2009 Charger New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Charger is a full-size, four-door sedan that makes a bold design statement and backs it up with serious horsepower. A wide range of models is available, but all are comfortable cruisers, offering drivers a friendly haven from traffic and bumpy freeways.
The model line ranges from the basic but entertaining 2.7-liter Charger SE to the high-performance 425-hp SRT8. Between them are 3.5-liter V6 and 5.7-liter V8 models. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers entirely adequate performance for the mid-grade SXT model, while the V8s generate thrilling acceleration performance and make all the right noises. All-wheel drive is available for all-weather capability.
The Charger illustrates just how multi-talented and accomplished today's high-performance cars are compared to the unidimensional hot rods of yesteryear. The Charger has all the pavement-ripping, gut-thumping power of the old muscle cars, but it's packaged with modern creature comforts and tempered by handling competency. With either V8 engine, the Charger is fast in a straight line, and it corners better than those muscle cars of the past. However, it is large and heavy, measuring more than 16 feet in length and tipping the scales near two tons, so it's not as nimble as a sports car, or even a pony car.
On the inside, the Charger has plenty of room for a family of five, but the interior is largely plastic and the sightlines are partially obstructed in several directions. Buyers can opt for several entertainment features that will pacify both the kids and the adults. And if you need to carry cargo, the Charger has a large trunk with a handy split-folding rear seat.
The Charger used to be the only V8-powered large American car on the market, but it now faces competition from the Pontiac G8 and an improved Ford Taurus. The Charger offers a lot of room and great straight line power, but it appears to be falling behind the competition in driving dynamics and interior quality.
For 2009, the Charger gets a new taillight design, the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 gains power, and all-wheel-drive models get Active Transfer Case with Front-Axle Disconnect. SE models add alloy wheels, additional interior chrome trim and more equipment, while the SRT8 model adds more standard equipment, a retuned suspension, and new calibrations for the anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control systems. The SRT8 also adds a Super Bee package. LED lighting becomes standard for the front cup holders on all models, and the MyGIG hard-drive radio is now called UConnect Tunes and UConnect GPS when ordered with navigation system. Front side and curtain side air bags now optional instead of standard on most models.
The base Dodge Charger SE has a 178-hp 2.7-liter V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission. The SXT uses a 250-hp 3.5-liter V6. The rear-drive SXT gets the four-speed automatic, while the all-wheel-drive (AWD) SXT is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Dodge's AutoStick manual shift gate. R/T models have a 368-hp 5.7-liter V8 and the five-speed AutoStick automatic. SRT8 models have a 425-hp 6.1-liter V8 and the AutoStick.
The SE ($23,895) comes standard with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; interior air filter; cruise control; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; driver and passenger lumbar adjustment; AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack; power windows, locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; and P215/65R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
The SXT ($25,510) adds an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, a 60/40 split folding rear seat with fold-down center armrest, a 276-watt Boston Acoustics stereo, power-adjustable pedals, heated mirrors and fog lamps. The AWD SXT ($28,850) also adds performance disc brakes and P225/60R18 tires.
The R/T ($31,860) upgrades to leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, eight-way power front passenger seat, folding heated mirrors, automatic headlights and 18-inch tires. The R/T AWD ($33,960) adds all-wheel drive. The R/T Road/Track Performance package ($3940) has sportier steering, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, sport seats with suede inserts, performance suspension, front and rear spoilers and P245/45R20 tires on aluminum wheels with black accents. The Daytona package ($4475) has the same equipment, plus remote engine starting, a black grille, body color engine cover, special paint, a performance exhaust system and a special axle ratio.
The SRT8 ($38,670) adds dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights, remote engine starting, interior air filter, heated front seats, a Reconfigurable Display with performance pages, performance-tuned suspension, sport bucket seats, functional hood scoop, rear spoiler, a reprogrammed ESC system, Brembo brakes, Goodyear Supercar F1 tires on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and a 180-mph speedometer. The Super Bee buzz model package ($1900) comes with Hemi Orange paint, a serialized dash plaque, a special wheel design, silver Brembo brake calipers, UConnect Tunes hard-drive radio, orange seat accents, and hood and rear quarter panel decals.
Options include the Popular Equipment package for the SXT ($2405) with leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a 276-watt Boston Acoustics sound system, automatic headlights and bodyside moldings, a slightly firmer touring suspension and P225/60R18 tires. A Popular Equipment package for R/T ($1020) includes the Boston Acoustics sound system, 6CD changer, remote engine starting, and alarm. A Protection Group for SXT ($1060) adds front side airbags, curtain side airbags, UConnect Phone wireless cell phone link, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, bodyside moldings and P215/60R17 self-sealing tires. Electronic stability control with traction control and anti-lock brakes are an option for the SE model ($1025). The UConnect Multimedia Suite for SXT and R/T models ($1550) comes with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, UConnect wireless cell phone link and GPS system that includes a 30-gigabyte hard drive and a navigation system with real-time traffic. The UConnect Tunes hard-drive radio is available separately ($650). Option Group II for the SRT8 ($1195) adds a 6CD changer, an alarm and a Kicker sound system with a 200 watt subwoofer and a 322-watt amplifier. Option Group III for SRT8 ($1635) adds UConnect GPS, UConnect Phone and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also available are a sunroof ($950), a rear DVD entertainment system with Sirius Backseat TV for R/T and SRT8 ($1460), Xenon headlights ($695), and a rear spoiler for SXT ($225). The Super Track Pack ($400) for the R/T includes summer performance tires, stiffer springs, load-leveling shocks, a higher numerical axle ratio, sportier electronic stability control calibrations and higher performance steering and brakes.
Safety features that come standard on all Charger models include two-stage front airbags, tire-pressure monitor, and rear-seat LATCH child safety seat anchors. Antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control and electronic stability control, are standard on all but SE. Front side airbags and curtain side airbags for both seating rows are optional for all models. All-wheel drive is available for SXT and R/T models.