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What Might Have Been:
The 2006-2010 Dodge Charger

July 23, 2013 by Matt

Dodge Charger R/T Red

It coulda been a contender.

I wanted so badly for this car to be good. Really good. Five years ago, I pinned my hopes for a genuine American sports sedan on three vehicles: The Cadillac CTS-V, the Pontiac G8 and the car featured in this article—the 2006-2010 Dodge Charger. And while Cadillac got it and continues to refine the formula, and Pontiac got it—briefly—when they offered a 6-speed manual in conjunction with the G8’s top-of-the-line V8, the Charger never received the same treatment. It was a missed opportunity.

Dodge Charger R/T Engine Motor Hemi V8

All the ingredients of excellence were present and accounted for: A workable RWD chassis developed from that of the previous-generation Mercedes E-Class, a world-beating 5.7l, 340-hp V8 engine, a team of suspension tuners potentially lifted from the Viper program and a plethora of 6-speed manual transmissions to choose from. And yet…it never came together, whether through Chrysler’s ignorance of what to do with the bits at their disposal or willful refusal to spend capital creating a car that would make enthusiasts salivate but would hold little appeal in the larger market.

Dodge Charger R/T Red

The styling reflects the same so-close-yet-so-far aura that afflicted the drivetrain and chassis dynamics. Highlights include a rakishly swept-forward nose, clean and elegant front and rear treatments, tastefully unadorned flanks and a jaunty pair of “hips” just forward of the rear wheels. All the elements are there, and yet…viewing one in the flesh, I can’t help but be let down by the fact that the proportions are just a little bit off, the whole car looks too bathtub-ish and not lithe and athletic like it should. Again, it’s a shame, since out of the three cars I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Charger’s details gave it the most potential to be a real head-turner.

Dodge Charger R/T Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

For what it’s worth, the 2011-present redesign didn’t bring the car any closer to a state where it would hold any appeal for the true enthusiast, instead removing many of the more tasteful and appealing styling elements and introducing several, including the side scallops, that are distinctively chintzy. Furthermore, the curb weight increased a few hundred pounds and a three-pedal setup, or at least a dual-clutch transmission, is still notably absent from the option sheet. And the handling still leans (pun intended) more toward that of its cousin’s, the plush Chrysler 300, rather than targeting the taut responses of a BMW 5-Series or Audi A6.

Hopefully one day, one of the Big Three will come around and deliver something sports sedan buffs can get excited about—and for longer than the aborted tenure of the Pontiac G8. Shame the Charger wasn’t it.

Image credits: netcarshow.com

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting key decisions I wish automakers had made differently, for divers reasons. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Dodge, What Might Have Been

6 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    While I agree with you nearly completely on the ’06 – ’10 Charger, I personally think Chrysler came a long way with the ’11+ (as they have with most of their newer models). I was lucky enough to attend the SRT Track Experience at VIR earlier this month and I have to say I was quite impressed with the Charger. It felt the most balanced at speed and I personally am a fan of it aesthetically (at least over the previous generation). A manual transmission offering might be nice but it’s just such a big car for that and automatics in general have come a long way (again I was impressed with all the new cars auto’s).

    And while it wasn’t something you really addressed in this post, the quality of the interior in the Charger, and all Chrysler offerings, has come a long way in the newest generations. Although I still prefer the more aggressive looks of the first gen Jeep SRT8 to the newer model. That’s a totally unbiased opinion of course. ;)

    I suppose my two cents is, if you want the “true enthusiast” version of the Charger, or any of Chrysler’s offerings, get the SRT model and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    • Matt says:

      I do agree that an auto trans represents a more American approach to the big sports sedan. I guess my enthusiasm for the traditional 3-pedal manual just transcends that.

      And while the 2011+ car is tidier from a proportion standpoint, the side scallops look artificial, I don’t like the “underbite” of the grille angle compared to the more aggressive swept forward look of the ’06-’10 car and so help me, I do like the previous car’s understated taillight treatment over the neon rectangle of the newer car…

      • Ryan says:

        This is one of those cars that we definitely have different views on Matt, lol. I just find this to be one sexy ride:

        http://stblogs.automotive.com/files/2013/03/2014-SRT-Charger-SRT8-392-Front-34-1024×640.jpg

        I actually like the more pronounced side scallops, think the grill and front bumper look fantastic/aggressive (at least on the SRT model), and was so happy to see they changed the tail lights and rearend around on the new ones b/c I hated the previous gens ass-end.

        As they say, to each their own. :)

        • John D says:

          Definitely a hottie there, Ryan. Good pic. ;)

        • Matt says:

          The 2nd gen isn’t unattractive, but I still have a hard time getting over the side scallops. I’m a believer in the design-must-have-a-purpose school of thought, and artificial-looking details like that are anathema, generally-speaking.

          I don’t like the grille either, in comparison to the 1st gen’s. BMW grilles traditionally had an aggressive-looking upright or forward-swept look (much like the current Mustang’s and Camaro’s), and the 1st gen Charger’s grille echoed that treatment.

          I’m not defending the 1st gen as a flawless design—it’s got problems, some significant—but I do prefer its details to the 2nd gen car’s.

  2. John D says:

    The newer model definitely looks better, despite the ‘chintzy’ add-ons. It looks a bit leaner and more chiseled in appearance. More intimidating = more awesome. They actually had one (if I remember correctly) at this year’s Car and Driver Lightening Lap of VIR. C&D are usually pretty picky and honest about a car’s handling and they liked it much better than the earlier models (which were boats on wheels).

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