2009 Dodge Charger Review

2009 Dodge Charger - Cool customer.


The Dodge Charger sedan has picked up in grand style where the iconic 1968-70 Charger  coupe left off. The extra doors provide more practicality, and it still comes with  a Hemi V-8, just like the old model.

The rear-drive Charger was dropped after 1978, but memories of the old muscle car version were kept alive because a 1968-70 Charger was featured in the popular "Dukes of Hazzard" television show, which ran from 1979 to 1985 before hitting the rerun circuit.. Every kid seemed to have a model of the "Dukes of Hazzard" Charger.

The 1968-70 Charger two-door looked sensational, and the current-generation model--introduced in 2006--has coupe-like styling with its sloping rear roofline, steeply raked rear window and short trunk lid. Its nose leans into the wind and its beltline below the side windows kicks up in the rear to draw attention to its muscular rear fenders and large back tires.

The Charger remains very fast, with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that develops 370 horsepower (up 30 from 2008) and has a cylinder-deactivation feature for better fuel economy. A 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 with 425 horsepower lacks the deactivation feature but has the same power rating of the 1968-70 Charger's Hemi V-8.

My test Charger SXT had a 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V-6, which provides strong acceleration in town and during passing maneuvers on highways, besides easy open-road cruising.. It's arguably the best Charger engine for most folks.

The Charger comes as the entry level $23,895 SE with a 2.7-liter 178-horsepower V-6,  higher-line $25,510 SXT with  the 3.5-liter V-6, mid-range $31,860 R/T with the 370-horsepower Hemi and top-line $38,670 R/T with the 425 horsepower Hemi..

The SXT also is offered with all-wheel drive (AWD) for $28,850, and the R/T can be had with that feature for $33,960.

The base 178 horsepower V-6 provides only mediocre acceleration, but you can get the  250-horsepower V-6 for the SE for $1,000.

The 2.7 V-6 is the most economical engine, providing an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 26 on highways with its four-speed automatic transmission. The 3.5 V-6 provides 17 and 24 with a four-speed automatic and 16 and 23 with AWD and a more modern five-speed automatic.

The 5.7 Hemi V-8 comes only with the five-speed automatic and delivers 16 city, 24 highway. The ferocious 6.1 Hemi V-8's fuel economy is 13 mpg city, but manages to get 18 on highways.

The Charger V-6s only need 89-octane gas, while the Hemis call for premium-grade fuel.

The Charger has been overshadowed a bit by the newer sexy, retro-style Dodge Challenger coupe, which also is offered with a fairly potent V-6 and two Hemi V-8s. But it isn't as roomy or practical as the Charger.

Even the entry Charger SE has a fair number of comfort and convenience items. They include air conditioning, tilt/telescopic wheel, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and power mirrors, windows and door locks with remote keyless entry.

Besides the 3.5 V-6, the SXT adds an anti-skid system, traction control, anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature for surer stops, power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The AWD version has the  five-speed automatic with manual-shift capability, firmer suspension and wider tires on 18-inch (vs. 17-inch) wheels.

The R/T is a muscle car with its 5.7 Hemi V-8 and adds dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, power passenger seat, upscale sound system and also a firmer suspension. The AWD version adds that drive system.

At the top of the mountain is the SRT8 with its ferocious 6.1 Hemi, limited-slip differential, uprated brakes, leather/suede upholstery, rear spoiler and a higher-performance suspension, along with very wide 45-series tires on 20-inch wheels.

Extra-cost  safety features include front-side air bags and curtain side air bags, which really should be standard on all Chargers. Also optional for the SE is a $1,025 Electronic Stability Program, which contains traction control, anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist and an anti-skid system.
Numerous option packages include a retro-style Super Bee Special Edition package with unique interior and exterior trim and bright alloy wheels--and the Daytona Edition Quick Order package with a special axle ratio, performance exhaust system and unique exterior trim.
Then there are the usual popular options, such as a $950 power sunroof for the SXT, R/T and SRT8 and a $1,460 DVD entertainment system for the R/T and SRT8.
I've found the Charger with either Hemi V-8--especially the 425-horsepower version--to be exceptionally fast, but wasn't disappointed with my test  SXT AWD with its 3.5 V-6..

The test car's nicely geared steering felt good, and the ride was supple. The car easily handled winding roads, although it wasn't in the BMW class, and the brake pedal had a nice linear action. The five-speed automatic was responsive and shifted smoothly.

Wide doors and door openings allowed easy entry to the front and rear, and both front and back seats were nicely shaped for good long-distance comfort. However, four adults is the comfortable limit because the center of the back seat is hard.

The Charger's ignition switch is easily reached on the dashboard, instead of being buried behind the steering wheel, and gauges can be quickly read. Climate controls are large, but audio system controls are small, although they work with a dashboard screen that is easy to read.

Driver's power window controls are nicely located, as are the dual console cupholders. However, drivers with shorter arms will find that some controls are too low for easy adjustment when driving. There is a fairly deep covered console bin, and all doors have storage pockets. But the glove compartment isn't very large.

I was surprised to see that my test car had an ash tray and cigarette lighter, which almost seem like retro items these days.

Rearview mirrors are nicely sized, but thick windshield posts partly block vision to the car's front corners.

The trunk is large and its lid opens smoothly on twin struts, but the cargo opening is high. The folding rear seatbacks don't sit entirely flat, and there's only a moderate-size pass-through opening between the trunk and rear-seat area.

The engine compartment allows easy access to fluid filler areas. Despite the 250-horsepower V-6's good performance, I would have been happier if a Hemi V-8 had been tucked under the hood. Tradition, you know.

Visit DanJedlicka.com for more road tests, interviews, and classic car articles.Visit DanJedlicka.com where veteran auto writer Dan Jedlicka reviews the latest cars and trucks in an easily understood but detailed manner. In addition, Dan's Web site also includes colorful classic and collectible car articles, a letters column and candid interviews with auto-field personalities.

Dan Jedlicka

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Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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