Full 2006 Dodge Charger Review
What's New for 2006
The 2006 Dodge Charger is a new full-size sedan but shares many of its mechanical components with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum.
Popularized by NASCAR dominance and later a hokey TV show about fictional Hazzard County, the venerable Dodge Charger returns. But this time it's a sedan. It's not that we think the Charger can't be a coupe, it's just that we know a four-door sedan with Dodge Charger badging on the trunk is bound to cause controversy.
Frankly, we're thankful Dodge altered the Charger's course. Armchair automotive designers seem to forget that the last Charger was a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car based on the deplorable Dodge Omni. First introduced as a 1966 model, the Dodge Charger had a unique look with a sweeping fastback and concealed headlights. But it's the second generation of the Charger that was most popular. This was the one the Duke boys drove, the one that was turned into a race-wining Daytona and the one most enthusiasts associate with the name Charger. In 1999 Dodge started showing an all-new Charger concept that drew heavily on the 1968-'70 look. Although hopes were high for that great-looking show car, it simply wasn't meant to be.
A few years later Dodge introduced the new Charger as a 2006 model without the dramatic sheet metal. But the 2006 Charger is aggressive-looking in its own way. The angled headlights and large grille give the Dodge car a sneering look, while the distinctive character line that begins the rear flanks adds some styling flair. Unfortunately the rear of the car is plain. Some liken it to a wider Mitsubishi Galant. Based on the same Mercedes-derived platform that carries the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, the Dodge Charger offers a roomy interior and smooth ride. The interior of the Charger looks almost identical to that of the Magnum, and the engine choices are very similar.
While the Magnum and 300 are available with a 2.7-liter V6 making less than 200 hp, the Charger skips that anemic power plant and starts things off with a 3.5-liter V6. Of course a Hemi V8 is available as well. The Charger SXT and V8-powered Charger R/T have a lot going for them. The car is comfortable, offers more than adequate performance, looks different and is priced competitively when compared to smaller V6-powered import sedans. It may not be the two-door muscle car you remember from the '60s, but the new 2006 Dodge Charger takes that formula and adds things like a usable interior and lots of standard equipment. Think of it as a muscle car the whole family can enjoy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2006 Dodge Charger is available as a sedan only in one of two trim levels -- base SE and R/T. SE models come standard with 17-inch steel wheels, ABS, air conditioning, a CD player, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. An SXT package can be added, and with it you'll get 17-inch aluminum wheels, a power driver seat, a 276-watt Boston Acoustics sound system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, foglamps, chrome interior and exterior accents, and a cargo net. The R/T is your ticket to V8 power, dual exhaust outlets, larger brakes, leather upholstery and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Daytona R/T Package adds flat-black graphics and decals, spoilers, a Hemi orange engine cover, power passenger seat, body-color accent interior stitching and embroidered logos, performance heated seats with suede inserts, automatic climate control and body-color interior trim. Also included are Nivomat load-leveling shocks; performance steering, suspension and exhaust; and unique alloy wheels. Opting for the less expensive Road/Track Performance Group gives you all the above performance upgrades without the cosmetic extras. Individual options include a navigation system, a DVD entertainment system and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
Engine choices are delineated by trim level. The SE comes with a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V6. For those who can never get enough power, the R/T has a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 stuffed under its hood. Output is rated at 340 horses and 390 lb-ft of torque. Chargers equipped with the optional Road/Track Performance Group or Daytona R/T Package provide 10 extra horsepower in addition to stiffer suspension and bigger brakes. A five-speed, shiftable automatic transmission comes standard on all models.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and BrakeAssist, traction control and stability control are standard across the line. Options on all models include full-length side curtain airbags, self-sealing tires and adjustable pedals. In NHTSA crash testing, the Dodge Charger earned a perfect five stars for frontal-impact protection. In side-impact tests, it earned four stars for front-occupant safety and five stars for the rear. It was named a "Best Pick" in IIHS frontal-offset crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Charger's long wheelbase opens up plenty of room for passengers, particularly in the backseat where the Dodge car leads its peers in legroom. Interior styling isn't revolutionary, but a two-tone color scheme, faux aluminum accents and white-faced gauges give the Dodge Charger a contemporary and sporty look. Chargers with the Daytona or Road/Track Performance package have bolstered sport seats that hold you snug in the turns.
With generous amounts of torque flowing to its rear wheels and Mercedes-derived chassis components, the V8-powered Charger R/T provides serious fun for driving enthusiasts who need a roomy backseat. At the same time, it's plenty comfortable for the weekday grind. For sharper handling, a few extra ponies and head-turning color schemes, the Daytona is the clear choice. For those who aren't quite ready for the idea of a Hemi-fed sedan, the SE's 3.5-liter V6 offers adequate acceleration, smooth power delivery and an overall pleasant driving experience.