Full 2008 Dodge Charger Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Dodge Charger receives a freshened interior, including a redesigned instrument panel and center console, new cloth seat material and upgraded soft-touch surfaces. Other changes include a new SXT trim level and revised standard content. There are new options as well, including front seat side airbags, updated radios, an optional MyGIG infotainment system and Sirius Backseat TV. On the outside, the Charger has new wheels and optional xenon HID headlamps. Finally, the Charger, like all Chrysler products, benefits from a new limited lifetime powertrain warranty.
After a long hiatus and distant memories of NASCAR domination and the Dukes' General Lee running roughshod over fictional Hazzard County, Dodge reintroduced the Charger nameplate two years ago as a large, controversially styled four-door sedan. Like its Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum platform-mates, the Charger has since proven itself to be a popular and capable model with a roomy interior, balanced handling and optional Hemi V8 power.
After minor updates last year, the 2008 Dodge Charger receives more substantial changes this year. A new instrument panel and console with satin chrome accents are flanked by more appealing soft-touch surfaces, replacing the harder plastic of old. Adding interest is optional LED accent lighting on the front cupholders and door map pockets. Other available features include a MyGIG multimedia infotainment system with optional navigation, and the Sirius Backseat TV video entertainment system.
Outside, the Charger's distinctive styling is augmented with revised wheel covers on the SE and new aluminum wheels available on all other models. Carrying over under the hood are the base 2.7-liter V6 and more desirable 3.5-liter V6 and 5.7-liter V8 engines. The high-performance SRT8 model, meanwhile, continues to be a very viable alternative to luxury sport sedans costing far more.
We like the 2008 Dodge Charger, particularly when equipped with optional V6 or V8 power. Besides being Dodge's sportiest model (until the Challenger comes out next year, that is), the Charger also happens to be stylish, functional and packed with a wide array of standard and optional features. True, you'll get more nimble handling from a midsize sedan such as a Nissan Altima or Mazda 6, and other large sedans such as the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus offer easier access and more headroom for rear seat passengers. But for somebody wanting a five-passenger sedan with attitude, the Charger is certainly worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Charger large sedan comes in four main trim levels: base (SE), SXT, R/T and SRT8. All but the SRT8 are offered as rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The base model comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, manual air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, full power accessories and CD/MP3 audio. Next up, the SXT trim offers a more powerful V6 engine, alloy wheels, a power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, a 60/40-split rear seat and a high-powered Boston Acoustics audio system.
Major SXT options include a sunroof, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth, MyGIG infotainment with or without navigation, rear-seat DVD/Backseat TV entertainment and a Popular Equipment Package with extras like machined aluminum wheels, a power passenger seat, heated leather-trimmed front seats, dual-zone automatic temperature control and upgraded audio.
The Charger R/T is similarly equipped to the SXT, but adds V8 power with dual exhaust, an enhanced Auto Stick transmission and heated folding mirrors. R/T models offer the same major options as the Charger SXT plus xenon headlamps and R/T-specific packages. The R/T Popular Equipment Package provides 18-inch chromed alloy wheels (RWD only), upgraded surround-sound audio, remote starting, interior LED-illuminated accents and an Electronics Display Package. The Daytona Edition or Road/Track Performance packages include 20-inch chrome wheels, high-performance tires, sport-tuned suspension and steering, unique badging, suede-trimmed and heated front seats and a special exhaust system that adds 10 extra horsepower to the rear-wheel-drive V8's performance.
The ultra-high-performance SRT8 comes standard with special hardware and unique trim that distinguish it as the top-performing model. These include a larger Hemi V8, a specially calibrated and lowered suspension, 20-inch aluminum wheels, more powerful brakes and grippy sport seats. The SRT8 is the most fully equipped Charger in the lineup and includes its own instrument cluster and reconfigurable display, though features like navigation, a rear entertainment system with backseat TV and Kicker premium audio are still optional. A Super Bee Special Edition package (for the SRT8 only) stands out even more, with unique graphics over special blue exterior paint.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Dodge Charger has three primary engine options and a choice of rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive versions. The base 2.7-liter V6 produces 178 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque and drives through a four-speed automatic transmission. The larger optional 3.5-liter V6 is good for 250 horses and 250 lb-ft of torque. The R/T's 5.7-liter V8 delivers 340 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Both the larger V6 and the V8 are backed by a five-speed automatic transmission with Auto Stick. The high-performance rear-drive-only SRT8 features an even stouter 6.1-liter V8 that cranks out 425 horses and 425 lb-ft of torque, and propels the car from zero to 60 mph in the low 5-second range. It drives through a five-speed automatic transmission with a specially calibrated Auto Stick automanual. EPA-estimated fuel economy ranges from 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway for the 2.7-liter V6 to 13/18 mpg for the SRT8.
All Dodge Charger models except the base SE come with standard antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction control and a stability control system. Optional features include self-sealing tires and full-length side curtain airbags, which now also include seat-mounted front airbags. In government frontal crash testing, the Dodge Charger received a perfect five-star rating for protection of front occupants. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Charger its top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection. Previously, the Charger has fared poorly in side-impact testing; tests with the new side airbag package had not been published as of the time of this writing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Charger's large size and long wheelbase translates into a generously sized cabin with plenty of rear legroom for backseat passengers. Unfortunately, the Charger's sloping roof line makes rear-seat access more challenging than with other sedans, and rear headroom is a bit less than normal as well. Thanks to this year's update, the interior is more attractive and comfortable than before, and addresses one of the weak points of earlier Chargers. The SRT8 features sport seats to hold you firmly in place when cornering and carbon-fiber-trimmed door handles and steering wheel.
With an abundance of torque and rear-drive power reaching the asphalt, the V8-powered 2008 Dodge Charger R/T delivers grins and giggles in equal measure for enthusiasts who appreciate driving as well as the extra utility of its four-door sedan body style. With precise handling and head-turning presence helped along by a muscular, burbling exhaust note, any regular V8 Charger -- R/T, Road/Track Package or Daytona Edition -- is hard to beat. For those on a budget, the 3.5-liter V6 remains a fine choice and delivers entirely satisfying power and handling dynamics. Step up to the extraordinary SRT8 and you're practically assured of owning the fastest family flyer in your neighborhood.