I was expecting to walk away from the six-cylinder Charger believing this muscle machine -- which finally looks as muscular as its name suggests -- is best experienced with the rootin, tootin' Hemi stuffed under the hood. But after driving it, I'm whistling a completely different tune.
Granted, the 3.6-liter V-6 that is quickly being ushered into almost every Chrysler product doesn't produce the same sexy burble or spine-snapping torque as the company's 5.7-liter V-8. But for once, the six-cylinder offering isn't horribly devoid of power. On paper, the so-called Pentastar V-6 produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque; in the real world, it's surprisingly adept at hustling the 3961-pound Charger, even though it's mated to an aging five-speed automatic.
Smoky burnouts and stoplight drag races aren't this engine's forte, but fuel economy certainly is. At 18/27 mpg (city/highway), it bests the eight-cylinder version by two mpg all around and is on par with a base front-wheel-drive Ford Taurus.
What I'm most impressed with, however, is that buyers no longer need to sacrifice content, comfort, or style when opting for the six-cylinder engine. Apart from two fewer cylinders, this V-6 car is virtually identical to the eight-cylinder R/T we had here last week -- same outstanding styling, same sharp 20-inch chrome wheels, and the same impeccable interior. Add an R/T badge in the right places, and it'd be easy to fool almost anyone into thinking that thing does, in fact, have a Hemi.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The new Dodge Charger is significantly improved over the 2010 model in many ways, and the base V-6 engine is one of them. Whereas the car was previously available with a 2.7-liter V-6 and a 3.5-liter V-6, both very old designs, the car now boasts Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. The new engine produces an extra 42 hp compared with the previous 3.5-liter and is rated at 1 more mpg in the city and 2 more on the freeway. During my test drive, it was clear to me that this powertrain has ample power for the average consumer and should please the vast majority of potential buyers.
As a fan of Mopar muscle, it'd be worth the extra $2750 and 2-mpg sacrifice to get that Hemi power, sound, and performance to go along with this car's great looks, newly excellent interior, and long heritage.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor