The Dodge Charger may look the same as last year’s model, but it has been upgraded in some significant ways. The most noteworthy change to the lineup is the return of the high-performance SRT8, which is powered by the same 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 found under the hood of the Challenger SRT8. The muscular V-8, which is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, delivers 45 more hp and 50 more lb-ft of torque than the 6.1-liter it replaces, bumping the numbers up to 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Despite the extra dose of power, Dodge has managed to improve the fuel efficiency of the SRT8 by 21 percent (to 23 mpg highway) by using a fuel-saving technology that allows the engine to run on fewer cylinders when it is under a light load. The SRT8 is welcome news, and equally welcome is the appearance of Chrysler’s new eight-speed automatic transmission in the SXT and SXT Plus models; it’s available as an option in the SE. The new transmission, which is available only with the 292-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, results in quicker acceleration, smoother shifts, and improved fuel efficiency — 31 mpg on the highway. The Dodge Charger is a vehicle that makes a statement both visually and dynamically. With a slew of options, improved efficiency and power, and a whole lot of emotion, this is a sedan that should appeal across a fairly broad spectrum of car buyers.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim Levels: SE, SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Road & Track, R/T Max, SRT8
Body style: Sedan, 5-passenger
Engines: 3.6L V-6, 292 hp, 260 lb-ft
5.7L V-8, 370 hp, 395 lb-ft
6.4L V-8, 470 hp, 470 lb-ft
Transmissions: 5- or 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 104.7 cu ft
Cargo space: 15.4 cu ft

The big news for 2012 is the eight-speed automatic transmission, which is available with the V-6 engine. The SRT8 also finds its way back into the lineup. New performance and technology features include sport seats, paddle shifters, hands-free texting, and a color electronic vehicle information center. The Charger’s Trim Levels have been renamed for 2012.

Standard safety equipment includes front, knee, side, and side curtain air bags; ABS with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution; traction and stability control; and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

All: 14-19 mpg city/23-31 mpg highway

  • Eight-speed automatic
  • Return of the SRT8
  • Available all-wheel drive
  • Big and heavy
  • Extroverted styling

Welcome back, SRT8.

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