By David Colman
For: Luxo Cockpit, Huge Torque, Precise Handling
Against: Beats Every Prius to the Pump
I’ve got shocking news for all you homegrown Mopar fans. Ask me if the new R/T’s “got a Hemi in it?” and my answer will be “Si” because the 5.7 liter, 370hp Hemi comes from Mexico. The 5-speed automatic gearbox it’s attached to comes from Germany, “Ja.” And the assembly point for this all-American muscle car? Why, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, “eyh.” Oh yes, for the record, let’s not forget that Italy’s Fiat now owns Dodge, “grazie.” Make no mistake, the Charger R/T is still a primo muscle car, but heritage and inspiration aside, the USA no longer counts quite so heavily in the build equation.
The Charger enjoyed a styling renaissance in 2011, when new sheet metal gave it a scowling catfish face, flame surfaced flanks, and LED head and taillight clusters. All these revisions appeal to the nasty and the Narcissistic in us alike. The latest iteration of the Charger is visually compelling, especially in R/T form, with massive 20 inch alloys completing the Tonka Toy look. For 2012, Dodge has finished the makeover by redoing the interior with a very satisfying combination of expensive looking leathers, suedes and surface treatments that remove Charger from the airport rental fleet and elevate it to the exotic loan portfolio.
More importantly, the Hemi Charger is a blast to drive. Tromp the loud pedal and this beefy beast explodes with massive forward thrust. No need to downshift, ever, unless you want to savor the experience of swapping cogs. The Hemi makes enough torque in any speed range to get the job done right now with nothing more than the automatic kickdown that occurs whenever you floor the accelerator. The Charger is such a stout runner that police forces across the US are selecting it as their interceptor of choice, now that Ford has stopped producing the Crown Victoria. You can even order one with all wheel drive, but the handling of the rear-wheel-drive Charger R/T is so well balanced that you’ll never need AWD unless you live in the snow belt.
To maximize your Charger’s agility and civility, you’ll also need to order the $4,000, 29R option group entitled Road & Track. No, you don’t get a subscription to the magazine. What you do get, however, makes the Hemi work harder and the cockpit feel better. The motor receives a more efficient black box called a “High Speed Engine Controller,” and a “Customer Selectable Sport Mode” for increased engine, gearbox and suspension responsiveness. The R/T package also installs a 3.06:1 differential gear, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and a set of Goodyear’s Eagle F1 245/45R20 rubber mounted on massive “Chrome-Clad” 20” alloy rims. Guild the lily by equipping your Charger with the $400 optional Super Track Pak, which not only stiffens the suspension but also quickens the steering ratio. The R/T and Track Pak options convert the Charger into a serious road burner, with handling taut enough, and steering feel responsive enough, to take maximum advantage of that wonderful Hemi under the hood.
Additionally, the R/T group also elevates interior fit and finish to levels previously unseen in mainline Dodge products. The fat-rimmed steering wheel is heated. The Sport Leather front seats feature suede inserts for extra grip, and both are ventilated and heated. The commodious second row seats are also heated. Even the beverage holders in the central armrest are both chilled and warmed. In every way from appearance to practicality, this interior bends over backwards to meet and exceed your every request. The Charger is such a fine performing family sedan that we were ever so reluctant to part with it when our test week expired.
2012 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track
- Engine: 5.7 liter OHV HEMI with VVT and FUEL SAVER
- Horsepower: 370hp
- Torque: 395 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 16 MPG City/25 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $37,935
- Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars