Strengths and weaknesses:
- decent power
- nicely appointed interior
- tight interior for a big car
- hard-to-reach door pulls, compromised visibility
"Exterior styling is where the company nailed it, particularly when viewed either head-on or from the rear."
Dodge’s 2012 Charger brings together the best of the company’s forward-reaching product plans and new technologies.
When it made its re-introduction (just last year, in fact, as a 2011 model) as the latest generation of the iconic nameplate – its look based primarily on the second generation, which ran from 1968 to 1970 – the car came with updated electronics and available powertrains that Chrysler has pinned its hopes on for the 21st century.
The one I’m currently operating packages most of that in its SXT trim, leading with an all-wheel drive system and Pentastar engine – the smooth and quiet (at least by Dodge standards) 3.6 litre V6 powerplant that delivers decent acceleration and attractive performance numbers on paper (292 horses/ 260 lb.-ft.) with far less gas-gulping than buyers will find in the Hemi eight-banger of the SRT version of the car.
Putting the power to the AWD system through an eight-speed automatic transmission smoothes it out even further, delivering a quick and uninterrupted climb to highway speeds. The AWD system is the most advanced yet from this manufacturer, incorporating an on-demand function that disconnects the front axle when the magic logic fairies inside feel it isn’t necessary for the driving conditions (which should also aid fuel efficiency).
The car has a lot of guts, and they’ve done a good job of making the V6 feel like all the engine one would ever need (and, realistically, it is, V8s in passenger cars are a wasteful conceit) but I would be hard-pressed to tell you I like it better than its major competitor in the segment - Ford’s similarly displaced and athletic 3.5L V6 – although it sports higher horse-and-torque numbers.
Exterior styling is where the company nailed it, particularly when viewed either head-on or from the rear. The forward-tilted front end and chromed crosshairs are what draw you in, and nicely capture the retro-feel of the original Charger; the racetrack-themed rear tail light display lights up in an arresting fashion with 164 LED lamps showing off when the car is started.
My tester looks great from stem to stern with the chrome accents standing against a metallic grey paintjob (“Tungsten Metallic” according to the spec-sheet, and definitely the color to have on this vehicle) and looks suitably Dodge-tough at the curbside on a set of 19-inch aluminum wheels.
The tester’s interior is eye-catching and sporty, decked out in red leather upholstery. The car has positions for up to five occupants, though that would be a pretty tight fit if all those occupants were full size adults.
The driver’s seat feels good, and my evaluation model improves the situation further with power-adjustable perches for both front seat occupants (part of an option package) with adjustable lumbar support. The overall ergonomic and ease-of-use factors take a bit of a hit, though, when the door is opened. The Chargers front doors swing wide and far when open, and even my gangly, stretchy arm isn’t enough to grip the door pulls without leaning away-way out.
An interesting, if perhaps overly frivolous, feature of the interior of my SXT is cupholders that can be either heated or cooled. This is not something I demand of a car on a regular basis, friends, but it came in handy for transporting leftover meat from a barbecue place I stopped at while out on the road.
Overall, the SXT with all-wheel drive is a powerful and handsome four-door sedan that brings most of what Dodge’s market will expect, though to get it up to the level of my tester (which still doesn’t include the company’s top-of-the-line stereo or navigation system) will require a buyer to select a number of option packages.
Starting from a base price of $34,745, the one I used gained highly desirable features like blind-spot sensors, adaptive cruise control (and forward collision sensors), adjustable pedals, heated second-row seats and the sporty red performance seats through no less than four option packages; before it topped $40,000 including destination charge.