Charger to come back with Hemi power

March 19, 2005|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

It might be missing many of the elements that made the original Charger a Charger, but the 2006 version - the 40th anniversary of the name - is the closest yet Dodge has come to reliving that past glory.

Joining the Chrysler 300 sedan and Magnum wagon, the Charger is intended to evoke the age of the muscle car (the late 1960s), when sporty two-door hardtops powered by gut-pounding big-cubic-inch V-8s made just about everyone else on the road run for cover.

That once-proud Dodge model has taken a real pounding since those heady days. In the 1970s and '80s, cars masquerading under the Charger label ranged from overstuffed Chrysler Cordoba-based coupes to emasculated K-Cars before seemingly reaching the end of the line.

But hey, Detroit is still hooked on retro these days and all sorts of heritage brands are being dusted off and given a new lease payment on life.


The 2006 Charger uses the latest Chrysler 300 platform as its starting point. It might not look like the crusty two-door that the time-warp types were praying for, but it does come with a distinctive roofline that almost qualifies for fastback status. Other old-time Charger clues can be seen in the hiked-up rear fenders that hint at the famous coke-bottle waistline first introduced on the 1968-'70-era models.

At the opposite end, an almost Dodge Ram pickup-sized cross-hair grille - not nearly as subtle as its Magnum wagon cousin - boldly announces to the world that no matter the model, this thing is a Dodge.

The few retro styling cues give way to contemporary once you step inside the Charger's living room. There's abundant space for four passengers plus the the driver, who is treated to one of the nicest gauge pods and steering wheel designs this side of a Mercedes-Benz E-class. The large, white-faced dials are easy on the eyes as well as being easy to decipher.

The Charger comes in rear-wheel drive only (an all-wheel-drive option is not available). Its underpinnings, however, include stability and traction control in addition to anti-lock brakes.

The starting-point SE features a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 along with a raft of comfort content including air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, keyless remote entry, cruise control, outside temperature display and power windows, locks and mirrors. The mid-range SXT adds distinctive alloy wheels, eight-way power driver's seat, fog lamps and unique wheels.

But the real power behind the Charger's throne is the top-rung R/T (for Road and Track) model. Get up and go is supplied by a 5.7-liter V-8 (that uses the throwback "Hemi" name) delivering 340 horses and attempts to temper the engine's thirst for fuel by cutting off half the cylinders at idle or during low-load cruising. R/T buyers can factor in a dual exhaust system, leather seats, premium sound system, 18-inch wheels, tire pressure monitoring and a premium six-speaker audio system.

Both motors are connected to five-speed automatic transmissions with you-shift-it capability.

In honor of the Charger's return to NASCAR competition, a limited run of Charger Daytona R/T models will be constructed, shaded in '70s-era paint schemes such as Go ManGo! and Top Banana. The car will include a unique front fascia, special wheels and seat coverings plus 10 extra horses.

If you've forgotten or were too young to remember what turned on the Baby Boomer generation nearly 40 years ago, Dodge's blast-from-the-past renaissance ride will at least try to show you the way.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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