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Many people still think that muscle cars are cool. How do I know? Driving the 2012 Dodge Charger for a recent week provided some insight on the thoughts of numerous people, who admirably gazed at the aggressively stylish vehicle or supplied a thumbs-up when hearing its engine roar.

And the roar wasn’t all bark and no bite. This rear-wheel drive Charger can certainly roar down the highway, accelerating much faster than initially expected. But that should have been anticipated from a sedan that features a 5.7-liter, V8 that produces 370 horsepower and gallops from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds.


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If that’s not enough performance, the folks at Dodge are offering more. The Charger SRT8 is powered by a 6.4-liter, V8 that gobbles up the pavement with its 470 horsepower. It’s nearly a full second faster than the above-mentioned R/T model, clocked at 4.6 seconds when accelerating from 0-60 mph.

A performance-laden vehicle with an edgy look was just what Chrysler wanted to create when it entered the “specialty” vehicle category by unveiling the Dodge Charger in the mid-1960s. The Charger was very fast then and obviously that trend continues today.

But if performance is not totally your thing, yet the Charger is still appealing, there is a third option. The SXT and SE models feature a 3.6-liter, V6 that offers 292 horsepower and also delivers good fuel economy, especially with the new eight-speed automatic. The SXT gets between 19-31 mpg.

The current exterior can’t match those early years, but the modern-day Charger still has a rather distinct appearance. Redesigned this year, the Charger features a sloping roofline, a front grille that a Dodge designer says looks like “Superman’s chest,” and a rear-end styling that accentuates its aerodynamic capability.

Even the Charger interior, which has been maligned in the past for its stoic design and reliance on cheap material, is improved. The main gauges are easy to master and convenient to reach, and overall there is less reliance on hard plastic. Comfort is there as well, including leg and head room in the front seat and back, where the sloping roofline isn’t the factor that one might expect.

For a muscle car, the Charger rides better than expected. It drives fairly smooth on most surfaces. On more uneven roads, the ride can be more unsettling that other sedans. The Charger handles precise turns with modest efficiency. Braking is very good, which is nice to know when driving a vehicle with this type of extreme acceleration.

Although still not a mainstream vehicle, the 2012 Charger should gain more mass appeal with its improved interior, solid ride, a moderate price tag (just under $30,000 for the R/T model), and gas mileage that’s surprisingly high for a muscle car.

2012 Dodge Charger

  • Performance: ; 3.6-liter, V6, 292 horsepower; 5.7-liter, V8, horsepower; 6.4-liter, V8, 640 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 14-31 mpg
  • Price: $25,495 to $45,795
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/100,000 miles; roadside assistance 3 years/36,000