I, too, was in the Chrysler Design Dome in December 2008 when the beleaguered automaker unveiled the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 to a skeptical media corps. I returned to the Automobile Magazine editorial offices that day and declared to my colleagues that the two big American sedans I had seen were "world-class designs that could only have been created in Detroit." I said that it would be a crying shame if they weren't built, and a cruel irony, because as I said then and continue to believe now, there isn't another automaker in the world that can design a mass-market sedan as well as Chrysler can. Note my qualifier: "mass-market." Sure, Audi and Maserati and others makes beautiful sedans, but they're premium products, not accessible to everyday folks. The Dodge Charger, to my eyes, looks exactly right. It's got American swagger, sure, but it's also got finesse, style, and elegance. I remembered all this when I parked the Charger in front of my house, stepped back, and had a good look at it. Nice.
As Phil describes, it's an evocative American driving experience to be behind the wheel of a handsome, rear-wheel-drive American sedan with a big V-8 under the hood, and indeed I enjoyed the big 5.7-liter Hemi in this R/T. The truth is, most Charger buyers will get Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6, currently paired with the five-speed automatic but available this fall with a new, eight-speed transmission from ZF, the big German transmission specialist. I don't think the eight-speed will be offered with the Hemi V-8, only with the V-6. That combination, one would hope, should allow the Charger to achieve more than 25 mpg on the highway. We shall see.
Like Phil, I also really like Dodge's new center stack design, which does a brilliant job of marrying new technology with the old technology that we all still like and want, like rotating knobs to tune the radio. The touch-screen interface here is intuitive and delightful rather than frustrating and annoying.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor