It coulda been a contender.
I wanted so badly for this car to be good. Really good. Five years ago, I pinned my hopes for a genuine American sports sedan on three vehicles: The Cadillac CTS-V, the Pontiac G8 and the car featured in this article—the 2006-2010 Dodge Charger. And while Cadillac got it and continues to refine the formula, and Pontiac got it—briefly—when they offered a 6-speed manual in conjunction with the G8′s top-of-the-line V8, the Charger never received the same treatment. It was a missed opportunity.
All the ingredients of excellence were present and accounted for: A workable RWD chassis developed from that of the previous-generation Mercedes E-Class, a world-beating 5.7l, 340-hp V8 engine, a team of suspension tuners potentially lifted from the Viper program and a plethora of 6-speed manual transmissions to choose from. And yet…it never came together, whether through Chrysler’s ignorance of what to do with the bits at their disposal or willful refusal to spend capital creating a car that would make enthusiasts salivate but would hold little appeal in the larger market.
The styling reflects the same so-close-yet-so-far aura that afflicted the drivetrain and chassis dynamics. Highlights include a rakishly swept-forward nose, clean and elegant front and rear treatments, tastefully unadorned flanks and a jaunty pair of “hips” just forward of the rear wheels. All the elements are there, and yet…viewing one in the flesh, I can’t help but be let down by the fact that the proportions are just a little bit off, the whole car looks too bathtub-ish and not lithe and athletic like it should. Again, it’s a shame, since out of the three cars I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Charger’s details gave it the most potential to be a real head-turner.
For what it’s worth, the 2011-present redesign didn’t bring the car any closer to a state where it would hold any appeal for the true enthusiast, instead removing many of the more tasteful and appealing styling elements and introducing several, including the side scallops, that are distinctively chintzy. Furthermore, the curb weight increased a few hundred pounds and a three-pedal setup, or at least a dual-clutch transmission, is still notably absent from the option sheet. And the handling still leans (pun intended) more toward that of its cousin’s, the plush Chrysler 300, rather than targeting the taut responses of a BMW 5-Series or Audi A6.
Hopefully one day, one of the Big Three will come around and deliver something sports sedan buffs can get excited about—and for longer than the aborted tenure of the Pontiac G8. Shame the Charger wasn’t it.
Image credits: netcarshow.com
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting key decisions I wish automakers had made differently, for divers reasons. Read the other installments here: