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2006 Dodge Charger

2006 Dodge Charger New Car Review
Martha Hindes

Dodge Charger
Dodge Charger Interior

For 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 impact.

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.