2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is more than muscle

2012 Charger Dodge Review

Dodge Charger 2012 Savage featured

The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 clearly is a muscle car.

This beast looks the part with sculpted metal – bulging fenders and hood with deep troughs, scooped out door panels and a spoiler on the trunk. But it’s the power the SRT8 packs under the hood that will stress your tendons.

The Charger is powered by a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 with 470 horsepower and similar torque rating. Dodge lists the car’s top speed at 175 mph, but Car and Driver testers tell us the governed top speed is “only” 143 mph.

Dodge Charger 2012 snapshot

Click to enlarge.

This is no small sport coupe, with its four doors and comfy interior for four, the Charger measures a full 199.9 inches long and rides on a large 120.2-inch wheelbase. The Charger weighs in at 4,345 pounds .

With 20-inch Goodyear Eagle R-rated performance tires ($150 extra) on the rear drive wheels the Charger launches away from stoplights.

Exhaust tone is racy, but the car is so well insulated you’ll hear it only in a well-muffled way. The power is hooked up to a 5-speed automatic that harnesses it well. If you need more control over the shifts there also are paddle shifters behind the wheel so you can manually shift. In automatic mode some downshifts are a bit more noticeable than you might want, but then you’re buying this car for power and grunt, not silky refinement.

That’s not to say the car feels rough around the edges. It doesn’t. Handling is good. The thick steering wheel feels weighty, but the Charger clips off corners well with modest, if any, body roll at highway speeds. And it really feels glued to the pavement, unless you get crazy with the accelerator, then it’ll break lose a bit.

Ride is fine on smoother roads and highways, but is too stiff for many city streets.

Naturally there is a stability control program and traction control, plus four-wheel giant vented disc brakes with ABS. Aiding the sporty look are red Brembo brake calipers visible through the SRT8′s beautiful cast aluminum wheels.

Dodge has added an active valve exhaust system to improve fuel economy when you’re not tromping the pedal. It kicks in quietly and unnoticed allowing the thumping V8 to run on 4 cylinders. That boosts gas mileage by about 2 mpg overall. StillI averaged 16.8 mpg in about 60% city driving and the EPA rates this at 14 mpg city and 23 highway. That means there’s a $1,000 Gas Guzzler tax on this model.

Dodge Charger 2012 rear

Dodge has added an active valve exhaust system to improve fuel economy when you're not tromping the pedal.

Dodge plans an 8-speed automatic for Charger and its Chrysler 300 cousin, including a new transmission that could improve gas mileage by 4 or 5 mpg. That could be a game-changer for Charger fans put off by its gas mileage.

Inside, the test car was “pitch black” and featured a red leather and suede interior. Charger’s red seats were leather trimmed with perforated cloth centers and white stitching and the door inserts were a soft suede.

Charger’s interior is well laid out and the big touchscreen is easy to use. Radio controls are mostly on the screen, but there is a large volume and tuner knob, plus large buttons for climate controls.

Dodge Charger 2012 dash

Main dash gauges are attractive and simple with gray numbers and orange needles, and a digital readout for the trip odometer and other functions between those main gauges.

Main dash gauges are attractive and simple with gray numbers and orange needles, and a digital readout for the trip odometer and other functions between those main gauges. Charger has push-button start, a power tilt/telescope heated steering wheel, plus automatic headlights and inside trunk and fuel door releases.

Optional were adaptive cruise control for $795 and a Driver Confidence Group package including a blind spot warning system that lights up in side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, smartbeam headlights and approach lamps. That feature runs $745.

A base Charger SE starts at a $25,395 and features a 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and gas mileage of 18 mpg city and 27 highway. Moving up to an R/T with all-wheel drive bumps the cost to $31,086. The SRT8 takes you to $45,795. Add in delivery and options and the test car was a hefty $50,260.

There are not a lot of four-door muscle cars with this much style. Charger has style and substance for the cost of a smaller import performance sport sedan.

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