shocks.” So sayeth Elwood to Jake Blues as they drove a 375-horsepower 440 Magnum-powered ‘74 Dodge Monaco police car.
Well, we weren’t on any mission from God when our plain white ‘13 Dodge Charger R/T Max rolled up for a test, looking just like an undercover cop car ready for the next Blues Brothers adventure. And with its 370-horsepower Hemi and all-wheel-drive, all I can do is repeat what Jake says when told, “We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, its dark, HIT IT!”
“What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?” When Dodge revived the legendary Charger name in 2006, it thankfully forgot the 1983-‘87 front wheel drive version and remembered the rear-wheel-drive 1966-‘78 rear wheel drive muscle car. The blocky square-cut first version changed in 2011 into the more carved and curved body here, a hint of nostalgic ’69 Charger in the flanks. The 2013 model has the same thrusting squared-off nose with black honeycomb-style grille and chrome crosshair and a classic heritage “R/T” badge. The lower air intake is deep and wide and the lens of the Forward Collision Warning/adaptive cruise lens inset over a pointed lower air dam. Inset fog lights live in side intakes under glaring hooded quad headlights. A power dome hood flows off the prominent grille.
The latest generation Charger gets a more rounded front fender line with gentle flat-edged flares framing five-spoke silver alloy wheels wearing Michelin Pilot P235/55R19-inch rubber. In back, the ‘69 Charger’s design is mimicked in a 164 LED-outlined taillight display over two big stainless steel-tipped exhaust pipes in a black lower fascia. The rounded roofline gets a very police car-like gloss black panel that allows the swept-back windshield to seemingly flow right into the backlight. Like an undercover police car, our Charger R/T looked a bit basic in white with the silver alloy wheels, no chrome and just a few badges. One friend said it looked like a base V-6 model! I thought it was ready to accept a light bar and stripes and patrol the road. It sure fit in with my local PD’s fleet, although only our Highway Patrol uses Chargers.
“You traded the Bluesmobile for this?” Open the front doors wide and you’ll find a cabin Jake and Elwood would have loved. The R/T gets a one-piece padded black leather-grained dash top design with a very nice patterned buff gray aluminum fascia and center console trim. A power tilt/telescoping 3-spoke steering wheel gets a chunky leather-clad rim and cellphone,
Bluetooth Uconnect, voice command, trip computer and cruise control buttons in front,
and the usual Chrysler behind-the-spoke stereo controls. The wheel frames retro-style black-faced gauges with red needles and white numbers with a full-color trip computer
screen in between offering turn-by-turn navigation information.
Mid-dash and mounted high is a big 8.4-inch color LCD touch screen with Garmin navigation and a 552-watt 10-speaker Beats AM-FM-SiriusXM-CD sound system. The system sounded powerful and good, not great. It also has Sirius TravelLink via touchscreen or voice command. The red leather bucket seats were comfortable, with 10-way power adjustment for the driver and a switch to power-adjust the pedals. I could have done with a bit more side support. The stitched red door panels did a lot to lighten the interior.
Our R/T had Adaptive Cruise Control that maintains speed and distance between you and the car in front, plus forward Collision Warning and a blind-spot monitoring system. There’s a Rear Cross Path detection system that alerts you to folks coming from the right or left rear as you back out of a driveway. Those side mirrors also have small puddle lights in the mirrors themselves, an odd place to put them.
The base of the dash center stack gets a storage nook with 12-volt outlet. One issue – to heat or cool the front seats, you have to tap the touch screen menu twice to get to the button – I’d like seat buttons please. I did like the cooled or heated cup holders on a center console.
In back, lots of head and leg room for two perps – uh, guests, with air vents and rear seat heating controls under the air vents at the back of the center console. The fold-down center console has twin cup holders. The rear seat backs split and fold to offer more room to what is already a huge flat and wide trunk, perfect for whatever the undercover cop needs to haul.
One classic sports car touch – the battery is next to the spare tire under the trunk
floor for better weight balance.
“Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now.” My last Charger test was a ‘12 SRT8 with 470-horsepower Hemi with a whopping 470 pound-feet of torque. It hit 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Our Charger R/T didn’t have the Highway Patrol-spec motor. But its 370 horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi and all-wheel-drive meant it just dug in and launched to 60-mph in a satisfying 5.8 seconds. Pushed hard, we could get a bit of rear-wheel chirp off the line before the system engaged the fronts, and Hemi rumble and snarl. The engine’s multi-displacement technology cuts off four cylinders at highway speeds. Fuel mileage was about 20 mpg on regular.
The R/T gets an independent short/long arm front suspension with one-piece lower control arms and a stabilizer bar. The back wheels hang off a five-link independent rear suspension with stabilizer bar. The sum total of that is a firm and fairly sporty ride that was comfortable but responsive for a 4,400-pound car. The Charger R/T was sure-footed due to its all-wheel-drive, especially in the rain. Work the R/T into a turn and it honored its “Road and Track” badging. With a touch of lean and a bit of heft due its weight, the R/T tackled turns easily, staying on track. Understeer nibbled at us in tighter turns, but a touch of throttle could make it behave more neutrally. The R/T did play like a big sports sedan, feeling a bit less nimble due to its two-ton heft. Our Charger’s power steering had a precise feel. But the brakes were only OK, pedal feel not as sharp as I’d like, and stops feeling a bit long with less brake bite than I’d like.
“This place has got everything.” The base Dodge Charger with V-6 starts at $25,995. The Charger R/T Max AWD takes that base up to $32,495 with 18-inch aluminum wheels, performance-tuned suspension and exhaust, performance brakes, LCD touch screen, HID headlights and power seats. A $6,500 Preferred Option Package adds almost everything else on our Tester. The black painted roof adds $1,500, for a total $41,490.
Bottomline – No blues in my news, brothers! The Charger R/T is closest to a muscle car in this class, with the option of a full-bore SRT8 version with 470 horsepower and rear wheel drive. This Brampton, Ontario-built car cops a subtle attitude in plain white, but offers some serious highway patrol juice when you cruise. It’s also very comfortable, roomy and usable, hampered only by its so-so fuel mileage and size – it just fit in my garage. Its mission – show that muscle can be accompanied by grace and some precision.
Last word – A Charger to patrol the highway’s curves!
For more information about Dodge’s Charger lineup, please visit http://www.dodge.com/en/2013/charger/