Auto Review: Charging by the gas pump

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Dec. 15, 2011
- Contributed Photo

With all the stress the domestic auto companies have endured the last few years, they’ve managed to not only survive the storm and improve their financial situations, but they have also been hard at work updating and improving their product lines.

Chrysler has certainly been burning the midnight oil in this regard, and has redesigned and/or tweaked a number of their cars, including the Dodge Charger (which received an extensive overhaul for 2011). For 2012, the work continues, and this full-size, rear-drive (or all-wheel drive) sedan has received numerous updates to make the latest version even more desirable than last year’s iteration. The biggest improvement involves the drivetrain, which not only offers good performance, but surprising efficiency, as well. Dodge Brand President Reid Bigland describes the advancement thusly: “Our Charger customers don’t have to compromise, as they can get the fuel efficiency of a mid-size car in a full-size sedan with distinctive styling only available from Dodge.”

The secret to this uncompromising engineering revolves around both the engine on our test SXT Plus, and the new transmission. The state-of-the-art 3.6-liter aluminum Pentastar V-6 engine develops 292 horsepower and is mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission that, in every detail, boasts the latest technology available. This gearbox has a shift lever that is largely electronic, as opposed to purely mechanical, and therefore has a very unique feel. In addition to this interesting interface, there are also paddles on the steering wheel to facilitate manual shifting. In regular automatic mode, the shifts (which are frequent with eight speeds on tap) are reasonably crisp and acceleration is quick, with 60 mph arriving in just under 7 seconds. Ride quality remains good, while handling is responsive thanks to the sport suspension (courtesy of the optional package below). While the Charger has always been fun to drive, it’s more competent than even before. Braking is likewise excellent, with short, well-controlled stops.

The interior of the Charger is a mix of good workmanship and a lot of the latest technology, with attractive instrumentation and a full-color trip computer. Our SXT had the Blacktop Package, which includes (as the Dodge folks describe it), “Unique Pitch Black-painted ‘split crosshair’ grille with Pitch Black matching grille surround, Pitch Black-painted 20-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels, 20-inch all-season performance tires and performance-tuned suspension architecture. Inside, unique sport seats provide extra lateral support for performance driving needs.” The front seats are indeed very supportive, and the rear seats are likewise accommodating, and the atmosphere will pamper your passengers with a quiet, upscale riding experience. Heating elements in the rear seats make winter’s chill less of a problem, too.

The SXT Plus is EPA-rated 19 MPG city/31 highway and we saw 21.4 MPG during our week with the vehicle. The 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus has a base price of $28,495, and with options our sticker came to $37,500.

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