2010 Dodge Charger RT | road test

Posted on Oct 21, 2006 by

It was way back in 1966 that a rocked the American enthusiast car market. The name was Charger and with its swoopy styling and hidden headlights, this classic held sway as a bestseller right through to 1974 when alas, it fell victim to stringent emissions standards and the company pulled the plug. A coupe, in true American spirit, the original Charger was an iconic car and a star in its own right.

Fast forward to present times and the Charger name has resurfaced in a form that is not only far removed from its original but has also sprouted two additional doors. Yes, the 2006 R/T (for Road/Track) is now a 4-door sedan with a chopped top look reminiscent of a 1950s California custom car. Not that we are complaining, as the car’s styling does warrant attention. Some like it (as we do, with some minor gripes) and others don’t, but the underlining fact is that the Charger makes a bold statement among today’s rather soft edged designs plying the roads from the US to Japan.

Again, compared to the original, the new Charger is ‘Big’. 200.1 inches long, this puts it in the league of BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. That it looks totally at odds with the two is what really marks this American muscle car apart. It does not pretend to be a luxury sedan although there are many bells and whistles to suggest otherwise. I would prefer calling it a sporty sedan which is not out of place on fast sweeping bends or as a carriage for fashionable dos. Like I had mentioned in my Hummer H3 test report, luxury has different connotations for different people and it is the same in the Charger. It just depends on how one looks at it.

Thanks to its sheer big size, there is enough place inside for five; bucket seat in front and a long bench at the rear, all swathed in premium leather (in our test car). Before pessimists start on as to why not a split rear seat, let me tell you that the boot is really capacious. The interior is clean and elemental with a massive dashboard that justifies the hugeness of the 2010 Dodge Charger. Our test car came with the optional rear-seat DVD player that pops up behind the centre console. Nice.

DaimlerChrysler has engineered a renaissance of sorts with its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep divisions and at the heart of this resurgence lies yet another iconic name – HEMI. The Hemi engine was just as famous in its heydays in the 1950s and 1960s as the cars it powered and since its resurrection in the last couple of years, it has created an aura of invincibility and, not to forget, reignited people’s passions to help the company ride out bad storms and lead it to pleasant tidings.

And the Hemi is the unseen wonder of the 2010 Dodge Charger R/T. Boasting a swept volume of 5.7-litres, this electronically fuel-injected OHV V8 belts out 340 bhp and 390 lb-ft of torque propelling this two-ton behemoth from 0-100 kph in just 5.9 secs. (A smaller 250 bhp, 3.5-litre V6 is also available for those who do not have the need for speed.) It is based on a rear-wheel drive architecture shared with other products in DaimlerChrysler’s portfolio, and sports independent suspension, huge disc brakes all around and massive 18” aluminium alloys. When the colossal 5.7-litre is not being flogged, it presents 20 per cent better fuel economy, thanks to Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System (MDS) which deactivates four cylinders when full grunt is not the need of the hour. The 5-speed automatic with an ‘overdrive’ top gear further adds in the fuel economy stakes.

So what’s it to drive then? Let’s pop in for a spin, shall we.

Seats are nicely contoured and ingress and egress is easy thanks to big doors. A big speedo and tach flanked by smaller meters lay smack bang behind the four-spoke steering wheel. The design inside is elemental and the centre console more than confirms this. The stereo with in-dash CD player sits above the air conditioning which is easy to use thanks to the big knobs and not teeny weenie buttons found on most cars, thank you. The rest of the interior is smart without being ostentatious and in many ways this more than exemplifies the character of the Charger – more hands on than board room, if you get my drift.

Styling is very custom car-like with the roof seemingly looking chopped off. This, of course, was the intention of the designers to make the Charger a standout. Inspite of the chopped roof look, visibility is surprisingly good from the driving seat.

The growl of the Hemi when fired up is pure melody with the resonance just right, whether at idle or at full blast. There is a briskness in the way the Charger steps off from standstill. The auto box does its bit as it effortlessly works  through the gears. For those who want to play boy racer would rather change gears manually thanks to the AutoStick function. This entails rocking the gear selector from side to side (left to downshift, right to move up). I enjoyed playing with the gearshift as it gave me a buzz seeing the revs rise fast and high when pushing the Charger on the twisty bits near Hatta, though at times the transmission upshifts on its own even when the selector is not moved. This could be perhaps to prevent the engine from over-revving.

Whilst the thought of that glorious Hemi powerplant sitting under the acres of front bonnet induced me to push the car all along, I had to banish the urge and think like a regular Joe as not everyone will be racing for honours in the traffic light derby. So after a few deep breaths to calm myself, I settled down in cruising mode with some good ole Dire Straits on the wonderful stereo and it was absolutely wonderful. The notes of Roadhouse Blues wafted through the car so clearly that for a minute or so I thought I was in a music hall. The Chrysler engineers have really upped their game to make the Charger’s interior really quiet, so that only the acoustics needed in the cabin are present and nothing else. Wind noise is banished and tyre noise is barely there (cruising speeds of 110-120kph) and only when you put pedal to the metal that all hell breaks loose as the dual exhausts deliver a melody that can only be termed as music to any car enthusiast.

For such a big car – its around 4150 lb. – the handling and ride is pretty good. It is firm, yet not jarring and quite controlled. It starts fading a bit when hard on the throttle and through some interesting twisties that the car starts feeling its bulk. And as any motoring geek would tell you, weight is the enemy of handling and performance with the Charger exhibiting understeer at higher speeds through turns.

So what would make me buy a Charger? Well, for one, the present day Charger not only looks butch and different but it also has the grunt as well as the interior to match its competition. Fit and finish levels are on the better side to have come out from an American manufacturer in recent times. Its simplistic charm does not account for the chasm between pride and pedigree and hey, while the desire to catapult five humans down the road in a real big hurry may not be a new one, only Dodge has managed to do anywhere near the price.

Its different! And daring! And Chrysler should be able to sell all they can get into the Middle East.

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