Dodge Charger R/T Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
dodge charger r t review

Once upon a time, enthusiasts bought a car's underpinnings from an automaker and then commissioned a coach builder to drop a body on top. The result: non-identical twins. And so it is with today's Dodge Charger R/T and Chrysler 300C. The two cars share chassis, engines, gearboxes, suspensions, wiring systems, the lot. It's not so much platform sharing as automotive cross-dressing. Of course, I don't mean that in a feminine way. The Dodge Boys have given the gangsta C a comprehensive muscle car makeover. But is it enough to lure NASCAR Dads into the showroom?

"Real" muscle car aficionados hate the new Charger on principle. How DARE Chrysler name a four-door sedan after a legendary two-door muscle car? I reckon that's a bit like being anti-Pammie because Ms. Anderson breasts are one cup size too large, but I feel their pain. There's nothing like driving a pavement-scorching two-door Yank tank to make you feel young, sexy and single– especially if you drive with your elbow on the window sill. Yes, well, sorry guys; those days are gone. The first time you strap your tantrumming rug rat into the back of your Charger and slam the rear door, you'll secretly thank The Dodge Boys for sacrificing authenticity for utility.

As far as I can tell, "authentic" muscle car style is based on grafting not-so-subtle performance design cues– scoops, spoilers, decals, raised letter tires, etc.– onto big-engined family cars. By that standard, the R/T lacks sufficient trash talk to compete with muscle cars of yore– or the Charger SRT-8. Once you see THAT bad boy's hood scoop, 18" tires and spoiler, the R/T seems more like a donor car than a Hemified hot rod. Even the graphic-laden Daytona makes the R/T look like a 98-pound weakling.

That said, viewed in fraternal isolation, the R/T's basic shape projects more than enough American aggression to distance itself from the Accords, Infinitis and BMW's of the world. The Charger's hooded headlights, hunkered stance and fastback C-pillar are pure Motown. The sheer size of the beast is another sure sign that the R/T was Born in the USA (via Germany, but that's another story). The pipes are a bit weedy and the wheels are more bling than bad-ass, but props to The Dodge Boys for taking the Mustang's muscle car minimalism to the next level.

The Charger R/T's cabin continues the theme. While pundits have sniped at the Dodge's plain Jane interior for lacking the Chrysler's charisma, die-hard enthusiasts will prefer the Charger's more concise dash and smaller, less pretentious dials. Soft touch black plastic is the dominant material, but its quality saves the Charger from rental car Hell. And there sure is a lot of head and leg room in there… in there… in there. If only the helm didn't look like a decapitated turtle and the test car's AC could chill like a Buddhist monk…

Students of muscle car Zen will be happy to learn that the Charger's 5.7-liter Hemi offers everything they could ever want in a big bore V8: power, power and more power. Three hundred and ninety foot-pounds of torque assure effortlessly brisk progress at a moment's notice. Three hundred and forty horses provides enough sheer grunt to keep your pink slip safe. (The Charger R/T stampedes to sixty in six seconds dead.) Although pistonheads craving aural satisfaction will prefer the deep-throated Daytona and SRT-8 iterations, the R/T's powerplant sings a siren song sampled straight from the 60's.

Unfortunately, the muscle car nostalgia extends to the Charger R/T's flat seats, floaty-drifty suspension and squishy all-season tires. There's only one thing for it: fire the handling nanny, hang on and steer with your right foot. Drifting highly strung rice burners is a fine thing, but nothing beats two finger tail slides in a 4031lbs. American-style sedan. You don't HAVE to do it, but those who do not repeat muscle car history are condemned to a Camry.

Anyway, it's clear that Dodge wants it both ways with this sucker: a value-priced, civilized machine for volume sales and a gen-u-ine muscle car to satisfy the cognoscenti (and cast a warm glow over lesser-engined models). The Dodge Charger R/T sits somewhere in the middle. If the idea of a muscle car with manners appeals, the R/T is all that. But if you're looking for the real deal, save-up for the Charger SRT-8. Having thrashed the 300C SRT-8, I can assure you that the Dodge version will make you forget all about door counts.

Meanwhile, Mustang GT excepted, the Dodge Charger R/T is as good as this post-modern muscle car thing gets. Any NASCAR dad that doesn't high tail it down to his Dodge dealer for a test drive has only himself to blame when someone else's Hemi invades his dreams.

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  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.
  • Cardave5150 I've had 2 different 300's - an '08 300SRT and an '18 300C. Loved them both a LOT, although, by the time I had the second one, I wasn't altogether thrilled with the image of 300's out on the street, as projected by the 3rd or 4th buyers of the cars.I always thought that the car looked a little stubby behind the rear wheels - something that an extra 3-4" in the trunk area would have greatly helped.When the 300 was first launched, there were invitation-only meet-and-greets at the dealerships, reminding me of the old days when new model-year launches were HUGE. At my local dealer, they were all in formalwear (tuxes and elegant dresses) with a nice spread of food. They gave out crystal medallions of the 300 in a sweet little velvet box (I've got mine around the house somewhere). I talked to a sales guy for about 5 minutes before I asked if we could take one of the cars out (a 300C with the 5.7 Hemi). He acted like he'd been waiting all evening for someone to ask that - we jumped in the car and went out - that thing, for the time, seemed to fly.Corey - when it comes time for it, don't forget to mention the slightly-stretched wheelbase 300 (I think it was the 300L??). I've never found one for sale (not that I've looked THAT hard), as they only built them for a couple of years.
  • Jkross22 "I’m doing more for the planet by continuing to drive my vehicle than buying a new one for strictly frivolous reasons."It's not possible to repeat this too much.
  • Jeff S Got to give credit to Chrysler for putting the 300 as a rear wheel drive back on the market. This will be a future classic.
  • Lou_BC How to Fix Auto Media? Stop fixating on soft touch plastics and infotainment systems. I did quite a bit of research on my ZR2. There was no mention of the complexity of putting the transfer case into neutral. (9 step process). They didn't talk about how the exhaust brake works with tow/haul mode. No mention that the exhaust brake does not work with off-road mode. Nannies only stay turned off with the lockers engaged. Only one review mentioned the tail pipe as a vulnerability.