Chrysler has just paid off its debt to the US government, all $7.6 billion of it. How? With cars like the new Dodge Charger R/T, how is this company making any money at all? This thing costs Dh123K fully loaded, with electric-everything, a 370-horsepower Hemi, and it's the size of a Merc S-Class! Seriously, it's merely 19mm shorter than an S 500, but it's also considerably wider with a longer wheelbase. Just look how much car you get here!
The first thing you need to do when considering the new Charger R/T is dismiss all the unhappy memories of the woeful previous generation. That one was built out of recycled Plasticine, only it had a shorter lifespan than a third grader's art project.
This new one comes from an entirely different carmaker. With its iconic fastback proportions and million-fold improved craftsmanship, the 2011 Charger R/T rockets to the top of the segment before you even drive it. And when you do, it just makes things better. It's available with a 3.6-litre V6 at less than 100 grand, but I wouldn't give that a second glance because if you throw in some extra pocket change, Dodge returns the favour with a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 featuring four-cylinder fuel-saver mode. Firstly, let me quickly explain how the four-cylinder fuel-saver mode works. It doesn't.
In principle, the engine only needs, like, 50bhp to coast along the highway at 100kph, so why use all 370 horses? What the R/T does in these situations is put four cylinders to sleep, and work the other four, theoretically cutting your fuel consumption in half. When it's active, a little Eco lamp lights up on the instrument binnacle. I saw it light up for maybe 0.5 seconds during my test drive, so unfortunately I can't tell you about the excellent fuel economy. With my size 11 right foot buried in the plush carpet, the fuel economy wasn't an economy, it was a crisis. Sorry, but the R/T is just such a hoot to drive, I couldn't help it.
For a vehicle the size of an S-Class, it handles like an E-Class, which makes sense because it's still based on the E-Class-derived LX platform circa 1775. But it absolutely doesn't matter, because the chassis is taut and the body isolates powertrain, road and wind noises admirably. At 200kph, the Charger is quieter than a comparable German saloon. For real. (Apart from the Hemi's growl, obviously but that doesn't count because that's desirable.)
The redesigned suspension geometry also allows for much more composed cornering, complemented by adequate steering feedback and a nice throttle response. The rear end provides loads of traction for full throttle cornering, partly due to the fact that Chrysler has messed with the electronic stability control and traction control to still pitch in even when the instrument display claims they're switched off. They never switch off fully (I suspect Chrysler Middle East did this on purpose to prolong the life of its test fleet), but even though, the drift angles you can reach thanks to pure horsepower are amazing. The front end, too, is eager to dart into a turn despite being anchored down by a gigantic Yank ‘motor', as they like to put it. And it's a great, tractable, eager engine, even when you consider it only has 16 valves, which is four less than what my four-pot has. You could also say that the automatic five-speed transmission is outdated too, but you'd be wrong because you'll never really miss an extra ratio with the R/T's lazy 2.65 final drive.
And anyway, more than just the oily bits, what's exemplary about Chrysler's business case here is the amount of equipment you get for the money. Again, it beggars belief.
The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T features keyless entry-and-go, something called Ready-alert Braking and Rainy Day Brake Support, adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection and a backup camera. Tut, tut, hang on… It also has shiny 20in rims, leather, auto AC, multifunctional steering wheel, electrically adjustable wheel and pedals, heated and cooled cup holders, an infotainment system and highly detailed sat-nav, and basically everything you'd find in a 7 Series or an S-Class barring top-shelf materials and massaging seats.
It's so far fetched to even begin to imagine that this thing once used to be the old Charger. It's possibly the most improved generation-to-generation model of all time, or at least in the past 20 years. Don't get me wrong, it's still a huge American car, and its dynamics reflect that. But considering the size and two-tonne weight, the R/T is a commendable effort from this new, debt-free Chrysler.
For the money, you simply cannot put a foot wrong buying this car. The only thing that may turn you away is purely personal; you don't like the styling, you need an SUV, you don't need the expansive size of a Charger. For everyone else, say hello, because this right here is your 2011 saloon.