2007 Dodge Charger R/T AWD Review


2007 Dodge Charger R/T AWD (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Dodge Charger R/T AWD

SEE ALSO: Compare Dodge Models - Dodge Buyers Guide.

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Dodge Charger R/T AWD

Despite its nostalgic name, "Hemi" power, and fastback roofline, the current Dodge Charger is anything but a retro car. Introduced forty years after the nameplate's first use in 1966, today's Charger is the first four-door to bear the name. "Bummer," those in the target market - 40- to 60-year old middle- to upper-middle-class men - would have said back then, but large two-door "personal cars" in the style of the classic Chargers of the 1966 to 74 era are, if not extinct, currently deep in hiding.

However, the newest Charger does have the right engine layout, with the engine - a V6 or V8 - in front driving the rear wheels - or, for 2007, all four wheels. It has a pedigree, too, being the third Chrysler Group car to be based on the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform, after the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300. It's far more poised and refined than any of the classic Chargers. If it won't best them in a drag race - and with modern rubber and a 0-60 time of six seconds, it just might - it will certainly run and hide on a twisty road or track.

By today's standards, the 2007 Charger is a large car, and it is categorized by the EPA as such. It has a three-inch longer wheelbase than its 1966 ancestor - which was considered a medium-sized car - and is almost an inch longer. Its four-inch greater height is hidden by its styling, which owes little to nostalgia. Yes, today's Charger is heavier than those of the past, thanks to contemporary safety and comfort requirements.

Perhaps the biggest differences are under the hood. Where the originals had V8s ranging in size from 318 cubic inches to the legendary and almighty 426 cid "Hemi", the 2007 Charger comes with V6 power in its entry-level models. A 2.7-liter, 190-horsepower twin-cam V6 has been added to the lineup this year, in addition to the 3.5-liter, 250-hp SOHC unit. V8 power is available, in the form of Chrysler Group's new HEMI(r), with 340 horses out of its 5.7 liters (or 345 cubic inches for traditionalists). The 2.7 V6 drives through a four-speed automatic, but both the 3.5 V6 and HEMI put the power through a five-speed automatic with "Autostick" manual-shift mode.

My local Dodge dealer looks to be doing great business, as I see several new Chargers every time I drive through town. After a week with a new all-wheel drive R/T HEMI, I'm not at all surprised. The new Charger has plenty of character, with no lack of power, but it's also comfortable and roomy - even for rear-seat passengers - and can return very decent mileage with a light right foot thanks to the HEMI's Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which deactivated four cylinders when not needed. When needed, there's copious torque and fine classic Mopar V8 music. Equipped like my test car, the `07 Charger is more a power cruiser than a muscle car, but there is nothing wrong with that. Diehard muscle car aficionados can go a step further than the R/T, even with the available performance option packs, or get the 425-horse SRT8. Dodge has a Charger for everyone.

APPEARANCE: Clever styling - the newest Charger doesn't look big but it is, by today's sedan standards. It also is no copy or even derivative of a previous Charger. Its fastback roofline, the sharp crease to the fenders, and the hump over the rear wheel are about the only direct connections to classic Charger styling cues, and they are anything but direct copies. The new trademark Dodge crosshair grille and hooded, plastic-faired headlights give it an assertive look from the front, enhanced by the prominent bumper. A side view reveals its more practical aspects, as the hood is only moderately long and the passenger cabin dominates the car's lines. A high trunk helps both aerodynamics and luggage space.

COMFORT: If it doesn't look large outside, the new Charger certainly is inside. Its long wheelbase and high seating position mean space and comfort for everyone, even the rear-seat passengers. And the four-door body means that rear seat access is simple and painless. In style, the Charger's interior is clean, contemporary Chrysler Group, uncluttered and with no sense of nostalgia. At the R/T trim level it gets a pleasant two-tone, dark-over-light color scheme with matte-silver plastic trim. Seating surfaces are leather. For optimum driver comfort and safety, all models feature manual tilt and telescoping adjustment of the steering wheel, which has a leather rim on R/T models. The cruise control stalk to the left of the steering column is the only hint of the Mercedes connection. My test car had some significant interior options. The "Electronics Convenience Group" is a useful package with a vehicle information and trip computer screen in the main instrument panel, an integrated garage door opener, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. "Convenience Group II" adds automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, heated power front seats, and one-touch up and down power windows. A tilt-and-slide power glass sunroof gives an overhead view or fresh air, and the "UConnect" system allows hands-free phone conversation. The DVD-based GPS navigation system adds a large, bright LCD screen to the center stack and integrates control of the audio system, in this case the high-grade AM/FM/MP3-capable 6-CD changer "Sound Group II" with 322 watts and six Boston Acoustics speakers. The only drawback to the nav system is that the audio system must be on in order for the nav system to work. A minor quibble, as the Charger is a spacious and comfortable sedan.

SAFETY: The 2007 Dodge Charger is based on the proven Mercedes E-Class architecture, which is further enhanced by antilock brakes with traction control, Brake Assist, and the ESP electronic stability control system. It has received a five-star rating, the highest, for performance in NHTSA frontal crash tests.

RIDE AND HANDLING: In all-wheel drive trim, the Charger is geared more toward all-season traction than rally-replica AWD performance. Its fully-independent unequal-length double wishbone front, multilink rear suspension is calibrated a little more softly, with relatively high-profile, H-rated 60-series touring tires. On the highway, it's in its element, smooth, usually quiet, and quite comfortable. On challenging roads, you can't argue with physics. Its weight and spring and shock softness are apparent - but it's still a pleasure to drive at a quick touring pace, and the four-wheel vented antilock brakes work well when called upon. If a sportier ride is desired, think SRT-8.

PERFORMANCE: There was a Hemi then, and there is the HEMI now, and other than the pushrod overhead valve V8 configuration and combustion chamber shape, there is little similarity. The days of four-barrel carburetors are long-gone, replaced by electronic fuel injection for both fuel economy and emissions reasons. And electronics further are used in the new HEMI for the Multiple Displacement System (MDS) which seamlessly cuts four cylinders in and out to improve steady-speed fuel economy. The five-speed automatic further helps both economy and performance. Driven sedately in D, the Charger can be reasonably economical. Revved high - and the engine likes that - in manual mode, the 340 horsepower (at 5000 rpm) and healthy 390 lb-ft of torque (at 4000) are apparent, and the soundtrack is classic Mopar V8. It's plenty quick, and if more is desired, see SRT-8 and 425 horsepower. Vanishing Point, anyone? (yeah, I know, that was a Challenger.)

CONCLUSIONS: Despite its name, the newest Dodge Charger is no retro-concept. It's a stylish, comfortable, and capable modern sedan with a character of its own.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 Dodge Charger R/T AWD
Base Price			$ 32,215
Price As Tested			$ 37,865
Engine Type			pushrod overhead valve 16-valve V8,
				 cast iron block and aluminum heads
Engine Size			5.7 liters / 345 cu. in.
Horsepower			340 @ 5000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			390 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic with "Autostick" manual shifting
Wheelbase / Length		120.0 in. / 200.1 in.
Curb Weight			4289 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		12.6
Fuel Capacity			19 gal.
Fuel Requirement		89 octane unleaded mid-grade
				  gasoline recommended,
				  87 octane regular useable.
Tires				P225/60 HR18 Continental ContiTouringContact eco plus
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, ABS, TCS, BA, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent unequal-length wishbone /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, full-time all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 24 / 19
0 to 60 mph				6.0  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Electronics Convenience Group - includes:
  instrument cluster with display screen, thermometer and
  compass, vehicle information center, mini-trip computer,
  security alarm, universal garage door opener, steering
  wheel-mounted audio controls				$ 630
Convenience Group II - includes:
  automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control, heated
  power front seats, power windows with one-touch up
  and down						$ 1,005
Sound Group II - includes:
  AM/FM radio with cassette, 6-CD changer with MP3
  capability, 6 Boston Acoustics speakers with subwoofer,
  322-watt amplifier					$ 535
Power sunroof						$ 950
DVD-based GPS navigation system				$ 1,495
UConnect hands-free communication			$ 360
Destination charge					$ 675

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