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You'll be voting for Jalopnik's Car of the Year (2005) soon, kids (tomorrow to be exact), but not until you've read a plea for the last nominee — the Dodge Charger R/T. That's Davey G. Johnson's argument in favor of the institution, in brand name(s) at least. How does DGJ feel about purists' admonishments that the new Charger's a mere Epcot-like approximation of the original? Or that it's a sheer rental car with Hemi pretense? Read on, Mac Duffs, and find the hell out.

Hand me down my walkin cane, children, because although I just hit 30 on Sunday, I m all ga-ga over a four-door, pushrod V8-powered Detroit sedan. Okay, so it s Detroit by way of Stuttgart, but it s still a damn Dodge. I nominated the Charger R/T because it was perhaps the most polarizing car of the past 365 days, as well as one of the most fun.

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It s also the most important American four-door to hurtle down a pike filled with subpar vehicles since the original Taurus. More important, in some ways, than the prettier and first-to-market 300C because it strips away any pretense of luxury. It s a Dodge a car for the masses, not the elites. We ve finally got a performance-oriented, rear-drive Michiganesque pavement-stormer worth its goddamn salt that s aimed squarely at salt-of-the-earth types. Even if they ve gotta wait a few years and buy used. Last-gen E-class mechanicals + Hemi power + butch, Groucho Marx-on-a- roid-rage-bender styling equals a pure, unadulterated, uniquely American driving experience for the Now Generation. Or at least as much of that Ol Janx Spirit as one can purchase new for around 30 large.

Sure you jest, Davey G.! I hear your cries, ladies and ladies, but bear with me for a mere second, wouldja? So what if it s got a Euro-queen independent rear end? Listen, kids: the Mustang s an anomaly, and the reality of the situation is that most Americans during the musclecar era weren t rolling in COPO 427 cars. Nickey Chevrolet most certainly did not tune most people s daily drivers. Very few Buick A-bodies ever came with the Stage 1 package. And as many of those infernal equine-themed devices as Ford sold, the numbers most certainly didn t equal the sedan output of the same era.

What I m basically saying is, get over the fact that the new Charger s a four-door. The new Charger stands on its own merits. And those merits are simple. It s a big, roomy, surprisingly agile car with a honker of a powerplant that ll smoke practically any stock musclecar of the day in a straight line, and absolutely annihilate any of em in the braking and handling departments. The Hemi is Huxley s John the Savage gone to finishing school; palming the required doses of Soma and dumping em in the wastebasket when the powers that be ain t lookin . Simply put, the big-ish-inch mill s a freakin hoot. I ve felt an overpowering urge to fondle the thing every time I ve encountered it. Yeah, the interior s not phenomenal by any stretch of the imagination, but it s quite comfortable and the controls are well-placed. Not as charming as a 70 Super Bee for sure, but easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. That said, an SWB or a 550 Spyder s got more charm than either of the other J/COTY nominees. Progress has its price, anxious mofos.

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Still, the Charger like the 300 and Magnum before it has soul, and that s a rare commodity in any car under 60k today. It s even rarer in cars under 60k that don t wear a blue-and-white roundel on the hood or have less than four doors. Plus, although it s not available with a front bench, you can still totally rock the casbah in the backseat. And really, what s more properly American than that? Try it in a 430 or a Boxster and you ll end up burning her ass on the intake manifold.

But if you came here seeking the ringing Jalopnik endorsement, here tis: if I, David Gordon Johnson, being of supposedly sound mind and body, had roughly thirty-thousand American dollars to spend on an 05/ 06 model-year vehicle, I would buy a Charger R/T. And lest ye s think I m a knuckle-dragger who only buys American, for the record, I m a sucker for Honda Accords and Nissan Altimas. And in fact, when friends of mine who don t know (or care) jack about cars ask me for buying advice, I tell them to go test an Accord and a Camry and purchase the one they like best. But if it were my own money, I d take the Charger every time.

Related:
Jalopnik to Join in the Car of the Year Festivities; Choosing Jalopnik s Car of the Year: Farago s Plea for the Boxster S; Choosing Jalopnik's Car of the Year: Spinelli's Case for the Ferrari F430 [internal]