I'm a sucker for the Dodge Charger. I first saw this sedan several years ago at a Chrysler corporate preview event that was, not coincidentally, staged at the same time the CEO was asking the government for funding to keep the company's doors open. No matter what you think of the bailout, you can't deny that this is a spectacular sedan.
With the death of Ford's Panther platform, Chrysler and Dodge are the only domestic brands left with big, comfortable, rear-wheel-drive sedans. In a strange twist of fate, this most American of executions comes courtesy of an old partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which contributed the rear suspension from a previous E-class platform. No matter the origins of the underpinnings, the Charger team has given this car a distinctly American style and attitude. The aggressive front end, bold treatment of the taillights, and big chrome wheels certainly set the Charger apart from the likes of the Ford Taurus or the Buick LaCrosse. The other large American sedans are also front-wheel drive, and are a lot less fun to hustle along your favorite stretch of road.
For 2011 Dodge not only gave the Charger a new look and a new interior, but also a highly credible V-6 engine. The timing couldn't have been better as we're seeing the price of gas rising again. Perhaps the Charger's 18/27 mpg city/highway ratings sound low with all the 40+ mpg compact-car fuel economy figures we've been hearing about lately, but the Charger easily offers enough room for passengers and luggage to replace an SUV or crossover. If all-wheel-drive is a requirement, there's a Charger for you, too, although it requires stepping up to the Hemi V-8 and stepping down a few mpg. But I imagine a big percentage of the people who like the idea of an AWD Charger won't mind trading a few mpg for the extra oomph of the Hemi.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor