When the Dodge Magnum came out, and everyone either loved it or hated it, there was a clear message to me being drawn out by Dodge: As long as the 'love its' outnumber the 'hate its' we'll take that. And they should, because there were far more Magnum 'love its'.
While management at Dodge undoubtedly wished everyone loved their distinct muscular wagon design, they understood as long as a certain percentage of the consumer liked it they could gain new market share. Which they did. That makes good business sense.
So when you successfully bring back nostalgia, remember Chrysler had a bit of success with the little PT Cruiser experiment, why not go back and do it again. This time the Dodge Charger conjures up a legendary muscle car image and thankfully delivers a modern day Charger that feels like a muscle car (at least as much as one can in 2006) and delivers the throaty exhaust notes expected.
Dodge Chargers come in three distinctly different models: the SXT, which offers a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 250 hp. ($25,995); the R/T model ($29,995) and the Daytona R/T ($32,495), which offer the HEMI engine. The latter model delivers a 5.7-liter engine producing 350 hp.
I'm a big fan of nostalgia when it is done right. Done right does not mean replicating the vehicle outright, but rather capturing the spirit of the car, the subtle design cues, the signature curves and interior details that everyone of that era remembers as being purely Charger. Be on the lookout for the Challenger in '07, another one that all indications are they got right, too.
While it looks like it is capable of launching off pit row and onto any racetrack, the Dodge Charger is a full-size sedan. Gleaming from the ground up, the polished aluminum 18-inch wheels really set the tone. Looks are only half of what the Charger is all about, and with the distinctive crosshair grille and beefy hood line you tend to remember the Charger when you see it on the street. There really is nothing else quite like it outside the Chrysler/Dodge family.
The other side of Charger's personality resides under the hood. My R/T tester had the HEMI V8 engine combined with a great 5-speed auto transmission. The V8 HEMI, which has become somewhat of an icon (again) is big power, delivering 340 hp at the pounce of the accelerator.
I found shifts in this drive train to be well tuned to spirited driving and it delivered enough fun to live up to the Charger image. Of special note was the AutoStick, which allowed for additional fun with manual shifts. I found the suspension to be firm, which made for a well-balanced under many different conditions.
While the Charger has legendary status dating back to its heyday in the seventies, the interior appointments and technology Dodge engineers have integrated into this new-age muscle car are second to none. It offers all the safety technology expected in this class, while, thanks to the long wheelbase (120 in.), it provides comfortable seating for five adults and has a spacious feel to it.
Let's start off with the sound system. While an 8-track player mounted beneath the dash would feel authentic, this modern day street machine makes up with high-tech gadgetry. Booming sound capability was desired and delivered by Charger.
My tester had the SIRIUS satellite radio system, with an all-70s station for the real nostalgia buff, as well as the wonderfully integrated rear entertainment system and GPS system. The stereo system was paired with a 6-CD player with MP3 capability.
Chargers offer a menu of upscale optional appointments, including hands-free communication systems using Bluetooth, a video entertainment system and available navigation communication systems.
Whether it is a trip down memory lane or you are just discovering HEMI power paired with muscular looks, there's many reasons so many have snapped up their Charger.