Dodge Charger R/T
This one’s a keeper. Please don’t paint a Confederate flag on its roof.
BY JOHN PHILLIPS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM DREW
In 1844, Alexandre Dumas wrote Les Trois Mousquetaires. The best-known of the protagonists was D’Artagnan. Then there was, uh, Porthos. And finally came Curly. Maybe it was Annette. In like fashion, DaimlerChrysler has trotted out its own trio of swarthy swordsmen, led initially by the popular and potent Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum and followed now by the Charger. All three benefit from the same 120.0-inch Mercedes-Benz- derived chassis, and not surprisingly, all three drive similarly. What is surprising is that the Charger shares not a single body panel with its brother mousquetaires and is most obviously differentiated from the 300 by its rear-three-quarter haunches—”kangaroo hips,” as one onlooker called them—and by a grille that doesn’t so earnestly mimic Jay Leno’s chin. The Dodge guys insist that the four round taillamps recollect those on a 1968 Charger. See ’em? No? That’s because the lamps are hidden beneath lenses apparently plucked from a Stratus. In fact, if you recognize any familiar Charger styling cues, give us a shout.
There are, incredibly, five Charger chargé d’affaires. The bottom-feeder SE ($22,295) features a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and includes a ton of stuff—17-inch tires, traction control, ABS, a CD player, stability control. It’s more fun to drive than a V-6 Toyota Camry and is a lot rarer, although that may change if Dodge achieves its goal of selling a quarter of all Chargers to fleets—among them fuzz fleets, so commit this car’s grille to memory now. There’s another V-6 iteration, the SXT ($25,995), with lots more stuff standard. Next comes the R/T, with leather seats and the multidisplacement 340-horse Hemi ($29,995). Let us pause, here, to repeat that—a 340-hp rear-drive sedan for 30 grand, the sort of fun-to-dollar ratio that recollects, say, a Mustang GT, whose two doors remind us that the original Charger, alas, was also a coupe. For an extra $1600, you can order your R/T with the Road/Track Performance Group—no Car and Driver option was even considered, the jerks—which includes firmer self-leveling shocks, 18-inch Michelins, tighter “9-land” steering (our guess is that it’s the G7 nations plus Alabama and Arkansas), beefier seat bolsters, and an extra 10 ponies summoned mostly via a center muffler with a straighter pass-through and a huskier singing voice. That’s the car we selected for this test—an R/T with R/T, as it were. Next comes the Charger Daytona R/T ($32,495), identical to our tester except for a Pep Boys decklid spoiler and the billboard-size words “HEMI” and “DAYTONA” reversed out of flat-black paint, demonstrating to passing constables that you are a person of limited judgment and excess cash. And later this fall will come the SRT8 with a 425-hp Hemi—the ultimate Charger—whose price has yet to be fixed. No all-wheel-drive Charger will be offered.
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