Dodge impresses with both the kick-ass SRT8 and the more modest SXT


BIG BRO, LITTLE BRO | The bold HEMI-powered Charger SRT8, top, makes the classic muscle car even more striking, but the familiar lines of the SXT is still impressive — and more affordable.

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer
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Buffalo chicken wings come in shades of spicy that start with just a wake-up call for your taste buds to flaming six-alarm fire.

The same could be said for the re-designed 2012 Dodge Charger. There’s no shame in buying the V6-powered SXT; however, the HEMI-powered SRT8 brings wicked pleasures.

Styling on the new Charger is a mix of General Lee and The Terminator. You can see the classic look of 40 years ago in the side scallops, taillamps, fastback roofline and long nose. The theme is updated with a rear wing, low front splitter, and expert body shaping that makes the car aerodynamic without turning out jelly bellys. A blind monk wouldn’t miss the 164 LEDs that form the taillamps. auto2

Red Brembo brakes, 20-in. alloys, functional hood air extractor, and aggressive front facia caused grown men to whimper upon seeing the SRT8.

I was even pulled out of a Subway so four guys could pelt me with questions.

Under the skin of both cars is a vehicle architecture derived from the late-‘90s Mercedes E-Class. While those components may be little-old-lady among the current Autobahn-burners from Bavaria, they are wholly world-class on America’s full-size interstates. Stiff body structures are tomb solid and allow the firm independent suspension system to soak up rough pavement or clip through corners when asked.

Better still, an adaptive damping system on SRT8s automatically tunes the suspension for varying driving conditions by monitoring throttle position, vehicle speed, steering angle, steering speed, brake torque and lateral acceleration.

ADS allows the car to waft down the highway with a slight float, but with the touch of the “Sport” mode button, stiffens for aggressive handling.

The transformation is near magical. This is a supercar that can be loaded with peeps and driven to Key West without busting a bubble.

Whoever you invite for a drive, they will ride in a cabin worthy of a high-end German but with enough American flair to domesticate anyone.

Both test cars had bright red leather seats, bolstered and ventilated in the SRT8. Aluminum trim on the dashboard and console added a classic touch, as did the acres-wide dashboard with ginormous touchscreen. Large analog gauges, gated gear selector and alloy pedals incited waves of machismo. Rear passengers are nearly as comfortable as in the front and all can take whatever luggage their hearts desire.

Designers cleverly fitted a heap of technology into the Charger’s muscle car interior. Whoever developed the world’s easiest-to-use touchscreen should be given a prize. One can select the mode (radio, navigation, climate, etc.) from clearly-marked icons at the bottom of the screen. Once there, all functions are color coded, labeled and segregated in a way that would make Apple envious. Large volume and tuning knobs sit below to make the basics intuitive. Finally an auto company installed a navigation system that is as easy to program as a Garmin.


STYLING GONE WILD | The lush, colorful interior of the SRT8 still is unfussy, with just what you need to cause heads to turn but not to distract you from driving. (Photos courtesy of Dodge)

Beyond touchscreens, Alpine (V6) and Harman Kardon (SRT8) audio systems sounded great. Both of our test cars also came with adaptive cruise control (automatically keeps a safe distance, slowing as necessary). Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Warning, Rear Cross Path detection, and SmartBeam headlamps are also available. SRT8 owners can have fun on track days with an information center that monitors 0–60 mph times, quarter-mile performance, 60–0 mph braking distance, and g-forces.

Coaxing digits is SXT’s the aluminum “Pentastar” 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 292hp and 19/31-MPG city/hwy. That’s not quite up to standards set by Camaro and Mustang, but will strip the socks off your mother. To get things boiling, go full-nuclear and select the SRT8’s 6.4-liter V8 that fwumps out 470hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque. Thanks to variable-displacement, which shuts down four cylinders at cruise, the super-naught still turns in 14/23-MPG city/hwy. The V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission while the SRT8 routes its wrath to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic. Both can be paddle-shifted for a boat of fun.

Even mild wings can make your tongue wiggle, and that’s true of the V6-powered Charger SXT. For most drivers, it has all of the performance they can imagine. Order it with all the sauces and you’ll be delighted. If your evil self needs to cackle at every crack of the throttle and spicy nugget, blast out with the SRT8.

Our loaded SXT came to $34,935 while the SRT8 clicked in just under $50K.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 27, 2012.