Dodge Charger Review: 2005 Model | Charger | Car Buyers Guide

2005 Dodge Charger Review

Excited? You bet I was. I was about to drive the modern reincarnation of ‘The General’, wheels of choice for the Dukes of Hazard – a show I watched in awe as a young lad in Cork bewildered as to why they never drove in a straight line anywhere. True, there wasn’t going to be a two-door version of the new Charger, nor was there any possibility of a manual gearbox, but still… it’s the Charger!

Another notch on my American icon bedpost! And they’re launching it at the Virginia International Raceway so this thing is clearly going to be some kind of driving beast. The Dodge Charger certainly looks the part. Check out the angry expression; the kicked-up window-line; the muscular shoulders. It’s every bit as good looking as the Chrysler 300 on which it’s heavily based, albeit in a very different way. The 300 oozes classy urban cool. The Charger is a country boy with mischief on his mind. That said, it seems that Ralph Gilles doesn’t like designing the back of cars because both his recent creations, the 300 and Charger, have terribly bland and uninteresting rears, made all the more noticeable by the applause-inducing good looks of the rest of the cars.

Despite its Japanese family car backside, the Charger is still a styling success overall and draws admiring stares wherever it roams. Personally, I think it’s just wonderful, capturing the aggression of the classic ’68 model without mugging it and stealing all its styling cues. Inside, the Charger is identical to the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300 so you get the same simple dashboard layout, the same comfortable but un-sporty seats, same big steering wheel and the same acceptable (though hardly top notch) plastics.

The only real difference is the view from the rear seat, which is slightly obscured by the kink in the shoulder line. Mechanically, it’s identical to its siblings also with the same steering, suspension settings and engines, which now has me wondering why we’re going to the track. The 300C and Magnum are fine real-world cars; comfortable and quiet with acceptable if unexciting handling. But they’re certainly not track machines by any stretch of the imagination. Then we’re told about the optional Road/Track Performance Package (not to be confused with the regular V8 R/T models) and it begins to make sense. According to the bumf, the Road/Track pack “is tuned specifically for firm steering and handling… best suited to the passionate driving enthusiast” and includes 18-inch performance Michelins and special shocks. Now it makes sense. The base cars will be for the hoi polloi while the Road/Track models will be for us driving nuts. I get it.

Propulsion on the Road/Track cars is courtesy of the incredibly popular 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine, which pumps out 350 bhp (ten more than the standard Hemi thanks to a fruiter exhaust) and 520 NM (390 lb/ft) of torque, enough to propel its 1828kg of surprising adiposity from 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds.(0-60 mph in 6.0 secs).Like most carmakers in the US, Dodge is coy about top speeds but we expect it’s got to be getting close to the 250 km/h mark. The Hemi V8 is an odd mix of old and new technology because although it’s a single-cam, pushrod design, it has a cylinder shut-off system to save fuel at cruising speeds which is actually pretty effective at saving fuel:25 US mpg compared to 27 for the 250 bhp 3.5litre V6 engine that’s fitted to the SE and SXT models.

The V6 doesn’t get as much press as the Hemi power plant (or upcoming 425 bhp SRT-8 engine) but it’s still quite an acceptable entry-level engine and is more than adequate for people not hell bent on charging at the sky at every available opportunity.V6 models run on smaller tyres and brakes though they all share the same ex-Mercedes 5-speed automatic than can be shifted manually with a nudge of the lever left or right. Right now, though, I’m focused on the Hemi-powered Charger R/T with the optional Daytona Road/Track performance package and striking orange paint. I’m about to thunder onto the track and I’m all aquiver with anticipation. This should be fun… But it isn’t. Performance pack or no performance pack, the Charger shouldn’t be left anywhere near a track. Its wayyyyy too heavy to be thrown around the tricky Virginia raceway and its sluggish transmission and too-thin 235/55 R18 tyres conspire to make for a very unhappy car on the limit. In reality, you’d never come close to driving like this on the road because the Charger’s whole demeanour actively discourages such behaviour. The Charger feels exactly the same as a 300C: big, comfortable and heavy and it certainly isn’t the performance animal I had expected. It’s simply a 300C clone and that’s a disappointment from my point of view, not to mention an opportunity lost for DaimlerChrysler.

What’s truly tragic is that it wouldn’t have taken much to make the Charger seriously smoke. Stiffen up the shocks properly – even the Road and Track car feels loose and soft- and take the treacle out of the steering system. Fit the smaller steering wheel out of the Viper and lash on some 19-inch wheels with lower-profile tyres to dial out some of the mush. And give it a bloody manual gearbox, for God’s sake. What’s perfectly acceptable in its family car siblings is simply all wrong in the gorgeous Charger. Here’s a car that should be playing chicken with Audi S4s and BMW M3s down country roads, but instead it’s playing croquet with the likes of the Volvo S80 and Mercedes E-Class. The world doesn’t need a Chrysler 300 with a different grille. It needs another ‘General’. The new Mustang and GTO are true modern iterations of classic American muscle cars while the Charger is little more than a disappointing exercise in badge engineering. I couldn’t image Beau and Luke driving one of these, could you?


Dodge Charger

Length: 5082 mm

Wheelbase 3048 mm

Width: 1891 mm

Height: 1479 mm

Transmission: 5-speed

Automatic with manual override

Performance: 0-100 km/h 6.2 seconds (V8),

Top Speed 150 mph (Est.)

Kerb Weight (3.5-litre V6) 1724 kg; (5.7-litre V8) 1828

Fuel Tank  V6: 68 litres; V8:72-litres

Price: $23,000 SE V6, $26,000 SXT, $30,000 R/T,$32,500 Daytona Road/Track Package


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