What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Dodge Charger's available V8 gains more power and better fuel economy, while the optional all-wheel-drive system has been similarly upgraded to enhance fuel economy. The Charger SRT8 also sports improved fuel economy as well as a new Super Bee package with orange paint. All Chargers feature minor exterior and interior detail revisions.
When it debuted a few years ago, the latest Dodge Charger helped lead the, well, charge of rear-drive muscle cars as they made their way back from the grave. True, this four-door Charger sedan was a far cry from the huge two-door coupe adorned in orange paint and a Confederate flag in the "Dukes of Hazzard," but the spirit certainly lives on. For those who yearn for the good ol' days of good ol' boys and good ol' horsepower, the Charger's big-time power and brash styling represent a welcome revival.
Like its platform mates, the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Challenger, the Charger comes with less muscular engines, but it's the big honking Hemi V8s that deserve the most attention. And for 2009, the "smaller" Hemi gets even better. Not only does it now make 368 horsepower, but variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation technology allow it to almost match the fuel economy of the 250-hp 3.5-liter V6. This certainly makes the 5.7-liter V8-powered Charger R/T the most attractive choice, but it also highlights how inefficient the two V6 engines are. Also new for 2009 is a revised all-wheel-drive system that can automatically or manually disconnect the front axle to slightly improve fuel economy and provide the better handling afforded by rear-wheel drive.
If you want a large sedan and V8 performance isn't a priority, we suggest looking beyond the Charger. Models like the Ford Taurus and Honda Accord are more practical choices. If, however, big boffo V8 power makes your heart jump, the 2009 Dodge Charger could be your car. Just be sure to check out Pontiac's G8 GT before you buy. In a recent comparison test of ours, the G8 outran last year's R/T in a straight line and handled dramatically better. No doubt a 2009 comparison would be closer given the Charger R/T's new power boost and the late-availability Performance Plus package that improves handling. Even so, we think the Pontiac remains numero uno in terms of being a true driver's car -- plus it costs less. So while the Charger once led the charge, it's no longer in the lead.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Dodge Charger is a large sedan available in SE, SXT, R/T and SRT8 trim levels. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while the SXT and R/T are available with all-wheel drive. Standard equipment on the SE includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry, cruise control and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Stepping up to the SXT nets you a larger V6 engine, 18-inch wheels (AWD only), a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, foglamps, heated mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, a power driver seat and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. The SXT popular equipment groups adds 18-inch alloy wheels (RWD), automatic headlamps, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Charger R/T includes all the SXT popular equipment group items as standard and adds the big 5.7-liter V8.
The SXT and the R/T share much of the same optional equipment. The protection group adds Bluetooth, self-sealing tires and side airbags. A sunroof, a touchscreen stereo interface with 30 GB of digital music storage, a rear-seat entertainment system with Sirius Backseat TV, and a navigation system with real-time traffic (the last two items require the popular equipment group on the SXT) are also available. The SXT DUB Edition adds 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, DUB exterior badges, embroidered leather seats and a 13-speaker Kicker sound system.
The R/T popular equipment package adds 18-inch chrome clad wheels, a compass, a trip computer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a surround-sound audio system. Xenon headlights are a stand-alone option on the R/T. The road/track performance package includes 20-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension and steering, heated performance sport seats and Alcantara upholstery. Bluetooth can be added to this package. The Daytona package is identical to the road/track package, but it adds a higher-performance exhaust, a unique exterior paint color and Daytona graphics. Chrysler says it will release another high-performance package later in the 2009 model year that will further enhance the Charger's steering, suspension and brakes.
The SRT8 is equipped a lot like the R/T with the road/track package, but adds the bigger Hemi V8, high-performance brakes, a hood scoop, a limited-slip rear differential and different exterior trim. The SRT8 Super Bee package adds 20-inch ultra-bright wheels, bright yellow or orange paint and Super Bee graphics.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Dodge Charger is available with four engines, one for each trim level. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on the SXT and R/T. The base SE gets a 2.7-liter V6 that produces 178 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy with this engine is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The SXT is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets a four-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive and a five-speed auto with all-wheel drive. Fuel economy ratings are 17/25/20 mpg with RWD and 17/23/19 mpg with AWD.
The Charger R/T is powered by a 5.7-liter V8 making 368 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy rates 16/25/19 mpg with RWD and 16/23/18 with AWD. The Charger SRT8 is the king of the hill, with a 6.1-liter V8 that produces 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It, too, gets a five-speed auto. In track testing, the SRT8 went from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Its fuel economy ratings are 13/19/15 mpg.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control and stability control are standard on all Chargers except for the base SE, which has them as options. SXT, R/T and SRT8 models can be equipped with self-sealing tires, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In government crash tests, the 2009 Dodge Charger achieved a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection and rear side crash protection. It got four stars for front side protection. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash tests, the Charger received a top score of "Good." The Charger received a rating of "Poor" in the IIHS side-impact test. Both the IIHS and government side crash tests were conducted without the optional side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
Thanks to some much-needed improvements last year, the Charger's cabin features materials of pleasing quality and simple controls. The styling is on the bland side, however. The seats are very comfy, and those included with the road/track package and in the SRT8 provide lots of snug lateral support. The Charger's large size and long wheelbase translate into a generously sized cabin with plenty of rear legroom. Unfortunately, the Charger's sloping roof line makes rear-seat access more challenging than in other sedans, and rear headroom is a bit less than normal as well. The trunk can hold 16 cubic feet of luggage, an average figure for a large sedan.
With an abundance of torque and rear-drive power reaching the asphalt, the V8-powered 2009 Dodge Charger R/T delivers grins and giggles in equal measure for enthusiasts who appreciate neck-snapping thrust as well as the extra utility of a four-door-sedan body style. However, most of that fun is had in a straight line, as even in SRT8 and R/T forms, the Charger's light and uncommunicative steering doesn't provide much confidence. With the Charger, you'll never forget you're piloting a large 2-ton sedan.
In terms of engines, the 3.5-liter V6 is a decent choice for those on a tight budget, but keep in mind that it's not particularly powerful or fuel-efficient. Considering the R/T's horsepower upgrades this year, it's now the obvious pick of the regular Charger litter. The SRT8 is still the top dog, but its much higher price is hard to justify considering the relatively minor increase in performance over the R/T.