POSTED: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 10:15am
UPDATED: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 10:03am
If you are just the right age, say my age for instance; one of your fondest cinematic memories is the granddaddy of all car chases, the roaring, roller-coaster ride in the Steve McQueen cop flick Bullitt. And as everyone remembers, it involved McQueen in his moss-green Mustang GT trying to catch a pair of hitmen in their jet black Dodge Charger. It was a pretty even match, as the real thing would have been, because what the Mustang gained in smaller size and weight, it lost against the power of the immortal Dodge Hemi V8.
But the Hemi is back and so is the Charger. Born in 1966 as a bigger brother to the Barracuda, it disappeared in 1974. But now but it returned a couple of years back, with big, chunky styling whose charms were not universally appreciated.
Now a big character line on the side, and full width taillights are the norm. The grill is pushed forward and makes for a more aggressive front end.
I like the front, don’t like the back, and prefer the old slab sides of the earlier model.
But frankly who cares, the new Charger is a blast to drive, in a blunt instrument sort of way because now, it comes in all-wheel drive form which adds road manners to the mix.
Inside the Charger is a cockpit that those hitmen in Bullitt could only dream of. The new school of Chrysler interior design is clean and a bit spare. It works and because it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t, adds a simplicity and class to the interior of a reasonably priced vehicle.
And the leather is simply gorgeous, an ornagy redish sort of a deal that looks just flat elegant. Seats that are firm, but frankly a bit flat for spirited driving, are still a comfortable perch from which to control this beast.
Did I say beast? Well…yes. The Charger R/T, like its 300 sister-ship, is powered by the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The Hemi is good for 370-horsepower and will immediately pin you to your seat the minute the go-pedal is pressed. The 5-speed gearbox shifts smoothly and frankly, as with most slushbox performance cars these days, I find the sort-of, kind-of manual sort of a thingy transmission unnecessary given how good simply placing it in “D” and hitting the gas works.
Here’s where the all-wheel-drive comes in. This is a big car with nearly 4000 pounds to throw into a corner, and unless you opt for the OH-MI-GOSH SRT8 version with its 6.1-liter, 465-horse mill and go-kart suspension, handling was not the Charger’s forte’. It is now what the English call a “Gentlemen’s Express.” It is an elegant, fast way to cover ground from point A to point B while cosseting the average driver in the degree of luxury that over 30-large ought to command. Yes, our Charger R/T came to $37,165 loaded up.