Tuesday

2007 Dodge Charger R/T review

One of the most iconic names in Chrysler’s lineup is Charger. It invokes images of power, speed, and muscle. In 2006, Dodge launched an updated car carrying the legendary nameplate. It was released in conjunction with the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum wagon. All three shared the same underpinnings, but were aimed at different markets.

Compare the new Charger with the old and the first thing you’ll notice is that the new one has too many doors. Whether or not that bothers you probably depends more on your age than anything else. If you have memories of two door Chargers tearing up Woodward, this may not be a “real” Charger to you. Does driving this new one live up to being a “real” Charger though? Read on……

This series of cars showcases the best that came from the failed Daimler/Chrysler marriage. Much of the platform was sourced from the last generation Mercedes E-Series – you know, the one from when Mercedes still made a decent car. Open up the engine bay and it’s all American in there – a Hemi V8 sits waiting to be unleashed. This actually made me excited to try this car. European underpinnings combined with a Hemi V8. Chassis from a place where chassis’ excel, and a powerful 8 cylinder from the place that makes those correctly too. Sounds like a fantastic combination to me.

Outside Dodge nailed the styling. It looks menacing, mean, and powerful when it rolls down the road. The aftermarket has especially taken to this car; appearance upgrades are many and plentiful. No doubt you’ve seen plenty of good and bad examples of this in your own travels.

Step inside though and you can tell the Mercedes influence came to an abrupt end. Granted, this is not supposed to compete with Mercedes, but they could’ve done better. Boring, cheap, grey plastics that wouldn’t look out of place on a Rubbermaid laundry basket adorn most surfaces. The giant steering wheel makes you feel like you about to pilot a cruise ship, not a road rocket. Spring for the Road and Track package and you get a pair of heavily bolstered chairs in the front. (SRT interior pic included to show sport seats) They are quite comfortable and will hold you securely in spirited driving. I did sit in a model with the standard seats. If you’re familiar with the term “flat as a pancake” then you can guess how I felt about those.

Back seat room and trunk room are both adequate. Gauges are very readable with black numbers on a white background. Check off a few option boxes and the R/T starts getting uncomfortably close to $40k. That’s a lot of coin and puts the Charger up against some hefty competition, most of which have nicer interior accoutrements.

Fire up the motor and the soundtrack definitely shouts American muscle. Put the car on the street, mash the gas and the Charger will pick up speed nicely accompanied by a soundtrack that could only come from an American V8. Pull the shift lever all the way down and manual control of the gearbox is yours. The redline is at a low 5500RPM however. The R/T Hemi motor has the technology to deactivate four cylinders under light loads. The system is pretty much transparent, unlike the system in the G8.

Given that the Charger shares so much of its chassis with the E-class, I expected the Charger to handle better than competently. Remember above when I said the steering wheel looked like you were about to pilot a cruise ship? That observation is confirmed as soon as you turn the wheel. The Charger’s steering gives all the feel and feedback that any other steering system controlling a rudder would give. In fact it feels like Chrysler has housed all the steering components in a tub of pudding to make sure you are completely isolated from anything on the road in front of you. I know this car is as heavy as a cruise ship, but it needn’t drive like one. This is an example where reducing feel and kickback has gone too far. The steering is too light, and you have no idea what the front wheels are doing. Pointing the front end becomes more an exercise in guesswork than precision. This steering setup even makes a Lexus feel like a BMW. When you’re packing 340hp to the rear wheels, more control is definitely welcome. What a disappointment. Don’t look for any of the E-class Autobahn breeding to come through in this car. What it feels like it’s best at is covering distances ¼ mile at a time. So if you’re into the stoplight-to-stoplight Grand Prix, this car would work well for you.

Most likely, this will be cross-shopped against the G8 (review here) so let’s do a breakdown. Funny, as close as these two vehicles look on paper, in execution they couldn’t be more different. The Charger has the soundtrack down correctly. You’ll never forget that Hemi powerplant sitting in front of you, whereas the G8 is far too quiet for what it packs under the hood. The Charger gives zero confidence when being hustled, while the G8 at least tries and somewhat succeeds. The interiors on both suck, so that’s a tie. While styling is always subjective, the G8 comes across as trying too hard, so I’ll give the nod to the Charger. When you ring both up at the cash register, the G8 wins the value battle by a mile. Unfortunately, in the end, neither car on its own is entirely satisfying.

If you could take the G8’s handling, the Charger’s powertrain, and spend a couple of bucks on the interior (split the price difference between the G8 and Charger perhaps?) then you would have a serious, value-oriented sport sedan. At this point though, I’m dreaming. Either way you go, all that you have is a couple of mediocre alternatives to pick from that don’t show well against other cars in their respective price ranges. Deals are readily available; both need deep discounts to move off the lot. In fact if you just HAVE to have a Charger, pick one up that is a year or two old. Depreciation on these (even top range SRT-8 models) is eye-popping.

So yes, I would say this car lives up to the Charger nameplate. It has strong V8 power, indifferent handling, and a less-than spruced up interior – just like in the ‘60’s. But we’re not living in the ‘60’s anymore. More is expected now. I wanted the Charger to work better than it did, especially with its Daimler-donated components. It doesn’t need to dance around a backroad like a Euro sled (even I’ll admit that’s not the point of this car), but if they’re going to give you a fun powertrain, they should also provide the control to properly use it. They could have done so much more with the tools that they had. My advice – instead of settling and making excuses, check the competition for something else that provides the whole package. You can do a lot better for your hard-earned money.

Photos property of Chrysler

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