2010 Dodge Charger
By Dave Boe
The four-door Dodge Charger is a family sedan for the nuclear family who likes it hot. Performance-oriented rear-wheel drive comes standard rather than conventional front drive. For those seeking third-degree hot, Dodge turns up the thermostat a notch-and-a-half with the performance-inspired Charger SRT8. Street and Racing Technology (SRT) is parent company Chrysler's high-output designation assigned to a select few vehicles. Our SRT Charger tester included a 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 producing 428 horsepower enabling zero to 60 mph in the low five second range. Charger now rates as the largest and quickest sedan in Dodge's 2010 line up. From a standing start, the SRT8 engine gets this rather heavy 4,100-pound beast up and running quicker than just about any four-door under $48,000.
Built in Ontario Canada, Charger and Charger SRT8 share similar underpinnings with the Royal looking Chrysler 300 sedan. The now-discontinued Dodge Magnum station wagon also utilized the same platform. The 2006 model year marked the return of the Charger name into the Dodge lineup, replacing the aging front-drive Intrepid four-door as the division's family sedan.
Now that Dodge V-10-powered Viper is retiring at the end of the 2010 model year (with over-the top- 600 horsepower), the Dodge Charger SRT8 and two-door Challenger SRT-8 will boast the Pentastar company's sportiest engines. Viper was the first Chrysler Group vehicle to don SRT badging a decade ago. Changes for Charger in 2010 are minimal, but smartly, side air bags are now standard across the trim line board.
Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles, was chief designer when Charger re-emerged in 2006, lending his well-respected talents to the exterior Charger design cues. The 300 sedan and Dodge Magnum wagons were also sketched by Gilles' hand.
The 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 is the sole engine in Charger SRT8. Conventional Chargers offer three engine selections including a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 (368 horsepower) and two V-6 powertrains. Conventional Charger's also offer all-wheel -drive while Charger SRT8 is strictly rear drive. Looking to generate 30 miles per gallon? Look elsewhere. Charger SRT8 averages 13 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway. Premium 91-octane fuel is also recommended. For those enthusiasts demanding manual transmission for optimum driver input, Charger disappoints, although the standard five-speed automatic includes Auto Stick for manually changing shift points sans a foot clutch (but no steering wheel-mounted paddles).
Charger SRT8 base price is 38,180. Our tester included just about every option offered for a $47,155 bottom line including a $750 destination charge. A portion got carved out for a $1,700 gas guzzler tax. Available extras include a rear seat video system ($1,460), power sunroof ($695), in-dash navigation ($950), upgraded sound system ($1,890) and satellite traffic ($985). The lowest priced base Charger starts at $24,590.
A high side beltline and narrow side windows create a wonderfully aggressive coupe look in a four-door package. Teenagers and their perceived un-cool parents can all feel empowered. A functional center hood scoop and dual exhausts look right at home. Body-colored, cupped side door handles require a pull up motion with finger tips. Rectangular headlight housing does not wrap around to side fenders, but does angle towards the point of a quad port front nose. The back end also boasts square housing with round tail lights and standard trunk-mounted spoiler. Rear window glass slopes steeply onto the short deck lid. Twenty-inch tires are standard as are brake cooling ducts. A power sunroof remains optional.
Charger's interior doesn't possess the same gnarly coolness as its exterior. While many competitors boast soft-touch dashboards and doors, Charger takes a harder stance. The instrument panel with four deep set circular gauges reads easily, but doesn't smack high-octane oomph. The large, four-spoke, thick, easy-to-grab steering wheel, however, does lend itself to a sporty feel. The straight-across black dash, with center brushed aluminum accents, eliminates the wrap-around, cockpit experience of two-door sporty rivals.
The trunk release button is conveniently located on the left side dash rather than the floor. A foot operated parking brake opens up the area between front bucket seats for dual side-by-side cup holders and floor-mounted transmission shifter. Also nearby is a long, narrow groove for cell phone carting. All four doors include map pockets, but no molded cup holders (although a closed water bottle fits snuggly on its side in these pockets). Power window, lock and mirror controls rest along the same plain as the horizontal arm rest. A standard cruise control appendage protrudes out at 5 o'clock on the steering wheel. More and more high-end cars include a push-button start; Charger SRT8 settles for an electronic fob snuggling into a port to the right of the steering column. Ventilation functions include four easy-to-grab dials for fan, direction and dual temperature selections along the bottom of the center column.
Dark gray slate front bucket seats with red stitching and suede inserts include large side bolsters, handy when experiencing spirited turns. The power driver's seat travels up and down as well as forward and back. Heated seats come standard in front (not offered in back). Row two includes folding seat backs with a 60/40 split and trunk access. Although the owner's manual promises three seating positions, the center back spot measures an inch or two higher than the scooped out buckets on both sides. Think of Charger as a practical four seater. The trunk features a generous 16.2 cubic feet of cargo volume and space-saving strut-type hinges outside the package-carting area. The hood also props up with the assistance of dual struts, opening to an engine compartment of well marked fluid and filter locations.
Charger comes with most requisite safety features standard including side curtain air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, front dual air bags and energy-absorbing steering column. Front-seat-mounted side air bags, however, are not available.
The 54/46 front-to-back weight distribution adds to the sporty balance. It's built for straight-away speed with tight handling not quite as high of a priority. It's not a luxury smooth ride and rougher-tuned suspension is part of the appeal. The low-slung roof limits head room for taller folks. A steeply angled rear window and back end spoiler reduce rear-view mirror visibility. A non-overbearing exhaust note lets others know you are nearby without waking the neighbors. Brakes react quickly when tapped. For a one-car family of four desiring a sporty look and feel, Charger delivers, as long as the $1,700 gas guzzler tax does not pray on minds or wallets. The limited powertrain warranty is good for five years or 100,000 miles.