Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 Dodge Charger test drive review. Would Bo and Luke approve?

I was actually kind of excited to try out a new Dodge Charger for a couple of days. I’ve driven several Chrysler products on the LX platform over the past couple of years, but only for short jaunts. And as someone who uses a ’96 Impala SS as a daily driver, I was looking forward to testing out a modern, full-sized, rear-wheel-drive sedan on my commute.

As new Chargers go, this one was about as bland as they come. Of course, even as a base model, the Charger comes with a nice array of features. 17-inch, five-spoke wheels are standard, as is the touch-screen stereo with CD and mp3 connector. The silver paint didn’t do much to spice things up though.

Under the hood was the relatively new 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6, which was good for a respectable 292-hp. To put that in perspective, my old Impala has a 350-c.i. small-block that was only good for 260-hp. Plus, it weighs about 500-lbs more than the Charger.

You would think that would make the Charger seem like a real kick in the pants compared to my Impala. You would be wrong. Much of the difference is in the torque ratings. The Charger knocks out 260 lb/ft at 4,800-rpm. The old Chevy is good for 330 lb/ft. All that torque, paired with the soundtrack that only a V8 can offer, and the Charger just seems disappointing.

Of course, Dodge also offers a couple of Hemi V8 options that would kick my Impala to the curb. But you’re adding a lot of money once those boxes are checked, and I didn’t have one of those to work with this time.

Naturally, the appeal to this powertrain setup is fuel mileage. This SE model with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission is good for an EPA estimated 18-mpg in the city, 27-mpg on the highway. There was a big green “ECO” light on the dash that lit up when you let up on the accelerator. I guess that’s to train you to drive better. Of course, my big old Impala was rated at 17/26, which is pretty accurate in my experience, so take that as you will.

The biggest change on the 2012 Charger for my money was the sheet metal. Clearly, the latest updates were inspired by the 1968-1970 model years. The scoops in the doors are reminiscent of the earlier cars. The sharp creases in the quarter panels, the slight “flying buttress” rear window treatment, and the indentations in the hood are straight out of the muscle car era.

My favorite retro touch is the taillights. The shape is unmistakable classic Charger, but the LEDs are cool and modern. I wish the same thought could have gone into the front-end treatment instead of this rehash of the played-out cross-hatch Dodge grille.

So with Dodge’s nod to heritage, is this the next General Lee? Maybe in R/T or SRT guise. This silver car is more like the anonymous sedan that the bad guys might drive into Hazzard and use to rob Boss Hogg’s bank. Other than the fact that it’s a rear-driver, and those cool tails, it doesn’t spark much more excitement that a run-of-the-mill Ford Fusion or Chevy Impala.

I didn’t even think you’d sit through a slideshow of it, so I did sort of a comparo with a die-cast General Lee and relevant bobble heads. You can see all that below.

A better version of the slideshow is at this link.  Yee haw!

1 comment:

  1. Really ingenious photo set!
    Had the exact same car - same colour even- as a company car a couple of years ago. Nice car for what it is, and its RWD. If God had meant us to have front drive, He never would have given us a ring and pinion... ;)