Friday 04 September 2015
The Dodge Charger R/T packs a 5.7 litre Hemi V8 engine.
Classic American muscle cars are probably more popular now than they have ever been and although their appeal has always been awesome power, brilliant retro-styling and deliciously noisy V8s, the hairy chested macho-man, yeehaw Dukes of Hazard image has, with a few exceptions, been toned down little.
Take the Dodge Charger for example. This car has been around since 1964, in various shapes and sizes and although the latest generation features a stonking Hellcat model which upholds the finest, ridiculously powerful muscle car traditions with a scary 707bhp horsepower, it has a stablemate that adds a bit more refinement and sanity to the proceedings.
The Dodge Charger R/T might have half the power of the Hellcat but it still packs a 5.7 litre Hemi V8 which, with 370bhp and torque of 536nm, has more performance than most people need and the thing that really surprised me is how refined this car is to drive.
I wouldn’t usually recommend a muscle car as a family vehicle – yes, it’s all very exciting for the lads but maybe not so much fun for the ladies, but this all-new Charger is different, in that it is moving into a slightly more subtle market.
It has been given a total revamp which includes an exterior redesign that takes the car away from the ‘in your face’ brutal muscle car image and introduces a slightly softer, more sophisticated persona. The front of the car in particular which has a new grille looks much more refined having ditched the bluntish nose of its predecessor and the side profile of the Charger is chiselled and more streamlined.
The back, although muscular, retains the more stylish approach and, as a whole, the new look, inspired by the iconic secondgeneration Charger from the late 1960s, is a triumph with the new wraparound headlights and “racetrack” LED tail lamps which feature a continuous glowing ribbon, adding the finishing touches.
The interior has also been given a facelift with new premium, soft touch materials and nice leather seats, which are now ventilated which is a welcome addition, particularly at this time of the year in the UAE, and it all works very nicely.
It has also been freshened up with a new seven-inch customisable electronic instrument cluster, a new centre-stack with the latest Uconnect infotainment system and an excellent 8.4-inch touch-screen and the whole mood of what is an extremely spacious cockpit is lifted by an aluminium trim.
The three-spoke, thick rimmed steering wheel with paddle-shifts has also been redesigned but there are still too many buttons on it for my liking.
The other slightly irritating feature is the radio control button on the back of the steering wheel near the paddle-shifts which means when you go to change gear manually you can find yourself switching radio channels at the same time.
So, we have a muscle car that is now sleeker, with those stylish scalloped sides, and more sophisticated both inside and out but what about the performance?
That 5.7-litre Hemi is a fabulous engine and a 0-100kmh time of just over five seconds tells you it doesn’t spare the horses.
The engine puts the power down to the rear wheels via a really impressive TorqueFlite eightspeed automatic gearbox which delivers quick and smooth gearchanges. To get the best out of the engine and the gearbox it’s best to drive the car in sport mode when everything becomes sharper and tighter.
The engine does make a pleasant, muffled roar when you floor the accelerator pedal but it’s not a full-blooded howl that’s going to wake the neighbours. The handling is brilliant, thanks to a new chassis, electric power steering, new lightweight axles, and a brilliant suspension system which makes this Charger surprisingly agile.
It is also bristling with the latest driver assist and safety technology you find in more prestigious cars.
I was really impressed with this Charger mainly because, in the case of the R/T, it is less brutal and more subtle than its predecessor and more manic stablemates.
It has gone upmarket without losing its muscle car DNA and that means it is fully charged and ready to go for the entire family.