Few cars have more of an All-American personality than the Dodge Charger, which spent most of the 1960s as a muscle car and was reintroduced as an early 2006 model.
This is a big, brawny, comfortable sedan, with a coupe-style roofline that gives it a sporty look. The 1960s Chargers were two-door coupes, but such models are in a niche market because nearly all big car buyers want four-door utility.
The Charger shares its basic design with the Chrysler 300 sedan, which means it has an independent rear suspension with a Mercedes-Benz design.
Look for a lot more component sharing between DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes unit and the Chrysler unit (Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep nameplates) to help pull the Chrysler unit out of a sales slump.
Since their 1960s debut, Chargers have had only rear-wheel drive. But the 2007 Charger line has two models with all-wheel drive (AWD), which enhances grip on both dry and slippery roads.
The new models are the $25,365 SXT, which I recently tested, and the $32,215 R/T, although the R/T can be had with only rear drive for $2,000 less.
The R/T is powered with either drive setup by a 5.7-liter 340 horsepower Hemi V-8 that provides unusually strong acceleration. The top-line Charger SRT8 has a neck-snapping 6.1-liter 425-horsepower Hemi, but it isn't offered with all-wheel drive.
The SXT AWD model has a 3.5-liter V-6 with 250 horsepower. While not as potent as a Hemi V-8, I found last year (April 10 AutoTimes) that the V-6 provides lively acceleration -- not to mention better fuel economy.
There also is a 2.7-liter V-6 with 190 horsepower for the base Charger SE, but it's mainly for those who don't do much driving that involves fast expressway on-ramp speeds or quick passing on highways.
The 2.7 comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the other engines shoot power through a more modern five-speed automatic with easily used manual shift capability.
The 2.7 is the mileage champ of the lot, delivering an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 28 on highways.
The SXT 3.5 V-6 provides 19 city and 27 highway and the R/T delivers 17 and 25. The all-wheel-drive versions provide an estimated 17 and 24. The Charger with the big 6.1 Hemi V-8 delivers an estimated 20 mpg on the highway, but only 14 in the city.
The smaller Hemi has a leg up because it comes with a cylinder deactivation feature that seamlessly switches between eight and four cylinders for better fuel economy.
Even the base SE has standard equipment including air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD player and power mirrors, windows and locks with remote keyless entry.
Besides the larger V-6 engine and AWD, the SXT adds an anti-skid system, wider tires on 18-inch (vs. 17-inch) wheels and a sport suspension.
The R/T adds the 5.7 Hemi, power driver's seat, power-adjustable pedals, upscale sound system and a split/folding rear seat that should also be on the lower-line Chargers to increase the cargo area.
The mighty SRT8 has features including uprated brakes, posher interior, high-performance suspension, rear spoiler and even wider tires on 20-inch wheels.
The SRT8 is really for die-hard car buffs, although most anyone can appreciate the seemingly effortless performance provided by 425 horsepower.
Not that you really need to, but you can add an extra 10 horsepower to the R/T if you order a $3,350 Road/Track Performance Group. It also includes uprated brakes, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, power front passenger seat and 20-inch wheels.
Numerous other options include the ever-popular $950 power sunroof.
Standard safety features unheard of for 1960s Chargers include anti-lock brakes and electronic stability and traction control systems. All are standard on Chargers except the entry SE model.
The Charger lets four 6-footers stretch in the front and back of the quiet interior. I'm not a fan of the Charger's white-face gauges, which seem more stylish than functional. But climate controls are large, as are key audio system controls. The R/T front seats are fairly supportive, but the position of the cover for the cupholders on the oversized front console can lead to spills when that cover is in the open position.
My notes say the steering is "nicely geared," and there's no mention of it being too light for the most secure highway driving -- a fault I found with pre-2007 Chargers. The ride is comfortable, helped by an extra-long 120-inch wheelbase (distance between axles).
Handling is sharp during such maneuvers as quick lane changes, and the brake pedal has a firm, confident feel. Quick stops from average speeds were good.
The trunk is large, although its opening is rather high and it could use a bigger opening. The lid raises smoothly on struts, and an indented interior lid area prevents a person from getting hands dirty on outside sheet metal, which often is filthy from salted streets and such during the cold weather Chicagoans have been suffering.
The heavy hood also could use struts to help raise it, but only has a prop rod. At least the engine compartment design allows easy access to the oil dipstick and fluid filler areas.
The Charger was the top-selling Dodge last year, with 114,201 produced. That shows that the desire for sporty All-American cars remains strong.
2007 Doddge Charger
LIKES: Newly available all-wheel drive. Fast. Roomy. Sporty.
DISLIKES: High trunk opening. All models don't have folding rear seat. Cupholder cover can cause spills.