By on August 20, 2013

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The scheme was both ridiculous and somewhat unlikely to succeed as written. Drive from Columbus, Ohio to Toronto for the John Mayer concert. Turn immediately around and drive home. Go to work for a day, go to sleep. Wake up and drive from Columbus to Charlotte, NC via Lexington, KY. Play three sets with Bark M. at a rooftop party chock-full of impossibly gorgeous women and free Tito’s vodka. Sleep. Drive home. Do not damage car, do not play an Em7 when a Emaj7 is called for, do not short my brother on the “A” section in the middle of his solo, do not attempt to crash bachelorette party in the next room.

We needed room for equipment and people, the ability to hit 110 mph on hilly freeways in order to make soundcheck on time, a boomin’ system, and the maximum possible fuel economy. The car had to be spacious enough for three people to travel and/or take roadside naps in while being small enough to fit in a downtown parking garage spot. Most of all, it had to be relaxing on the freeway, because I’d be doing almost all the driving on low or no sleep, but not so relaxing that I fell asleep behind the wheel.

In other words, what I needed was what your parents or grandparents might have called a grown man’s car. I love the Camry and I respect the Altima, but with a task like this ahead, only one rental ride would do. Mr. Charger, step forward.

charger2

Much hay’s being made of the new eight-speed transmission in Pentastar Chargers, but if you take the base “SE” model, which retails for just over $27K, you’ll get the NAG1 Benz unit that has appeared, with various parts swapped out, everywhere from the Maybach 62 to the pre-PDK Porsche 997 Turbo. I don’t know that this is such a bad thing. The transmission is well-understood and many places can fix it. If you were looking to run a Charger for a long time or under severe conditions, it might well be a better choice than the octo-box. It certainly doesn’t hobble the car the way the cheapo four-speed did its entry-level predecessors.

We’ll follow the example of the Greek playwrights and provide some of the conclusion of this review right here in the fifth paragraph. This is not a full-sized car, not in the way that a Panther is a full-sized car or even in the way that the Avalon is a full-sized car. If you’re looking to get the most metal for your money, this isn’t for you. Get a slightly used or dealership-remainder W-body Impala. Nor is the Charger a “value” in the traditional sense. The Camry SE has it matched for feature count at an MSRP five grand beneath that of the Dodge, plus it will probably be worth more when you trade it in five years from now. Nor is it an SRT-8 on a budget; the Pentastar is massively strong and it handles okay but there’s a tangible universe of difference in the way an SE goes down the road and the way the big-bore model rips the asphalt off it.

So. Not a value, not a big car, not a sports car. What is it? Why, it’s nothing more — and nothing less — than the perfection of the Mopar M-body. I realized it as I was casually bopping across a set of raised train tracks near my neighborhood at eighty-five miles per hour. Of all the cars I’ve driven around here, only my Town Car pulls that same trick off with aplomb. Most mass-market sedans, even high-priced ones, produce a Suspension Death Rattle(tm) at about fifty mph, but I’d somehow just naturally assumed that the Charger could do it. This is a proper heavy-duty automobile. I don’t mean to imply that it will last forever or that every part on the thing is built to MIL-SPEC. Far from it. But the bones of the thing are pure, sheer, bad ass. It has the power-to-weight ratio of the original BMW 750il but returned nearly 32 miles per gallon in long-distance freeway usage. Twenty-seven thousand dollars would get you “more car” in a Camry or a Malibu but that really means more gingerbread, more shine slathered on a sixteen-grand metal box that accepts its entire powertrain in a single unit from beneath on the factory line like a working girl nonchalantly descending upon two customers at once. Just to speed the process. To save the client money. The bones of the Charger aren’t really from a Mercedes-Benz, no matter how much the car’s champions and critics wish it to be so, but they are thoroughbred, heavy-duty, worthy of mention along with the everlasting Fifth Avenue or Gran Fury. Under the skin, the Charger is an expensive automobile.

No surprise, then, that the rest of it’s depressingly cheap and crappy. Get in the car and suddenly it’s 1998 all over again at Chrysler. The flat black plastic interior would barely have passed muster in my old Neon. There’s an odd sort of fascia laid over the driver’s side of the thing. I know it’s real metal because it retains heat and cold but it doesn’t look very nice. Ten minutes in the thing and you’re ready to buy a Chrysler 300 without regard for the additional cost. Just to see some color and design, you know? It’s not very good. The Avenger interior is kind of better and the Grand Caravan interior is considerably superior. The instrument panel is laughably bad. It’s the lowest-contrast set of gauges I’ve ever seen on a production automobile. Grey and dark red on black. Learn to change the center display to show your speed. You’ll need to in order to avoid tickets. At twilight the dashboard is all but invisible. This is damned near unacceptable in 2013 and I don’t care that it looks cool in a mega-watt-lit showroom.

It doesn’t help that after the airy, well-lit environment of my cream-interior Town Car the Charger’s cockpit feels like falling into a well. The doors are so high and visibility is indifferent to the rear and sides. It took me all of LJK Setright’s one hundred miles for me to get over it. If I could wave a wand and change one thing about the Charger, it would be to drop the beltline four or five inches. I don’t want to hide in the car.

This particular fault is in no way unique to Chrysler LX sedans, however. Everybody runs the beltline high now. It’s not worth bitching about. I just wish this car had an M-body’s worth of glass around me. Wish in one hand, grab the Charger’s shifter in the other, throw it across the strangely vacant pattern down to “D”, stomp the throttle, achieve redemption. My hand to God, this has to be the best big-inch V-6 available. No, it doesn’t have a VQ37′s worth of raw horsepower but it just revs and sounds great and exudes willingness at all times. Car and Driver says it’s noticeably slower than the V-6 front-wheel-drivers and they have numbers to prove it. In the real world, however, the Charger has traction and composure the Accord and Camry can’t match. You can drive this thing full-throttle all the time if you want and your license has the points to spare. The old Impala can probably walk it but you’d need to be on the freeway because everywhere there’s broken pavement or camber problems the Dodge is unstoppable. Like I said. Heavy duty.

The Toronto leg of my trip passed without incident, the trip computer reporting more than thirty miles per gallon even once I hit the city’s infamous Gardiner Expressway. Once on the surface streets the Mopar displayed its big-wheeled indifference to potholes under full throttle and I took spot after spot away from slower, less certain traffic. On the drive home I had to stop and take a nap. Turns out I’m no longer superhuman at the age of forty-one and after thirty-six hours and seven hundred miles I need a rest. Two hours reclined in the mouse-fur seat was easy as pie then it was back to the road. This is a highway car. It doesn’t stress you on the six-lane the way the lighter, tidier competition does. It doesn’t transmit those fatiguing vibrations to your hands and it doesn’t wander and it isn’t sensitive to wind. Only an oddly spooky noise from the trunk area betrays the presence of serious cross-breeze. There’s only one real annoyance in the car, and it’s not going to affect everyone, but from what I’ve researched it’s not unique to my tester, so I’ll mention it. The mini-screen uConnect system plays individual albums from iPods in alphabetical order. This, as I’m sure you all know, places “Friends, Lovers, or Nothing” right after “Edge of Desire”. I don’t mind that, but try listening to Contra that way. Starting with “A-Punk” instead of “Mansard Roof”? Bitch pleeeeeeeeease.

Prepping for the second leg of my trip revealed another less-than-stellar aspect of the Charger: the trunk isn’t full-sized either. I ended up taking one amplifier (a Roland VGA-5, hedging my bet with solid-state electronics for a long trip) instead of two, and two guitars instead of three. The Town Car is so far beyond the Charger in trunk space it’s not funny. And don’t forget that if you decide you want the nice interior and the hip look of the Chrysler 300 — it has less trunk than this. Ridiculous. They should make a long-trunk 300C and call it the Newport. It would look nice in my driveway. I don’t recall the M-body having much of a trunk so I suppose they’re staying on-message here.

I handed the wheel over to Bark for the second half of the Lexington-to-Charlotte leg and he dropped my average mileage right down to twenty-four and a half by lead-footing a hundred miles of mountain freeway and rarely dipping beneath ninety miles per hour. He said we were going to miss soundcheck if he didn’t drive like a crazy person. Turns out we missed soundcheck anyway, mostly because he wanted to iron the shirt he had tailored in Toulouse last week for this gig. Oh well.

After an utterly fascinating gig beneath a steel tent and a furious amount of rain (if you’re interested in what we were playing and with whom, I’ll tell you) it was time to retire to my room. The bachelorette party next door proved to be a totally lame group of girls with husbands. Who brings husbands to a bachelorette party? Six hours and sleep then back on the road. My goal was to restore the Charger’s 30-mpg honor in the five-hundred-plus miles to come but at some point I forgot about that and accidentally decided to test the car’s top-speed limiter. It has one. Final stats:

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Thirty miles per gallon in a car that leaps for triple digits and smokes back tires and holds four people. Hell yes. I was charged five days for the rental because I brought it back a trifle late. It would have been a bargain at twice the price. Listen. I cannot recommend the Charger over the Camry to you, the TTAC reader. It costs more. It will probably break more often and retain less value and if you’re driving in the city the mileage really can’t hang with the four-cylinder cars. In the winter it really, really needs snow tires and I know you never buy them, even though I always do, even for Audis. This isn’t the interior you want. You really want at least a 300 Luxury Edition and that’s real money and the trunk is smaller. The smart thing to do at that point is to buy an ES350 anyway.

But there are a few of you out there who will love the Charger, as I do. Because it’s a road warrior, because the bones of it feel heavy, because you can throw the tail out on rainy city streets, because it looks like Mike Tyson in some sucker’s rearview mirror, because it’s a man’s car in an era where just writing “man’s car” in this review will upset some people and probably rightly so, I can’t apologize for how I was raised and what I believe. I suppose a woman could own and love it but she’d have to be a bad-ass herself, Anne Hathaway in a black leather outfit or that one girl from Sleater-Kinney who screams all the time. This Canadian automobile is meant to serve a declining number of traditional Americans, that cool dad who swears at dinner then winks at you and who owns Snap-On tools and who holds the door for old people and who has a preference between Ozzy and Dio. If you’ve ever seriously thought about font choice or identity politics for more than thirty seconds, this may not be the car for you. But if you want the toughest car twenty-seven grand can buy, if you want to know what it was like to open the throttle on a 360-powered Fifth Avenue in an era of ninety-horsepower Accords, step right up. It won’t be here forever. I promise you that.

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127 Comments on “Review: 2013 Charger SE Pentastar 5AT — Two Countries And Two Thousand Miles In Four Days...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Not a value, not a big car, not a sports car. What is it?…”

    Around here it’s a police car and it really ticks people off who slow down around it until it’s determined to be “civilian”

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Fortunately cops in Ontario are almost exclusively not dicks (I should point this out given the current media sh!tstorm in Toronto).

      So going 25-30km/h over on the freeways, rolling stops at stop signs, and accelerating hard out of green lights (to the speed limit plus 10-20), are all pretty low risk of tickets. Even a marked car on the freeways, I only slow down to 20 over.

      The above allows me to like the look of the police Chargers. They’re nice cars with a bit of attitude.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I love all the mention of speeding tickets, as this was the very same car the cop who pulled me over was driving last weekend. My only speeding ticket in 15 years. 50mph in a 35mph on a Sunday morning. Construction zone on a normally-55mph four-lane road, driving a loaded wagon with an infant and toddler in the back. If ever there was a case for leniency, I was it. But it was a speed trap town and the trap was functioning as intended, I guess.

    Anyway, I hate these cars on a visceral level, but that was a fantastic review.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      How is having a fully-laden wagon which is not suited for performance, with children in tow, in a construction zone, a case for leniency on speeding? I’d give the nod to a fully-suited-up rider on a GSX-R 1000 heading to a track day, struggling to keep the bike under 50 in first gear, myself. Around here, the police seem to agree with my point of view, too, because both times I was pulled over on my bikes, the officer was lenient with me.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    ” I cannot recommend the Charger over the Camry to you, the TTAC reader. It costs more. It will probably break more often and retain less value and if you’re driving in the city the mileage really can’t hang with the four-cylinder cars.”

    The rest of your review practically sold me on one. Even with the ergonomic issues.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      The 370hp HEMI-equipped Charger R/T lists for $30k, BEFORE a $2,500 rebate.

      $27.5K before any haggling with the dealer.

      The 292hp Pentastar equipped Charger SE lists for $26.3k, BEFORE a $2,500 rebate.

      $23.8k before any haggling with the dealer.

  • avatar
    ringomon

    “If you’ve ever seriously thought about font choice or identity politics for more than thirty seconds, this may not be the car for you.”

    It seems to me that you think about identity politics quite a bit.

    It’s like when someone is so anti a certain style that their reaction to it becomes their style. To truly not think about something is to never bring it up.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      This might not be the car for me, but not because I got a Graphic Design degree and therefore thought about type choices for over 30 seconds.

      (And admittedly, to back up ringomon’s point, I’ve spent a fair time thinking about identity politics – but not in an approving way.)

      There are people who think about font choice who aren’t That Kind Of Person.

      (There might even be people who think about identity politics approvingly, and would also like a Charger, but that’s above my pay grade.)

  • avatar

    “…if you want to know what it was like to open the throttle on a (cough cough 120 horse cough cough) 360-powered Fifth Avenue in an era of ninety-horsepower Accords…”

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Wasn’t the 318 two-barrel up to 140 hp by the end of automotive production?

      God I wish Chryco had built at least one year of M-bodies with the Magnum V8 and 4 speed auto…

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure the total horsepower by the end, but it was a laughable twist of the phrase to compare cubic inches to horsepower…

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          There *are* 360-powered Fifths. In the aftermarket anyway.

          The old M-bodies had torque in an era where torque didn’t exist.

          • 0 avatar
            shelvis

            Well sure, in the aftermarket. I’m sure there are big block 5th Avenues too as a result of the unholy marriage of grandma’s old sled, a free weekend, too much beer and a rusted out donor C body. I doubt anyone has made the Hemi jump in one as the price of the motor would far outweigh the car but anything’s possible in Mopar land. Factory though, no 360 5th Aves.
            A 5.9 Magnum swap would be relatively easy, cheap, and fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Scribe39

        So do I, Dan, so do I.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The 318 powered Fifth Ave made 120 Hp only in 1980. The 360 made all of 130. From 1981 to 1984 the 318 made 130 HP or 165 with cop spec 4 BBL carb. The 1985-1989 M-body cars were upped to 140 horses and 175 with 4BBL.

  • avatar
    number9ine

    I respect this car (especially with the HEMI under the hood) but sincerely wish that our most recent generation of car designers stepped away from Alias and worked the clay a little more. For the decades since it evolved from the Styling department, design has taken its toll from the engineers and accountants, stretching over hard points and sacrificing interesting but hard-to-build touches.

    Now that everything is reliable, competitive, and cheap (damn cheap–look at the inflation-adjusted showroom price of a ’97 Porsche 993 against a similar-spec 991, for example), design matters more and designers get a greater say in packaging. That’s why we have midsize passenger cars rocking 20-inch OEM wheels, silly vestigial c-pillar fake DLO trim, and contrived sheet metal creases to slap some Heritage on the vast expanse of metal that probably looked great on a three quarter view render.

    Great writers are economical with words. Great craftsmen use only what they need and work within constraints. The Charger fails aesthetically where the 300 succeeds on the same platform. Why? My guess is no one had enough incentive to sweat the small stuff, because the competition didn’t either.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Do you want a sedan? Or a SEDAN?

    Stuff your Camry/Accord/Altima/Fusion/Malibu/Sonata. I want a SEDAN, mo’ fo’.

    FYI Jack I have seen instrumented testing that indicates that the 8 speed makes the V6 as fast as the OLD 5-speed equipped Hemi in the previous generation. A few of the print rags have penned reviews that said “after comparing the two, definitely get the 8-speed.”

    • 0 avatar
      That guy

      I have a ’13 RT, my dad has a ’12 300S with the 3.6L/8spd. I’ve driven them back to back, I’d get the Hemi every time even with the old 5spd. It’s obviously the stronger engine, but it really isn’t much thirstier, especially on the highway. We drove them on a road trip and his was only half an MPG better than mine. The 3.6L will get better fuel economy around town, but again, it’s not enough to sway my decision.

      Plus, when I bought mine there was an additional rebate on the Hemi that made it the same price as a 3.6L/8spd. Considering the V8 will sell for more when I’m ready for something new, it was an absolute no-brainer.

      @Jack

      I’m sure you’ve driven the R/T and higher spec V6 models, but it’s worth noting that the right suspension, wheels, and tires really transform the handling of the car. They aren’t going to dance like a 3100lb Porsche, but they do pretty well for a sedan.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Interesting comparison as I thought it at least looked the part of a full sized car.

    The 8-speed rock and can be identified by the exhaust outlets. I had tangle with one when I was in my Saab 9-5. Where I usually leave most automatic transmissioned cars around 100 mph when they shift into 4th gear overdrive this one didn’t drop off versus my base turbo with a few tweaks. It was until almost 130 when the Charger started to run of steam.

    • 0 avatar

      You should race Bigtruckseriesreview

      • 0 avatar
        SteelyMoose

        No one has waders that high, Derek.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        LOL was your tangle included in your 40+ mpg driving which you always do?

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Norm has the magical 10 to 1 ratio worked out.

          No, I’m not speaking of the vehicle weight to horsepower ratio, but rather the horsepower to mpg ratio.

          He can push a 380 bhp motor to 38 mpg highway all day long…

          But seriously, Norm knows I jest, and what I really want to know is whether these Chrysler/Dodge sedans will still feel “tight,” rather than loose and wobbly, after the rack up 75,000 or 100,000 miles (does anyone remember the one TTAC review of a rental Charger OR Camry in Hawaii – I can’t remember which – but where the author essentially stated that a circa-1994ish Camry with many miles still felt relatively new compared to a much newer Charger?).

          • 0 avatar
            Sam P

            Go test drive a used one for yourself and find out how they hold up.

            The article that you speak of is in the TTAC archives and accessible with a quick search.

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ttac+charger+camry

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    I currently have this exact car as a rental in Florida. Black car in Florida in August was the reason for the free upgrade, but I love it.
    This thing has a solid feel when your closing the door, when your driving down the highway, or when you’re barreling through town. The materials are not the best inside, but there is a feel or presence in this car that is lacking with most of the cars out there. Even in base trim this is a man’s car.
    That pentastar V6 is amazing, at full throttle it likes to shift at 6500. Lots of power and the mileage is amazing, I have been seeing 30 mpg cruising all around Florida with a full car and trunk. My 5 year old is loving the black Charger.
    This will be my next car, but I would like the red leather seats!

    Mr. Jack is spot on with this thing.
    The one thing he left out was how great the rear end looks at night or in day, really sharp. Nothing else looks like it from the rear. That alone is a strong selling point.

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      In a million years I would never buy one, and I actually pushed for a Focus when the guy behind the National counter told me this was all he had a couple of months ago, but I loved, loved, loved it as a rental car for a last-minute Sunday afternoon sprint from Manhattan to Boston. Plenty of sprawl space, enough motor to own the left lane, perfectly adequate mileage, and that high beltline and massive pillars just reinforced the feeling the cocoon-like feeling that we were in here and everyone else fighting their way up the Merritt Parkway was way the hell out there.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    This is why to be a Chrysler enthusiast in 2013 because when you get behind the wheel of a Charger it’s 1968 all over again.

    BTW, I think the car looks fabulous.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    I’ve always said my Magnum reminded me of my old 5th avenue, just not in a good way. It has the same floatiness and sensation of driving on a mattress suspended by bowling balls as well as crash-boom-pow when driving over stuff. The newer 2011 and up stuff feels much better than the first gen LX cars but perhaps the M body vibe wasn’t banished as I had thought?
    For what it’s worth, the transverse torsion bars on the F/M/J cars are not loved by most Mopar guys. I can say that even my 71 Dart with worn out ball joints drove better than my 5th Avenue. I had ex police Diplomats and Furys and they weren’t much better. Not a high point of Mopar suspension design.
    There were no 360 5th Avenues as cool as that may be. I’ve heard legends of 318 4 barrel police 5th Avenues but have never actually seen one and assume they were used by a Unicorn Municipality in Narnia. You could get a Slant 6 though……
    First time I’ve heard anyone really not like the new Charger interior. Have these cars been on the market long enough that the press will wobble over to slagging them?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      No member of the press has ever seen a Charger SE. I went to the press event for these cars and there was nothing cheaper than an SXT Plus.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        SE is most likely to be seen if you are either renting or happen to be part of a government agency that is grabbing them fleet. I imagine that if my district were to purchase some sedans (and get off the SUV/CUV kick, jeeze) I’m sure the SE spec Charger would be on the short list.

      • 0 avatar
        shelvis

        OK, fair enough if you’re attributing your perceptions of interior shortcomings on the trim level. However, I didn’t realize that there was any difference between SE and SXT in terms of the things in the interior that you are complaining about. Nor is it made clear in the review. I took your comments to mean you thought the overall design and materials of the Charger interior sucked.
        I mean, if you just don’t like the Charger interior, that’s fine. I had mixed feelings about the metal candy dish around the dash, especially after spending time in person with it. And it may be showing its age as interiors get nicer and nicer. However, if you’re saying that the SE fleet model gets a different interior that is somehow worse than an Avenger or Caravan as well as a noticeable grade below SXT, it’s worth noting it.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          Noted, but the purpose of these reviews is to communicate something you can’t get from the Dodge website. If I ran down the equipment differences across the line, I wouldn’t have room left for anything but the MSRP and the overall length.

          • 0 avatar
            shelvis

            Again, if you just don’t like the interior, that’s cool.
            But if your dislike stems from the fact you’re reviewing a rental and the spec is different, it should be noted that the rental features lower grade materials than a normal base model.
            All I’m saying.

    • 0 avatar
      Searcher

      When I worked in a shop in the early-mid Nineties we’d get those “5.2 Federals” in occasionally. Just as the later CV they were being used as cabs so they were pretty beat up. They weren’t real fun to work on due to the price sensitivity of the owners and a dearth of repair info. Apparently there was a supplement to the regular service literature dealing with these and we couldn’t get it. I do recall they had a feedback QuadraJet but no TPS like the GM’s used.

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    I like the Charger’s looks enough to own one but it still looks like a LEGO version of what they were aiming for with its square curves. It’s somehow subliminally suggesting sleekness while looking blocky, like they used plywood instead of clay for the design models. Still a big improvement over the last generation.

  • avatar

    I wish they would have carried the magnum into the second generation. Mine carried my friends and I coast to coast 4 times. Yes the HEMI only returned 20mpg highway but it was a true highway warrior in the fashion that only a full size wagon can be. It made believers out of all who rode in it for any length of time.

    Shame that it was falling apart 5 years later, but I drove that car hard it’s whole life. And if I could have replaced it with a better built, better mileage version I would have done so.

    Now if only you could get it with the 6spd…

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    it kinda needs bigger wheels

    this passage:

    Twenty-seven thousand dollars would get you “more car” in a Camry or a Malibu but that really means more gingerbread, more shine slathered on a sixteen-grand metal box that accepts its entire powertrain in a single unit from beneath on the factory line like a working girl nonchalantly descending upon two customers at once. Just to speed the process. To save the client money.

    really? kinda blue isnt it?

    i have a hard time having any emotion for any FWD car no matter how competant

    the Charger… yeah… classic name, classic RWD layout, good v6/v8 and AWD option

    this car has heart

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    It’s interesting to compare this with Alex’ RLX review from a few days ago.

    The RLX sounds like a cheap platform with a premium car on top.

    The Charger sounds like a premium platform with a cheap car on top.

    At less than 1/2 the price, I know which one I would pick…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I WANT to like the Charger, but the overall cheapness of the details and the lingering effects of Chrysler’s reputation make me smile every time I look at and drive my 2012 Impala LTZ.

    Bright window reveal would work wonders on the side profile…

    I no longer – even on occasion – drive like I’m the star in the original “Vanishing Point” movie, let alone fantasize about it, so I roll my eyes at the FWD vs. RWD controversy.

    Still, one can’t beat RWD for performance, and I do retain that little “spark” of enthusiasm. RWD seems to afford a certain durability of the various components of a drivetrain more so than FWD, so it would be an interesting study – strictly for research purposes only – to rent one of these bad boys and take it for a spin.

    Just sayin…

    • 0 avatar
      ctg

      I would absolutely read a Zackman Charger vs. Impala comparison test. Maybe TTAC could set that up? :)

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Here’s what I’ve argued for at least once in the past few years. BIG CHEAP AMERICAN SEDAN TEST: Impala vs. Charger vs. Taurus. Pretend its 1969 and you are testing the Impala vs. Polara vs. Galaxie. If CUV/SUV did not exist what would Joe Sixpack drive his wife and three kids in?

        • 0 avatar
          Zackman

          Man, I’d love to do a road test of the Impala vs. Charger vs. Taurus, but I no longer have the chops for that sort of thing due to my vision issues – it has slowed me down as far as reflexes goes, but not my spirit!

          Great idea, though…

          PrincipalDan, I hereby promote you to: SuperintendantDan!

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      “I WANT to like the Charger, but the overall cheapness of the details and the lingering effects of Chrysler’s reputation make me smile every time I look at and drive my 2012 Impala LTZ.”

      Haha, well a die-hard Impala fan should be an authority on “cheapness of details” but I’m not really seeing it on my current Charger SE rental. The control stalks on the last Impala I had felt like they were going to break off every time that I used them however.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I respect Dodge for using real metal on the dash – if you recall, Chrysler used gin-u-wine aluminum billet for the grille of final special edition of the PT CRUISER, for cryin’ out loud.

    But the trend of fake metal has gotten so out of hand, at this point even real metal looks fake, even the real metal in a Bentley Mulsanne. The war’s over…the fakeys won.

    So what’s the alternative? Ask five people, get six answers. Personally, I like the trend of unfinished, textured wood (when it’s too polished it too looks fake). But as this is a base car, I’d settle for piano black trim. It’s also pretty played out, but at least it’s upfront about what it is: shiny, but tasteful, plastic.

    The Cruze also has a good thing going with its dash trim, but when I see the mesh I’m reminded of gym shorts or under armor. Again, YMMV.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    “like a working girl nonchalantly descending upon two customers at once”

    It may not be the most family friendly live ever written, but bless you, Jack.

  • avatar
    JD321

    No, it is not for the bratty liberal/collectivist parasites that claim to own everyone else and their incomes – and demand that everyone else live for them…But it could be.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “This Canadian automobile is meant to serve a declining number of traditional Americans, that cool dad who swears at dinner then winks at you and who owns Snap-On tools and who holds the door for old people and who has a preference between Ozzy and Dio.”

    Do you know me? I have a 2013 Charger R/T, and I prefer the Dio years myself.

    Anyway, it’s too bad you got the lowest of the low-rent Charger, I’d be surprised if you could even find one this stripped on a dealer lot anyhere. The R/T is available in the low 30k range and carries a much nicer interior, plus the Hemi. Or if you’re just fine with the pentastar, the SXT has the nicer interior as well.

    I’ve never noticed any issues with the gauge cluster, I actually find it to be one of the better units on the market. Maybe I am blind to have such a stark contrast with this review. No, the trunk isn’t Town Car big, but what is? The Charger’s trunk carried my family and our gear including two strollers on a week long road trip without issue.

    Otherwise, I think the rest of the review is spot on. It’s a very solidly built car that is great to drive for any period of time. Just do yourself the favor if you buy one, pony up for the SXT or Rallye or R/T, it’s worth it.

    • 0 avatar

      This is solid commentary to this great review. I think Jack was a little hard on the interior and the trunk. Most Chargers have fine interiors, certainly no worst in quality than the Camry. Also the trunk is plenty wide, if a little shallow. This may not be an absolute full-size car like the Avalon or Impala, but it’s pretty spacious and offers good real world comfort (and headroom) vs many of the cramped mid-size players like the Altima, Fusion, etc.

      But Jack is spot on about the demeanor of the car. In some ways, it and its Chrysler 300 sibling are the last real American sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      In the interest of honesty and accuracy, my family AND all of our gear were not carried solely in the trunk. Just the baggage.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I almost skipped this article after reading that you were going to see John Mayer. Then I realized Jack wrote it so I continued on and am glad I did.

    I was looking at these things over the weekend at my friendly local Fiatsler dealer and was amazed at how cheap the interior is. The speedometer looks like something out of a car from the 90s. The 300 does look much nicer but is also much more expensive. Good to know that the trunks are tiny, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Even if regular people aren’t buying these things like crazy, the Po-Po are definitely buying them in my area. Nothing I’d ever buy, but they are kind of attractive from the outside.

  • avatar

    Wait, you were in Charlotte? I didn’t get a chance to buy you one of our many hipster microbrew beers!

  • avatar
    StaysCrunchy

    I don’t mean to be “That Guy” but A-Punk and Mansard Roof are on their self-titled first album, not Contra.

  • avatar
    Brawndo

    “…that cool dad who swears at dinner then winks at you and who owns Snap-On tools and who holds the door for old people and who has a preference between Ozzy and Dio.”

    Dio, definitely Dio. It’s not even close.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    You also inspired me to quickly draw up what a Charger would look like if the beltline were a few inches lower. The result: it looks more like a G8:

    http://oppositelock.jalopnik.com/beltline-tuesday-1171943381

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    How could there be such disparity between interiors when the whole line got the work over? I have seen one of these in person and thought the interior was nicely done. Strange.

    • 0 avatar
      LeadHead

      Because fleet sales are still important to Chrysler, so now their models can span from quite cheap and nasty, to very nice interior wise. Unfortunately, most people will only experience the cheap and nasty rental versions.

    • 0 avatar
      LeadHead

      It’s amazing how bad the rental interiors of Chrysler vehicles can get. The 8-speed is standard equipment on every trim level above “SE”, which means this Charger is as low-spec as they get.

      A buddy of mine’s mother recently bought a ’13 Charger SXT Plus, 3.6L AWD. It’s got a few extra options checked, but nothing crazy. It has one of the nicer interiors I’ve ever seen in a car.

      IMO, basing a review on a rock-bottom-base-model rental car with the “Poverty Package” is just as misleading as basing a review on a manufacturer supplied car with the “Premium Luxury Land Yacht” option selected.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The Dart has the same horrible look to its gauges – the text is nearly unreadable to me.

    Everybody else does this part better, and the Volvo S60 is one of the nicest:
    http://image.europeancarweb.com/f/9052562/0303_06z+volvo_s60_r+Gauges.jpg

    What burns me is that this isn’t expensive to make good, but Dodge chose most poorly. It’s enough of a turn-off that I don’t think I could buy the car for that reason alone.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    How the hell did you manage to get that sled to smoke tires? Never could in my ’12 SE I had for a rental a few months ago.

    I switched it out for a ’13 Impala LTZ as soon as I could as was ever so happy I did.

  • avatar
    replica

    The answer is Dio.

    It’s always Dio.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    “If you’ve ever seriously thought about font choice or identity politics for more than thirty seconds, this may not be the car for you.”

    I love your writing, Jack, but as a guy who spends all day thinking about fonts (because that’s what they pay me to do), the Charger (and 300) are some of my favorite cars. It makes an unabashed statement about what it is, with no apologies, and a lot of designers and artistic people respect that. I’ve been an American rear drive type for many years, and I drove an F-body until the wheels fell off. Get to know a few designers, you might find out we’re not as different as you think we are. ;)

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I’m gonna join the chorus defending the interior on this car. I’ve not rented one myself, but I’ve driven plenty around the airport at work. The interior materials won’t wow you like a 300 will, but it’s leagues ahead of the old Charger, and competitive with other cars in it’s price range. I personally love the look of the gauge cluster and dashboard and find the infotainment to be among the easiest and most user friendly out there. And the sex appeal of the exterior, especially the single coolest taillight cluster on a new car, cannot be denied. They do drive great as well. Comfy ride, relatively (again considering what else is out there) good body motion control, and the poise under power that only comes from a good balanced rwd chassis. If I could afford the gas on the Hemi, I’d want that car in my garage someday.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “If I could afford the gas on the Hemi, I’d want that car in my garage someday.”

      It’s not as bad as one might think. I average 21 mpg in my backroad/highway/city commute and on a recent highway trip averaged 25.7.

      I don’t particularly baby it either as indicated by the smattering of shredded rubber in the rear wheel wells.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @danio 3834 agreed that it’s good mileage for the amount of performance you get, but it’ll still cost more than my BMW 330i and the $200+/month I’m spending on that car’s gas is already enough to make me cringe at the gas pump.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        For context, my last fill-up in my car netted me just under 21 MPG. In a 2300 lbs, 140 hp car. Ok, that was after a good bit of traffic and a couple of track sessions, but even so, I struggle to break 25 MPG if cruising at 80. 30 is only possible if you’re cruising at the speed limit.

        These big cars really impress me with their fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Having driven a nicely equipped SXT plus with the 8-speed from MI to VA and back, I too found the interior a nice place to be. Lots of soft touch surfaces surround the occupants on the dashboard, door trim panels, armrests, etc. The only gripe I would make is the choice in surface graining on the dash pad – I personally think if they would tone the grain down a bit to a more natural looking “leather” grain, it would look as expensive as it probably is.

      As far as the metal cluster bezel, Mopar offers one as an acessory that features “engine turning”. I think that would look far better than the odd “techno-texture” that they are currently using.

      Lastly, the SXT plus with the 3.6L/8-speed I drove to VA averaged 29 MPG for the whole trip, and that was in spite of the mountainous driving in PA and generally agressive inputs from the driver (me).

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    cheap interior, lousy views out, claustrophobic… it does look cool from the outside, but when u own one, ur on the inside. does not sound like a very hospitable place to spend time.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      You are 100% incorrect. A ride in my Charger and later my Challenger, has made a lot of my friends buy 300s, Chargers, and Challengers. Their only complaint is rear visibilty.

  • avatar

    The LX cars are slowly becoming the next Panther, if not in exact dimensions but in role.

    Cheap, not-all-that-great, but plentiful, RWD, full of high-volume corporate parts bin parts and easily modified.

    Just go price previous-gen Hemis.

    We’ll be racing them in LeMons in 2020, for sure.

  • avatar
    kkop

    I drive most of the cars mentioned in this review on a regular basis (as rentals): Charger, Camry, Impala (and Mazda6, Ford Fusion, etc.)

    Nothing compares to the Charger. I actually like the high belt line; it looks great on this car. I love the dark interior as well. The dash does look dated. If you’re tall, the interior room is unmatched by any competitor; the Charger is the only car (with the Impala a close second) where I can ‘stretch’ my legs. The Camry and others feel like they’re 9/10ths size compared to the Charger; I get in and the center console immediately digs into my shins. :-p

    It’s also the only rental car I’ve ever driven (especially in ‘Toxic Orange’) that would make people come over and ask and ooh and aahh.

    The Charger convinced me (in rental spec, no mean feat) to look at Chrysler products again after abandoning them ten years ago.
    Ended up with a bare bones Challenger R/T: much of the good points of the Charger, along with a Hemi paired to a 6MT: perfection! :-)

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I can only imagine the depreciation on this vs. a Camry, so while the Camry might be cheaper up front, I’m willing to bet the Charger is a fantastic bargain as a 2 year old used car.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Having rented this car on several occasions, I mostly agree with Jack. Decent car, kind of fun, nasty interior. I disagree on the beltline being OK – it’s horrible. Nothing I would ever buy in a million years, but fun occasionally. if you buy cars by the pound, this one is a really good deal. Certainly FAR more interesting than a Camry.

    As always, a station wagon version would solve the cargo dilemma. I just don’t get sedans. Useless. If you are going to have useless might as well go all the way and get a Challenger.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Wow, I (as well as my girlfriend)thought I was the only man who enjoyed John Mayer’s music. I guess I am in good company! The guitar work in Neon is pretty phenomenal.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Earlier this summer I test drove a Charger with the V6/8-speed automatic combo, and damn if that is not one of the best drivetrains that’s ever existed. I loved it.

    It’s ruined by a car I felt claustrophobic in, I had maybe an inch of headroom and I’m only 6’2″, me and the salesman probably couldn’t figure out how to lower the seat. I agree the beltline is too high and the visibility is terrible, I’d give anything for more light to come in through the windows and windshield. I also thought the front seats were horrible, I thought they were more like a barstool with a 2×4 strapped on to use as a backrest/seatback.

    It made my Crosstour seem refined.

    • 0 avatar
      kkop

      I’m 6’4″ and could probably wear a fedora behind the wheel in the Charger. Salesmen should really know how to operate the controls in cars they sell. No wonder you felt claustrophobic :-)

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The only way you could say a Charger/300/Challenger has a lack of headroom is if you were close to 7 feet tall, or, the seat was raised up, (You just push the button down to lower it), and you were in a sunroof equipped car, as it has lowered headroom. My 6’4″ friend has no problems in my car, and pretty much everyone that has ridden in my ’08 Charger and ’10 Challenger have mentioned how great the seats are.

  • avatar

    Chrysler needs to continue the Magnum. A Magnum available with the 6.4-Liter and AWD would probably eat into Jeep sales.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I drive several of these at work. They’re not fast like you would expect them to be, the Avalon, Impala, and even the 200 V6 feel much faster, and the interior is quite cheap. I don’t think the 300′s is much better, save for that ridiculously expensive one with the stitched leather. Both use a very hard, rubbery dash that feels like a tire. I do like the fact that the exterior door handles are the lift up kind, a dying breed these days.

    People request them ALL the time (probably so they can feel “cool” and get noticed since they turn heads) and 95% of the time they come back completely trashed inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      People request them because they’re fun to drive and don’t look like a Camcord. Can’t wait for the coming Guilia based rear wheel drive Avenger and Ghibli based Charger.

      BTW, the original Road Runner proudly didn’t have much of an interior.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The 200 with the same engine definitely IS faster than the 3.6L Charger with the 5 speed. The Charger with the 8 speed is probably on par. Likewise with the Impala. Can’t say I’ve driven an Avalon in about 10 years, so I have no idea.

  • avatar
    david42

    Spot-on review. We rented this exact car last year, and it was a perfect highway cruiser… except for the you’re-not-going-blind-you’re-just-in-a-Dodge view. Though the interior quality was disappointing, it isn’t bad enough to discourage me from buying one.

    (A few years ago, we cross-shopped a Charger w/Hemi against a Hyundai Genesis V6. The Hyundai won–better view, better materials, better performance. But we quickly sold it because of the neurotic suspension. If it had the Charger’s ride, we’d probably still be driving it.)

  • avatar
    mored

    Good review. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of my head the information I read last year about this time dealing with the extraordinarlily high theft rates of rental Chargers and how easy they are to break into.

  • avatar
    racer193

    I am the kinda guy who will hold the door for anyone and still use the manners that I was taught when I was a youngster. Also I despretly want a black on red leather 300c with the 8 speed. The problem with tbat is it seems that everyone else round these parts wants one too, and there are none within 400km of here.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    It’s amazing how bad the rental interiors of Chrysler vehicles can get. The 8-speed is standard equipment on every trim level above “SE”, which means this Charger is as low-spec as they get.

    A buddy of mine’s mother recently bought a ’13 Charger SXT Plus, 3.6L AWD. It’s got a few extra options checked, but nothing crazy. It has one of the nicer interiors I’ve ever seen in a car.

    IMO, basing a review on a rock-bottom-base-model rental car with the “Poverty Package” is just as misleading as basing a review on a manufacturer supplied car with the “Premium Luxury Land Yacht” option selected.

    • 0 avatar
      carrya1911

      I got the impression Jack was reviewing *this* car, as in the particular vehicle he was driving. He’s 100% right: The lowest spec Chargers, in keeping with fine Chrysler tradition, are kind of a depressing sea of cheap materials. IF you read back through his reviews he said much the same about a bargain basement rental Camry he did a writeup on some time ago.

      How much better the upmarket option packages are is open to interpretation.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    Traded a previous generation Charger in on a new Accord earlier this year. Loved my Charger’s good points. Among them was the remarkable stability and handling the car managed despite being 4,200 pounds. You could really throw it around even on rough roads. In the Accord driving in a spiritied manner the other day I encountered a bump in the road that unsettled the back end enough to say “That’s as far as you go, Holmes.”

    I’d driven over that same bump in the Charger many times at even more spiritied speeds and didn’t even notice its existence.

    The things it does well, it does better than anything remotely near the pricepoint, IMO. (Great handling for the size vehicle it is, comfortable, superb highway cruiser, roomy, good stereo, etc.)

    It’s just that the things that aren’t so hot that drive you nuts. Like driving down the interstate at 80 MPH and then suddenly the entire gauge cluster loses its mind and all the needles begin shooting all over the place and the climate control system randomly turns on and off. Or maybe the fact that it came with brakes that must have been stolen from a Neon and were hopeless at stopping 4,200 pounds of angry steel on descent down mountain roads without warping and turning the brake pedal into a dubstep pedal. Touch it and WUBWUBWUBWUBWUB….(R1 Concepts slotted rotors and Hawk performance pads properly bedded helped massively, but single piston calipers can only do so much)

    I loved my Charger, but I parted with it because I got the impression that it didn’t really love me. So I bought a manual Accord and it doesn’t inspire the same sense of love (people always loved my Charger. They always wanted to talk about it and seemed to be rooting for it somehow…which was kind of cool) but it’s at least likely to be reliable over the long haul.

    I still drive by the Dodge dealership and see the Chargers in a line and smile sort of the same way you smile at the really attractive chick in the too-short shorts with the nosering and the tattoo on her thigh. She’s a lot of fun, but you know it probably won’t end well in the long term. Better to lease, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Huge difference in quality and brakes for this generation Charger. When this 2nd generation Charger first came out, a local dealer brought one over to our small independent car lot to ferry some trade-in’s over to their lot and we had a 2011 Honda Accord Ex trade-in with 1100 miles, it was a slow day so everyone had a chance to drive both cars and even the pro-Honda people were shocked at how much sturdier and less road noise the Charger had. Plus that Pentastar is a big plus over the last generation Charger or that 2011 Accord V6.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m with Bill. Second gen LX cars are quite an improvement, though I’ve had more seat time in the Hemi 300Cs.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          I’ll join Bill and Derek on this. the second gen cars are a dramatic improvement, even in base form, in both how they go down the road and that interior. the first gens are literally trash can plastics inside. at least the second gens, even in Charger SE form, aren’t that hard. lucky guy Derek that you get to spend so much time in the Hemi 300s though haha.

          To all those worried about the long term reliability, you can always spring for Chrysler’s best in the business lifetime bumper to bumper warranty. As I said above in my post about the fuel economy, I wish the mpg was more because this, a Challenger, or a 300C are the sort of cars I could see myself being content to drive for 20+ years and with that warranty, I would do it.

          • 0 avatar
            billfrombuckhead

            Pentastar V6 is again on Wards 10 Best list for application in Ram truck.

            http://wardsauto.com/vehicles-amp-technology/chrysler-v-6-shines-both-cars-and-trucks

          • 0 avatar
            carrya1911

            Having had some dealings with Chrysler warranties, I’m a tad skittish of them as well.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    I love the Challenger – so I think I would like the Charger. I heard the revamped interiors are really nice though. So surprised Jack didn’t like this one.

    Also you can seemingly get them pretty cheap. I always think going buy MSRP with Chrysler products is wrong. The domestics always seem to have a lot of cash back deals.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      The interior is full of soft touch surfaces – a lot more than the Camcord. I think the issue is the surface finish and grain of the material (especially the dash and door tops) makes it look cheaper than it really is.

  • avatar
    pb35

    Love my ’12 R/T. The only soft spot so far has been the brakes. They must use some cheap rotors on my so called “heavy duty” brakes that are part of the Road and Track package. I am working with the dealer to get it sorted out once and for all.

    Other than that, I wished that I leased it for 2 years so I could get another one next year!


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