Sometimes things make you scratch your head and go “what?” Case in point, the 2012 Dodge Charger SXT. Previously we drove the exact same powertrain – a 292 horsepower, 3.6L Pentastar V6 and the new 8-speed automatic – in a Chrysler 300S and loved it. In the Charger SXT it was satisfying, but part of us kept jonesing for the V8-powered R/T.
Maybe it’s the styling. The 2012 Dodge Charger is gorgeous. It’s a big, chiseled 4-door sedan that looks muscular and has an especially aggressive angled front end that says, “Don’t mess with me.” And trust us, traffic was more than pleased to scurry out of the way when our Bright Silver Metallic SXT came gliding up behind them. Even standing still on its optional 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, the Charger looked mean. In a very good way.
The drive is impressive. The V6 works immensely better with the new 8-speed automatic, always in its powerband for swift progress, made more fun by using the paddle shifters, or nudging the shift lever through the gears. The new transmission pays dividends on the road too, with a 31 mpg EPA highway rating. Your lead-footed test driver managed closer to the low 20’s in mixed driving – still very good for a large, powerful car.
The handling is also surprising. The 2012 Dodge Charger SXT is an extremely agile car, especially for its size. We had to make an evasive maneuver when someone swerved into our lane, and the big Charger SXT swung around like a small sports car, clearly saving our bacon. In less frantic driving, the handling has very high limits, while providing a smooth and well-controlled ride. It feels like there’s still some Mercedes left in the chassis from Chrysler’s previous owners, and we’ve got no problem with that.
Like the 300S we tested, the 2012 Dodge Charger SXT also has the new and improved interior, with high quality materials, a much better looking instrument panel featuring large deep-set gauges and a huge 8.4-inch color touchscreen in the center of the dash. Our loaded tester also wore rich red Nappa leather that just looked fantastic. A little bit of Hot Rod in an otherwise very civilized interior. Also, being the big American sedan that the Charger is, there’s loads of room, from extremely comfortable well-shaped front sport buckets to a rear seat with real stretch out room. And a big trunk to boot. (Er, sorry about the pun.)
The 2012 Dodge Charger SXT is even a great value. Our loaded-to-the gills SXT PLUS tester came in at just under $36,000, but a well-equipped SXT with the eight-speed automatic starts at just $28,495, so you can pretty much spec one out the way you want and your budget will allow.
So the new Charger SXT is a great car. And with the price of gas, the V6 with the eight-speed auto is a smart and satisfying choice. But as for our earlier conundrum? Something this tough just cries out for the rumble of a V8. Vote with your head – get the SXT V6. With your heart – the R/T V8. Either way, with the Dodge Charger, you win.
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