Dodge charges ahead with the new V6
There's no mistaking the intent and investment that went into reinventing the Dodge Charger. Its looks are clearly inspired by the second-generation Charger of the late Sixties, yet executed in a convincingly modern way. It is a large car, more striking in the metal than in photographs, a car with real road presence, and in our case, an eye-catching Redline 3-coat pearl effect paint. Look closely and it sparkles.
The shape itself is pure muscle car, a prominent bonnet with twin scoops pressed into it, framed by lower, clearly defined wings with large, imposing twin headlights behind clear glass. Between them is the prominent new ‘cross-hair' grille, and below that, more mesh intakes, fog lights and sensor housings.
One thing is for sure - build quality has improved massively, evidenced by razor-sharp shutlines and beautifully precise panel fit.
Walk around this car and observe carefully - it is an object lesson in modern American coachwork, everything is flat, glossy, accurate, very satisfying.
The scoops in the bonnet are echoed in the doors, a deep scallop in the front helping to define the ‘coke-bottle' profile, and the top line running back in a rising arch to the rear wings. Above that, the roofline sweeps down in a continuous curve to give a distinctly coupé-like silhouette, and the muscular profile is carried well by deeply chromed, 5-spoke 20" alloys wrapped in wide but skinny rubber.
At the rear, there is another Dodge hallmark, the unique racetrack braking light that wraps across the whole of the back of the car. This now incorporates 164 LEDs to give an unmistakable look, instantly recognisable from any distance. Beneath this is the obligatory pair of tailpipes, large trapezoidal chrome tips making a none-too-subtle statement about power and intent.
Inside it's a similar story, a combination of quality materials, leather, soft-touch plastics and chrome highlights that leave you in no doubt whatsoever about the origins of this particular car.
Everything is wide, large, chunky and plush, and extremely well screwed together. Nothing rattles or creaks, the steering wheel is fat and grippy, and even the gearshift has an honest ruggedness to its feel, though the actual design is more historic than homage.
Looks aside, how does it drive?
OK, so it has the heritage, it has the looks, it has the toys, but how well does the Charger stack up when it comes to what's under the hood?
My test car isn't packing the legendary 5.7 litre V8 Hemi, nor the even more powerful 6.4 litre version found in the flagship. No, I've got a far more modest V6, but that's not a disappointment - this is one of the first cars in the Middle East fitted with Chrysler's brand new Pentastar V6, an engine that has already been recognised as one of the "Ten Best" in 2010 by Ward's Automotive. This is an engine that combines power, technology and efficiency in equal measure, and is expected to be the popular choice across a whole range of Chrysler platforms.
The Pentastar is a compact narrow angle (60 degree) all-alloy V6, with 24 valves, sequential fuel injection and a relatively high 10.2 compression ratio.
It will rev to an electronically limited 6,400rpm, at which point it is pumping out a substantial 290 bhp, and there is a very useful 353Nm of torque at 4,800rpm.
At 3.6 litres it may be giving away nearly 40 per cent in capacity to the V8, but thanks to its modern and efficient design it almost matches it for performance, with the obvious advantage in economy and reduced emissions.
On paper at least, it has little to fear, so what's it like on the road?
We begin with a nice little party piece - remote start. You can fire up the Charger from a significant distance away, so the A/C is already working as you make your way to it through a hot and humid multi-storey, weekend groceries in hand.
You don't have to unlock the Charger, as it has keyless entry and recognises you when you put your hand on the door-handle, but you do have to announce your intention to drive by pressing the Stop/Start button once inside. Clever security.
The sound from the twin exhausts is pleasingly gruff, and suits the purposeful nature of the car.
First impressions are good, engine response is crisp and take-off lively. At town speeds there's more than enough power to keep up with other traffic, and once out on the open road, the Charger shows a degree of real pace. It tends to gather speed smoothly and quietly rather than with a roar, but it certainly does so quickly enough.
Indeed, so smooth and quiet is the Charger that you tend to find yourself travelling a lot faster than you think.
Apparently, Dodge engineers spent a great deal of time fine-tuning the cabin for sound quality, isolating powertrain, road and wind noise through the extensive use of things like dual-pane acoustic windshield and front windows, silencing foam in body cavities, roll-frame doors with triple seals and even acoustic liners in the wheel arches. The net result? A cabin that is astonishingly serene, and a stiff challenge for competing manufactures from both Europe and the Far East.
There is another benefit to having the new Pentastar under the bonnet, and it is nothing to do with straight-line performance.
In reality, the V6-powered Charger actually handles better than its macho big brother. With less weight in the nose, the steering is sharper and quicker to respond to small inputs. Lower mass means less inertia, and the Charger changes direction with surprising alacrity. In fact, the whole car feels immensely strong and well built, so it is a surprise to find that something so stiff should actually tip the scales at less than 1,800 kilograms, a factor that contributes directly to its lithe and responsive demeanour.
Seduced by quiet efficiency
In many ways, unless you are in search of outright straight-line performance, this may be the best version of all of the Chargers. It is a large and well-equipped car with a high level of technology and a lot of safety and convenience features supplied as standard.
Choose the Lux spec package and you get even more - leather interior, HID lights, every which way adjustable seats, even a chiller vent on your cupholder to keep your refreshment nicely cool.
So the Dodge Charger V6 is a large, comfortable and well-equipped car, but it is also a surprisingly different car from its V8 engined brethren. Where they challenge with brute power and raucous thrills, the V6 version seduces with quiet efficiency and delightful poise.
It is not the baby brother of the family, but a true equal, with a different outlook and character all of its own. Which one will appeal to you ultimately is a matter of personal choice, but I for one found the Charger V6 to be a thoroughly modern, deeply accomplished and extremely drivable car.
Sometimes, smart thinking wins out over brute strength.
Engine: V6, 3,604cc 24valve direct injection
Power: 290 bhp @ 6,350rpm
Torque: 353Nm @ 4,800rpm
Transmission: 5-speed auto with overdrive