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      2017 Dodge Challenger T/A and Dodge Charger Daytona:
      Performance beyond the skin


      by Patrick Rall

      Last week, Dodge showed off the 2017 Charger Daytona and the 2017 Challenger T/A in front of a small group of media in Metro Detroit. Seeing these cars in person, I expect these cars to be smash hits with buyers when they hit the market. The Charger Daytona has proven its popularity in the past, but along with the new Challenger T/A, these cars are far more than just buzz models with unique paint and a sticker package.



      Allpar tests out a Charger Daytona

      When I first began posting pictures of the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona and the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A, while checking out posts from other members of the media who were on hand, I saw some people accusing Dodge of rolling out a few new buzz models which were nothing more than stickers and wheels. Going beyond just looking at pictures of these cars, both the Charger Daytona and the Challenger T/A are far more serious than they seem at first glance.



      First off, let's look at the "base" versions of the new Charger Daytona and Challenger T/A. Each of these cars feature the 5.7L Hemi V8 with an active exhaust system, a cold air intake, and fairly elaborate exterior upgrades. With the Charger, the Daytona package adds the front fascia, the hood, the side skirts, the rear fascia, and a low profile spoiler from the SRT lineup; it also has unique wheels, Daytona badging, and unique black trim on the hood, roof, and across the rear end.



      For the Challenger T/A, the exterior gets the functional air-intake hood with a unique cold air intake, the active exhaust, the striping, and the awesome new dual air intake headlights - both of which have a lighted T/A logo on the inside. Finally, both of these basic packages include the Super Track Pak, optional on other cars, with better brakes, a half-inch ride height drop, and improved handling.



      Comparing the cars to the normal R/T versions, with the 5.7L Hemi, you get a unique body design, unique wheels, the sticker/badging package, the cold air intake, the active exhaust system, and the features of the Super Track Pak. It is hard to call a package that elaborate a sticker pack, and it will almost certainly appeal to those folks who want a more aggressive looking and better performing Charger R/T or Challenger R/T.



      When you step up to the more powerful versions of these new models - the Charger Daytona 392 and the Challenger T/A 392 - calling them sticker or stripe packages is just plain wrong.

      The exterior design of each of the cars powered by the 6.4L Hemi is similar to the less powerful models, but they are the best performing vehicles in the market for such a low price point.



      The 2017 Challenger T/A 392 and Charger Daytona 392 both use the 485 hp Hemi, but unlike the Scat Pack cars, they include the massive Brembo brakes from the Hellcat models, with six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers out back, lightweight 20 x 9.5 inch wheels in similar Pirelli tires to those found on the Hellcat models, and a standard Super Track Pak, with Bilstein sport suspension and a 3-mode stability system with a "full off" setting. They also have the active 2.75" exhaust system and sport tuned suspension.



      The Challenger T/A 392 pricing starts at $45,100 with destination and the Charger Daytona 392 starts at $46,100, so for well under $50,000, you get all of those features - making them both remarkable value cars.



      What Dodge has done here is take the popular R/T and Scat Pack models for the Challenger and Charger, and add a list of features that owners and prospective buyers have demanded. For example, Charger and Challenger R/T owners often want the more aggressive look of the Hellcat models, but they also want a little better performance.



      Rather than leaving it up to the buyer to get a cold air intake, a louder exhaust, and parts from the pricier models, Dodge has done the work, making the Challenger and Charger R/T slightly better in terms of performance, but far better in terms of look and feel.



      In the same way, Scat Pack Challenger owners often want a more aggressive exterior design, so Dodge has taken a handful of key features from the SRT models and added them to the Scat Pack, but they didn't stop at the appearance. The brakes, intake, exhaust, and sport suspension will make the Challenger T/A stronger than the Scat Pack.



      These models come as a result of Dodge listening to what buyers want from their muscle cars and having seen all of these cars in person, I love them. The Daytona will sell like hotcakes, and with the Challenger T/A, buyers can get one mean looking muscle car with the greatest level of performance shy of the Hellcat models. Best of all, these packages are all much less expensive than the SRT 392 models of each car.



      These aren't just flash, sticker packs, or stripe kits; they are the newest high performance packages for the Dodge Challenger and Charger. Unlike so many companies which focus strictly on one model, Dodge designed a Daytona and T/A package for the R/T and Scat Pack trimlines. This will allow them to appeal to a much broader audience, likely leading to continued sales growth for these wicked Mopar muscle cars.

      1970 vs 2017 Challenger T/A

      by David Zatz

      Some have responded to the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A by calling it a sticker package - but how close is it, in spirit, to the original cars?



      Created for racing homologation, the 1970 T/A used a 290-horsepower (gross) 340 cubic inch engine, with both performance and durability upgrades, along with a lift-off fiberglass hood and new spoilers. Dodge also increased the rear camber, and put in better tires; they also swapped in the Hemi suspension, putting a skid plate onto the K-frames, used thicker torsion and sway bars, and welded torque boxes ahead of the rear leaf springs. The T/A cars had a fast ratio steering box and differently sized front and rear tires, all designed to make it handle far better than a stock "E-body."



      Just as the current model lacks the Hellcat, the 1970 Dodge Challenger T/A did not have the most powerful engine you could get (not by a long shot).

      The 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A comes with larger, lightweight wheels, high-performance summer tires, a free-flowing cat-back exhaust, cold air intake, and higher performance brakes and wheels (taken from SRT cars) along with their graphics packages. (See our prior coverage for pricing by model.)

      The satin black hood includes a functional cold air intake that feeds the airbox, and is lit by LEDs at night. It has the traditional T/A hood hold-downs.



      In essence, the 392 version, which has Hellcat wheels, tires, and brakes, with SRT seats, is the Scat Pack with more upgrades.

      The Challenger T/A comes standard with the normally-optional Super Track Pak, which includes a half-inch-lowered suspension, Bilstein shocks, better brakes, a special stability-control setup, and high performance tires.

      T/A Plus and T/A 392 buyers get the Dodge Performance Pages, which provide performance information (e.g. 0-60 and G-force).



      The Challenger T/A 392 starts with the T/A Plus and adds the 392 engine, Hellcat-type "headlamp style" cold-air intakes, six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes, unique front suspension geometry, P275/40ZR20 Pirellis, 180 mph speedometer, and 220 amp alternator, among other things.

      In the end, while all the new parts are "off the shelf" in one way or another - from Mopar or from Hellcats and other SRT cars, with the Track Pak option included - the new cars are indeed higher performance than the standard models, as the original Challenger T/A was. These are not "sticker packages" or cosmetic upgrades; they are mainly performance upgrades with appearance updates included.



      Overall, the new Challenger T/A is built in the same spirit as the original. The upgrades are not as extensive in terms of labor, but the work was already done for the Hellcat. Just as in 1970, you can get a car with a body and suspension created to handle far, far more horsepower, resulting in superior handling, and decorated to look the part.

      1969 vs 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona

      by David Zatz

      There have been four Dodge Charger Daytonas, not including the front-wheel-drive Dodge Daytonas. How do they compare?



      The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was an aero package on top of the ordinary Dodge Charger, with a radical nose-cone to the front, a giant spoiler, flush rear glass, and other touches. A prepped car passed 200 mph, and they dominated some NASCAR tracks.



      The second was a style-seats-and-tires package (adding radials) for the Dodge Charger SE, with standard economy engines. Finally, in 2006, it was mainly a stripe-and-spoiler package for the Dodge Charger Hemi, with exhaust and suspension tuning that added 10 hp [review]; a 2013 edition was limited to appearance.

      The 2017 has the 375-horse 5.7 and the 485-horse 6.4 Hemi. The latter easily outpowers any 1969-70 Dodge engine's official numbers, not to mention the competition.



      The Charger Daytona package adds $3,000 to the R/T Plus, using the same 5.7 engine but with an SRT front and rear, a 20x9 inch wheel, and 245 wide F1 tires. Straight line performance upgrades are limited to a cold air intake and a large-diameter cat-back exhaust.



      The Charger Daytona 6.4 adds the brake, tire, and wheel package from the Hellcat, with a leather SRT seat, plus a functional cold air intake, for under $45,000 ($46,100 with destination). This is the one that Dodge would probably prefer for you to compare to the original Charger Daytona. It won't hit the original's 0.28 drag coefficient, nor will it hit 200 mph unless you swap in a Hellcat engine.



      The Dodge Challenger T/A was a match for the 1970 car; the Charger Daytona is, though, nothing like the 1969-1970 cars. Still, it's right on the mark of every "Charger Daytona" made since then - indeed, it raises the bar.

      Allpar tests out a Charger Daytona










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      The Birth and Death of the (Original) Dodge Charger



      by Burton Bouwkamp
      (2004)
      <!-- google_ad_section_start -->

      I have titled this "The Birth and Death of the Dodge Charger." We created it and we buried it - not intentionally.

      We launched the product in a favorable direction, improved it, made a wrong turn - but then we stood by while it drifted off course and eventually ran into a ditch.

      It was mostly our doing, but we had some help from the new CAFE rules, consumer nervousness about gasoline prices and availability, high insurance rates on sporty cars, the sagging economy, and our own corporate financial limitations.

      In the 13 year life of the Dodge Chargers, we built slightly more than 710,000. Today they are a collector's item and there are several active Dodge Charger clubs.



      Let's spend a few moments on
      this chart. It shows the four generations of
      the Charger. First, in blue, is the "fastback Coronet" design. Then, in
      1968, the unique skin, probably the most
      recognized Charger style. Next, in green, a sleek new design in 1971 on a
      shortened wheelbase.

      Finally, in purple, the 1975 Cordoba
      derivative which was not admired, or purchased, by Charger's
      fan club. In hindsight, a formal upmarket style was not the right
      product for Dodge.



      In 1974, at a consumer research study to learn how to
      merchandize the 1975 style, a Charger owner said to me, "I see the nameplate on the car, but that is not a
      Charger!"

      What I am talking about happened more than 30 years ago and my 77 year old brain is not what it used to be. But in a way, a perspective from 30 to 35 years away is better, because now I can see the forest. When I was embroiled in the details of the car business every day, sometimes all could see were the trees, and I rattled around in them.



      The original Dodge Charger was born as a result of a new market plan for Dodge that was mandated by Chrysler's new-for-1962 President, Lynn Townsend. His vision was that the Chrysler cars competed with Oldsmobile and Buick, Plymouth competed with Chevrolet and Ford, and Dodge competed with Pontiac. A logical plan, but that is not what the Dodge dealers or the Dodge sales division wanted. They wanted to continue to compete with Chevrolet and Ford - and Plymouth!



      I was appointed Chief Engineer and Manager of Dodge Passenger Car Product Planning in 1964. On my first day on the new job, John Hussey, Bob Anderson's administrative assistant, welcomed me to the Product Planning Department. I commented how happy I was to be there and went on to say that my new position was like having a 50 yard line seat at a football game watching the Corporation in action.

      John's response was both memorable and prophetic. He said that he thought I would find out that my seat was more like sitting behind the goalie at a hockey game, because now and then I would get a puck in my mouth. John was right!

      I was not really a Chief Engineer, but in those days a car company had to have a Chief Engineer, so that was in my job title. I was really just the Manager of Dodge Passenger Car Product Planning.

      In the Product Planning Office, we facetiously defined Product Planning as a series of product mistakes sufficiently corrected to show a profit.

      Shortly after my appointment, I was asked to go to Mr. Townsend's office for the first of three one-on-one meetings that I had with "the Boss." When you are a 38 year old newly-appointed manager. you don't forget one-on-one meetings with the President. Anyway, Lynn's message to me was "think Pontiac." He wanted to be sure that I got the message that there was a new market plan for Dodge.



      For the next year, the Dodge dealers took every opportunity to tell the management they wanted to sell in the Ford-Chevrolet-Plymouth market, formalizing their responses through recommendations of the National Dodge Dealers Council to the Corporation.

      The argument got pretty hot. At a Dodge Dealers National Council meeting in Detroit in 1964, Lynn Townsend briefly addressed the Council of around 25 dealers. He restated the new Dodge market plan and told the dealers that they were not going to tell us how to run our business, and if they did not like the Dodge franchise to go get a franchise that they did like. Then he abruptly marched out of the room and left us all sitting there with our mouths open.



      The conflict went on, and the
      pressure got so high that in 1965 we were authorized to plan one
      Chevrolet-Ford-Plymouth competitive model. It was a 121-wheelbase C-body four
      door sedan with a 318 V8. We called it the Polara 318. It
      wasn't the 119" wheelbase model that the Dodge dealers wanted, but it
      gave them a car priced to compete with Chevrolets,
      Fords, and Plymouths.

      You're probably wondering, what does this have to do with the Charger? I had to paint that picture
      to explain Lynn's next product move.

      Why did the Charger have different side marker lights every year, for three years?

      Lynn Townsend was at odds with the Dodge dealers and wanted to do something to please them. So in 1965 he asked me to come to his office, for the second time. One of the Dodge Dealer Council requests was for a Barracuda type vehicle; the theme was the same - "we want what Plymouth has." This request was not as controversial to Lynn. He told me to give them a specialty car, but he said, "For God's sake don't make it a derivative of the Barracuda" - that is, don't make it a Barracuda competitor.



      So the 1966 Charger was born.

      Money and timing dictated a derivative of an existing product, so the first Charger became a fastback derivative of the Coronet two-door hardtop. Considering the limitations of relatively short Coronet front sheet metal and long "B" body rear overhang, Bill Brownlie and his team did an exceptional job in designing this vehicle.



      You can fully appreciate this great design job by comparing the first Charger to the Marlin, which was a similar size fastback derivative of a conventional two door model.

      We built a Charger "idea car," which we displayed at auto shows in 1965 to stimulate market interest in the concept. It was the approved design, but we told the press and auto show attendees that it was just an idea and that we would build it if they liked it It was pre-ordained that they would like it.



      With a January 1st introduction, we sold 37,000 Dodge Chargers in 1966. The interior had four bucket seats and a full length floor console. We removed the rear seat floor console the next year, because customers complained about the console interfering with access to the left rear seat from a curbside entrance. In this picture, the rear seats and arm rest are folded down.

      We only sold 15,000 Chargers in 1967, which shows that the desire for this unique looking fastback was largely satisfied in 1966.



      The fastback shape was not as good a race car as we had hoped. The body shape caused so much lift at the rear wheels above 180 MPH that the drivers had difficulty controlling the car at Daytona, especially in the D-shaped curve in front of the main grandstand. The drivers said it was like driving on ice.

      To add downforce and make the car handle better at these speeds, we riveted a two or three inch high spoiler to the rear of the liftgate. The spoiler was approved by NASCAR because we made it a dealer installed option. With that addition, the 1966-7 Charger was competitive, but it was no better than Richard Petty's notchback Satellite.

      A bright spot came on July 4th when Sam McQuagg won the Firecracker 400 in a spoiler equipped Dodge Charger.



      The 1968 Product Plan for our B-body cars (Coronet, Satellite, Charger) was a new exterior skin and new roofs. It was, essentially, a new car above the platform. For the Charger, we proposed a unique skin, including door outer and roof but with a common cowl, windshield, and roof rails with Satellite and Coronet hardtops. The increased degree of uniqueness for Charger was obviously more expensive then the 1966-7 formula, but it was approved.



      (Design chief) Bill Brownlie and I then put our heads together to plan the design. Bill wanted to do another fastback, but I did not because it committed us to a level of trim in the rear seat and cargo area that would cost more than $25 a car. I wanted to spend that money in other ways - ones I thought would get a more favorable response from the customer, such as styled road wheels instead of decorative wheel covers.

      We reached a compromise roof design which the press called a "tunnel roof" or "flying buttress." It gave Bill the fast C-pillar design that he wanted, and it gave me $25 to spend somewhere else because we were able to do a conventional rear seat and shelf panel design.



      Bill Brownlie was the man behind the design of the first three generations of Chargers. Here's a picture of Bill and me at a Los Angeles show with another Charger idea car. Bill is deceased but he is here in spirit.

      Another controversy arose
      during the design of the '68 Charger - the decorative gas cap. It was a polarizing design; management was
      either strongly for it or strongly against it. I did not get directly
      involved because Chuck Kelley (Dodge's B-Body Product Planning
      Manager) and I felt that the car design was so good overall that it
      would be successful either way. Finally, the
      Corporate Product Planning Committee decided in
      favor of the Design Office proposal for a decorative gas filler
      cap.

      The first time we showed the
      car to the Long Lead Press at the Proving Ground in June of 1967 we
      knew we had a winner. They went crazy over it. We had
      to enforce the time that Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Popular
      Mechanics
      , and Hot Rod were scheduled for driving evaluations
      and pictures. Even Product Engineering magazine featured the new Charger in its September 1967 issue. The dealer shows in August confirmed the
      enthusiasm for the design.

      Even our competitors admired
      it. Ed Estes, the son of Pete Estes (the President of General Motors),
      was my backdoor neighbor in 1968. Ed told me that his Dad drove a Dodge
      Charger a lot. I asked, "Why?" Ed said, "Because he likes it."

      In the 1968 model year, we sold 96,000 Chargers, which was all we could build. The '68 Charger appealed to young people; the median age of the Charger buyer was only 30 years old, which was 20 years younger than Dart, Coronet, Polara and Monaco buyers.



      We changed the Charger very little in 1969. New grille and new taillights - and we still sold 90,000.

      The 1970 Charger changes were
      more extensive, but still modest: a new loop bumper which surrounded a
      new grill. Sales dropped to 50,000 in 1970, partly because the
      Corporation's emphasis was on the new Dodge
      Challenger, which almost cost me my job.
      But that's another story.



      During the 1969 model year, we added
      two models to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve the
      performance of the Charger on the longer NASCAR race tracks.

      At the
      beginning of the year, we added the Charger 500. We changed the
      tunnel roof backlite to a flush fast roof line and we pulled the grille
      forward so that it was not recessed, at the request of our
      race teams. To respond quickly, we had a conversion
      vendor, Creative Industries, modify regular production
      vehicles to create Charger 500s. Now we had a competitive race car.



      The Charger 500 first raced at Riverside on February 1st. From February 1st until September 14th, Dodge won 15 races against Ford's 22 wins. Not a winner but we were at the ballgame.

      With the debut of the second aerodynamic model in September 1969 - the Charger Daytona - at Talladega, it was a new ballgame. From September 14th through the next year we won 45 out of the next 59 races.



      From September 14, 1969 through the 1970 race season, this is what the racing fans saw. During this year and a half, Dodge and Plymouth dominated NASCAR, winning 75% of the races. I remember being at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the fall of 1969 watching our cars running 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, in a diamond formation. They looked like the Blue Angels circling the speedway. I looked at Bob Rodger - our head of racing - and although he was dying of leukemia tears of joy were streaming down his cheeks.



      The Daytona and its sister car, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, were so successful on the NASCAR long tracks (called "superspeedways") that a new rule for 1971 required these "winged warriors" to reduce engine displacement to 305 cubic inches. NASCAR had decided that our domination of the sport was not good for racing. They also decided to slow all the cars down by requiring 426 hemi engines and 429 Ford Boss engines to use carburetor restrictor plates.



      How did the Charger Daytona come about? The credit goes to Bob Rodger. He was already tagged as the "father of the Chrysler 300" when he was Chief Engineer of Chrysler (and my boss) in 1955. Fourteen years later, Bob worked for me because I had moved to Director of Product Planning.

      Bob had just returned from the 1969 Daytona race and reported that Ford dominated the race with a new model having unique aerodynamic front sheet metal on a Torino fastback roof body. Ford called this special model the Talladega. At that time, manufacturers only had to build 500 cars to qualify a model as stock. Bob said that this amounted to "funny car" circuit racing, and he proposed that we build 500 of the ultimate race car no matter how impractical it was.



      I approved his proposal - after all, the man used to be my boss and I still looked up to him even though on the organization chart he reported to me.

      Bob went to Morgan Dawley, Manager of the Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and Gary Romberg, Chrysler's aerodynamist, and asked them to develop an aerodynamic racecar based on a Dodge Charger. Morgan and Gary went to work based on their fluid flow knowledge and experience. Their development work was supported by high speed testing at the Chelsea Proving Ground.



      We did not have a wind tunnel at that time, so we had to test scale models in a rented wind tunnel or full size models in the real world. Morgan and Gary used proving ground drivers and professional race car drivers for the high speed testing. The result of this work was the Charger Daytona. Bob Rodger then arranged for Creative Industries to build 500 Charger Daytonas from Charger 500s.

      Seven of the "winged warriors" showed up for the September 14, 1969 race at Talladaga, a brand new NASCAR superspeedway. After practicing at near 200 MPH, most of the best known drivers got together in a newly formed Professional Drivers Association and boycotted the race. They said that the track was too rough and the cars were too fast for the tires. Bill France called their bluff and said there was going to be a race on Sunday even if he had to enter the Grand Touring cars that raced on Saturday.



      After a number of heated meetings with NASCAR, six of the seven "winged warrior" drivers loaded up five of the seven Daytonas and left the track Saturday afternoon. Bobby Isaac never joined the PDA and stayed at the track to drive a Ray Nichols Daytona.

      Richard Brickhouse, a relatively unknown driver, saw an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a competitive car; on Saturday afternoon, he quit the Professional Drivers Association so he could substitute for Charlie Glotzbach in the other Ray Nichols Daytona. The race went on as scheduled on Sunday, and Dodge swept the first four positions with Richard Brickhouse in 1st and Bobbie Isaac in 4th because of some tire and overheating problems.



      Plymouth dealers wanted a competitive race car - so we did the Superbird. By this time NASCAR upped the requirement for stock class to 1,500 vehicles. We contracted with Creative Industries to build 1500 of the 1970 Superbirds. It was hard to sell 1500 Superbirds - we learned that 500 of these "birds" were not enough, and 1500 was too many.

      Today [2004], a "winged warrior" in restored condition with a Hemi engine will bring around $100,000.

      The "winged warriors" were parked in 1971. With a 305 cubic inch engine, they would not be competitive. We continued to support NASCAR racing in 1971, but to a lesser degree after our race cars were disallowed and our race engines were handicapped.

      We did a contract with Richard Petty to run two 1971 cars, a Plymouth and a Dodge. By July they had converted these cars to wedge engines because they found out that the same displacement wedge was faster than a hemi with a restrictor plate. Wedge engines finished 1-2-3-4 at the Firecracker 400. Our corporate interest turned to Trans Am racing with our new Barracuda and Challenger carlines under the direction of Dan Gurney.

      I did not intend this to be about racing - but racing is interesting and it is fun - but only when you win in this high stakes game.



      Back to Charger.

      The Hemi engine was installed in less than 2% of Chargers, but it made an immense contribution to the image and the desirability of the carline. It's still doing it today.



      The B body, including all Chargers and Coronets, was
      new above the platform in 1971. Both the intermediate car market plan and the sheet metal
      interchangeability were different for 1971.

      All two doors were Chargers,
      on a 115" wheelbase; all Coronets were four doors on a 117" wheelbase.
      There were four price classes of Chargers and two performance models,
      R/T and Super Bee.



      Chargers and Coronets did not share any exterior
      sheet metal. That gave the stylists more design latitude and this 1971
      Charger style evolved; it was modern, sleek and sporty. It received an
      enthusiastic response from dealers and customers and Charger sales
      climbed 50% to 75,000. In 1972, with minimal changes, 68,000 Chargers
      were sold.



      1973 Charger sales were 108,000, the highest ever, stimulated by this distinctive SE roof
      treatment. Sales in 1974 of a mostly carryover Charger design were
      60,700.



      Yogi Berra said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Charger came to that fork in the road in 1975.

      Chrysler Division needed a personal luxury car to compete with Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Thunderbird, Riviera, and Toronado, so a new entry, the Cordoba, was created, based on the B body.



      It was the right move, selling 150,000 Cordobas in the first year, but it left a dilemma for Dodge Charger product planners: either share a new skin with Cordoba, share with the new Satellite/Coronet two doors, or carry over the 1974 skin.



      We chose the Cordoba alternative, which brought the formal style to the Charger. The Satellite/Coronet skin would have been sportier but it would have sacrificed a distinctive appearance for the Charger. Carrying over the four year old 1971-1974 skin would have sacrificed a new appearance, which is important to this style conscious market.

      A new, unique design was the optimum solution for the 1975 Charger, but that was not affordable and the additional skin would have caused unacceptable manufacturing complexity.



      <!-- google_ad_section_end -->

      We asked Bill Brownlie to "put some hair" on the formal design through ornamentation, but we could not stimulate buyer interest in the Charger. Our sales in 1975 were only 31,000. In 1976, sales were encouraging - up 70% to 53,000, but then back down to 36,000 in 1977. I think the young man's words, "I see the Charger nameplate but that's no Charger" defined the problem.

      In 1978, the Magnum SE, using a
      facelifted Charger/Cordoba skin; was introduced; and only 2,700
      Chargers were built in its last year.



      So ended the Dodge Charger.

      I moved to Europe in January 1975. From that time, my knowledge of Charger was only what I read in
      newspapers, magazines, and sales reports. However, I can't escape the fact that
      I was Director of Product Planning and was part of the fateful 1975
      decision that sent the Charger on a path to oblivion.

      Maybe
      Charger would not have made it even with a new unique sporty appearance
      in 1975. After all, the Cordoba was the right design for 1975 and that
      nameplate lasted only through 1983.



      The Dodge Charger is coming
      back [written in 2004]. This is a picture of the latest Charger idea car with 1969 and
      1970 Chargers in the background. If we like it, they will build it. I
      think they will build it anyway, because I doubt that the new Dodge
      Magnum wagon will sell at the Intrepid four door sedan volume level which
      was more than 100,000 per year.

      I told you that
      we dreamed up cynical definitions and slogans in Product Planning to
      amuse ourselves. Here is one of my favorites:



      Postscript

      Gary Rombert wrote:

      Bob Rodger was a major driver [of the Charger Daytona]. Dale Reeker and Larry Rathgeb were the major executors. John Pointer was the proving grounds engineer and Bob Marcel was Morgan Dawley's Aerodynamic engineer.

      I came in the middle of 1969 and was the aero guy after Marcel left for bigger and better things. We rented the Wichita State wind tunnel. We not only did the high speed testing at our proving grounds, we also rented race tracks and had the NASCAR drivers test for us."
      Acknowledgement: John Benedict was manager of a department in Engineering that I call
      Technical Services and Publications. I want to thank John for
      the hundreds of charts, pictures, and slides that his department made
      for me over the years. When I put the slides together, I
      fully realized the great service that he provided to me.


      Also see: the Dodge Charger's birthday celebration


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      2015 Dodge Charger Models, Specifications, Safety, and Options

      Includes Charger SRT Hellcat.

      For engine details, see Pentastar V6 and Hemi V8. Also see eight-speed automatics. All Chargers have a 180 amp alternator (except SE, at 160 amps) and H7-sized 730 CCA battery with the PowerNet electronics architecture. All models have locking, capless fuel doors and LED "racetrack" tail-lamps.



      2010 Charger2011-142015 Dodge Charger2015 Pursuit
      Transmission5 speed5 spd (8 spd V6)*8 speed5 speed
      0-60 (V6 / Hemi)8.9/6.06.6 / 6.24
      (5 spd V6: 8.6)
      6.6 / "under 6"
      (Hellcat: 3.7 by pro
      driver with drag slicks)
      Unreleased
      Mileage
      (V6/V8, RWD)
      17/25 (V6)
      16/25 (V8)
      18/27, 19/31*
      16/25 (V8)
      19/31 (V6)
      16/25 (V8)
      18/25 (V6)
      16/25 (V8)
      Mileage (SRT8)13/1914/2315/25 (392 - 6.4)
      13/22 (Hellcat)
      No SRT
      Peak hp/torque250/250 (V6)
      370/398 (V8)
      425/420 (SRT)
      292/260 (V6)
      370/395 (V8)
      470/470 (SRT)
      292/260 or 300/264 (V6)
      370/395 (V8)
      485/470 (SRT)
      707/650 (Hellcat)
      292/260 (V6)
      370/395 (V8)
      No SRT
      Wheelbase120"120.2"120.2"<-
      Length200.1"199.9"198.4"<-
      Width74.5"75.0"75.0"<-
      Height58.2"58.758.5" (to antenna tip)58.4"
      Max track63"63.063.8"63.8"
      Weight3,800 (V6) to
      4,031 (V8)
      4,065 V6 /
      4,290 5.7
      3,934 (SE)
      3,966 (SXT)
      4,157 (SE AWD)
      4,188 (SXT AWD)
      4,264 (R/T RWD)


      4,039 (V6)
      4,271 (V8)

      ? V8 AWD

      F/R weight
      distribution
      53/47 (V6)
      54/46 (V8)


      52/48 (V6 RWD)
      53/47 (V6 AWD, V8 RWD)
      54/46 (Hellcat)

      52/48 V6
      53/47 V8 RWD
      Interior volume104 cubic feet
      (120.2 EPA)


      104.8 c.f.
      (120.2 EPA)

      104.7 cf
      (120.8 EPA)
      <-
      Cargo volume16.2 cubic feet (460L)16 c.f. (EPA)16.1 cubic feet16.5 c.f.
      Front head room38.7 (983)38.638.6 (36.9 w/sunroof)38.6
      Front leg room41.841.841.8<-
      Front shoulder room59.359.559.5<-
      Front hip room56.256.256.2<-
      Seat travel10.6 driver,
      8.7 passenger
      n/a10.0 driver
      8.66 passenger
      10.6 driver
      8.66 pass.
      Rear head room36.236.736.6<-
      Rear leg room40.240.140.1
      Rear knee clearance4.5n/a3.9<-
      Rear shoulder room57.657.957.9<-
      Rear hip room55.556.156.1<-
      * On early models, 8 speed was optional with the V6

      Models: 2015 Dodge Charger at launch

      Dodge appears to have upgraded the base model dramatically, following Chrysler (and Fiat)'s strategy of making their cars more desirable at all levels, and relying on sales to follow - as they generally have, so far. The top Charger, the SRT Hellcat, has been certified to run the quarter mile in 11.0 seconds on street tires, and reportedly has an unofficial 10.7 second time on drag slicks.



      At Launch:Charger SECharger SXTCharger R/TScat PackSRT 392SRT Hellcat
      EngineV6V65.7 V86.4 V86.4 V8Supercharged 6.2 V8
      Key optionsAWD*AWD*Road & Track*
      US price**$28,990$30,990$33,990$40,990$49,380$64,990
      Canada price**$34,190$37,290$41,190$49,095$53,095$67,095

      * $3,000 extra in the United States. AWD $2,200 extra in Canada; R&T $2,000 extra in Canada. .
      ** Includes destination charge ($995 in the continental US, $1,695 in Canada)

      The Charger has had a 62% increase in sales since 2009, over double the 30% growth of the standard full-size car segment. Charger buyers are on average 15 years younger than those of the competition within the segment, with more than half identifying themselves as Millennials or Generation Xers.

      The Charger SE includes the eight-speed, three-mode electric power steering, automatic halogen projector headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, 7-inch color information display, 5-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, two USB charging outlets, and a new three-spoke thick rim sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, vehicle, and cruise controls. Even the SE has the LED-lit "racetrack" trail-lamps, variable intermittent speed sensitive vipers, P215/65R17 tires (RWD), 195 mm rear axle, 160 amp alternator, and capless fuel door. The media hub includes an SD card and USB reader along with standard audio input; a six-speaker stereo; dual-zone air conditioning with rear outlets; LED interior lights; manual tilt-and-telescoping steering column; and Keyless Enter 'n Go with push-button start.

      Standard safety features include seven airbags, all-speed traction control, Brake Assist, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Rain Brake Support, electronic stability control, and Ready Alert Braking.

      Dodge Charger SXT adds LED fog lamps, 8.4-inch touchscreen display with satellite radio, emergency or standard UConnect Access assistance, sport seats with 12-way power driver seat, heated front seats and power-adjustable mirrors, remote start, automatic dual-zone climate control, universal garage door opener, 276-watt Alpine audio system, shark-fin antenna, and 18-inch five-spoke painted black wheels with P235/55R18 BSW all-season performance tires.

      Dodge Charger SE AWD and SXT AWD add P235/55R19 all-season performance tires.



      Dodge Charger R/T, America's most affordable V-8 sedan, adds steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, higher-performance suspension with larger disc brakes, 20-inch five-spoke black aluminum wheels, a colored spoiler, and sport seats.

      Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track
      adds the Super Track Pak, with Dodge Performance Pages, 3-mode electronic stability control, heavy-duty brakes, and track suspension; a matte black grille with an "R/T" badge, high-intensity discharge (HID) head lamps, different wheels with P245/45ZR20 all-season performance tires (P245/45ZR20 three season performance tires optional), 3.07 axle ratio, heated and ventilated Nappa leather and Alcantara suede performance seats with larger side bolsters, heated steering wheel, driver's seat memory, power-adjustable pedals and steering column with memory, performance engine and transmission calibration and high-speed engine controller, rear park assist system, and alarm.

      Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack takes the R/T and adds the 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. Hemi 392 (6.4), with a 3.09 rear axle ratio. It has an active exhaust system with 4-inch round exhaust tips, aluminum hood with NACA duct, different fascias and side sills, black spoiler, steering wheel with rev-matching paddle shifters, performance seats in black cloth, red Brembo four-piston caliper front brakes, three-mode electronic stability control (ESC), high-performance suspension, 20-by-9-inch polished aluminum wheels, aluminum pedals, 180-mph speedometer, and backup camera.

      Dodge Charger SRT 392 adds 20-by-9.5-inch wide Slingshot forged black aluminum wheels with new P275/40ZR-20 Pirelli tires, 15.4-inch front brakes, Brembo six-piston calipers with two-piece slotted and vented rotors, SRT-tuned high-performance adaptive damping suspension (ADS), rear body-color spoiler, Launch Control, heated and ventilated leather-and-suede front seats, a SRT flat-bottom three-spoke heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt and telescoping column, and red push-button start. This car includes one day of driving at the SRT Driving Experience.



      Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat takes the SRT 392 and adds the supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat V-8 engine, which produces 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, making it the quickest, fastest, most powerful production sedan in the world. It has two key fobs - red and black - to control engine output; SRT Performance Pages with boost gauge, Dark Spun aluminum accents, 200 mph speedometer, aluminum performance hood with NACA duct and dual air extractors, and Slingshot forged-aluminum wheels with Matte Black or Brass Monkey/Dark Bronze finish.

      The 2015 model year brings back TorRed and B5 Blue, along with Redline Red Tri-coat Pearl, Jazz Blue Pearl, Granite Crystal Metallic, Billet Silver Metallic, Pitch Black, Phantom Black Tri-coat Pearl, Ivory Tri-coat Pearl and Bright White.

      All Charger models have new wheels for 2015.The 2015 Dodge Charger arrives at Dodge dealerships nationwide before the end of the year. The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is scheduled to start production in the first quarter of 2015.

      Dodge Charger Hellcat Options (at launch)

      Contributed by Patrick Rall. The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat follows the expected SRT form, coming with a long list of standard features inside and out. There aren't all that many options for buyers, since the $62,295 car includes everything that you need to love every single second of driving the 2015 Charger Hellcat, including heated leather seats and a high end infotainment system. Still, you can add some unique features to make your car different from the other examples of the world's most powerful production sedan.



      First off, the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat MSRP of $62,295 does not include the $1,700 gas guzzler tax or the $995 destination fee, which combine to bring the base price of the 707hp Charger to $64,990. In theory, that is the least that you can expect to pay when buying a Hellcat Charger from your local dealership before you get to cashing in favors or haggling.

      The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has seven standard (no cost) exterior colors and three premium colors that add $500 to the final price. The "free" colors are Billet Silver, Bright White, Granite Crystal, Jazz Blue, Pitch Black, TorRed, and B5 Blue, while the colors that will run you an extra half grand include Ivory White Tri-Coat Pearl, Phantom Black Tri-coat Pearl, and Redline Tri-Coat Pearl.

      All Hellcat Chargers come with the same lightweight wheel design, but those who want the Brass Monkey Bronze wheels can go that direction for $395 and to wrap those gorgeous wheels in 3-season performance tires will set you back another $195. Finally, if you want the black roof treatment, you can go that route for an additional $1,500.

      On the inside, the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat can be compared to a high end luxury car, with standard leather SRT performance seats with Alcantara inserts in black or bright red and black. Those who want a more luxurious look and feel can opt for a Laguna leather package in either black or sepia and black, for $1,795, while bright red seat belts can be added for $95 to brighten things up.

      The Hellcat Charger comes with an impressive standard infotainment system, including the elaborate SRT Pages, but adding navigation runs an extra $695, and if you want a state of the art Harmon Kardon sound system connected to the infotainment system, that will add $1,995 to the bottom line. Lovers of the clear blue sky can add a sunroof to their Hellcat Charger for $1,195.



      While you can drive off of the lot with an incredible super sedan for $64,990, adding every option to the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat brings the price to $71,855 (Phantom Black Tri-coat Pearl paint, Brass Monkey wheels, 3-season tires, Laguna leather, red seats and seat belts, navigation, Harmon Kardon sound system, and sunroof, with gas-guzzler tax and destination fee). Oh, and ther's also a black roof treatment, which would bring the price up to $73,355.

      These are preliminary prices, which could change before the 2015 Charger SRT Hellcat arrives early next year, but these figures should be accurate enough to let those planning to buy a 707hp Mopar sedan figure out how much they will be spending to own the world's most powerful mass-production sedan.



      Safety Gizmos

      The 2015 Dodge Charger is loaded with safety systems, with new features including Chrysler's own lane-change and rear cross path alerts, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and a forward collision warning system.

      Standard and optional features include:

      • Assist Call: Mirror-mounted buttons for emergency services, roadside assistance, customer service, and non-collision emergencies
      • Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus can bring the vehicle to a full stop without driver intervention under certain conditions; normally it provides a distance-based cruise control, using forward sensors.
      • All-row full-length side-curtain air bags extend protection to all outboard front- and rear-seat passengers. Each side air bag has its own impact sensor that autonomously triggers the air bag on the side where an impact occurs.
      • Anti-lock brakes detect rough roads by the oscillations in the wheel speed signals; when rough roads or off-road driving is detected, ABS holds the brake pressure for longer pulses
      • Auto-dimming driver's side and rear-view mirrors
      • Automatic headlamps and automatic high-beam headlamps
      • Blind-spot Monitoring (BSM): Uses dual radar sensors to notify the driver of vehicle(s) in their blind spot via lights on the side-view mirror and/or a chime.
      • In an emergency brake situation, the system applies maximum braking power (based on research that in many accidents, at least one driver didn't hit the brakes with full force). The brake-throttle override cuts engine-power output until the vehicle stops or the driver lifts their foot from the brakes, to prevent runaways.
      • The brake-lock differential system allows forward motion if one or two wheels lose traction, by selectively and aggressively applying brakes to the spinning wheels. Brake traction-control system keeps driving wheels from spinning during acceleration by applying individual brakes to the slipping wheel(s). Electronic brake-force distribution regulates braking pressure, front-to-rear.
      • Electronic locking fuel filler doors prevent theft or tampering.
      • Electronic stability control with roll prevention
      • Enhanced Accident Response System (EARS): makes it easier for emergency personnel to see and reach occupants in the event of an accident by turning on the interior lighting and unlocking doors after air bag deployment. It also shuts off flow of fuel to the engine.
      • Forward Collision Warning-Plus uses radar and video sensors to detect whether the Charger is approaching another vehicle or large obstacle in its path too rapidly, and warns or helps the driver to avoid the incident (video sensors are new to the system).
      • Front seat-belt adaptive/active load limiters optimize chest loading in an impact event, while impact sensors cause front seat-belt pretensioners to remove slack in an accident.
      • Hill-start Assist (HSA) keeps the brakes on briefly, after the driver's foot is moved from the pedal, to easily allow "non rollback" on hills.
      • Lane Departure Warning-Plus leverages electronic power steering (EPS) to deliver a torque-input to alert and assist the driver with corrective action.
      • LED tail-lamps activate instantly and grab attention more readily than traditional bulbs.
      • Rear park assist systems use ultrasonic sensors at low speeds in reverse, to detect stationary objects.
      • Rain Brake Support occasionally pushes the brake pads lightly against brake rotors in rainy conditions, to keep rotors dry.
      • Rain-sensing wipers
      • Reactive head restraints deploy in the event of a rear collision, minimizing the gap between the head restraint and the passenger's head.
      • Ready Alert Braking moves the brake pads closer to the rotors to allow faster braking when a collision is imminent.
      • Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection warns drivers backing out of parking spaces when traffic is moving towards their vehicle.
      • Tilt-and-telescoping steering column


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      1969 Dodge Charger: official press release of the classic car

      via Brian Kapral

      This is a 1969 Dodge Charger press release kit (for release September 1, 1968). I had bought this around ten years ago, and thankfully my father saved it when he was cleaning out his book shelf. I thought this literature had gotten either stolen out of my car on display years ago or lost at a show. I was happy to see that this stuff was still indeed alive and well! Now that it has resurfaced, I feel compelled to share it with everyone else (before it gets misplaced again!) as this is the only one I have ever seen like this!

      The press release

      Charger, the popular, family-size sports car which paced Dodge sales to dramatic all-time record highs in 1968, will retain its distinctive aerodynamic silhouette for 1969.

      But a list of refinements and improvements have been incorporated, including a new Charger 500 model for the performance-minded and a plush leather interior "Special Edition" (SE), to enhance Charger's appeal in the new model year.

      New grille and tail light treatment bolsters Charger's sporty car flavor. There are new vinyl roof and exterior color offerings; engineering innovations ranging from manual tilt seat adjuster and .easier-reach door lock buttons to improved automatic brake adjusters and "headlight on" warning buzzer.



      "Charger has been an exciting car--- a winner for Dodge Division," declared _______ of _________. (This should give you pause when you read "quotes" in press kits.)

      "Public acceptance of our all-new Charger in 1968 zoomed beyond our most optimistic predictions. We originally forecast 35,000 sales for 1968 but public response to the new Charger quickly caused us to alter projections to 85,000. We are aiming at more than 90,000 Charger sales in 1969.

      "To meet the rush of dealer orders, we tripled production at our main assembly plant in Hamtramck (Mich.) and added a Charger line to the St. Louis installation."

      Charger has been accounting for 16 per cent of Dodge car sales in 1968 and [sales] are running 460 per cent ahead of the 1967 model.

      He said that manufacturers, when they bring a specialty car to market, ordinarily do not make changes until the third year of the model's life.

      "But our thinking at Dodge was to provide customers with even more attractions without disturbing Charger's unique wedge-form design or identity."

      SPECIAL EDITION

      An optional "Special Edition" decor group for Charger and Charger R/T models features the richness of leather bucket seats, wood grain steering wheel, and wood grain inserts on the instrument panel. Identified by "SE" name plates of the roof pillars, the Special Edition package also contains bright-trimmed pedals, deep-dish wheel covers and a light group including time-delay ignition light and hood-mounted turn signal indicators.

      CHARGER 500

      The new member of Dodge's "Scat Pack" -- the Charger 500 -- is designed with the performance-minded driver in mind. It looks much like the standard Charger at a glance but has two major features that sets it apart.

      The rear window has been slanted more so that it is flush with the trailing edge of the rear window pillars. The basic Charger and Charger R/T have a "tunnel" roof and the rear window is slanted less.

      The grille now is flush-mounted instead of recessed to improve air flow and headlights are fixed instead of concealed as in the Charger and Charger R/T. The 500 is powered by the 426-cubic-inch Hemi engine.



      VINYL TOPS ARE UP

      Three out of every four Charger buyers ordered their cars with vinyl tops in 1968. To provide an. even wider selections of vinyl roofs, color selections are increased to four for 1969 and include tan, green, black, and white.

      SPLIT GRILLE

      A divided grille with six functional air vents in the divider piece was designed to imply dual intakes in keeping with Charger's sporty car theme.

      NEW TAIL LIGHTS

      Near wall-to-wall rectangular tail lights are recessed and replace the dual, round, projecting lights of the 1968 model. The lights are surrounded by a black inset as they were last year to retain Charger's highway identity.

      Other changes include an optional, manually-operated, six-way driver's bucket seat, easier reach door lock buttons, improved automatic brake adjusters, improved sure-grip differential, and optional fiberglass belted tires which increase tread life and improve traction.

      ENGINES

      Standard V-8 for Charger is the 318 C.I.D., 230-hp engine. The standard six cylinder is the 225 C.I.D., 145-hp Slant Six. Optional 383 C.I.D. engines, with two or four-barrel carburetion and 290 and 330 hp respectively, are optional powerplants. In the Charger R/T, which accounted for 21 per cent of 1968 Charger sales, the 440 C.I.D. Magnum, 375-hp powerplant is standard and the 426 C.I.D., 425-hp Hemi is optional.

      SUSPENSION

      A high-rate, rallye-type suspension, including sway bar, is standard. The R/T and 500 models have a special handling suspension package which includes heavy duty torsion bars, heavy duty shocks, extra heavy duty rear springs and sway bar.

      OPTIONS

      A long list of options includes automatic speed control, front disc brakes, tachometer, rear window defogger, AM, AM/FM, and AM/Stereo tape radios.

      Charger's wheelbase remains at 117 inches; overall length is 208 inches, width, 76.6 inches, and height, 53.2 inches.

      Charger-identified items, such as the aerodynamic spoiler on the rear deck; rallye-type instrument panel with easy-read gauges slanted to the driver, and map pockets on the doors, are retained on the 1969 model.
      "Charger is a success story. We expect to write a new chapter in 1969. "

      (73168-TW)



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      Dodge Charger: Influences of the past in the present

      © 2007 Jerry Simcik. Used by permission.

      It was, and still is, one of the best looking cars ever made. Its name alone can strike fear into its competitors. Its components, descendants of a past and heritage as glorious and heralded as the finest of Triple Crown winners, cause others to lose their breath, their hearts to skip a beat, and their palms to sweat.



      Hemi. R/T. Charger. Words that make car guys drool and other guys want to be car guys. Words that evoke thoughts of speed and power, of dominance, and of a style as timeless as time itself. So when rumors of the Charger's return to the Dodge line-up first started circling around water coolers in 1999, the expectations were already high.

      When production was approved for a 2005 model, many were surprised - if not upset - that the "New Charger," as it is commonly known, was a four-door sedan rather than a two-door muscle car. That is the most obvious difference between the two generations of cars. So let us take a closer look at these vehicles, and find out just how much of the old is really in the New Charger.



      The original 1966 Charger was a sleek fastback design. It was fast, and successful on the NASCAR circuit (then running stock cars) when equipped with the large Mopar big-block V8s. And while it was a great car, its sales were not what were expected. Dodge designers felt it was time for a change. Their redesign would bring us a legend.



      Prior to the newest generation of Chargers, the most popular and well recognized was the second generation. The 1968 to 1970 Chargers shared a similar "coke bottle" shape, with only modest differences between each year. It had broad "shoulders" at the rear fenders that sat higher than the front, giving the car a more aggressive appearance.

      A full-width grille with hide-away headlights, fake heat extractors in the hood and doors, and an easy-access, quick-fill gas cap made sure there was no mistake - this car meant business. Its roof line, while from the side appearing a fastback, similar to its first generation cousins, was in fact deeply recessed, with two large "sails" surrounding the rear glass, a unique styling feature.



      The New Charger, sadly, did not borrow from the legendary two-door coke bottle design of the second generation Chargers. It did, however, keep their buff shoulders, as the highest point on the car's main body line is again set over the rear wheels. This constant rake (a term referring to the forward slant of an automobile) lends to the Charger's appearance of perpetual motion. Its roof line, despite lacking some of the appeal of a hardtop due to its four-door design, is very similar to the old, but its rear glass is not nearly as recessed.



      The New Charger sampled styles from several years. All old Chargers, despite having them hidden behind eye lid-like doors in the grille, had four round headlights. The New Charger also has four round headlights. The taillights of the 1969 and 1970 Chargers were long and narrow, and somewhat recessed into the rear. The 1968 taillights, however, were round, and there were two on each side. A look which, despite the lack of any type of recession, and the much higher mounting location of the more square taillights on the New Charger, is still noticeable at night and very subtly present behind the red lenses during the day.

      Despite having two more doors, the new Charger is actually shorter than its predecessor (208" in 1969: 200.1" in 2005). However, its wheelbase is 3" longer (117" in 1969: 120" in 2005), giving it a smoother ride. The New Charger is also narrower - width was 76.6" in 1969 and 74.5" in 2005 - but reaches 5" above its 1969 height of 53.2 inches.

      Even the earliest Chargers were full size. All Chargers could seat five passengers very comfortably, and even six in the older models if the center console was optioned out for a vinyl armrest/seat.



      As far interior refinements go, the New Charger wins hand-down though. In 1969, features such as a rear glass defogger, front-wheel disc brakes, AM/FM/Cassette (or 8-Track) radio with 3 speakers, cruise control, a tachometer, and A/C were expensive options. Now they all come standard, along with driver and passenger side airbags, stability control, and four-wheel ABS. Options include in-dash DVD/navigation, 300-watt sound systems, power heated seats, adjustable pedals, and other neat gadgets and gizmos.



      But for all of its improvements, the New Charger's interior still harkens to the past with its retro-styled dash and instrument cluster.



      The second generation Chargers came in several different packages. There was the base Charger, the Charger SE ("Special Edition"), the Charger R/T (Road & Track), and the rare NASCAR variants - the 1969 Charger 500 (which had a less-recessed grille and a true fastback for better aerodynamics around the track), and the 1969 ½ Charger Daytona.

      The Charger Daytona, a Charger 500 with an additional nose cone and a tall wing on the rear, was the first car to exceed 200mph on a NASCAR track; it had less aerodynamic drag than most current vehicles. When the New Charger was released in 2005, it came as a base-model Charger SE (now "Standard Equipment"), the Charger SXT, and the Charger R/T. The limited-production Charger Daytona and the Charger SRT-8 followed shortly thereafter in 2006.



      In 1969, the base engine was the 230hp 318c.i. (5.2L) V8 (gross horsepower; net was approximately 150 hp). In 2005, the base engine was a 3.5L, 250hp V6. The second generation Chargers had several engine/transmission combinations available, from a 318 and a 3-speed automatic to a whopping 440c.i. (7.2L) Magnum engine with 375hp and a 4-speed manual, standard on the R/T models.

      The New Chargers were limited to only three engine choices, and one transmission (a 5-speed automatic), even in the SRT cars. The best thing, perhaps, about the New Charger was that it too got the legendary Hemi as an option. The standard 5.7L found in today's R/Ts with 345hp lacks some of the grunt of the 426 c.i. (6.9L), 425hp "Elephants" (as they were known) of yesteryear, but the SRT-8's souped-up 6.1L Hemi produces 425hp as well.

      The New Chargers definitely have the same attitude as the old ones, and while lacking some of the most infamous design characteristics, the lineage of this legendary piece of automotive history is clearly present. Dodge's designers back in 1968 got it right. Prior to 2005, 1968 (the first year of the second generation Charger) was one of the most popular, and second-best-selling year model; Dodge sold 96,100 units - they had only planned on selling 35,000! Only the 1973 Charger sold more, with 108,000 units.

      Bringing back a famous road name is risky - expectations are always higher for these cars - and Dodge took its fair share of flak for its new design from die-hard traditionalists. "A four-door Charger is not a Charger," they say. But regardless of this, the Charger is one of today's best-selling and most popular large vehicles. It is powerful, it is fast, and it is sleek and sexy. And now it is also safer, and more efficient, and even more practical than it was before. It is the leading full-size car in America, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

      Works Cited

      1) Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. "1968 Dodge Charger R/T Hemi." HowStuffWorks.com. 20 October 2007.

      2) Herd, Paul, & Mike Mueller. Charger, Road Runner, and Super Bee (Muscle Car Color History). Motorbooks, 1994.

      3)Warden, Paul. "1968 Dodge Charger R/T." 440Magnum-Network.com, June 2003.
      22 October 2007.

      4)"1967 Dodge Charger 383 4-Spd." Carnut.com. 21 December 1997. 22 October
      2007.

      5)"1968 Charger." Jalopnik.com. 22 October 2007. (URL not found)

      6)"Dodge Charger Sales Advertisement." The Dallas Morning News. 19 October
      2007: Section L.

      7)"Dodge Charger Daytona 1969." Dreams-Cars.com. 22 October 2007.

      8)"The Legendary Dodge Charger Muscle Car." Allpar.com. 17 October 2007.

      9)"The Modern Dodge Charger, Dodge Charger R/T, & Dodge Charger SRT8." Allpar.com. 17 October 2007.



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      3,295 Posts
      2011 Chrysler 300C car reviews / road tests



      This review really should have been easier to write. It's the second generation of a car, equipped with the same V8 and transmission as the first; and it's a brand-differentiated sibling of a car we just had last week, the Dodge Charger R/T. But the 300C is surprisingly different from both its predecessor and its sibling, so this won't be as easy as copying last week's review and replacing the word "Charger" with "300C."

      For one thing, the appearance is completely different, inside and out. The 300C has gone upscale, in a big way. Outside, ignoring the extra chrome and other details, the lights are visibly more costly, with LEDs surrounding the headlights; the tail-lamps have more detail, with separate shapes for running lights and brakes/turn signals, all encased in a plastic shell to avoid wear on chromed parts.



      Inside, gauges are covered by a large leather-covered brow, matching the textured plastics; chrome sets off various elements and prevents the "huge mass of plastic" effect. Most "touch" surfaces have been softened, and being a 300C, our car had a solid "wood style" steering wheel top element and smoothly leather-covered bottom element. Visible stitching on the doors and various other surfaces fit the current fashion; while inserts, silver, and chrome on the doors prevent them from a cheap look. The leather seats were all perforated, front and back, for comfort, and the back seats were nearly as detailed as the fronts. The rear seats seem more spacious, with more legroom, than the prior generation - an illusion, perhaps? They provided good support, for rear seats.

      In short, in both front and back seats, the 300C looks far, far better than it did in the past generation, and can now easily compete with other cars in its price range for interior appeal.



      Looks aren't the whole story. Take the 300C on the road, and while the ride is very similar to the Dodge Charger, the interior seems quieter (among other things, the Chrysler has an acoustic windshield), and the powertrain is more luxury-tuned. We had both cars with the Hemi and all wheel drive, back to back; and while both stick to the road like glue, allowing for full power to be applied in situations that would turn many RWD cars into smoking wrecks, the 300C was clearly different. The Charger would snap your neck back with little provocation; the 300C seemed gentler, more restrained. It provided gobs of power, yes, but more gently - presumably the torque management was turned way up.

      The powertrain in the 300C moved the car with authority, allowing very easy but also very quick acceleration around town and on the highway. But while flooring the gas at just about any speed in the Charger resulted in an instant-on power charge and a hard downshift, the 300C seemed to spool up a little more gently, and the transmission certainly downshifted with much less fuss. The 300C did not seem slower or weaker, but it was certainly gentler.

      As with the Charger, the 300C is a full sized car, so there is no cramped cockpit or back seat; you can sit upright, and your head will not come near the roof; you can store things in the trunk; and you can put three people into the back seat. The engine is quiet at idle, and the va-VOOM when you hammer the throttle down is more restrained and muffled than with the Charger.



      The ride is well cushioned, and smooths broken cement roads and such with no noise but with some minor jiggling. It's a moderately firm but very shock-absorbing ride, not full-luxury but not sports-coupe either. The impression of speed is reduced by the high level of sound insulation, effortless power, and steady feel; cruising at highway speeds almost feels like crawling. If there aren't other cars on the road going the speed limit, 80 will feel like 40.

      The car feels heavy, but not ponderous, and not nearly as heavy as the previous version felt (it is, in fact, heavier now). Changes to the suspension improved both feel and actual cornering; you can fly through curves at absurd speeds, and for good measure stomp on the gas halfway through [do not consider this a recommendation to engage in foolish stunts]. The 300C doesn't leap forward so much as it calmly gains speed; leaping is left to the Charger.

      Stability control is there to rescue you from wet pavement, patches of ice or sand, and extremely foolhardy decisions, but a typical driver will never feel it working. With the all wheel drive, most people will probably never encounter stability control; it takes a lot to make it kick in.

      The transmission was part of the background, shifting smoothly and quickly, kicking down rapidly when needed for passing power, and generally acting as we would in its place. Those who prefer manual overrides can use the AutoStick system, which is oddly set up as a lateral motion (right goes up a gear, left drops down).

      It's an achievement for a car this big to ride this well and yet take turns as sharp, and as quickly, as it does, with nary a squeal from the tires. What's more, parking is made fairly easy by an absurdly tight turning radius - the big car doesn't take nearly as much space to turn as you'd think.

      Seat comfort was mixed - one driver liked them, one didn't; they are at least highly adjustable even if they still have not gotten back to the "sink into support" of the 300M. For added storage, you can easily fold down the rear seats (in a 2/3 arrangement so you can still have on or two passengers with a single long object sticking out from the capacious trunk). More storage is in the two-level glove compartment, made more useful by the redaction of the owner's manual into an easily read highlights book and a USB thumb drive for the usually-ignored bulk of the book. (There are also iPhone apps and such.)

      One handy addition is remote access to the windows; click Unlock, then hold it down, and the front windows both roll down until you release the Unlock button on the remote. You can do it from your office on the way out to the parking lot, or from your house on the way to the car.



      The gauge cluster is unusual, hearkening back to the electroluminiscent displays of Chryslers from long ago, and drop-dead gorgeous, day or night. We'd find the speedometer a lot easier to use if it didn't go up to 160 mph, cramming the all important 70-80 mph zone into a very small space with two many hashmarks; likewise, the tachometer probably doesn't need to go up to 7,000 rpm when redline is around 5,600 rpm (electronically limited). Those who use the gauges as visual cues may think they're not accelerating as fast as they are, with such small sweeps in the legal range (the entire legal region, 0-65, is confined to around 1/3 of the speedometer gauge circle).

      On the lighter side, the gauges are both very attractive, as are the gasoline and temperature sub-gauges; more information is available via the center status display, which, by default, shows status messages, the outside temperature, compass heading, and odometer. The PRNDL, below, shows the current gear in red, and if you use the electronic range select née AutoStick, it gives you the gear number. Backlighting is used on just about every control and button and dial, a return from the absurd cost cutting of the past. The headlight switch (in its traditional on-dash location) provides a choice of off, automatic, parking lights, and headlights, with push-for-fogs, the rheostats (one for the dashboard, one for the other interior lights) sit right next to it.



      Climate controls are clustered together between the stereo knobs, underneath the large screen in the center of the car. There are physical buttons for temperature (driver and passenger sides), a/c, recirculate, automatic, and defrost, and a knob for the fan speed; if you want to change the vents or turn on the seat-warmers or steering wheel warmer, you'll need to use the touch screen. Amusingly, that's not true for the stereo - which has real knobs for both volume and tune/scroll, and steering wheel buttons for volume, tune, and mode. Between them, you can do most everything but change the bass/treble and balance.

      The cruise control is back on the steering wheel, on the right; the trip computer controls are on the left. If you have them, the voice command button is on the left, and the laser-based distance-sensitive cruise control is on the right.



      Numerous little touches make life easier - like having the navigation system provide turn by turn directions in the status panel between the speedo and tach as well as on the big screen; and showing the park assist in the dash. The big screen also allows drivers to set numerous preferences, turning on or tuning safety and convenience features including the blind spot and cross path detection, automatic locking and lights, and such. It's easier to use this system than the past EVIC control, which was easier than turning the key three times while pressing unlock and whistling a show tune.

      Our test car had lights for the door handles and map pockets, which were dim enough to be ignored, but light enough to be useful.

      One feature which I personally am not fond of, but which many like, is the keyless ignition and locks. Press the underside of the driver's door, and if your keys are in your pocket, it will unlock; press the underside of the passenger door, and all the doors unlock. The trunk has no physical key, but the fob button will pop it open (all the way) and so will a button inside, lined with chrome (as is the gas cap cover -- hurray, a Chrysler with a locking gas cap!) Once inside, a starter button takes the place of the ignition switch. Unlike most cars, the Chrysler both gives you directions (on the status display) and tells you what mode the car is in - off, accessory, and run - with lights above the switch. That's a good addition to an option I'd just as soon do without.

      Another minor but useful example of forethought is the cruise control. Most cars tell you when the system is on, or when a speed is locked in; the 300C has little icons for on, locked, and "distance sensitive."

      Standard on these cars is the status area between the speedometer and tachometer. Dubbed the Vehicle Information Center (VIC), this display always shows the compass heading and outside temperature; if the car is warmed up, it'll also show you when you're running on four cylinder mode (by flashing the word "ECO.") You can decide what else it will show - your current speed, for example. The user interface is a little clumsy but it works well overall.

      The VIC display can show the usual gas mileage, average speed, etc.; or it can show interesting data such as oil temperature, antifreeze temperature, transmission fluid temperature, and whether the car is in RWD or AWD. It would be nice if there was a "multiple info" mode which showed more than one of these at a time, since there's room for it; or if the system could alternate among several metrics; or if you could show the the same information in the huge center screen, at the top of the well-styled center stack (which avoids looking like a stack, with squarish-oval trim around the big screen, the climate/stereo controls set into a panel below, and a small, subtle covered storage bin underneath.



      The center screen is also handy for the rear camera, which provides a panoramic view of what's behind you, now including a boosted color image at night. This isn't just handy for backing into spaces; you can also make sure you're not blocking a driveway when in tight spots. The screen also includes the heated seat controls - which show up by default when the system is booted, on the screen that asks you to agree not to be distracted while driving. There are no physical heated-seat buttons (except for the rear seats) but in this case that's probably okay, since you can turn them on as soon as you've started the car.

      Above, the Charger had the usual panoply of dome and map lights, along with a drop-down sunglass/eyeglass holder and the universal garage door opener buttons.

      Gadgets, gizmos, and safety devices

      Rear cross path detection and blind-spot detection, both of which can be shut off, alert the driver to potential hazards with yellow lights in the mirrors and audible alerts. While you can twist and turn to see around the blind spots, notably the big rear pillar, these systems, annoying as they sometimes are, can be helpful; it only takes one prevented collision for them to pay off. We tested these out in a busy parking lot, and they are surprisingly sensitive, able to spot cars before the driver does. The blind-spot detection works all the time, activating a yellow light in the mirror when a car is there, but only sounds when you put on your turn signal. Rear cross path detection is activated when you shift into neutral (that can, optionally, also turn the mirrors down for parking ease); it is supplemented on 300C by default with a rear-view camera, and with the Safety-Tec package, by the parking distance sensor.



      The "adaptive cruise control" system uses radar to figure out how far away the car in front is; that system also provides the forward collision warning. Chrysler's implementation allows the driver to choose the distance from the car in front, with three settings which we can call "metro highways," "Midwestern highways," and "long, mostly empty stretches between cities." The shortest setting provided a safe distance but didn't invite people to cut in; the other settings were a bit long for areas where drivers are rude or impatient. The system worked well, apparently allowing some "fudge factor" when the car in front slowed down, and providing for brisk but not jarring acceleration when the obstacle in front was cleared (by either the 300C or the other car changing lanes). The system worked predictably and well.

      The rain-sensitive wipers were a bit odd since there was no clear setting for automatic mode, but they did their job well enough. The rear sunshade, standard now on 300C, is handy for protecting rear occupants from the sun, keeping the interior from baking, and supplementing the automatic day/night mirror when needed.

      SmartBeam headlamps, used with either halogens or HID headlights, adjust to ambient light and oncoming traffic; every time the car is started, the headlights do a little dance, whether to initialize or to show off. The SmartBeam camear is mounted on the rear view mirror, and the windshield in front of it needs to be kept clean.



      Standard luxury features include the vehicle information center, remote start, eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, heated/ventilated leather front seats, heated leather back seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with humidity sensor, 8.4 inch touch screen, remote USB and audio ports, 276-watt amp with six speakers sand satellite radio, voice command, cell phone connection, auto-dimming rear view mirror, leather-wrap-and-wood heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, capless fuel filler, rain-sensitive wipers, power pedals, and power tilt/telescope steering column. Standard tires are P235/55R19 all-seasons.

      You can also put all the windows down remotely, and the two-driver memory system covers the seats, steering wheel, pedals, mirrors, and radio.

      The SafetyTec package was the only option on our car, and it added $2,795 to the price (ending up at $43,940 as tested). For that, we got foldaway mirrors with integrated turn signals, HID headlamps with automatic leveling and tightly focused beams, rear fog lamps, forward collision warning, rear parking assist, blind spot and cross path detection, and adaptive (distance sensitive) cruise. Outfitted similarly to the Dodge we had last week, the 300C was around the same price; but it comes by default with more standard equipment.

      Chrysler 300C stereo and navigation system

      Our test car included an auxiliary radio and USB jack, along with a power jack, in the center console; all were backlight, and the aux/USB jack had a clear plastic cover to prevent rubbish from falling in. Above that was a removable change tray, which also had an iPod-sized indentation (with enough room for an iPod Classic and its docking cord).

      If you don't have an iPod, or don't want to subject it to car rides, you can also load up a huge amount of music onto an SD card and plug that right into the center stack. Given how large and cheap SD cards are, that's a great option - probably better than using an iPod. There are only two gotchas - it can't play iTunes Store AACs, though it can play "DIY" AACs (which is a step forward); and if you use a Mac, you have to use a utility (or Terminal) to get rid of all those empty resource-fork files. Neither problem is hard to address, though getting rid of iTunes Store DRM is a nuisance - burn the music to (virtual) CDs, then convert it back in again as "free and easy" AACs. (But keep the originals because conversion degrades sound quality a bit - maybe not enough to notice.) We were surprised at how well the system took a bunch of tunes deliberately not stored in folders, and sorted them by artist and by album.

      Our car had a standard Alpine stereo unit (part of the 300C package), and it was quite good - we tried it with a range of music that is highly dependent on having a quality audio system, including Bachman & Turner and Devo's Something for Everyone, along with classical, pop, and regular ol' whatever's-on-satellite-radio. All came through with flying colors; clarity is quite good and a marked improvement from the 2010s.



      The iPod control worked well with our iPod Classic and but was faster with an iPod Nano and Touch. It took a long time for the Classic and stereo to get along the first time; Jim Z pointed out that the iPod Classic has to spin up its hard drive, flush its internal cache, and load the data, while the Touch and Nano have no "seek" time delays. It took no time at all to link with an iPod Touch; we did have an issue with the Touch where it wanted to remain in Shuffle mode and wouldn't let us browse except at rare and apparently random intervals. This might be a bug in our first-gen Touch rather than the system itself. Certainly, it worked flawlessly from the SD card.

      The system allows browsing of the iPod through the touch screen, showing the names of artists or albums, and even showing cover art (where you have it). You can also move to the next or prior song by using the physical tuning knob, which is a big deal for safe driving; however, you can't set the tone, balance, or fade without going through touch screen gyrations.

      By default, once music is playing, the stereo shows the audio screen with the map display inside; the screen is large enough to get away with that, the map ending up about as big as it would be in the old Pacifica's display, or on a portable nav system.


      Yes, this photo is from the Dodge Charger, which has a nearly identical system but with red highlights.

      The optional Garmin navigation system was a wonder - it was the fastest nav system we've ever used, taking input as fast as we could type and adapting very quickly when we ignored its advice. All the usual geegaws were in place, though compass heading was supplied by the gauge cluster display rather than being shown on the screen, and the map always defaulted to the same zoom level regardless of where we'd set it last time. Directions were generally accurate.

      Words were large and easy to read, and most parts of the screen were "clickable" - putting our finger on the current speed and speed limit (available for most main roads, and turning our speed red when we went "too fast"), for example, gave us a full distance to destination in miles and minutes, along with the compass heading, elevation, maximum speed, etc. (We would have liked a preference for keeping the zoom setting tighter, and one for providing more latitude between the speed limit and the red print, though we can see that lawyers would have a field day with that.)

      Chrysler 300C: summary

      Overall, the Chrysler 300C is a great package at a good price. With the Hemi engine, you get strong acceleration, handled with velvet gloves in the Chrysler (and with a heavy wrench in the Dodge); with AWD, it comes with increased control, and thanks to an automatically disconnecting front axle, that control has but a small price to pay in gas mileage.

      On the highway, gas mileage is nothing to brag about, at 23 mpg (we actually experienced 26 mpg at higher than usual highway speeds). City cycle is far worse, with EPA rating the car at 15 mpg; take short trips and it could be worse, because the four-cylinder mode only comes when the engine is warm. The EPA rates the 300C at 16/25 with rear wheel drive, and 15/23 with AWD, despite the clever auto-disconnecting front axle. The 2011 V6 models came in at 18 city, 27 highway; the 2012 V6 eight-speeds clocked a more impressive 21 city, 31 mpg highway, with far better acceleration than the five-speeds.



      The 2011 Chrysler 300C AWD started at $41,205, which is around $8,000 more than the Charger. That price includes the Hemi engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety features include the backup camera, SmartBeam headlamps, side curtain airbags for front and rear, front seat airbags, reactive head restraints, stability and traction control, four wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-start hold, fog lamps, tire pressure monitoring, and knee airbag.

      Standard luxury features include the vehicle information center, remote start, eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, heated/ventilated leather front seats, heated leather back seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with humidity sensor, 8.4 inch touch screen, remote USB and audio ports, 276-watt amp with six speakers sand satellite radio, voice command, cell phone connection, auto-dimming rear view mirror, leather-wrap-and-wood heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, capless fuel filler, rain-sensitive wipers, power pedals, and power tilt/telescope steering column. Standard tires are P235/55R19 all-seasons.

      You can also put all the windows down remotely, and the two-driver memory system covers the seats, steering wheel, pedals, mirrors, and radio.



      The SafetyTec package was the only option on our car, and it added $2,795 to the price (ending up at $43,940 as tested). For that, we got foldaway mirrors with integrated turn signals, HID headlamps with automatic leveling and tightly focused beams, rear fog lamps, forward collision warning, rear parking assist, blind spot and cross path detection, and adaptive (distance sensitive) cruise. Outfitted similarly to the Dodge we had last week, the 300C was around the same price; but it comes by default with more standard equipment.

      The car has a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a three year, 36,000 mile basic warranty; 24 hour towing is included. The 300C is now 73% American and Canadian (up from 70%), and is built in Ontario; the engine hails from Mexico, the transmission from the United States. (V6 models get either American or Mexican engines).

      As far as complaints, most are minor. Visibility could be better, especially in the 3/4 view where the large pillar gets in the way; it'd be nice to have a standard ignition switch option; and the gauges have too small an active area, with too much space for places most people never go. That said, the bean counters were kept far away from this car. This car doesn't scream value, which would be out of character, but it is certainly solid, very likeable, and one of the very few that might end up in our garage eventually.

      Also see 2011 Dodge Charger: finally a 300M replacement, our 2011 Charger review, and the first generation 300C.


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      2011 Dodge Charger R/T car reviews / road tests



      Also see Daniel Stanfill's detailed Charger test drive.

      The Dodge Charger looks like pure muscle from every angle, especially with the black-and-red interior; it's a good thing they make a Dodge Charger Hemi to fulfill the promise. The Charger R/T provides good old-fashioned head-snapping power at will, especially with all wheel drive giving it an extra boost.

      The new modern-retro treatment grabs the eye of even the most jaundiced people. From the back, as Ralph Gilles said, the Charger has a "light signature" unlike any other car; from the front, optional tightly-focused high-intensity headlamps add sophistication (and prevent blinding of other drivers) while the aggressive nose keeps the Charger standing out.



      The Charger is luxurious muscle, relatively smooth-riding, with a solid feel, consistent with the original - more 300x than Road Runner. No cramped cockpit and back seats here, no compromises for the sake of beating Mustangs and Camaros; instead, Charger has a full-sized interior, which, with the V6, makes for a good all-around family sedan. You can sit upright, and your head will not come near the roof; you can store things in the trunk; and you can put three people into the back seat. The black and red interior is sporty and attractive; the tan leather of our second test car gave the interior a more upmarket, luxurious look.



      The ride is well cushioned; the interior is surprisingly quiet. The impression of speed is not as strong as with noisy, rough cars; full throttle jams you back against the seat, as it should, but cruising at highway speeds feels like crawling. What's missing is the speedy feeling (while cruising) that leads Consumers Guide to say "It's okay, but not as refined as the best imports." That said, at practically any speed, if you hit the gas, the transmission drops down a gear, the engine shoots into its power band, the exhaust and intake roar with that ol' muscle-car tone, and you get jerked back into your seat. All is as it should be.



      The car feels heavy, but not ponderous, and not nearly as heavy as the previous version felt (it is, in fact, heavier now, but the suspension was retuned to make it more enjoyable to drive). Most of the smaller stuff was filtered out, while the bigger stuff was not jarring or nasty; and there was no "boom" sounding when bumps or potholes were hit. The ride is, not surprisingly, less forgiving than some lower-performance models (even Jeep Patriot), but it's still plenty forgiving and comfortable.



      Just because you don't feel every bump and pit in the road, it doesn't mean you're flopping around. We took the curve from 80 West to 287 South so fast it seemed like other cars were standing still, and for good measure stomped on the gas halfway through. We wouldn't have tried that with rear wheel drive (the Dodge boys like to get their cars back in one piece) but in the Charger R/T AWD, all that happened was we were pushed back in our seats while the speedometer leapt up. The Charger leaped straight forward when full throttle was applied and the wheel was centered; the AWD greatly assisted in the ability to take sharp turns under power, and the Charger gripped the road surprisingly well around fast, long turns and short, sharp ones.

      Nothing we could do short of suicidal stupidity could shake the Charger; yes, from a full stop we could stomp down and squeal all four tires at once, but it's just a momentary noise, not necessarily easy to get, and over and done with quickly, with full traction just behind. The stability control is there to rescue you from wet pavement, patches of ice or sand, and extremely foolhardy decisions, but a typical driver will never feel it working. With the all wheel drive, most people will probably never encounter stability control; it takes a lot to make it kick in.



      The ride insulates the driver from the more granular vibrations of the road, cutting some road feel but boosting "refinement." Those who like to a more connected feel, as in the pre-Daimler cars, have few options at Chrysler, though Volkswagen's version of the Dodge Caravan has it. In fairness, reviewers refer to "connected" in German cars and "unrefined" in Chryslers and Dodges; perhaps in ten or twenty years, when the phrase "not as refined as ... " drops from Dodge reviews, they can bring it back.

      The engine sounds exactly as it should - quiet at idle, roaring with a va-VOOM when you hammer the throttle down. Wind noise is low, as is road noise on asphalt; on concrete there's some noise but not as much as usual.

      The transmission took some time to get used to us - ah, the joys of adaptive automatics - but then it stopped shifting oddly at times, and became part of the background. It shifted smoothly and quickly, kicking down rapidly when needed for passing power, and generally acting as we would in its place. Those who prefer manual overrides can use the AutoStick system, which is oddly set up as a lateral motion (right goes up a gear, left drops down).



      The steering is fairly precise and well tuned, and it's nice not to always hear the drone of pavement. Concrete does come through, as noise if not as vibration, and bumps are well damped but still felt.

      The Charger sticks to the road like glue, and while I wouldn't expect the rear-drive R/T to deal with sudden bursts of acceleration quite so well, it should be equally capable on unpowered or moderately powered turns. It's an achievement for a car this big to ride this well and yet take turns as sharp, and as quickly, as it does, with nary a squeal from the tires. What's more, parking is made fairly easy by an absurdly tight turning radius - the big car doesn't take nearly as much space to turn as you'd think. Perhaps that's because they designed around the SRT8's tires, but either way, it's a handy feature.



      The ergonomics of the Charger are quite good as well, and are a major advantage over competitors, particularly the Camaro. The seats - front and rear - are comfortable for long trips, though perhaps not as well cushioned as some prior models; the controls are all easy to follow and read. The cruise control is back on the steering wheel, on the right; the trip computer controls are on the left.

      Numerous little touches make life easier - like having the navigation system provide turn by turn directions in the status panel between the speedo and tach as well as on the big screen; duplicating the climate control on the touch screen while keeping physical buttons and knobs; having both volume and tune knobs for the stereo (duplicated on the steering wheel); showing the park assist in the dash; and letting you control the radio/iPod/CD/hard drive via the steering wheel, physical buttons, and touch screen (with limits, which we'll get to later).



      For passengers in back, the chrome ring accents around the rear vents and on the seat backs and doors helps class the place up, while a folding center console/armrest holds drinks and gizmos; there are also map pockets on the doors and the front seatbacks. Our test car had equally well-adorned doors in front and back, complete with chrome insets; short doors that open all the way up make getting into the back easy. For added storage, you can easily fold down the rear seats (in a 2/3 arrangement so you can still have on or two passengers with a single long object sticking out from the capacious trunk). More storage is in the two-level glove compartment, made more useful by the redaction of the owner's manual into an easily read highlights book and a USB thumb drive for the usually-ignored bulk of the book. (There are also iPhone apps and such.)

      One terrific addition is remote access to the windows; click Unlock, then hold it down, and the front windows both roll down until you release the Unlock button on the remote. You can do it from your office on the way out to the parking lot, or from your house on the way to the car.



      Rear cross path detection and blind-spot detection, both of which can be shut off, work as expected, and alert the driver with yellow lights in the mirrors and audible alerts. There are blind spots in the Charger, though you can usually twist and turn to get reasonable visibility, so these systems, annoying as they sometimes are, can be very helpful, too. We tested these out in a busy parking lot, and they are surprisingly sensitive, able to spot cars before the driver does.

      Our test car had lights for the door handles and map pockets, which were dim enough to be ignored - yet had their own rheostat (not to Chrysler: save your money and just leave the lights on). Even the standard Charger R/T AWD has attractive details like the vehicle info center, chrome trim rings around the gas cap and trunk release, and accordian-door-covered cupholders; and every Charger has that fancy tail with separate sidelights.



      One feature which I personally am not fond of, but which many like, is the keyless ignition and locks. Press the underside of the driver's door, and if your keys are in your pocket, it will unlock; press the underside of the passenger door, and all the doors unlock. The trunk has no physical key, but the fob button will pop it open (all the way) and so will a button inside, lined with chrome (as is the gas cap cover -- hurray, a Dodge with a locking gas cap!) Once inside, a starter button takes the place of the ignition switch. Unlike most cars, the Dodge both gives you directions (on the status display) and tells you what mode the car is in - off, accessory, and run - with lights above the switch. That's a good addition to an option I'd just as soon do without.

      Another minor but useful example of forethought is the cruise control. Most cars tell you when the system is on, or when a speed is locked in; the Charger partly lights the "on" icon when you first turn the system on, and fully lights it when a speed is locked in, so when you cancel cruise, you still see the light (dimly). There's also a light to tell you when your parking or headlights are on, which I can live without.

      Standard on these cars is the status area between the speedometer and tachometer. Dubbed the Vehicle Information Center (VIC), this display always shows the compass heading and outside temperature; if the car is warmed up, it'll also show you when you're running on four cylinder mode (by flashing the word "ECO.") You can decide what else it will show - your current speed, for example. In the past, you also set vehicle preferences using it and buttons on the steering wheel; now, you use the touch-screen, which makes it easier to go through the menus and tell the car how you want it to lock, turn its lights on, etc.



      The VIC display can show the usual gas mileage, average speed, etc.; or it can show interesting data such as oil temperature, antifreeze temperature, transmission fluid temperature, and whether the car is in RWD or AWD. It would be nice if there was a "multiple info" mode which showed more than one of these at a time, since there's room for it; or if the system could alternate among several metrics; or if you could show the the same information in the huge center screen, at the top of what would be the center stack if this car was styled that way (a sweeping chrome outline and use of a different face material defines the gauge cluster as including the screen, which is a neat way of avoiding the visual appearance of a "center stack." The word hardly seems to fit in the Charger since it only includes a cubby and the stereo/climate controls, with their integrated CD and SD card opening.)

      The center screen can reflect the climate control buttons (with a little more information), and if you get the rear camera, it provides a panoramic view of what's behind you. This isn't just handy for backing into spaces; you can also make sure you're not blocking a driveway when in tight spots. It also includes the heated seat controls - which show up by default when the system is booted, on the screen that asks you to agree not to be distracted while driving. There are no physical heated-seat buttons (except for the rear seats) but in this case that's probably okay, since you can turn them on as soon as you've started the car.



      For all the automation and comfort, the Charger is still a driver's car, and headlights get a traditional dash-mounted switch with positions for off, parking lights, headlights, and, to the left, Automatic. We appreciate not having GM's "automatic by default, each time" system or Volkswagen's "Who needs parking lights?" system.

      Above, the Charger had the usual panoply of dome and map lights, along with a drop-down sunglass/eyeglass holder and the universal garage door opener buttons.



      Dodge Charger R/T stereo and navigation system

      Our test car included an auxiliary radio and USB jack, along with a power jack, in the center console; all were backlight, and the aux/USB jack had a clear plastic cover to prevent rubbish from falling in. Above that was a removable change tray, which also had an iPod-sized indentation (with enough room for an iPod Classic and its docking cord).



      If you don't have an iPod, or don't want to subject it to car rides, you can also load up a huge amount of music onto an SD card and plug that right into the center stack. Given how large and cheap SD cards are, that's a great option - probably better than using an iPod. There are only two gotchas - it can't play iTunes Store AACs, though it can play "DIY" AACs (which is a step forward); and if you use a Mac, you have to use a utility (or Terminal) to get rid of all those empty resource-fork files. Neither problem is hard to address, though getting rid of iTunes Store DRM is a nuisance - burn the music to (virtual) CDs, then convert it back in again as "free and easy" AACs. (But keep the originals because conversion degrades sound quality a bit - maybe not enough to notice.)

      Our car had a standard Alpine stereo unit (part of the R/T trim), and it was quite good - we tried it with a range of music that is highly dependent on having a quality audio system, including Bachman & Turner and Devo's Something for Everyone, along with classical, pop, and regular ol' whatever's-on-satellite-radio. All came through with flying colors; clarity is quite good and a marked improvement from Dodge's 2010s.



      The iPod control worked well with our iPod Classic and but was faster with an iPod Nano and Touch. It took a long time for the Classic and stereo to get along the first time; Jim Z pointed out that the iPod Classic has to spin up its hard drive, flush its internal cache, and load the data, while the Touch and Nano have no "seek" time delays. It took no time at all to link with an iPod Touch; we did have an issue with the Touch where it wanted to remain in Shuffle mode and wouldn't let us browse except at rare and apparently random intervals. This might be a bug in our first-gen Touch rather than the system itself. Certainly, it worked flawlessly from the SD card.

      The system allows browsing of the iPod through the touch screen, showing the names of artists or albums, and even showing cover art (where you have it). You can also move to the next or prior song by using the physical tuning knob, which is a big deal for safe driving; however, you can't set the tone, balance, or fade without going through touch screen gyrations.

      By default, once music is playing, the stereo shows the audio screen with the map display inside; the screen is large enough to get away with that, the map ending up about as big as it would be in the old Pacifica's display, or on a portable nav system.


      The optional Garmin navigation system was a wonder - it was the fastest nav system we've ever used, taking input as fast as we could type and adapting very quickly when we ignored its advice. All the usual geegaws were in place, though compass heading was supplied by the gauge cluster display rather than being shown on the screen, and the map always defaulted to the same zoom level regardless of where we'd set it last time. Directions were generally accurate.

      Words were large and easy to read, and most parts of the screen were "clickable" - putting our finger on the current speed and speed limit (available for most main roads, and turning our speed red when we went "too fast"), for example, gave us a full distance to destination in miles and minutes, along with the compass heading, elevation, maximum speed, etc. (We would have liked a preference for keeping the zoom setting tighter, and one for providing more latitude between the speed limit and the red print, though we can see that lawyers would have a field day with that.)



      Dodge Charger R/T: summary

      Overall, the Charger is a great package at a great price. The looks are unique, front, back, and from the side, and if people don't know what it is, they know what it represents. The tail is aggressive, unique, and attractive, a hard combination to match; the front is aggressive and unique. With the Hemi engine, you get strong acceleration; with AWD, it comes with increased control, and thanks to an automatically disconnecting front axle, that control has but a small price to pay in gas mileage.

      On the highway, gas mileage is reasonably good, if not anything to brag about, at 23 mpg. City cycle is far worse, with EPA rating the car at 15 mpg; take short trips and it'll be far worse, because the four-cylinder mode only comes when the engine is warm, and you can easily drop down into single digits. The EPA rates the Charger R/T at 16/25 with rear wheel drive, and 15/23 with AWD, despite the clever auto-disconnecting front axle. The 2011 V6 models came in at 18 city, 27 highway; the 2012 V6 eight-speeds clocked an amazing 21 city, 31 mpg highway.



      The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD started at $32,320, which includes the Hemi engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety features include HID headlights, side curtain airbags for front and rear, front seat airbags, reactive head restraints, stability and traction control, four wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-start hold, fog lamps, rain brake support, ready alert braking, and tire pressure monitoring.

      Standard luxury features include the vehicle information center, keyless entry, remote start, eight-way power driver's seat with four-way lumbar adjustment, heated cloth front seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning with humidity sensor, 8.4 inch touch screen, remote USB and audio ports, 276-watt amp with six speakers sand satellite radio, voice command, cell phone connection, auto-dimming rear view mirror, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter, tungsten-metallic paint, and tilt/telescope steering column. Standard tires are P235/55R19 all-seasons. You can also put all the windows down remotely.



      If you want to get the high-end Alpine stereo, you can do it with the V6 model - just check off the Rallye option. The price will drop by over $5,000, and gas mileage will climb, but you'll get most (not all) of the same features - albeit with around 75 fewer horses.

      The R/T Plus (package 29P), at $2,000, adds an alarm, premium black-with-red leather seats (heated in the back row), eight-way power passenger seat with four-way power lumbar support, heated/cooled front cup-holders, LED lighting accents (including softly illuminated door handles and map pockets), and a bigger alternator.



      The Driver Confidence Group adds the gimmicks, namely, blind spot and cross path detection; rear park assistance and backup camera; rain-sensitive wipers; smart headlights; approach lamps; and auto-dimming exterior mirror. This is a very good deal at around $1,000. Then there was the $575 convenience group of power adjustable pedals, radio/seat/mirror memory, and power tilt/telescope steering column, the $450 Garmin navigation system, and $825 of destination charge, for a total of $37,165. That's a lot, but not for this much car, with this many features. Those who just want the V8 can get the base R/T, and have a car as well equipped as a top of the line 2010 Chrysler. AWD saps gas mileage, but makes the car that much more controllable under pretty much any conditions.

      The Dodge Charger, regardless of trim and such, has a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a three year, 36,000 mile basic warranty; 24 hour towing is included. The R/T is 70% American and Canadian, and is built in Ontario; the engine hails from Mexico, the transmission from the United States. (V6 models get either American or Mexican engines).



      As far as complaints, most are minor. The air conditioning could be stronger; visibility could be better, especially in the 3/4 view where the large pillar gets in the way; it'd be nice to have a standard ignition switch option; and the tachometer goes to 7,000 in a car with a 5,650 redline. That said, the bean counters were kept far away from this car. From the separate sidelight and standard HID headlights (on R/T) to the rear seat liveability, from the cornering to the insulation, this car screams value (not cheap, but value) even before you throw in all the gadgets. I don't know if the Charger has ever been as much of a bargain; and I'm sure it's never been this high in all-around performance.

      Also see 2011 Dodge Charger: Finally something to replace the 300M


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      2008 Dodge Charger SRT-8 test drive

      With a 345 horsepower Hemi engine, the Dodge Charger R/T runs from zero to
      sixty in a bare six seconds. The SRT-8 version uses a bigger Hemi, at 6.1 liters, with heavier-duty internal hardware, bigger ports, extra-heavy-duty cooling, and no cylinder-deactivation system, adding up to a whopping 425 horsepower - impressive even compared with the new VCT Hemis that can push out 390 hp.



      Acceleration is strong but not always predictable, with a transmission that is sometimes slow to shift and doesn't kick down as rapidly as the high-revving engine would like. The engine makes decent enough power in low rpms, but really comes into its own at higher engine speeds, with a full-bore roar. Under full throttle, the SRT-8 feels as though it has far more brute force than cars with similar sprint times, such as the Lexus GS450h, albeit less than all-out sports cars like the Corvette. In case you were wondering, it does 0-60 in around five seconds, 0-100-0 mph in the mid-16s,
      and stops from 60 mph in 110 feet.

      The 6.1 Hemi roars loudly into life and has a fairly loud, deep note, making it clear that it means business. Inside the Charger, though, it is not at all annoying, as it is in some cars with performance-sounding exhausts; the rumble isn't overpowering and the engine is quiet at idle and high speed. On the highway, the Charger has little wind noise. It also feels completely stable and in control. Acceleration comes immediately; then the transmission downshifts, and the Charger shoots forward.



      The Dodge Charger SRT-8 has the heart of a lion, but is quite capable of purring like a kitten when driving around town. Many people live in areas where day to day driving is not so much a matter of hitting the gas as the brakes, and where heavy acceleration only means equally heavy de-acceleration moments later. Fortunately, the SRT-8 is far better equipped to handle this kind of traffic than the 426-Hemi-powered 1968-71 Dodge Chargers were; the engine will quietly, calmly idle or growl ever so slightly as needed. Unlike many cars of equal or far less power, the throttle control is intelligently designed - you only get full thrust when you want it. This is one car that seems equally at home being driven gently and being driven hard; smooth starts and gentle acceleration are both easy.



      The Charger SRT8 has a surprisingly nice ride, despite its impressive dry-road cornering and its power; it's hard to break the rear tires loose for longer than it takes to chirp them. Though big, the Charger easily deals with tight, fast turns. Yet, unlike the Magnum SRT-8, which could be punishing to drive on some roads, the Charger was forgiving of bad roads, concrete pavement, and potholes.

      Part of the reason could be the tires, which were Eagle GS-As (rather than the previously standard Supercar F1) - the same model used on the Neon Sport and PT Cruiser GT, but with a for more aggressive 245/45R20 size - filled to a mere 32 psi rather than the rated 51 psi. Around town, the tradeoff is well worth it - the Charger felt docile, comfortable, even ordinary, with a ride not unlike a standard 3.5-liter Charger or a Chrysler 300M; yet it still easily out-cornered those worthy vehicles. But an owner could just as easily pump up the tires - assuming that Chrysler had no reason other than comfort and perhaps fewer warranty issues - and get the full performance out of their SRT-8, at the cost of a visit to the chiropractor now and then, and maybe a few loose fillings.

      The SRT8 also has specially tuned dampers,
      spring rates, bushings, and anti-sway bars, a half-inch lower ride
      height, and 20 inch
      wheels that allow the use of big Brembo
      four-piston calipers and vented rotors (360 x 32mm discs up front, with 350 x 26mm
      in the rear). Styling changes include front and rear fascias
      that cool the brakes and reduce lift, a hood scoop, a spoiler,
      and an SRT badge in the blacked-out grille; it's in silver, black, and
      red. The interior has grippy seats, a special steering wheel trim,
      dark-faced gauges, and an LED display for oil temperature or pressure
      and tire pressure. The differential and axles have also been upgraded. More on the engine is here.

      With so much power, the traction and stability control systems become important in bad weather or on dirty or wet roads. There can be unexpected lack of acceleration and stuttering as the systems work; on the lighter side, the systems really do work and normally do not interfere.

      In the hands of a professional driver
      , the sheer amount of tilt you can experience in a Charger SRT8 is amazing - as is the speed with which it flies around a skidpad, with electronic controls off. Turn them on, and the throttle automatically cuts back to a sane level to get you around the turn as fast as you can go without losing control (even with the stability control system ostensibly shut off, the computer will intervene if it feels things are really out of control - but it'll intervene with a lighter hand). Steering is heavy but tight; you can usually feel every pound of the Charger's two-plus tons. This is no "rice rocket;" it feels remarkably solid, if not small or light.



      The
      Hemi engine may be strong, but it's also quiet, with a near-silent idle
      and an almost perfect sound under full power. It doesn't emit a
      constant bass burble or drone, but it's there when you need it, and it
      sounds and feels terrific. The Charger SRT-8 always seems ready to leap
      forward at a moment's notice without any effort, even though it
      takes a moment for the transmission to get into the spirit of things. Acceleration is so effortless,
      the roads suddenly seem filled with slow vehicles. It is
      nothing at all to get to 40, barely an effort to get to 65. By the time
      the engine gets tucked in, you're going faster than the speed limit.

      The tires tended to chirp or squeal for a second on
      acceleration and quick turns, but consistently grabbed the road, and
      between the fat, wide, sticky tires and the active suspension with
      traction control, we never sustained a squeal or broke the tires loose,
      despite the considerable power up front. On the highway, the Charger
      felt completely stable and in control. The standard electronic stability
      program helped the
      Charger to keep its footing even when we tried to knock it off kilter, and helped on wet roads.



      The
      AutoStick transmission was less than ideal at times. First, since it's an adaptive automatic, it took a while to get used to our driving, so for a few days the transmission seemed reluctant to move up to the appropriate gear, hurting gas mileage and the feel of the Charger; this problem slowly disappeared over the course of a few days as the transmission computer figured out how we drive. When cold, shifting took longer than it should have, with a noticeable delay when moving from Park to Drive, or from Drive to Reverse.

      The manumatic mode works shows some intrusive cost-cutting. While the original AutoStick mode had its own spot on the gearshift, it now shares the Drive position with the full-automatic mode. On the lighter side, you can activate AutoStick more easily; on the darker side, you still have the odd side-to-side shift (rather than the more natural forward-back movement used by Hyundai and others), and getting out of the system is a little harder. Instead of just bumping the stick back into place, you have to press it to the right and hold it there for a few seconds before going back to full-automatic. Fortunately, after the transmission gets used to the driver, most people probably will never need AutoStick mode except in competition, when not having to wait for a downshift will save a second. On the highway, the brief delay before kickdown is unlikely to have much negative impact.



      Inside, the Charger has been spruced up a little since its introduction; the doors are no longer a huge, chunky plastic nightmare, the gauges are surrounded by brightwork rather than dull aluminum-colored plastic, and the cruise control has been moved to a more sensible location than Mercedes' favored 1970-turn-signal spot. Numerous other small touches conspire to make the interior somewhat Spartan but no longer as low-rent as it was when launched. The changes are minor in that nothing was moved around; but they are major in the impression made. No longer does the $30,000+ Charger look like a base model rental, though it has a long way to go before leading its class.

      Visibility is good enough in all directions except for a massive
      rear quarter blind spot similar to that of the Intrepid. We appreciated
      the ease of using the sun visors - some cars make them hard to get out
      of their default positions - and we especially appreciated the sliding
      system which gives the sun visors "virtual length." Headlights on all models are fairly powerful; ours had the high-intensity discharge lights which are very bright indeed, and well focused.

      The SRT-8 version of the Charger
      adds thick red stitching on the leather seats, replaces chrome trim with a dark faux carbon-fiber, and replaces the standard 160 mph speedometer with an even more generous 180 mph one. The even, blueish-white backlighting (of the Indiglo style) is highly visible during the day and even more
      so at dusk and at night.

      Inside,
      there was plenty of room for four, with good
      headroom in all seats. Access to the rear seats was easy, and our obese relatives complimented both front and rear seats; the SRT-8 has side support, but it's no longer designed so that thin people literally fit into the seats and larger people... don't. Accompanying the greater support of different body types is a standard tilt/telescope steering wheel that moves up, down, in, and out for the ultimate in adjustability; it adjusts manually but has no detents, so it can be set exactly as you like it.

      Unlike the Magnum and earlier LX models, the current Charger's cruise control uses a modern right-hand ministalk, as popularized by Toyota; it's easy to get used to and to operate, and unambiguous in its operation and placement. What's more, when a speed is locked in, "cruise set" appears momentarily in the trip computer.

      The headlight control is on the dash, and allows for selection of running lights, headlights, automatic operation, or no lights at all. The ignition is also on the dash; our test car had the fancy electronic key, which is still placed in the dash but has no metal key, just a plastic stub that includes the key fob (lock/unlock buttons). A metal key is stored inside this for emergencies. The foot-operated emergency brake allows for firmer setting of the brake than a handbrake, but the easy-release hand pull was replaced by an annoying press-again-to-release system.



      Inside the gauges, taking up the bottom third
      of the circle, were black areas which hide the various warning lights
      and the PRND (transmission gear indicator) and odometer. The SRT-8 includes a trip computer with performance measures, gas mileage/distance to empty, outside temperature and compass, and an easy way to set driver preferences (see the video to run through them all).

      We found the seats to be
      excessively firm, but seats are always a matter of personal
      preference. The leather-and-suede seats gripped and breathed well. Storage
      spaces included map pockets on the front and rear doors (one of which is a good place for the fat owner's manual), a tray
      under the climate control, a slot next to the gearshift, big illuminated cupholders, a
      glove compartment and large center console, and an
      overhead sunglass holder. The center console includes Chrysler's clever
      coin holder as well as a power outlet. The trunk was huge, as
      one would expect from a full-sized car, even one with four hundred horses.

      Minor conveniences
      included the folding outside mirrors, touch-on dome lights, rear climate-control vents, universal garage-door opener, and dead-pedal.

      Our test car had the MyGIG system, which is chock full of features but less than ideal for a car that really would like your full attention. The stereo controls were pretty good for a system with a screen; but adding a screen usually means sacrificing quick and easy adjustments. The 30 gigabyte hard drive and satellite radio come in handy on long trips, but we sure wish you could get them without all the visual displays, which require numerous presses to do something as pedestrian as adjusting the balance. Changing bass, treble, or midrange took a press to the physical Audio button, then the virtual Equalizer button, then multiple presses on a virtual equalizer (though you could "click and drag" directly on the image of the equalizer knobs). But why read about it when you can watch our MyGIG video (which admittedly doesn't include the traffic and Where Am I Now? screens you see below).



      Since our car had the video system, you could sit and watch movies on the screen, as long as you were in Park. For some reason, whenever we tried to listen to a movie, the system would make us re-choose video input, and then go into what kind of video input we needed, though we weren't using either of the two auxiliary input jacks. That sort of thing should be automatic, like starting up a video when you lower the screen. Likewise, we could easily transfer music onto the hard drive by selecting the CD and pressing Record, but couldn't do it by going to Import Music and then pressing the CD icon. We suspect there will be a few updates to MyGIG as time goes on; but it was the first factory installed hard drive system, so it deserves a bit of a break.



      Switching forms was complex; press once on Radio Media, and you get choices of AM, FM, Satellite, and Satellite TV (if equipped). It shows a list of presets at that point, four per screen, showing the names of the stations. Press again, and you get hard drive, Jukebox, disc, auxiliary (the little jack on front of the screen), VES (video system) - for playing movies over the speakers, complete with spooky-accurate spatial imaging - and, if equipped, iPod control, so that you can use your built in controls to navigate the contents of your high-quality music device. This might be nice for purists who put lossless files (or high-rate AAC) onto their iPods and aren't happy with the WMA format used by the MyGIG system. You can't put iPod files onto the hard drive, but you can copy from many generic MP3 players, and it also records from DVDs - fairly quickly. Regardless, the sound quality of this system was simply excellent with the nine Infinity speakers, regardless of the seating position.

      The base stereo in our test car had strong but not muddy
      bass which could be effectively lowered for talk radio, good stereo
      imaging, and easy to use controls, but, again, rear passengers had a
      dull, monaural sound; the optional Kicker stereo in our SRT8 sometimes provided very clear sound, but the subwoofer could be annoying and could not be shut off; nor did zipping down the bass effectively silence it. In this car, let the engine sing its song, and stick with the bass stereo, which is capable enough.

      Our test SRT8 had an optional dual
      driver/passenger heat zone climate control, using Chrysler's infra-red
      sensor for accuracy. The fan had two auto settings, low and high, for those who prefer lower noise to faster action. Most normal fan
      ranges were quiet. The air conditioning was weaker than in the base Charger, presumably tuned not to drain engine power; there was no perceptible difference when it was running.



      The Charger SRT8 starts at a tad over $39,000, with destination and gas guzzler tax; that includes a huge number of features, including everything on the loaded R/T model. Of note are the universal garage door opener, trip/performance computer, air conditioning, power front seats with lumbar support, tilt/telescope steering wheel, satellite/MP3 radio with Boston Acoustics speakers, cruise, and leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls.

      Our test car ran to $45,155. The main culprits were the rear seat video ($1,500), and three SRT option groups. The first, at $850, included remote start, air filter, automatic headlamps, dual-zone thermostatic climate control, heated front seats, and one-touch up/down front windows. The second, at $1,200, included a six-disc DVD player, driver surround sound, 322-watt amp, 200-watt subwoofer, and security alarm; this is great if you love muddy sound that echoes through the town, but if you prefer high fidelity to being a jerk, by all means save your money. The final option group, at $1,285, included the MyGIG system, which puts a 30 GB hard drive behind the dash along with a navigation system, traffic reports, hands-free phone system, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.

      There were other options on our car: $590 worth of side airbags (seat-mounted for front, curtain-mounted for front and rear), $250 for optional wheels (the same size as the standard wheels), $225 for the bright red paint, $1,150 for rear seat video, and $470 for satellite TV on that video (you can also watch it up front, when you're not moving). 74% of the Charger was sourced from the U.S. and Canada, the major exceptions being a Mexican engine and German transmission; final assembly was in Ontario. Crash testing yielded five stars in frontal impacts; side impacts were not done. The warranty is good for three years or 36,000 miles - no 1970s-style "Hemi warranty" here.

      The price is high, but not given the level of performance and the size of the car. Given the excellent sound insulation, ride quality, power, and cornering, the Charger SRT-8 remains a bargain in that price class. Whether it's the car for you depends on many factors, including whether you cringe at the gas mileage - 13 city, 18 highway (with a 19 gallon, $80+ tank) - and whether you have places to drive it where you won't find yourself frustrated. We found our urge to let the Hemi loose sadly unfulfilled much of the time... and when we could let it loose, the quick acceleration didn't let it roar for very long before we had to choke it back. Next time, we need to schedule a quick road trip to Montana...


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      The 2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV police cars: an inside look

      Dodge Charger squad cars | Where Chargers are used | Competitive comparisons 2007-09 | 2010 Comparisons

      by and copyright © 2009 Curtis Redgap, Orlando, Florida • printed with permission



      A few days ago, I received a telephone call from a friend and former neighbor. We had a bit of "catching up" to do, and yakked on over the phone for over an hour or so. He had retired with minimum time from a major law enforcement agency a few years back, moving his family to the north area of the state, away from the suburbs where we had been. He surprised me when he mentioned that he was still working part time, for that very same agency.

      He asked me not to identify him or the agency because he wanted me to consult with him about a potential new police car that is going to be introduced by the Chevrolet Division of the General Motors Corporation. Sort of like an insider's view, with no public invitation. I was naturally flattered. It has been quite a few years since my Fleet Manager abilities were called upon. The purpose of the autonomy is that Chevrolet is not letting all their cards out at this time. Apparently, and I say apparently (emphasis added), there are a few prototype units floating around major agencies throughout the USA. Chevrolet is very active in soliciting input from the police agencies and officers that will use these cars for their offices. Chevrolet would neither confirm or deny if that rumor was actual or if any more than a handful of prototypes did in fact, exist.



      At this point, I would have agreed to anything! We had already seen the teaser ads running on the internet for the new Caprice. They do appear impressive. It is my humble opinion that the Caprice is aimed directly at the Dodge Charger Police Package. You will see why as we get deeper into the nooks and crannies of both cars.

      The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is not a part of the equation. The Ford is not even close to the Dodge Charger with its 5.7 liter HEMI® V-8, and in any case, Ford Fleet has announced that the Ford CVPI will cease production in August 2011. Ford could change their mind, but has had the same message since early in model year 2008. The civilian version of the Crown Victoria is no longer in production, leaving the Mercury Gran Marquis, which is scheduled to go away soon. [Editor's note: the success of the Charger has probably made the economics of the CVPI unattractive.] Ford announced, with great fanfare, its replacement: a turbocharged Taurus.

      In the Motor Trend Car of the Year testing (January 2010, page 41), they reported that the Ford Taurus brakes have reverted to the "old" 390 standard! Two hard stops resulted in the Taurus brake pedal going right flat to the floor with no positive action to slow or stop the speeding vehicle. Just like the "good old days!" The car is also heavier than cars in the class (like the old Galaxie police models), handles top heavy, and is cramped in the interior. This is the car the Ford is going to try to make a police vehicle.
      The Chevrolet entry of the current police Impala is also not really a part of the equation. It uses front wheel drive on a mid sized platform (though the EPA rates the Impala itself as full sized). The PPV and the Dodge Charger fall back on the tried and true police rear wheel drive four door sedan architecture with a V-8 engine. A V-8 engine has been tested in the Impala police version, but, so far, has not been built for availability to police departments.



      As to the future fate of the Impala as a police unit, we have no idea at this time what Chevrolet intends to do. The Impala is the sole entry built on the "W" platform in the entire General Motors worldwide fleet. The PR types would not address the issue, and I don't blame them. The Impala has had some impressive sales as of late, so why shoot the goose that is laying the golden spheres?



      The units have withstood the rigorous abuse of police work quite well, and fleet managers are happy with the costs of owning them. I do not believe that any of the major state police agencies or state highway patrols currently use the Impala as an enforcement class or pursuit unit, although some have tried it out in the past (including the Virginia State Police and the West Virginia State Police). Neither went for very long before the big rear wheel drive sedans were back in their place. The Ford CVPI, and the increasingly popular Dodge Charger, make up the bulk of vehicles in that segment.

      In the spirit and essence of my agreement, I cannot say exactly what vehicle we were given to check over and drive. Yes, drive, all on our own, away from the brass and press. Chevrolet officialdom seemed to act dutifully non-plussed when their cars disappeared from their view and control.



      There are many pictures on the internet that depict the Holden Commodore. I will display a couple here for visual comparison to the above PPV. I am not saying that this was the car that we were shown, able to drive, and while barred from written notes, to mentally compare with our experiences.

      There is an obvious visual connection between the Chevrolet and the Holden. The Caprice is going to built in Elizabeth, South Australia, and shipped here. It is a police vehicle only, with no plans for any models sold to the general public. How long that might last when the dealers get hold of the units is anybody's guess. From my experience, like Ford dealers pledging not to sell police units to the public, anyone with the money to make a purchase could buy a police package, no questions asked, back when.

      Many questions arose as to whether the production will continue there in Australia or get moved to the Oshawa, Ontario, Canada plant where the zeta platform-based Camaro is being assembled.

      What makes this Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV as designated by Chevrolet) so different? Plenty, and all of it aimed directly at fleet buyers, officers, and budget makers in departments all across the USA.

      A lot of questions have been aimed at Chevrolet since the Caprice went out of production in 1996. The 1996 Chevrolet Caprice probably represented the pinnacle of the quintessential police vehicles. That car came up against the old standard bearer, the 1969 Dodge Polara, and beat it outright. When equipped with the 260 horsepower LT-1 V-8, it had 145 mile an hour speeds, outstanding brakes, plenty of room for comfortable 8-12 hour tours, a nearly unbreakable 3 speed automatic transmission, with the right rear gear set, and decent gasoline mileage to boot. Many departments kept their Caprice models over double the usual time for turnover. Some went 300K and were still running well when they finally got bid away. In most cases, people were lined up to buy those well used police models.

      All the major police agencies, such as the State Highway Patrols and State Police agencies, had the Caprice in their stable. Name any state, and you will find that the Caprice served there. Chrysler was long gone from police duty by 1989, and the only competition was the Ford CVPI. The former Caprice models as were tested by the Michigan State Police held the bidding for 10 straight years, a record (the current Dodge Charger is about ½ of the way to breaking that, at 5 years as the top dog. It should be noted that the Charger has broken a previous record held by the Chevrolet Caprice in that the Caprice captured all categories tested three different times. The Charger has captured all the categories five times, all in a row!)



      From the first blush at introduction with the new Caprice, I was drawn to the center mounted shifter. Chevrolet is going to build them all with that center console mounted shifter. They get around having to relocate the selector to the steering column, as Dodge had to do, by installing a standard 12 inch interactive touch screen right in the middle of the dash. This touch screen unit will function as the control for all or most of the things that police install for their equipment. Lights, siren, gun lock, truck opener, rear door locks, and other items that normally would take a separate piece of equipment will now be up and out of the way. It also means more elbow room for the bucket seated occupants in the front.

      It was in that area that I picked up one clue about the total development of this vehicle. The engineers on site proudly stated that Chevrolet has spent the last two years on focus of the front seats. That is correct, two full years ago they started at development of this PPV. You can almost hear Bob Lutz laughing when you see them. Certainly, then, the level of commitment has been very high as well as dedicated to see this vehicle come out for Police Officers. The front seats, are truly, in my opinion, simply the best thing out there for uniformed, belted, equipped patrol officers. They have molded cavity like pockets on both sides of the seat so that the pistol holster fits easily and allows an officer instant access to draw the weapon if need be. The seat back has been built so that the equipment on the belt does not hold the officer up and away from the seat back, as a regular seat does. This seat is designed so that the equipment would fit into the back, allowing the officer to fully rest his shoulders and back in the contoured seat.



      You can see the center dash mounted touch screen prominently placed for easy access from either seat. Take careful note of the bucket front seats. The investment of development for over two years certainly does show up for their comfort, ease of access, and support.

      Once inside the Chevy, you begin to realize that this is a spacious car. There is plenty of room in the front and the back. Chevrolet engineers are quick to point out that it has been designed to flesh out at 112 cubic feet of interior space. By comparison, the Dodge Charger measures 104 cubic feet, which is just slightly smaller than the current Impala, which is 104.8 cubic feet. The CVPI is a big larger with 106.4 cubic feet of space inside.

      The rear entry way for the Charger draws more than its share of critical commentary, being rather difficult to put larger transports inside. The PPV wheelbase measures 118.5 inches (big as the former R bodied Chrysler-St Regis-Gran Fury of 79-81). The current Impala measures 110 inches, while the Ford CVPI sits on a 114.6 wheelbase, and the Dodge Charger comes in at 120. In a view from the back seat, the Caprice is very large.



      This Caprice is as different from the old Caprice as the Impala is different from the original Impala. The Zeta-based Caprice comes from the Australian Holden Commodore, and its origin can be traced to 1999. While both the Pontiac G8 and Caprice come from the Zeta platform, GM has been firm that the Chevrolet Caprice PPV is based directly on the Holden Commodore, and not on the G8. The Caprice is unlike the G8 in the same way that the Camaro is unlike the G8, though they share a common base.

      [Editor's note: the Pontiac G8 was almost identical in size, acceleration, economy, braking, and cornering to the Charger. As described here, the Caprice will be larger and may have different dynamics.]
      I believe the GM people when they say the G8 vs Caprice is a true difference, and not just a PR trick. The bodywork is different, especially in the rear doors, back seat, and trunk area. There are differences in the suspension components and structure as well.

      Production started on the Zeta in 2006. It quickly became General Motor's global rear wheel drive architecture. The Zeta is the base platform for the Australian Holden Commodore, the 2007 Middle East Chevrolet / Holden Caprice, the short lived Pontiac G8, and of course the new Camaro.

      The Caprice powertrain will also be dedicated to the car. In early calendar year 2011, it will have only have the V-8 engine. That is a 6.0 litre 355 horsepower unit with active cylinder management, which shuts down cylinders to increase economic operation. It mimics the same MDS system that Chrysler introduced on its 5.7 liter (348 cubic inch) V-8 HEMI®, which has a 370 horsepower output.

      The transmission for the Caprice is expected to be the GM six-speed, which currently backs up the Police Package Tahoe which has a 5.3 (324 cubic inch) liter V-8. The Charger uses a five-speed transmission, although rumors continue to circulate that this will change in the near future. Top speed is limited to about 150 miles an hour on both cars, while the target for 0 to 60 is the same as the Charger, at around 6 seconds flat. Undoubtedly, lower limiters will also be available to keep speeds down, should some departments specify that, much like the Charger can be programmed down to 129 miles an hour.

      The Charger is currently available with a powerful 3.5 liter (214 cubic inch) V-6. When so equipped, it is as quick as the Ford CVPI which is a 4.6 liter (281 cubic inch) V-8. Dodge will bring in a new V-6 in the future that will have at least 280 horsepower, with 300 horsepower easily developed. In response, the Chevrolet PPV will receive a V-6, directly matched to the Charger - the current General Motors 3.6 liter (220 cubic inch) engine which puts out 256 to 304 horsepower depending on its application.



      Dodge also has a 6.1 liter (372 cubic inch) V-8 in its SRT models, and departments can order those if needed, albeit without an official police package. According to Chrysler Fleet, the regular Dodge Charger is built just as tough as the Police units, and no special lines have or are set up to manufacture the police units. The main difference seems to be the exterior paint and interior amenities.

      This is a new delivered HEMI® V-8 Charger sitting in a police parking lot, waiting for the equipment installation and decaling for the department. Dodge will paint the car per special order, of course, for a price, unless a good number are ordered. So far, this department has ordered about 25 units, and are awaiting delivery. They keep them all white, but use multi colored decals to designate them. At the end of their cycle, the decals are removed, and the unit goes back to all white for resale.



      Inside, the PPV will be equipped with a series of airbags to protect the occupants in event of a collision. However, if chosen, the rear bags, where potential transports would ride, can be deactivated. Hmm.

      The longer wheelbase of 118.5 inches does translate into rear seat room. It is plenty roomy back there, as large as anything we have seen lately. Compared to the Charger, Ford PI, and the Impala, the PPV is nothing less than cavernous in scope! Yes, it is that big back there. The rear door opening (a source of Charger nitpicking) is very large, which will allow transporters to assist transportees carefully into the back seat area, with a full prisoner partition in place. Chevrolet engineers are also quick to point out that this is also a major area of difference between the now nearly gone Pontiac G-8 and the PPV Caprice.

      The wheelbase also bodes well for the PPV trunk space. As we saw, the Caprice has a full size spare, but it is stored below the trunk floor. As measured by the EPA, the PPV has 18 cubic feet of space. By comparison, the Dodge Charger is 15.7, with an exposed spare, while the Ford CVPI has 20.6, but loses due to an exposed full size spare tire, while the Impala has 17.5 cubic feet, but carries a much maligned mini spare.



      The EPA rates a "large" car at 120 cubic feet of combined space, trunk and interior. The Dodge Charger "just" makes the cut at 120.2 cf. The Ford CVPI measures 127 combined cf. The Impala gets 123.4 cf, and the PPV Caprice measures out at 130 cubic feet. Big indeed.

      I was drawn to the center console in the PPV Caprice because of its console mounted gear selector shifter. Chevrolet claims to have worked very diligently to keep this feature in place. They have freed up space at the back half of the center console to accommodate equipment controls installed by the departments. Chevrolet seems quite proud of this accomplishment, and a large body of reference material points to the built in 12 inch center mounted interactive computer touch screen. Chevrolet claims that this built in device will function to fulfill the multitudes of equipment functions usually reserved for things jammed into the space between the front seats. Given the amount of room shown in the models we saw, they probably have earned the right to brag about it. They do have, however, plenty of research done to move that selector lever to the steering column, as did Dodge Charger, if the console isn't working out so well. So far, it does appear that it has found a permanent home as the focal point of the center console.

      2011 Chevrolet Caprice PPV prototype test drive

      We were cautioned, that these vehicles were, in fact, prototypes, and not all finalized, not being readied for full production, just yet. Caution was always advised in judicious exercise of the cars when we were out of sight of the ever present, ever mindful Chevrolet PR types, and engineering staff. Of course, we were. Always!

      We flung the cars into corners, slapped on the brakes, and floored the accelerators as much as we thought we could without breaking the cars! Hey, that is what testers do, and I am certain the Chevrolet folks were all well aware of this. We were not the only representatives there. Other departments were present, including members from one of the largest west coast users. A couple of their prototypes were also there, having been submitted to them for their opinions. We were not told how long the units had been out there, or what the results were from their tests.



      The 6.0 V-8 in the PPV felt reassuring. It was fairly loud (but no match for the Charger Hemi induction roar) with plenty of intake roar. You know that the engine is ingesting a large quantity of air. The dual exhausts barked with staccato authority when tasked to move out with maximum effort. There really wasn't any strum and drang associated with full bore acceleration, in that, it was all purpose, and plenty of it.

      The standard dashboard mounted tachometer showed brief touches into the red zone, labeled at 6,600 rpm; the transmission shifted with authority and purpose. I could not tell if the transmission was a 3, 4, 5 or even an 8 speed unit. It was unobtrusive, shifting positive, and kept the engine in the full power range, without a huge power drop or big loss of rpm, as long as the operator had the intestinal fortitude to hold the accelerator pedal to the floor.

      The PPV also has part throttle kickdown, as does the Dodge Charger. We tried different speed ranges, from 20 miles an hour upwards of 80 and 100, to try to thwart the downshift. It didn't hesitate or not shift at any point. The engine wrapped up very quickly, with no hesitation at all, each and every time it was tasked. It felt good, and yes, every bit as quick as the Charger we have driven in the past. It displayed all the characteristics of the Chevrolet V-8 engines that we have seen since their introduction in 1955.

      The PPV Caprice uses a 4 wheel independent suspension, as is the Dodge Charger. It consists of a sophisticated set of McPherson struts, with lower A-arms in the front suspension, and a Quad Link rear system. Included in the package are General Motor's Stabili-Trak, similar to the Chrysler system. Both Charger and PPV Caprice use special calibrations, as well as all-speed traction control, electronic brake assist, and electronic brake force distribution, which is quicker and more accurate than a proportioning valve set up. The system we tested was pretty stiff, slapping each tar strip, and lumping over small indentations in the highway, which is just fine for police work, especially for pursuit vehicles. The Dodge Charger isn't a powder puff ride, either. Just right in our opinion!



      One area is left that is of prime importance in a police pursuit vehicle: the brakes and braking system power.

      Chevrolet was rather quick to point out that it was Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov that added metal bits to brake linings in 1959 Chevrolet Police Package Biscayne. GM claims to have lead the police car market for years. They just sort of have forgotten that Chrysler Corporation through a subsidiary, Grey-Roc, had top notch brake linings for years before that, always leading the segment in both braking power, and for fleets, just as importantly, longevity.



      They also didn't go into the horrible brake system installed on the 1958 Chevrolet police package that actually separated the rear ends from the vehicles! Many settlements followed, especially when the prestige of the Michigan State Police, and the Los Angelos County Sheriff, and Los Angelos Police Department were all using the 348 cubic inch Chevrolet Police Package. Sadly, the installed brakes on those cars was exactly the same as Chevrolet had on their 1951 model cars! So it was a necessity born out of a desperate need that the Corvette engineer went to work in earnest to save the Chevrolet police package brake system.

      We all know that the sintered metallic brake lining worked extremely well, when designed and made correctly. The early metallic linings were grabby when they were cold. Instructions were, at that time, to ride the brakes for awhile, until they got hot. Then, the hotter the linings got, the more power they had! It was relatively easy to instruct cops using the metallic lining brakes, because they knew they had to depend on them. However, a lot of civilian users always seemed to not grasp the meaning of heating the linings, and constant complaints came into the service departments.

      The 1956 Dodge Police Package tested by the California Highway Patrol had great brakes, and just beat up everything that Ford and General Motors threw at it. This included Pontiac, Chevrolet, Buick, Ford, Mercury, Nash, and Oldsmobile. The '56 Dodge brakes just buried everything else. They were 12 inch by 2.5 inch drums, equipped with dual cylinders on all 4 wheels, easy bolt on items straight from the Chrysler marque cars. They brought the big Dodge down at an incredible, at the time, 25 feet per second squared. Nothing else was close. That is nose bleed territory, and unbelievable in 1956!

      The CHP invested heavily in the Dodge in 1956, with a first buy of 400 units, and a second buy of another 400 units. The first buy were equipped with the 315 cubic inch poly head V-8, with a Carter 4 barrel WCFB carb. It was rated at 230 horsepower. However, the second round of testing, showed that the incredible HEMI power just blew everything else away. So, 400 Hemi equipped 1956 Dodge units were purchased, and the incredible Hemi power legends were born. The single 4 barrel hemi of 315 cubic inches had 260 horsepower and proved earnestly anvil reliable in fleet use. However, it was the great brakes that Troopers found much to rely upon.

      So it is with the current Dodge Charger in Police Work. They have the absolute best brakes in the business. The Chrysler fleet determined when the Charger was first introduced for Police Fleet work that they would just have the most powerful brakes in the industry. They got it. The materials were changed in late 2007, in time for the 2008 and later models that still kept the powerful stopping ability, but, promote longer pad life. A boon for fleet operators!

      Again, aimed right at Charger, the PPV Caprice will continue with Chevrolet excellent brake system. We could not really tell in a definitive way just how really powerful the tester brakes were, they felt linear and of course, quite powerful, even as we tested when we deliberately abused the brakes. Let us recall the 2000 through 2010 Impala, which has always had excellent brakes, and the 1978 Chevrolet through the end of production 1996 Chevrolet Caprice all had excellent brakes, which showed in the first Michigan State Police Tests in 1978, as well as the Los Angelos testing during the same time period. So, aimed again squarely at the Dodge Charger, you can bank on the PPV Caprice having great brakes.



      We tried to talk to the west coast guys, who said they "weren't there," and got nowhere. However, there is photo evidence, let out by Chevrolet, that the LA area has been a target. The Victorian (Australian) Chevrolet Impala photos, with their 2008 copyright date, have Australian license plates - and the Los Angeles police department logo blazed on their doors.

      Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Interceptor updates (3-30-2010)

      Motor Trend reported that Chevrolet engineers are hustling to fix the shift selector location in the upcoming Chevrolet PPV Caprice. In our preview of the PPV, we made specific reference to the console location of the transmission shift selector on two different occasions. We were skeptical about it at that location. Whether it is booty, bottles, bodies, or bombs, things tend to get tossed into center sections of Police Cars. Certain implements, like gear selectors, would be interfered with there!

      Chevrolet bragged that they had expended two years on development of the Caprice PPV vehicle front seats. They should have spent about 6 less months and worked on fitting a steering column mounted gear selector a la Dodge Charger instead. Now they are scrambling to get it fitted. Things like machine tools, production lines, training installers, and costing take a bit of time to accomplish, given when engineering is done. Looks like the cops have scored another one. But, they know what works in their equipment.

      Speaking of cops, the new Ford Taurus Police Interceptor has been unveiled. It was widely rumored that this was the vehicle that Ford intended to utilize to try to capture the loss of the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor when production ends for it in August 2011. It should be pointed out, to date, not one: REPEAT: NOT ONE police agency has used a turbocharged engine as their standard patrol vehicle. They break, as all police vehicles tend to do occasionally. A turbo just costs that much more to fix, and police chiefs and vehicle management folks really don't appreciate the costs associated with those fixes. Ford might better find ways to improve the power of the V-6 in normal aspiration forms, and hope it would be able to run up near the Dodge and new Caprice (and possibly Carbon) in 2011. Or, start working on a V-8 that will fit the Taurus. We don't think it will work, unless perhaps Ford tosses in FREE turbocharger repairs if you buy one.

      Curtis Redgap is a retired Sheriff's lieutenant.

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      1968 Dodge Charger 500: official report on speed tests



      The following is a verbatim transcription of a report made on December 9, 1968. The text comes from a document provided by Greg Kwiatkowski, the header of which is shown above. Allpar has not changed the wording but has added some paragraph returns and images for easier reading.

      RESULTS OF SECOND TEST OF 1969 DODGE CHARGER 500
      AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY


      Summary

      As the results of the testing of the prototype 1969 Charger 500 race car at the Daytona International Speedway it is felt that the car as tested should be a competitive race car with a good chance of being successful.

      The performance of the car is superior to the 1968 Fords and Mercurys with respect to both speed and handling. In addition to the high speeds obtained useful data was also obtained about other facets of the overall performance of the race car.

      Results

      From November 25th to 29th, 1968 the newly built prototype Dodge Charger 500 race car was tested at the Daytona International Speedway. The driver was Buddy Baker for all of the tests.



      The highest speed obtained during any of the tests was 192.27 mph, and at this speed the driver found the car to have excellent handling and to be very controllable. This is 6.1 mph faster than the run during the September test at Daytona with car 046, the 1968 Charger converted to a 1969 Charger 500 body configuration. The major factors involved in this increase in speed are: different ties, greater engine power, underbody to body angle, bracing bars in engine compartment, heavy flywheel, wider rims, reducing the air flow to the radiator and weather differences. The effects of these individual items are covered in detail in the discussion.



      Other items were also investigated for their effects on speed such as axle ratio, exhaust pipe ends and from spoiler length. A series of tests was run to determine the effect of changes in engine power to lap speed, and preliminary results indicate that in the 190 mph range it takes 17.5 horsepower to increase the lap speed one mph. A correction factor system was developed that appears to come fairly close to correcting for the effects of weather changes on lap speed on the Daytona track. This is also discussed later.

      Discussion

      During the test, the baseline condition differed from the best run of car 046 during the September test in several respects.

      The body shells of both cars were 1969 Charger 500s with the fastback backlight. Car 046 was built with the floor pan parallel to the body, while the new car was built with the floor pan at an angle of 1.5° to the body due to the drag reductions shown for this configuration in the wind tunnel tests. The engine in the new car is mounted lower in the car since it is designed to be run with a dry sump system. For this test a normal wet sump oil pan was used, with the bottom of the pan being below the legal minimum clearance.



      Both cars were run with the same car height as measured at the sill. Both cars ran single carburetor ram manifolds, although the new car had the new design air cleaner and a different advance curve in the distributor. The engine from the new car has not been checked on the dynamometer as yet, but it is estimated to be about 10 horsepower better than the engine that was in car 046.

      The September test was run with Firestone tires of the same type as used in the July 4th race. This test was run with Goodyear tires that they say are the same as their July 4th tire, although the tires had no compound identification on them.

      The bracing bars that bolt in across the rear corners of the engine compartment were not installed in car 046 for the September test, but were in the new car.



      For a baseline condition both of the cars had the grille completely blocked with tape, with all of the air for the radiator coming in through the hole under the bumper. On car 046 the air for the oil cooler came in through this same opening, while on the new car the oil cooler air comes in through the left inboard headlight opening.

      Car 046 ran with a 2.94 axle ratio, while the new car had a 3.07 axle ratio in baseline conditions. There were also differences in weather conditions between the two tests.

      A correction factor has been developed that appears to make a rather good correction for weather differences, so to remove this variable, all of the speeds and speed differences will be given corrected to 29.92" Hg [inches of mercury] dry air and 60°F unless otherwise stated. The correction factor will be discussed in detail later in the letter.

      The corrected speeds are representative of speeds that should be obtained with weather conditions that were encountered during the first week of practice in February 1968. The corrected best speed obtained on car 046 in September was 189.02 mph (186.18 mph observed). The baseline speed for the new car is 191.34 mph for an average of several runs (188.8 to 189.7 mph observed speeds). This gives an advantage of 2.32 mph for the new car over car 046. An approximate breakdown of this difference is:

      Goodyear tires instead of Firestone+ .94 mph
      Engine with 10 HP more+ .55
      Engine compartment braces in place+ .31
      3.07 axle ratio in place of 2.94- .21
      Underbody angle and other changes+ .73
      +2.32 mph

      With the exception of the underbody angle each of these differences was evaluated in a separate test. The differences shown above can not be considered as exact, but the general levels are believed to be valid.

      To improve the speed of the car above the baseline several changes were tried. The successful ones were:

      Baseline speed191.34 mph
      Reducing air flow through under bumper opening+ 1.80
      Heavy flywheel+ 0.76
      9" wide rims+ 0.20
      (192.27 mph observed)194.10

      Several other items were also investigated that did not help with the speed of the cars. These were:

      Uncovering the grille- 2.60 mph
      Long front spoiler (4" ground clearance)- 0.96 mph
      Exhaust pipe ends cut off square- 0.61 mph

      The major ones of these items effecting the speed of the car will be discussed below.

      Handling

      One major factor that does not show up directly in the speed numbers is the handling of the car.

      Buddy Baker was never completely happy with the car 046, and found it difficult to control and very susceptible to winds. With the new car he found the car very easy to drive at all speeds including the maximum, even with considerable wind. He thought that he could race the car at 192 mph, the only limitation would be the tires. The tires used were good for only 2 or 3 laps at these speeds before they would get too hot and start to lose their grip.

      This very good handling is a very great difference from the Fords, which both from appearance and drivers comments were very difficult to control at 188 to 189 mph qualifying speeds. The handling of the new car was so good that when the speed was slowed down to 187 mph, Buddy complained that it was boring to drive.

      The only factor tested that had a direct effect of the handling was the removal of the bracing bars in the engine compartment. This was done as a blindfold comparison with the bars in, out and back in again without the driver knowing what changes were made. In addition to the speed differences shown, the driver noticed a definite difference in the handling of the car, with a noticeable deterioration with the bars removed. The speed loss was .38 mph and .24 mph for the two tests.

      In addition to the bars in the engine compartment there are other factors that may affect the handling of the new car compared to car 046. One factor is the underbody angle, which may have an effect on the aerodynamic stability of the car. Another factor may be the new steering gear mount, which is much more rigid than the previous design. There are many other differences between the 1968 and 1969 race cars that may have an influence on the improved handling of the 1969 design.

      Aerodynamics

      The basic aerodynamics of the Charger 500 continues to be very good. The air inlet area through the grille and under the bumper is the area where the most can be done to reduce the drag of the stock body. The speed is increased by 2.60 mph by completely blocking the main grille, another 1.80 mph can be added by blocking most of the under bumper opening and leaving a slot of 30" x 1" just above the spoiler. The oil cooler inlet was also restricted in this final condition. This results in high but not excessive oil and water temperatures, but with the lower opening open and the grille blocked the temperatures are low.



      Blocking the grille and reducing the opening below the bumper reduces the drag of the car by about 14%, or is equivalent to about 77 HP. While the rules prohibit such blocking, very similar results should be obtainable by using fine mesh screen suitably prepared.

      An indication of the very low drag of the Charger 500 package is that during the horsepower per mile per hour testing the car would still lap at an observed 181.5 mph with a small carburetor that reduced the engine power to about 440 hp, less than the later track racing wedge engines.



      A longer front spoiler was tested to see if it would improve handling or increase speed. This spoiler was 4" from the ground rather than the 6.5" of the normal spoiler. This long spoiler reduced the lap speed by .96 mph, and did not seem to have any important effect on handling. The suspension travel measurements indicate some reduction in front lift, but this did not show up as an important change in handling.

      Uncovering the front grille seemed to increase the front lift to some extent, based on driver comments.

      Tires

      To show the difference between the Goodyear tires used in this test and the Firestones used in the previous test, a set of the Firestones was obtained and run. The Firestones proved to be .94 mph slower than the Goodyears.

      A comparison was also made between the Goodyear tires mounted on the 8.5" rims that have been standard until now, and the same type Goodyears mounted on 9" rims. This comparison was run twice, and showed .51 mph the first time and .20 mph the second time.

      Flywheel

      A heavy drag racing flywheel was installed on the engine in place of the standard flywheel, and resulted in a speed difference of .76 mph. The heavy flywheel had an inertia of .1824 slug feet squared and weighed 38 pounds, compared to the standard flywheel (which weighs 19 pounds and has an inertia of .0937 slug feet squared). There is no immediate indication of why the flywheel does improve lap time, although this has long been considered a speed secret at Daytona.

      http://www.allpar.com/[email protected]Engine speed was recorded during these runs as with all of the runs made, but preliminary study does not show any change in engine acceleration between the two flywheels. This will be investigated further and reported on later, but the test results do indicate a definite advantage for the higher inertia flywheel.

      Axle ratio

      The car was originally built with a 2.94 axle ratio, but this was changed to a 3.07 ratio after the first few runs. This resulted in a loss of .21 mph in lap speed. Since the difference was so small the ratio was not changed back. The axle ratio change resulted in an increase of about 300 rpm across the board, and apparently reduced the average engine power output over the speed range. This can not be answered completely until a power curve is available on the engine as it was installed in the car.

      The rpm spread from minimum to maximum averaged about 550 rpm, which is about the same as in the September test, even though the lap speeds were higher.

      Exhaust Pipes

      The ends of the exhaust pipes on the new car were cut parallel to the centerline of the car. For one test short extensions were welded onto the pipes to give ends that were perpendicular to the pipes. This change reduced the lap speed by .61 mph. Since such a small change in pipe length would be unlikely to represent a change of 10 HP due to exhaust tuning, this must be caused by the air flow and pressure conditions at the ends of the pipes.

      Horsepower/MPH

      There has always been a question as to how many horsepower it takes to increase the lap speed one mph at Daytona. For this test the Engine Laboratory prepared three smaller carburetors to reduce the engine power by up to 24%.

      The three carburetors were run along with the standard carburetor and give a good picture of the power - lap speed relationship. These four carburetors will be compared on the engine from the car on the dynamometer to give accurate values. Until this data is available we have only the approximate power levels.



      Based on these approximations, the car requires 17.5 HP per mph in the 190 mph range. When the correct engine data is available a more detailed analysis will be made.

      Correction Factor

      It is well known that a great many factors effect the lap speed of a race car at Daytona other than changes in the car itself. Most of these come under the general heading of environmental items: temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind and track temperature. For the simpler conditions of drag racing, a satisfactory correction factors was developed for barometer, temperature and humidity several years ago.

      For track racing the effects of weather are more complex, and it has been more difficult to develop a successful correction factor. Such a factor has now been developed, and it appears to do a good job of correcting the observed lap speed for temperature and humidity.

      It turns out that the barometric pressure is of very small importance, since an increase in barometric pressure increases both engine power and aerodynamic drag by a similar amount. While the basic correction factor equation does allow for barometric pressure, the effects of the range of barometer changes normally experienced is too small to be of any significance.

      An example of the usefulness of the correction factor is shown below. The corrected and uncorrected speeds are shown for three different runs with the car in the same condition:

      Run DateTimeObserved SpeedCorrected SpeedTemp.HumidityCorrection Factor
      611-264:30 PM189.13190.1066°63%1.0050
      811-2711:45 AM188.44190.3275°57%1.0100
      1011-2712:45 PM188.09190.1878°52%1.0111

      In the observed condition, there is a spread of 1.04 mph between these three runs, where the spread is only 0.22 mph for the corrected numbers. These three runs were made before the final baseline was achieved, and are slower than the baseline since the carburetor was not quite reaching WOT [wide open throttle], and there were some air leaks around the front bumper and grille that had not as yet been sealed.

      There are other examples during this test of the ability to return to a corrected speed very close to the original under different weather conditions where the observed speeds vary significantly. The corrections are all made to 60°F and 0 humidity.

      In checking weather data for Daytona tests and races in the past year, we find that the correction factor was slightly less than 1 for the days before the first day of qualifying in February, 1968. On the qualifying day the correction factor was 1.0044.

      This factor corrects Cale Yarborough's pole winning 198.22 mph to 190.05, an increase of .83 mph. Al Unser's qualifying speed of 183.53 mph in car 046 is corrected to 184.34 mph. For the first day of qualifying for the July race the correction factor was 1.0168, so that Charlie Glotzbach's pole winning 185.16 mph is corrected to 188.27 mph, an increase of 3.11 mph. Lee Roy Yarbrough's fastest qualifying time of 187.05 mph is corrected to 190.19 mph. During the various tests run at Daytona during the past year we have seen correction factors between 1.0067 and 1.0183, a difference of 1.2% or about 2.2 mph.

      - G.M. Wallace




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