated visor mirrors and a Boston Acoustics sound system. For 2008, the package also includes air filtration, power-adjustable pedals and satellite radio. Dodge added heated front seats, a power passenger seat and automatic temperature control to the list of standard features on the R/T model, which also includes power-adjustable pedals and a one-year subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. SXT options include a deck lid spoiler and 18-inch chrome wheels. LED lighting is now available in the front cupholders and map pockets. A navigation system and a backseat video entertainment system are optional.
The Charger's base engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 250 hp and 250 pounds-feet of torque. The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 in the R/T makes 340 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque. The V-8 can alternate between four- and eight-cylinder modes in order to boost fuel economy by as much as 20 percent. The Hemi V-8 produces 350 hp in Daytona R/T models. The Charger SRT8 holds the biggest engine, a 425-hp, 6.1-liter V-8. All models have a five-speed automatic transmission that incorporates an AutoStick feature for manual gear selection.
Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. Side curtain and seat-mounted airbags are optional.
It's not really in the same league as smaller sport sedans, but the Charger is a cut above traditional family sedans in terms of performance capabilities. With a Hemi V-8 and Touring suspension, the Charger R/T has a somewhat light feel, which seems a bit out of character. Response is quick and reasonably precise going around curves, but it doesn't feel entirely confident all the time.
Vigorous Hemi performance is present when passing. The ride is nearly blissful on smooth surfaces, and rougher spots are dealt with appropriately. Except for a throaty exhaust sound when the gas pedal hits the floor, the Charger R/T is quiet.
The seats are comfortable. Aside from the trip odometer, the deep-set gauges are easy to read. Front occupants get plenty of elbowroom and legroom, and rear legroom is ample. Headroom in models equipped with a sunroof is good but not vast. Long side windows aid visibility, but the low roof and steep windshield can make it difficult to see some overhead traffic lights. Outside visibility for rear passengers may be obstructed by the C-pillars.
A Charger R/T equipped with the tauter Road/Track Performance Group suspension was surprisingly stable, flat and eager to roar out of curves on a racecourse. With V-6 power, the Charger qualifies as satisfactory and impressively quiet, substituting a humdrum growl for the Hemi's exhaust note when floored.