far too long, Dodge was sidelined as Ford Mustang
and Chevy Camaro/Pontiac Firebird muscle car classics
cruised the mean streets of Motown, Cali's coastal
highways and other fabled street legal venues.
Then, as GM's versions were fading into momentary
oblivion, sulking Dodge Charger fans got a reprieve.
The reincarnation of Charger for '06 won't exactly
launch head-butting contests with more diminutive
foe. While reemerging in sacrosanct rear-drive
(anything else would be an abomination), its large
car size seats four or possibly five in reasonable
comfort, giving this "pony" car more
young Clydesdale proportions, or maybe an Anna
Nicole Smith to Nicole Richie comparison. No matter.
What Charger fans hungered for was the name (they
got it), the fame of decades of some anti-Steve
McQueen legend, the thunder of horsepower with
a tauntingly high redline, and the ability to
pay for such gusto within reason.
Anchored by that identifiable semi-truck inspired
Dodge cross-bow grille, Charger's menacing looks
announce it will run you down in two seconds flat
if you don't get out of the way fast. Its retro-feel
low profile and high beltline augment the visual
Charger starts with two powerplants and four trim
levels. A 3.5-Liter V-6, generating 250-horsepower
underscores the $22 K entry SE, and notch up SXT.
Want more? Choose the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 in the
performance R/T (or Daytona R/T), with 340-HP
and more bells and whistles than one might expect
from playtime starting in the $30 K range. (The
magical "HEMI" name is a coup parent
Chrysler has been taking to the bank - all smiles
- even as competitors sporting similar cylinder
shut-down technologies must explain theirs in
eye-glazing engineer speak.) Also for 2006 is
a breathtaking "street and racing technology"
6.1-liter, 425-HP SRT8 HEMI performance version.
Charger sports a five speed AutoStick automatic
for playtime, adjustable pedals for driving security
and 17- or 18-inch wheels depending on model.
Inside this personification of yesterday's thunder
runner are all the expected high-tech amenities,
especially in up-market versions in the high $38
K range, including available rear seat video entertainment.
Coupe styling disguises its four-door sedan versatility,
a throaty exhaust tone enhances its character.
Want a blast from the past with strictly newbie
comfort? Try it.