Base Price (MSRP):$25,495.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $37,335.00
View The 2012 Dodge Charger Specifications
| Review by: Ted West
An unequivocally American muscle car.
The 2012 Dodge Charger lineup is composed of the Charger SE, Charger SXT, Charger R/T, and Charger SRT8.
Charger SE ($25,495) comes standard with a 3.6-liter 292-hp V6, rear-wheel drive, 5-speed automatic transmission with manual selection, cloth upholstery, 6-way power driver's seat, 60/40 split rear seat, cruise control, manual tilt-telescopic steering column, power windows with express front up/down, rear window defroster, 4.3-inch touch-screen audio and media center, six audio speakers, USB port with iPod control, auxiliary input jack, power door locks, keyless remote, push-button start, power trunk-lid release, two 12-volt outlets, intelligent battery sensor, LED-illuminated front cup holders, rear seat armrest with cup holders, map pockets front and rear, illuminated sun visor vanity mirrors, front overhead console, LED-illuminated rear handles and reading lamps, electronic color vehicle information center, urethane shift knob and steering wheel, trunk cargo net and full trunk liner with emergency deck-lid release, dual deck-lid lamps.
Charger SXT ($28,495) upgrades with halogen fog lamps, heated power mirrors, dual-zone front climate controls, humidity sensor, LED-illuminated front/rear map pockets, front overhead console with dome lamp and universal HomeLink, LED front-row illumination, 8.4-inch touch-screen display with voice command, premium Alpine 8-speaker audio, 12-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, 180-amp alternator, automatic defog, remote start. Connectivity Group for SXT ($395) includes voice command with Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and leather-wrapped shift knob.
Charger R/T ($29,995) features the 5.7-liter 370-bhp Hemi V8 with Decel Fuel Shut Off (DFSO). The optional R/T Driver Confidence Group ($995) adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, parking view rear backup camera, high-intensity headlamps, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, rain-sensing wipers and smart-beam headlamps.
Charger SRT8 ($45,795) boasts a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 470 hp plus a special SRT heated steering wheel with paddle shifters for manual shifting, a two-mode adaptive damping suspension, and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon 900-watt audio system.
Options include the Driver Convenience Group for SXT Plus and R/T Plus ($575) includes heated and ventilated front seats with driver memory, power-adjustable heated mirrors with memory, power-adjustable pedals with memory, power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory. Adaptive Cruise Control Group for SXT Plus, R/T Plus, and R/T Road & Track ($925) adds forward collision warning with adaptive cruise control and heated steering wheel. Navigation Group ($795) includes voice command with Garmin navi, SIRIUS Traffic, SIRIUS Travel Link, and parking view rear backup camera.
Safety features on all Dodge Chargers includes electronic traction control (TCS), electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist, rain brake support, hill-start assist, automatic headlamps, active front head restraints, all federally mandated airbags (seven), front seatbelt pretensioners, lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH), occupant restraint controller. Available all-wheel drive can improve handling stability in adverse conditions, and the available rearview camera can help the driver spot a child behind the car when backing up.
This latest-generation Dodge Charger is immediately recognizable. The front says it's a Dodge, a design theme that began life on, of all things, the upright first-generation Dodge Ram pickup truck. The two vehicles could not be more different, yet the aggressive, muscular cruciform grille suits both perfectly. Achieving that kind of unmistakable model-line identity is no small achievement.
In like manner, the tail of the Charger uses the same array of full-width taillamps made famous on the Charger in the '60s. It's a handsome look that is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with historic Dodge styling cues. The Charger expresses pride in where Dodge, Chrysler Corporation, and for that matter, all American cars have been during the last few turbulent decades.
The body of the second-generation modern Charger is crisply styled throughout. It is considerably edgier and more muscular than its immediate predecessor, which had great promise but was, by comparison, a bit of a lump. Along the sides of the car are slanting, angular indentations that echo the racy rear-facing engine-room vents made so famous on the all-conquering Dodge Viper supercar. In the Charger, these are unmistakably bad looking in all of the right street-savvy ways.
Continuing this street look, in profile, the car's dramatically low roofline tapers downward rapidly at the car's mid-point. In combination with its high waistline and compressed greenhouse, the car expresses a secretive, almost hot-rod chopped appearance. Occupants seem to peer outward from sinister gun slit-like windows. Yet for all of its hunched-over appearance, the occupants' outward visibility is quite good enough.
When the Charger's dynamic outward appearance is combined with its strong performance, this is an American muscle sedan with the credentials to appeal to a broad range of tastes.
Examining the Charger's interior, we started in the back seat to investigate just how limited seating room might be underneath this low roofline. Inevitably, tall backseat passengers will have to scrunch down a little, though moderately tall riders will be just fine. The rear cabin is comfortable and roomy without being huge. The top of the backlight has multi-linear applique black stripes, providing a bit of shade from the sun and simultaneously creating the impression from outside that the rear window is even lower and more hooded.
The rear seat is firm and supportive, with a fairly hard back-cushion. A central pull-down elbow rest contains two cup holders and a stowage compartment. Dual rear-seat climate vents are provided, together with a 12-volt outlet and rear seat heaters. Deluxe.
Beautiful plum-shaded Nappa leather upholstery is furnished throughout. The front-seat display is mildly spartan, but not in the sense of being cold or under-supplied. Rather, the instrumentation has attractive, classy white-on-black dials. The display, uncomplicated and straightforward, is simple modern.
The dashboard has a sleek, scooped-out titanium-look central motif. Below the tachometer (which no longer has a redline because automatic shifting prevents over-revving) and speedometer are a water temperature gauge and a fuel gauge. Also included in the instrumentation is a compass and an exterior temperature readout.
Between these instruments, an Info board delivers a list of performance parameters, including coolant temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, transmission temperature, engine hours, tire pressure and several measures of instant and trip fuel mileage. Our one complaint here was that gaining access to this Info board's numerous categories of data was confusing and took some non-intuitive hunting around.
The navi screen, by contrast, was excellent, intuitive, and immediately accessible. Navigation is by simple plan view. The screen is bright, easily read and devoid of complex graphics. Its touch-screen offers Radio, Controls, Climate, Navigation, Phone and More, the latter signifying Sirius Travel Link and a Settings inventory. New for 2012, the system has been upgraded, with hands-free texting, voice commands for Garmin navigation, Sirius Traffic, and full iPod control features. Suddenly, Chrysler and Dodge have one of the best navigation systems available today.
On the steering wheel are controls for the Info board, voice activation and cruise control. On the rear of the steering wheel, where the paddle shifters would be on the R/T Road & Track model, we found a complex set of six different touch buttons. These were designed for manipulating radio volume, selecting stations, bands and pre-selects, but they were a classic instance of too much of a good thing. Mastering which of these buttons controlled what functions, and using the buttons efficiently for their intended purpose would take some serious concentration.
In place of paddle shifters, our test car had a sequential 5-speed manu-matic shifter: It operated independently or could be manually selected. The system had a nice provision whereby if you wanted to cancel manual shifting and return to automatic, you simply push the lever to the right for about one second. Immediately, the transmission returns to selecting its own gears. The manual selector delivered fast, positive manual shifts. Excellent.
In the center console, our test car had two heated-or-cooled cupholders, a deluxe touch.
The stark four-letter badges on the car's sides say, Hemi. Not a lot more need be said. This is a serious American V8, with torque and horsepower enough to pin you back in your seat or, just as surely, enough poise to potter along as complacently as you like.
And because this is a fully self-confident powerplant, Dodge sees no need to hype it with a sudden, falsely energetic throttle pedal. Throttle response is immediate and proportional, allowing smooth, forceful acceleration.
Dodge's Fuel-Saver Technology cancels four cylinders when they aren't needed, also eliminating needless fuel flow when decelerating. In our test car, EPA-rated City fuel mileage, at 15 mpg, is as meager as would be expected in a big V8. But the Charger's 23 mpg Highway fuel consumption is good, considering that this is nearly six liter's worth of Hemi.
All-wheel drive is always a useful thing to have aboard, delivering massively better traction and dynamic balance in almost any driving. And the minute you begin driving the Charger R/T Plus AWD, it's clear that this car is a complete break from the Dodges of decades ago.
Yet despite our R/T Plus AWD having only Normal Duty suspension, the car proved a remarkably stable, grippy driver. There was only moderate lean, squat or dive during cornering, acceleration or braking. Pushed hard on dry pavement, the all-wheel drive always gives you just a little more cornering grip than you expect.
Ride quality is very good, and the car's solid structure soaks up road surface irregularities with ease. Yet as relatively compliant as the ride is, steering is lively and communicative, keeping you in direct touch with the road. The thick, sturdy leather-wrapped steering wheel underscores the well-developed solidity of the car. With its variable-assist electronic steering, the driver is encouraged to think of this Charger as not nearly as large and cumbersome as outward appearances may suggest. Despite its dimensions, this is a crisp, sporty muscle sedan. It incites confidence and enjoyable driving.
Braking performance is exemplary. The R/T Road & Track model boasts bigger, more forceful Brembo disc brakes, good for reducing fade when driving on a race track and repeatedly hammering the brakes. The R/T Plus AWD Package includes 13.6-inch vented front discs and 12.6-inch vented rear discs. (In non-AWD R/T Plus models, the front and rear brake rotors are both 12.6 inches.) The 13.6-inch brakes provided massive, balanced non-skid stopping power, especially in combination with the multiple electronic brake-assist technologies of rain brake support, ready alert braking, electronic stability control, all-speed traction control and hill-start assist.
The Charger SRT8 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in the high 4-second range and can cover the standing quarter-mile in the high 12-second range. Top speed is 175 mph, according to Dodge. The SRT8 can brake from 60-0 mph in 120 feet.
The 2012 Dodge Charger is a dynamic, forceful road car that starts, stops and corners with poise. If Dodge had come anywhere near to this kind of Charger years ago, the company would have been every buyer's hero. This is an American sedan to be proud of.
Ted West filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report.