12 MONTH CAR REVIEWS: 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus - All Grown-Up?

January 23, 2012
2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus Front Three Quarters
View All (10) Photos
The Dodge Charger exists in a class of one. Its attitude, style, and rear-wheel drive distance it from an otherwise bland segment defined by the unexceptional Ford Taurus, Chevy Impala, and Toyota Avalon. As much as we respect the Charger's swagger, though, we could never get past its less compelling traits -- tired six-cylinder engines, sluggish transmissions, and a dour interior.
With the 2011 redesign, Dodge moved to address every major complaint we'd levied against the previous Charger. The interior achieves unseen levels of quality for a Chrysler product with a dual-gloss dashboard, genuine aluminum trim, and a crisp, 8.4-inch touch screen. The new 3.6-liter V-6 measures up to the competition with 292 hp. Perhaps most critically, the five-speed automatic can be replaced with an optional eight-speed -- the same ZF-supplied gearbox found in many BMWs and Audis. The Charger's comprehensive revitalization was as surprising as the entire Chrysler Group's rapid resurgence, and at our annual awards test, the big sedan sauntered away with one of ten All-Stars.
2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus Front Three Quarters
Curious if American machismo can truly co-exist with sophisticated manners, we ordered a 2012 Charger for a yearlong evaluation. Starting with the $31,420 SXT Plus netted the six-cylinder engine paired with the eight-speed automatic, plus passive entry and push-button start; heated, power adjustable, Nappa leather seats; heated and cooled cup holders; heated second-row seats; satellite radio; and the touch-screen infotainment unit. We added adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, navigation, a backup camera, and the $1495 blacktop package, which includes sport bucket seats, a nine-speaker stereo, paddle shifters, a sport suspension, and 20-inch gloss-black wheels, bringing the total to $34,835.
That our imposing, monochromatic Charger has the presence of a police cruiser hasn't escaped us. We're hoping the paint scheme will improve our chances to fly both under the proverbial radar and past the very real radar gun. Within a week of its arrival, the Charger was already returning results; a Detroit police officer approached our illegally double-parked Charger, not to ticket it, but thinking that its driver, West Coast editor Jason Cammisa, was one of his own. (Quite the opposite, sir.)
Back in Ann Arbor, the Charger has been reminding our staff that it wasn't an imposter among our All-Star winners. "I was pleased by the superb Bluetooth interface and the touch-screen navigation system," reported deputy editor Joe DeMatio after his first drive. "The driver's seat seems really comfortable, so it will be interesting to see if it stands up to a long trip," he added.
2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus Engine
The new gearbox has also set about erasing the reputation established by the Chrysler transmissions we were driving just half a year earlier. "The shifts from the eight-speed aren't as crisp or as quick as those from the same gearbox in a German luxury car," noted senior editor Joe Lorio, "but they're much better timed and more precise than what you got with the reluctant five-speed. The three additional cogs also address the issue we experienced with our long-term Jeep Grand Cherokee, that there wasn't an appropriate gear for highway passing maneuvers."
While we love that the Charger's styling is as bold as ever, the road manners have evolved into something much more civilized. We're eager to see if the grown-up Charger will last twelve months without revealing a single old habit that could be lurking beneath the surface.
Body style 4-door sedan
Accommodation 5-passenger seating
Construction Steel unibody
Engine 3.6-liter DOHC Pentastar V-6 engine
Displacement 3.6 liters (220 cu. in.)
Power 292 hp @ 6350 rpm
Torque 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic transmission
Drive Rear-wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 19/31/23 (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist
Lock-to-lock 2.6
Turning circle 37.7 ft
Suspension, Front Control arm
Suspension, Rear Multilink
Brakes F/R Vented disc
Wheels 20-in. aluminum wheels
Tires Firestone Firehawk GTV
Tire size 245/45R20
Headroom F/R 38.6/36/6 in
Legroom F/R 41.8/40.1 in
Shoulder room F/R 59.5/57.9 in
Wheelbase 120.2 in
Track F/R 63.4/63.8 in
L x W x H 199.9 x 75.0 x 58.4 in
Cargo capacity 16.5 cu ft
Weight 3996 lb
Weight dist. F/R 52/48
Fuel capacity 19.1 gal
Est. fuel range 439 miles
Fuel grade 87 octane (regular unleaded)
STANDARD EQUIPMENT 3.6-liter DOHC Pentastar V-6 engine 8-speed automatic transmission Four-wheel antilock disc brakes 18-in. aluminum wheels Stability and traction control Keyless entry and ignition Hill start assist Tire pressure monitoring system w/display Touring suspension Electro-hydraulically-assisted steering Color electronic vehicle information display Remote start system 8-way power driver's seat w/4-way power lumbar adjustment Heated front seats Rear armrest w/cup holder SiriusXM satellite radio w/one-year subscription Universal garage door opener Uconnectfi voice command w/Bluetoothfi Uconnect Touch w/8.4-inch display Auxiliary audio jack USB port 6 premium speakers
Charger SXT Plus $2,000 Nappa leather seats Security alarm Heated second-row seats Power 4-way passenger lumbar adjust Heated and cooled front cup holders Front overhead LED lighting Driver and passenger lower LED lamps Power front seats 18-inch aluminum wheels Rear stabilizer bar
Blacktop package $1,495 Sport mode 2 Paddle shifters 9 speakers w/506-watt amplifier and subwoofer Sport leather bucket seats 20-inch gloss black aluminum wheels Gloss black grille Performance suspension
Adaptive cruise control group $925 Adaptive speed control Forward collision warning Heated steering wheel
Navigation/rear back up camera group $995 SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link w/one-year subscriptions Rearview camera Garmin navigation system

Long-Term 2012 Dodge Charger Reviews to Date:

2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus - All Grown-Up?
go back to top of article


Photo Gallery

Select a Vehicle

Select a vehicle to research pricing, photos, compare and much more
research now

Research A Vehicle

Select a vehicle to research pricing, see photos, compare similar vehicles and much more.
Research Now

Top Lists

Find Local Car Deals