A new model for 2006, the Dodge Charger is the third of Chrysler’s LX rear-wheel-drive cars, joining its siblings Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum.

The Charger comes with a choice of four engines: a 180 hp 2.7-litre V6, 250 hp 3.5-litre V6, 340 hp 5.7-litre Hemi V8, and in the Charger SRT8, a 425 hp 6.1-litre Hemi V8. Although the 300 and Magnum are available in all-wheel-drive, the Charger is strictly rear-wheel.

Several trim levels and option packages are available: the Charger can be outfitted as the SE, SXT, R/T, R/T with Road/Track Performance Group, and Daytona R/T.

The SE uses the 2.7-litre engine with four-speed automatic transmission, but it can be optioned up to the 3.5-litre V6. Features include air conditioning, floor console with storage bin and 12-volt power outlet, tilt and telescopic wheel, overhead console, cloth seats, outside temperature display, 17-inch steel wheels, electronic stability control, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and all-speed traction control, cruise control, CD player with four speakers and auxiliary audio input jacks, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, and engine immobilizer.

The SXT uses the 3.5-litre V6 with five-speed automatic transmission, and adds a chrome grille surround, heated mirrors, fog lamps, 60/40 split folding rear seat, cargo net, eight-way power driver’s seat, illuminated vanity mirrors, leather-wrapped wheel, satin silver interior accents, 17-inch aluminum wheels and Boston Acoustics six-speaker audio system.

The R/T uses the 5.7-litre V8 and five-speed automatic transmission, and adds leather seats, 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual bright exhaust tips and performance brake system.

The SRT8 uses the 6.1-litre V8 with five-speed automatic, and includes all the features of the R/T plus unique front fascia and rear spoiler, brake duct system, hood scoop, sport front seats, 20-inch forged wheels, red Brembo brake calipers, increased output fuel pump, lower ride height and custom cluster graphics with 300 km/h speedometer.

Critics complain that a real Charger doesn’t have four doors, but then again, today’s buyers are more likely to need easy access to the rear seat, as opposed to the Dukes of Hazzard jumping in through the General Lee’s open windows. Like the 300 and Magnum, the 5.7-litre Hemi features Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which seamlessly deactivates half the cylinders when full power is not needed, for improved fuel economy (the 6.1-litre Hemi is full power all the time). Near 50/50 weight distribution and supple handling make the Charger an enjoyable drive. The styling is muscular but understated, although the Daytona R/T package adds a can’t-miss-it decal package and nostalgic Go ManGo! or Top Banana exterior colours. The SRT8 offers zero to 100 km/h in the low fives, more horsepower than the legendary Hemi engines of the 1960s and 1970s, and 20-inch wheels with Brembo brakes for less than forty-five grand. What’s not to like?

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