2006 Dodge Charger RT
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Review and photos by Laurance Yap

There exists, within the model line-up of every car manufacturer, a “sweet spot” where value, performance, features, and style converge, and I think that within the range of Dodge’s current offerings, the Charger RT may just be it. The car looks distinctive on the road, it offers good value for your money and has terrific performance and handling. Below it, other Charger models, and indeed other Dodges, are less convincing in terms of their balance attributes; above it, and you’re looking at a lot more money for not a lot more show or go.

Primarily, that essence comes down to power. With 340 hp from its rumbling 5.7-litre V8, the Charger is a fast car. It roars off the line and powers easily up to speeds that would get you quickly arrested, were you not paying attention. Its five-speed automatic (a Mercedes design) shifts firmly when you’re driving aggressively, and is responsive to prods of your right foot; push it right to the carpet, and the transmission will bang off two perfect downshifts and rocket you past other freeway traffic. Should you be in a less-energetic mood, the Charger obliges with smoother shifts and an engine note that’s powerful, but never intrusive; the 8-cylinder engine also shuts off half of its cylinders for better fuel economy, though I still managed no better than a disappointing 13.5 L/100 km. Ride quality is pretty good in town, considering the size of the standard-fit tires, but it can bobble and jiggle over the worst of surfaces.

2006 Dodge Charger RT
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Dodges are also big cars, and the Charger certainly delivers on that front. It now has four doors – Charger purists, no doubt, will pooh-pooh this development – meaning easier access to the cavernous interior and its big seats. Though the side windows are small, giving the roof a chopped-down look, there’s actually a lot of headroom inside, and legroom is pretty much at airport-limo levels.

The simple dash design stays out of your way, with a flat swath of instruments and controls pretty much running straight across the front of the cabin, but that does mean that some of the minor controls for the radio and climate system are a long reach away.

2006 Dodge Charger RT
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Numerous storage bins, a cell phone pocket and bottle holders enhance the interior’s practicality. The quality of its construction is quite good – save for a loose trim piece around the shifter on my tester – but the quality of the materials used is only adequate, given the car’s price: Honda and Toyota do much better at this price point. The trunk is simply huge, once you get over a relatively high liftover height; a cargo net divides it into two, so you don’t have to crawl halfway in to retrieve your groceries.

2006 Dodge Charger RT
Click image to enlarge

Where the Charger has improved immeasurably over past Dodges is in its handling. Though there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a big car – a VERY big car – the new Charger is remarkably nimble, whether you’re slicing through traffic or dicing up a winding road. Though there’s very little feel in the rack and pinion steering – despite a “nine-land” gear for the R/T – it is very accurate, and weighted just right.” The brakes are impressively powerful, and connected to a firm pedal. Best of all, up-and-down body motions on bumpy, winding roads are kept well in check despite the car’s size and mass. The Charger RT behaves like a smaller, lighter car than it actually is.

A large portion of the credit for this impressive performance has to go to the $1000 performance package fitted to my test car, which includes different suspension and steering calibrations, smoke-finished alloy wheels, and a free-flowing exhaust that liberates an extra 10 hp from the engine and also provides a little more V8 rumble. Inside, the already-excellent seats are replaced with leather-and-suede buckets similar to those fitted to the 425-hp SRT8 model; their huge side bolsters slightly compromise long-distance comfort, but really hold you in place in the corners.

2006 Dodge Charger RT
Click image to enlarge

This represents conspicuously good value, especially when lined up against some of the other options ($2895 for navigation and $765 for an “electronics package” among others) that ballooned my tester’s list price beyond the $46,000 mark.

Navigation systems, rear-seat DVD, high-end audio, and trip computers aren’t what Dodge is about, at least to me. Performance, value, and handling are. Within the range of options available for the Charger RT, the addition of the R/T package, as it’s known (making my car a Charger RT R/T) may just be the sweetest spot of all.

Technical Data: 2006 Dodge Charger RT

Base price $37,745
Options $7,400 $950 Road/Track Performance Group P235/55R-18 all-season performance tires, 18-inch aluminum wheels, load levelling, power heated performance seats, tuned steering and suspension, power adjustable pedals, power seats, power windows w/one-touch up/down; $765 Electronics Convenience Group: steering wheel audio controls, temperature gauge, compass, display screen, mini computer, alarm, info centre; $550 Protection Group: side, curtain airbags, air filters, self-sealing tires; $2,895 AM/FM/CD/cassette/6-disc changer/MP3 player, navigation system and screen; $1,050 power sunroof; $1,190 rear seat video system.)
Freight $1,200
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $46,445Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger full-size sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 5.7-litre V8, OHV, 16 valves
Horsepower 350 @ 5000 rpm
Torque 390 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires P235/55R18 all-season performance
Curb weight 1860 kg (4100 lbs)
Towing capacity 907 kg (2000 lbs)
Wheelbase 3048 mm (120.0 in.)
Length 5082 mm (200.1 in.)
Width 1891 mm (74.5 in.)
Height 1479 mm (58.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 459 litres (16.2 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.9 L/100 km (20 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Brampton, Ontario

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