By Veeno Dewan
The big handsome, broad shouldered Dodge Charger has some new changes for 2012. Visually the long, thrusting four –door sedan still makes a statement with its retro silhouette.
It has a dramatic aggressive profile and has a smoother more sculpted look to it than the previous model. Of note is the new “racetrack” LED light panel that surrounds the rear light clusters. When lit it lends a dramatic look to the rear. Also new are the squared-off tailpipe surrounds that emerge from the lower faux diffuser panel.
A number of versions are on offer from the base SXT models with a V6 to the full on Hemi versions.
The R/T Road & Track offers a black honeycomb grille with matte finish, whilst the new Blacktop package includes a black grille and surround, black-painted 20-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels with performance tires. Performance-tuned suspension, Uconnect Touch 8.4 sound system, and unique performance seats.
Also new is the reintroduction of the high performance SRT8 versions after a one year hiatus with a 6.4-litre V8 with adaptive damping system with selectable suspension tuning, an active valve exhaust system for improved highway fuel efficiency, and a premium 900-watt stereo system.
Feature wise Chargers also offer performance seats, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, “sport” shift mode and colour electronic vehicle information centre, – Uconnect Touch adds voice command for navigation and full iPod control features.
The R/T Road & Track package adds heated and ventilated performance seats with larger side bolsters, driver’s side memory, paddle shifters, auto-dimming driver’s exterior mirror with tip-down in reverse, 3.06 rear axle ratio, performance engine and transmission calibration, and high-speed engine controller
Of note is the vastly improved interior with more features, upgraded materials and plastics. The comfortable leather seats are big and wide and the cabin is roomy with plenty of space to stretch out.
Our gray test Charger was finished off with a superb rich looking red leather interior and with a cool blue ambient lighting simply glowed wonderfully at night. The chunky three-spoke steering wheel falls easily to the hand.
Instruments are clear and the controls are well designed and easy to operate.
The 8.4″ entertainment screen in the middle console is paired with one of the best interfaces I have come across. The touch screen is easy to manipulate and quick to respond. With the Garmin GPS Navigation, satellite radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats and steering wheel, heated and cooled cup holders, the Charger is impressively equipped. The Charger is also available with several upscale high end options which included adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross path protection and a rear backup camera with grid lines.
The Dodge Charger R/T AWD with the 5.7L HEMI V8 engine under the hood, which produces an impressive 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed automatic gearbox is standard, but a more efficient eight-speed gearbox is an option.
The Charger engine is equipped with FuelSave Multi-Displacement Technology. This system allows the engine shift seamlessly between 8 and 4 cylinders, depending on throttle use allowing for less fuel usage.
Another interesting piece of technology is the active transfer case with front axle disconnect. Dodge says the front axle disconnect helps save five percent on fuel economy by utilizing only rear-wheel-drive unless additional traction is needed.
On the road the big Charger feels exciting to drive. It is fast, comfortable and having the big, powerful V8 engine at your disposal leaves you feeling smug and confident. The ride is flat and comfortable courtesy of the new suspension set up with redesigned front and rear multi-link geometries.
Steering and braking has also been improved. Fast acceleration and spirited cornering reveal quicker steering, better road feel and a stable composed tracking. It is still a big, heavy car and won’t carve a corner like a smaller sports sedan, but is a very entertaining car to drive.
This is one of the best of the big modern-day American sedans; that combine retro heritage, brutish good looks and much-improved interior are enough to sway you should you take a test drive. No one does this combination as good as Chrysler.
2012 Dodge Charger R/T AWD Base Price from $39,995 Price as tested $44,870