Test Drive: 2012 Dodge Charger R/T car test drives reviews dodge
2012 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Dodge Charger

Note – this review will contain no references to NASCAR, The Dukes of Hazzard, Good Ol’ Boys or Police Cruisers. 

Although largely unjustified, the 2012 Dodge Charger has a certain stigma it cannot escape.  It may be the iceberg-melting Hemi V8, the intimidating front end or its nearly two tonnes of mass, but for some reason, the Charger is always associated with the less-refined aspects of society.  Regardless of people’s perception of this car, one thing we discovered after a week behind the wheel of this behemoth is that it is actually quite a hoot to drive.

In 2011, the Charger received a much-needed refresh that introduced revised sheet metal, a greatly-improved interior and new, more powerful engines. The redesign included new full-length LED rear taillights that mimic those on the 1970 Charger.  I quite like the design but others do not.  They provide an incredible amount of light — good for backing up in a dark parking lot, but not so good for a vehicle following the Charger down a rural road.  Up front, there is a new beak that a 1994 Buick Skylark could only wish it had, and the hood features two recessed grooves reminiscent of the classic Chargers, a theme repeated down the sides of the car.

Test Drive: 2012 Dodge Charger R/T car test drives reviews dodge
Test Drive: 2012 Dodge Charger R/T car test drives reviews dodge
2012 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

The Charger we received for evaluation was not the meat-and-potatoes V6 model with the new-for-2012 eight-speed automatic.  Instead, it was the burly, hairy-chested R/T model, with a 370-hp 5.7-litre Hemi V8 sending power to the rear wheels through a tried and true five-speed automatic.  Making sure the Charger is more conspicuous than a mountain in Saskatoon, our test car came in bright Redline Three-Coat Pearl paint.

This is obviously a large car (with an overall length of 5,077 mm), but it doesn’t drive like one.  Unlike some of the more unwieldy muscle sedans of yesteryear, the Charger R/T always gives the driver a feeling of being in control despite its large proportions.  Even in parking lots, there was never a feeling of “this isn’t going to fit,” – though much of the credit there goes to the back-up camera.  One classic muscle-car trait this Charger could do without, however, is “the shakes.”  When idling at intersections, the entire car vibrates mildly, as the engine idles at low rpms.

To help keep all the power and weight in check, our Charger had the optional Super Track Pack which, at only $500, is a steal.  On top of the regular Track Pack’s Sport mode and higher 3.06 (numerically) final drive gear ratio, the Super Track package includes more go-fast goodies to make enthusiasts drool.  Unique 20-inch aluminum wheels with 245/45ZR20 BSW performance tires, three-mode stability control, heavy duty brakes, deleted load-levelling and height-control rear end, performance steering and sport suspension are all part of the package.  A nice addition to this package would be a freer-flowing exhaust — maybe add a few horsepower and let that Hemi be heard.  As it stands, the sound is too muted for a V8 this nice, but did wail nicely when we got on the gas.

Test Drive: 2012 Dodge Charger R/T car test drives reviews dodge
2012 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

Since our test occurred in late January, the 20-inch wheels and tires had been swapped out for 18s with skinny 225/60R18 winter tires.  This setup greatly limited the car’s handling, so a fair assessment of its paved-road prowess will have to wait for a second round this summer. The car did feel rather flat for its size in the corners and exhibited less body roll than expected.

But enough about handling and tires. Let’s get to what makes the Charger a Charger: a big, honking Hemi V8.  With nearly 400 lb-ft of torque, a smash of the gas pedal sends the Charger lurching off the line with far more authority than any car weighing in a hair below 2,000 kilos should.  That is, of course, when it hooks up.  During my week with the car, it snowed, rained and was generally wet out every day.  The car easily spins its rear wheels and/or tries to slide the back end out in almost any conditions if too much throttle is applied (and in this case, too much isn’t really very much at all); the skinnier snow tires only amplified this effect.  Be reasonable with throttle inputs, though, and the Charger handles the white-stuff without drama.




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.