- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2005

Dodge just dropped the other shoe. It put its best foot forward by reintroducing the Charger sedan, a companion to its other muscle car: Dodge Magnum.

At first glance, I thought the 2006 Charger was a two-door coupe, but soon realized it’s a full-size, four-door sedan that looks as if it could muscle its way around any racetrack and win. Confirming that thought is the fact the R/T model ($29,995) got a Hemi — a 5.7-liter V-8 engine with a multiple displacement system producing 340 horsepower.

The Chargers have three models. One is the SXT model ($25,995) with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 250 horsepower, the R/T model mentioned above and another model called the Daytona R/T ($32,495). This one is definitely intended for racetracks, as it has a 5.7-liter engine producing 350 horsepower.

I walked around the exterior, inspecting each vehicle from stem to stern, while mentally comparing them to the original Charger of 37 years ago. The long nose on the car of old has been replaced with a bold crosshair grille. The long, muscular hood line looks intimidating. It sits on a very long wheelbase, which is why it seats five adults comfortably. It has trunk space large enough to carry plenty of luggage.

In spite of the Charger’s size, these sedans look trim and thin — which is why, at first glance, I thought it was a coupe. I suspect it’s the long roofline that slopes back to the trunk that gives it that deceptive appearance. One thing not deceiving: Its attitude is unmistakably Dodge.

Although I drove the SXT model, the real enjoyment came when I got behind the wheel of the R/T model. This is the car with the Hemi engine and a five-speed automatic transmission with an AutoStick.

When I wanted to play around with the gears, this AutoStick provided a nice crisp, quick shift.

This model stands on 18-inch polished aluminum wheels. It has an optional Sirius satellite radio, rear-seat entertainment system, DVD-based global positioning system with a 5.8-inch full color display, MP3 player and an AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD player. This system produces great sound, but the sound is not nearly as pleasing as the high-performance exhaust system with a distinctive, throaty exhaust note. I couldn’t help but want to accelerate hard.

The suspension is firm and the car is exceptionally well-balanced.

But, for the most part, I kept my urge to speed under control until I got to the VIR raceway in Virginia. This is not the usual oval track — VIR has numerous left and right turns, plus hills. This track enabled me to appreciate the high-performance suspension, the five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick and, best of all, the Hemi V-8 power.

I also drove the Charger with the Daytona R/T package. This car is more performance-oriented with a stiffer suspension system. I enjoyed the ride comfort of the R/T better and was very pleased with the way this rear-wheel-drive car handled on tight curves. This is the result of a tuned suspension riding on performance tires. The SXT has 17-inch tires, while the Daytona and R/T models ride on 18-inch Michelin all-season performance tires.

These Chargers contain numerous upscale optional appointments, including the hands-free communication system using Bluetooth, a video entertainment system and available navigation communication system. All five seats are very comfortable.

In addition, all these Chargers are loaded with the latest in automotive safety technology.

No two ways about it: Dodge has put its best foot forward.

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