2012 Dodge Charger Review

2012 Dodge Charger - The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is a worthy successor to iconic 1960s Dodge Charger Hemi muscle cars.


The 1960s Dodge Charger with Chrysler's awesome Hemi V-8 is one of the most legendary muscle cars of the high-octane 1960s. The 2012 Charger SRT8 with a Hemi V-8 is more than comparable to that old Charger.

In fact, the new $45,795 Charger SRT8 from Chrysler's high-performance SRT group is a flat-out high-performance-car bargain that might be considered by some to be too hot for the street with its 6.4-liter Hemi V-8.

While well-mannered, unlike the 1960s 425-horsepower Hemi, the new Hemi V-8 provides 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That gives the car a 0-60 mph time of about 4.5 seconds, although it's a big 120-inch-wheelbase sedan that weighs just over 4,000 pounds.

The specially tuned steering has revised gearing to give drivers a more direct feel and on-center response. It's a little firm, but fits the car's high-performance nature. The Charger SRT8's sure handling makes the car feel smaller than it is, and it has electronic stability control and all-speed traction control to help keep it steadily on roads during swift driving. There's also a hill-start-assist feature.

The ride is firm, but supple, and the anti-lock disc performance brakes have good pedal feel. They provide short stopping distances and have have four-piston Brembo calipers painted red. Also, a new underbody belly pan has integrated brake ducting.

New for 2012 is a standard adaptive damping suspension system. It uses a range of on-road and driver inputs, such as vehicle speed and steering angle, to automatically tune the suspension for specific conditions. When drivers manually choose between the "Auto" and "Sport" settings, the shock damping characteristics change from an everyday performance ride to a firmer "race-track-capable" damping for more challenging driving situations. The "Auto" mode is best for most driving.

Owners of the iconic 1960s Dodge Hemi Charger didn't dream of such features. The technology just wasn't there yet.

Safety items include a driver's knee air bag, front side air bags and full-length side-curtain air bags. The optional Driver Confidence Group seems worth its $745 price with its blindspot monitoring, forward collision warning, rear cross-path detection and "SmartBeam" headlights.      

While the old Hemi Charger guzzled gasoline, admittedly during an era of almost comically cheap gas, the 2012 Charger SRT8 cuts out four of its eight cylinders while cruising. It thus delivers an estimated 23 miles per gallon on highways.That's impressive, considering the car's performance.

The city economy rating is just 14 mpg, but go easy on the gas pedal and you could probably top that figure by a few miles per gallon.

The Charger SRT8 has so much power and low-end torque that even accelerating moderately hard from a stoplight puts the car ahead of most vehicles. Even on bone-dry roads, the back end occasionally jumped out a bit during moderate initial acceleration. Lightning quick acceleration into fast-moving freeway traffic and during highway passing maneuvers is duck soup. An active intake manifold and high-lift camshaft with cam phasing provides maximum low-end torque.

The Charger is designed to appeal to a variety of people, so it also can be had with a 3.6-liter V6 generating a hearty 292 horsepower or with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 370 horsepower. Sticker prices range from $25,495 to $45,795.

You can get a new eight-speed automatic transmission with the V-6, but the SRT8 comes only with a five-speed automatic. It shifts efficiently in fully automatic mode and  can be easily manually shifted with newly standard steering-wheel paddles or a console-mounted shifter lever.

The Charger SRT8 has a definite high-performance look, with such items as a high-gloss black front grille, grille surround, Dodge crosshair next to the signature SRT badge and "6.4 Hemi" badges on each fender. A new performance-sculpted hood has a black air exhauster for extra engine cooling.    

This racy looking sedan has a sloping roofline that gives it much the look of a two-door coupe. My test Charger SRT8 was black, which made it look sinister-especially with its shiny SRT-design 20-inch aluminum wheels.. Other body colors are bright silver, white, "redline red" and tungsten. Unique side-sill cladding is painted to match the body color.

In back, Dodge says the Charger SRT8's new signature "race track" taillight design has (count 'em) 164 illuminating LEDs positioned just below a new rear spoiler. Nifty looking new four-inch-round dual exhaust tips are inside the new rear fascia.

Especially impressive is the roomy, revised interior, which builds on the new 2011 design and combines more world-class accommodations with race-inspired technology and appointments. The cockpit has plenty of standard comfort and convenience features, including air conditioning with dual-zone automatic temperature control.

The interior looks like it belongs in a high-performance car and has good-quality, well-fitting materials-unlike the old Chargers. Front seats are supportive during spirited driving and are heated and ventilated. I especially appreciated the heated steering wheel during cold winter days. Rear occupants benefit on cool days with heated rear seats.

Gauges can be quickly read, and controls are easily worked. There's a new instrument panel 8.4-inch color touchscreen display-the segment's largest standard display. Also standard is a 900-watt, 19-speaker premium performance audio surround-sound system from Harman Kardon. Doors have too-small storage pockets, but front-console cupholders have a cover and are placed to avoid spills. .

The large trunk has a wide opening, but rather high liftover.

The hood pops up on hydraulic struts, revealing the awesome Hemi V-8, with its characteristically oversized cylinder heads. It's set far back to help allow better handling. Fluid-filler areas can be easily reached.

Not long ago, you had to pay a stiff price to get a car such as the Dodge Charger SRT8, and it usually was a foreign model.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

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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