Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 Dodge Charger V-6 AWD

The embarrassing truth is that I'm not exactly sure which Charger we just drove. I didn't read the Monroney sticker and there are no less than eight flavors of the Charger on Dodge's site (pull it back, Dodge, that's ridiculous). When I called our salesperson, who was as knowledgeable about her product as I am about the relative viscosity of maple syrup, she told me it was a "Rallye". Yeah no. There's no Rallye in the 2012 lineup, according to But I DO know it was a 2012 model with a V-6, AWD, and the new, 8-speed automatic transmission.

The car we drove was bright red with matching leather. So once we overcame the feeling of driving a hooker, we were free to enjoy our test drive.

It's aggressive. The Charger is a triumph in unabashed, American design that screams to other drivers, "Get the hell out of my way". That huge crosshair grille makes it look like a giant Prius-eating machine.

In an earlier post, I griped about the interior of the Charger. I'm just not a fan of the dash design. The focal point of the dash is a large, touchscreen, non-nav display that controls many vital functions. There are redundant analog climate controls beneath it. It has ample power ports, front and rear, and multiple ways to connect iPhone to the audio system. Blind-spot warnings and remote start were great features.

Pushing the start button triggered a pleasant exhaust note and idle purr. Shifting into reverse, the touchscreen was taken over by the backup camera image, with trajectory guides. We eased out into open traffic and experienced a smooth, quiet ride. The 292 horsepower provided solid, but not earth-shattering acceleration. While this car has the highest horsepower of any we've tested, I believe it's also the heaviest. Once at highway speed, the 8-speed transmission delivered nearly seamless downshifts and great access to passing power. At cruising speed, the car is quiet and smooth with flat, sure-footed cornering.

Most of all, what we like about the Charger is the size. It's a big car. We have no doubt that we would be comfortable on drives of any length. It drives much smaller than it is, however. Anthony noted how nimble it was when changing lanes in busy traffic. Both front seats were multi-adjustable, heated, and incredibly supportive and comfortable. Back seats were heated, too - a trait only the Optima shared. My size 11's did feel a bit crowded because of the transmission's foot well intrusion on the passenger side. And although it's a spacious interior, the wide a-pillar, short windshield, black headliner deco and high beltline make it feel a bit claustrophobic. Parking it on the streets of New York, might prove challenging.

Overall, I liked the Charger. But when I look at the high price of entry ($37,000+), I have issues. For a thousand more, we saw its platform-mate, the AWD Chrylser 300 on the lot - a car I like MUCH more in terms of aesthetics. Anthony is not in complete agreement with me on that point. Further, I liked the Buick SO much more than the Charger - and the Buick costs less. Still, the Buick Regal isn't available in AWD - and frankly we wouldn't consider the Charger (or 300) if it didn't have AWD.

We may return and drive a 300. But first, we have to get the Volvo on the road and see how it stacks up against the others. Once that's done, elimination begins!

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