Dodge and Chrysler LX Cars, G1: Charger, Challenger, 300C, and Magnum
Features common to each car are on this page. Also see:
Dodge Challenger - Dodge Charger - Charger Squad - Chrysler 300C - Chrysler 300C SRT-8 - Dodge Magnum - Magnum SRT8 - 300 s6 and S8 - 2011 Charger - 2011 300C - 2012 200C
Field-test reports: RWD in Snow and Ice • SRT-8 track drive • Car Reviews
Burke Brown, the LX project leader, told Allpar that the original plan was to produce all four LX cars at once: Charger, Challenger, 300C, and Magnum. A combination of marketing (wanting to launch the dissimilar Magnum and 300C first) and funds changed the plan. Full interview.
A short wheelbase version of the LX was expected to give Chrysler a mid-sized rear-drive sedan; this was to be the Airflight, and it was expected to come in a convertible version, since the Sebring Convertible was the best selling ragtop in the United States. That plan, which may never have existed, seems to have disappeared, with the new shorter-wheelbase Challenger arriving instead. The Chrysler Enforcer squad car never happened, nor did the Magnum sedan; but the Charger sedan arrived in their stead.
Powertrains and performance
The base engine on Magnum and 300 was a 200 horsepower 2.7 liter V6, also used on the Intrepid and Concorde, retuned for more low-end torque and hooked up to a four-speed automatic. Next up was the 3.5 V6, from the LHS and 300M, with around 250 hp; it was first attached to the four-speed automatic (AWD models got the five speed), but in 2006 went with the five-speed across the board.
The ultimate engine until the SRT8 arrived was the Hemi V8, with roughly 340 horsepower, attached to the Mercedes five-speed automatic. Performance figures for Hemi cars were:
Special tires on 18" wheels were developed to improve all-season performance. The front-rear weight ratio of 52:48 (Hemi) is close to optimal.
All wheel drive and the 2009 disconnection system
The all-wheel-drive system added a front differential and a transfer case. Power was transmitted to both axles at all times. The transfer case used a planetary center differential that delivered 62% of the torque to the rear axle. Combined with all-speed traction control and stability control, performance and stability were good under all traction conditions. Starting in model year 2009, all wheel drive was disconnected via a clutch when not needed, increasing gas mileage by 1-2 mpg; when more traction was needed, a motor spun up the front axle, then connected the front transfer case. In cold conditions, the system started out in AWD and switched to RWD when the road was confirmed to be dry.
Revisions to the engines for the LX series
The 2.7-liter V-6 was retuned for more low-speed torque at launch and mid-range operation. The engine produces 190 hp at 6400 rpm, and 190 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm (down from 200 hp). It used an active dual-plenum intake manifold tuned for low-speed torque; and had a manifold tuning valve for greater low-speed torque during both part-throttle and wide-open throttle operation. This valve increased part-throttle torque by 8-10% in the primary driving range of 2100 to 3400 rpm.
For 2005, the engine gained electronic throttle control ("drive by wire") for a more consistent vehicle speed on rolling grades when cruise control is active; interaction with the transmission control system minimized gear hunting. It tailored throttle response to pedal movement based on operating conditions. A large pedal motion at a standing start may open the throttle less than the same pedal movement at highway speeds.
Chrysler 300C and Dodge Magnum styling
Designers stuck with center-mounted license plates, with the 300 series having the frame held onto the grille so it is partly over the bumper, partly over the grille. A Chrysler executive said they tried to have a large chrome bar on top of the frame so it would look more part of the grille, but that costs made that impossible. The Magnum was entirely over the bumper. Those in states without front plates (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and others) may be happy to learn that no visible holes are pre-drilled.
The controls are a little odd, with an unusual cruise control on a stalk on the top left of the wheel, which seems far less user-friendly than the standard Japanese flat stalk on the right of the wheel. The headlight control has stiff, loud detents, making it clicky and somewhat cheap-feeling in comparison to prior controls. The "variations of gray" wood-free interior was cold compared with many other cars in this price range. The car used a foot brake, given the lack of a manual transmission.
The raised belt-line and low glass-to-body ratio were ostensibly designed to provide a sense of stability and protection. The driver had good views at all angles but not up and down, making the experience like driving a tank - which may be what they were after.
Interesting options and features
Four-wheel disc brakes were standard. Ducts in the 300 front fascia directed airflow to the front brakes, reducing front brake temperatures by up to 15% in heavy use for enhanced performance and longer lining life.
High caliper stiffness facilitated firm pedal feel and linear response with increasing demand for braking effort. To reduce rolling resistance for better fuel economy, all models used low-drag calipers. Tight pad clearance to the rotors maintained pedal feel and responsiveness. The Chrysler 300C had twin-piston aluminum calipers and 13.6 -inch vented rotors in the front and single-piston aluminum calipers with 12.6 -inch vented rotors in the rear. The calipers were readily visible through the aluminum wheels, and they have a gray anodized coating for corrosion protection and long-term appearance.
Even the base brake system offered on V- 6 rear-wheel drive models offer substantial braking performance and safety. They used single-piston aluminum calipers and 12.6 -inch vented rotors in the front and single-piston aluminum calipers with solid 12.6 -inch rotors in the rear.
ABS (Anti-Lock Brake System) and All-Speed Traction Control
A combined ABS and Traction Control system was standard with the 3.5- and 5.7-liter engines, optional with the 2.7-liter V- 6. Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum are the first Chrysler Group vehicles to offer all-speed traction control. ABS keeps the vehicle straight while retaining steering capability when braking on slippery surfaces by preventing wheel lock-up. It benefits from state-of-the-art electronics that provide faster system response than in the past.
All-Speed Traction Control enhances mobility and prevents wheel slip when accelerating on slippery surfaces. Depending on how slippery it is, an automatically activated "Winter Mode" feature will select lower transmission up-shift speeds on the five-speed automatic transmission. It also provides a measure of directional stability control - an advancement beyond prior traction control systems. Using the wheel-speed sensors, it can detect excessive yaw and help keep the car on the intended course as, for instance, when accelerating around a curve.
In addition to low traction braking situations, all-speed traction control on the Chrysler 300 models can use throttle control as well. This makes the vehicle less reliant on brake application alone to maintain traction, increases the operating speed range and more closely modulates speed, resulting in smoother operation. With All-Speed Traction Control reducing engine torque when accelerating, it is possible to achieve almost seamless torque application at the wheels. All-Speed Traction Control also benefits from state-of-the-art electronics that provide much faster system response than in the past.
Though Chrysler had already chosen rear wheel drive before the merger, hooking up with Mercedes allowed the use of existing technologies, including the A580 electronic automatic, and Mercedes' stability control, steering, rear suspensions, electronics, and seats.
The rear suspension / differential is a module isolated from the body. The front suspension is cradle mounted and has dual ball joints in the lower links for added tuning ability.
A telematic system similar to OnStar, but interacting with your cell-phone if you have AT&T wireless, was optional (it later morphed into UConnect and worked with any cell phone via BlueTooth). European offerings had a diesel option.
The LX cars used the Mercedes E class traction control, electronic stability systems, axles, wire harnesses, automatic transmissions (with five speeds rather than six), steering columns, and other major suspension components. 20% of the Magnum's components were shared with Mercedes, according to Wolfgang Bernhard (40% of the Crossfire is Mercedes so these figures are to be taken lightly).
AutoWeek (Mark Vaughn) quoted chief engineer Burke Brown as saying that while Mercedes provided many components, "few parts are straight out the Benz bin." He cited the front suspension as having a lower roll center and wider track, for example.
The new VCT Hemi pushed out 359-375 hp and 389 (or more) lb-ft of torque; all wheel drive models gained a new system that brings rear-wheel-drive style gas mileage, by only connecting the front axle when it's needed, spinning it up to speed on demand. Navigation system, stereo, satellite TV were all updated.
One of the most powerful V-8s of all time, the original Hemi became legend in the 1950s and 1960s, propelling Chrysler to the top in performance. The legendary 426 Hemi of the 1960s stunned the racing world in cars such as the Plymouth Superbird and Barracuda, and the Dodge Challenger and Charger. It was dropped in 1971 due to low sales and high costs.
The new Hemi was reportedly cheaper to build than the 4.7 V8, which was in turn cheaper than the old LA-series V8s.