There has been a lot of good news for Chrysler, maker of Dodge cars and trucks, over the last year. Sales for 2011 are up 25 percent, well ahead of the 15 percent increase in the overall market. And in November, sales rose 43 percent, while the market was up 16 percent.
Here is one more bit of good news for the company. The 2012 Dodge Charger that I had for a week impressed every onlooker. One group, however, was particularly enthusiastic: teenage males. More than one confessed that the Charger was his dream car.
They did not care that the review Charger SXT Plus all-wheel-drive sedan that had drawn their attention had the new Pentastar V-6 engine, rather than the more powerful HEMI V-8. And they were completely unimpressed by the new eight-speed automatic transmission, which improves both performance and fuel economy. They just really liked the car.
The bad news for Chrysler, of course, is that none of these young admirers are able to buy the car today. But, if you were Chrysler, wouldn’t it be nice to have future buyers express unbridled enthusiasm for one of your models?
There's a lot to like about the Dodge Charger, which is good for those people looking to buy a new car today.
Professional are one group of adults flocking to the Charger. "They like the four-door room that allows them to take out customers," says Jeromy Berman, an Internet sales associate at Papa’s Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in New Britain.
Completely redesigned and much improved from last year, the new Charger sedan performs very well. The V-6 engine produces 292 smooth and refined horsepower while the new-for-2012 eight speed automatic shifts superbly. Combined, they deliver rapid acceleration.
Even in our weighty all-wheel drive model, reaching 60 miles per hour required just 7.2 seconds, suggesting that no one really needs the HEMI V-8, though there are many people who do enjoy its additional horsepower.
For the truly power hungry, Dodge also offers the Charger in SRT8 trim, with 470 horsepower on tap. This car is ferociously fast and incredibly capable, as numerous laps around the Willow Springs Race Track earlier this year demonstrated.
"People comment on the new eight-speed with the V-6. They like the performance. The majority of people are looking at all-wheel drive, though with rear-wheel drive, a good set of snow tires and stability control, that car is very good in snow," Berman says.
Inside, the Charger is both roomy and comfortable. The front seats are supportive. Rear seat passengers also do nicely, with good leg room and enough head room for six footers. The trunk is large and nicely trimmed and the rear seats are split and fold to enhance cargo room.
The ride is nicely controlled and very comfortable. The suspension absorbs the harshness that could intrude while traveling over rough stretches of pavement in greater Hartford. Yet, it does not smother the bumps; riders will know that the pavement is rough, but they won’t be bothered.
Handling is very good. The Charger is too large and heavy to be a sports sedan, but it does qualify as an excellent grand touring model. As such, it shows stability on the highway while demonstrating exceptional levels of sure footedness in turns. It is responsive and highly rewarding to drive. Steering is so precise that it was possible to set the car up properly and then not have to make any steering adjustments for nearly a mile on an exceptionally long, straight stretch of highway.
"It's not just a straight ahead car, it actually handles," says A.J. Maida, director of digital marketing at Papa's.
Roomy, comfortable, stylish and highly competent on the road, it is easy to see why Dodge and Chrysler sales are booming. The Charger is a car of substance for shoppers in the market today, and for buyers who might not be quite ready to make a purchase until, say, after college.
Dodge Charger: Starts at: $25,495
Engines: 3.6 V-6 5.7 V-8 6.4 V-8
HP 292 370 470
Torque (lb-ft) 260 395 470
EPA 5-speed auto 18/27 16/25 14/23
EPA 8-speed auto 19/31 n/a n/a
EPA AWD/8-speed 18/27 15/23 n/a