Since we'd spent the last seven days cruising around California in the new Charger R/T, blasting through hills and valleys at extra-legal speeds, bombing through SF like we were being hounded by that one guy from The Great Escape and collecting a brutal sunburn while watching cars piloted by the likes of Doug "Deda" Kalitta destroy the quarter mile in well under five seconds, we thought we'd offer some thoughts on the new Dodge's place in the pantheon of more-than-adequately-powered, affordable American cars.
Let's get this out of the way first: The Charger isn't a musclecar. For that matter neither is the new Mustang. The musclecar era died with the redesign of Chrysler's B-Bodies in '71 and GM's A-bodies in '73, and due to current safety standards, shall never return in its pavement-ripping, ass-sliding, barely-braking form. The joy of the musclecar lay in that it could turn around and swallow your posterior in one effortless gulp. Why do you think big-block midsize cars are so valuable now? Most of 'em went rear-end first into telephone poles. Oh, and your mother should not like a musclecar. Our BMW 3-series-driving mum liked the Charger, although she said she'd opt for the V-6, because the Hemi was was just too much motor. Auburn Hills, 1, suburban Sacramento, 0.
While obviously more compact, the Charger is a re-imagined full-size car with a big freakin' motor. Think vintage Impala SS or Chrysler letter car. Of course, the Charger is basically a decontented 300 with new, oft-maligned sheetmetal, but hey, guess what? It's actually really growing on us. When the Charger debuted, we'll admit that we weren't sure about it. We're still not quite sure that it should've been called a Charger, but we'll take four doors over front-drive any day of the week (with the exception of the Cooper S). Plus, the styling is more aggressive than anything seen in the full-size sedan segment since, well, the 1960s. While we love Super Bees, Superbirds and Charger Daytonas, we think the R/T works best in full Bullitt sleeper mode a simple R/T emblem on the rear and Hemi fender badges, a kink over the rear fenders, a means-business grille, dual exhaust and angry eyebrows. And that's it. That's all there needs to be. Contrary to Farago's take, we'd rather not have the SRT-8's ostentatious scoopage (though we lust for the 425-horse mill). The best Mopars have always looked a little bit off in a sinister way, and the new Charger carries this tradition on with aplomb.
We had the Charger R/T with the Road and Track suspension package, which buttoned the car down nicely, although we constantly wished for more steering heft at speed. A joy in parking lots, the Charger's steering lightness turned fast driving more of a chore than the suspension and engine would suggest. While classic musclecar steering invariably had a ton of play in the wheel, often via an overboosted steering box, the Charger's remains feather-esque to the touch; instead of manhandling, it requires a sort of fingertip finesse that seems totally out of character for such a conveyance. A denser, more communicative steering medium would do wonders in the twisties, and even during high-velocity, straight-line freeway buzzing.
Of course, even with its subtle badging, we only saw two other Chargers on the road, so it did stick out like a throbbing Inferno Red thumb on the highway, inspiring various urban types to attempt to engage us in on-ramp drag races with Northstar-powered Caddies sporting gold-line low-profile rubber. The Hemi had it so all over the Cads that we simply stabbed the throttle, showed the buggers of bling who was boss and let them blast off to collect the citation. With the hard men schooled in a matter of seconds and sent home to weep in their Courvoisier, we had nothing left to prove and smoothly motored on, enjoying our Lalo Schifrin tunes with a beautiful girl at our side. And that, friends, is what the '06 Charger R/T should be about. Plus, if you and your beautiful girl have beautiful children, there's plenty of room for them, too. If we had around 30k to drop on a new vehicle four doors or not this would be our choice, hands down.
Jalopnik Reviews 2006 Dodge Charger R/T [Internal]