Dodge Charger History

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When Dodge announced that it was bringing back the Charger name on a 2006 model-year four-door, there were enthusiasts out there who acted as if this were an unforgivable betrayal of the glorious Mopar heritage. As if Dodge hadn't already slapped the Charger name on some really crummy cars over the last 40 years. But even though Dodge itself has sullied the Charger name, that doesn't mean that there weren't some Chargers worth remembering and celebrating.

So get ready: This is a story with very high highs, and mighty pitiful lows.

First Generation: 1966-1967

Chrysler wasn't completely out of it when it came to marketing to the youth of the '60s. After all, it had actually introduced the fastback, Valiant-based 1964 1/2 Plymouth Barracuda a full 16 days before Ford introduced the Mustang (the Plymouth sold about one-sixth as well as the Ford during that half-year). But otherwise the Chrysler Corporation's cars looked old.

Dodge was in desperate need of a car that appealed to anyone under the age of 80, and the way to do that quickly was to develop a fastback version of its Coronet midsize car. That car appeared in the fall of 1965 as the 1966 Charger.

Except for the two-door fastback roof and some unique trim, the Charger was every inch a Coronet. That meant it was a simple unibody structure with an unequal length control arm front suspension that used torsion bars as a springing medium and a solid rear axle on semielliptical leaf springs in the back. Except for those torsion bars (then Chrysler's trademark suspension design), there was absolutely nothing unconventional about the Charger's engineering.

And "every inch a Coronet" also meant that the Charger was pretty big. At 203.6 inches long it was a full 22 inches longer than a '66 Mustang and 3.5 inches longer than the four-door 2K6 Charger. The first Charger's 117-inch wheelbase was relatively long for the era in which it was designed, though it seems modest by 21st-century standards when engineers try to shove the wheels out to a car's corners (the 2K6 Charger's wheelbase is 120 inches).

While the styling of the Charger's front clip was similar to that of the Coronet's, there was a full-width convex grille in front with hidden headlights that gave the car a unique look. At the back, a full-width taillight featured the Charger name in chrome letters. The original Charger was handsome from most angles and awkward from some — the roof and deck lid looked overly massive from directly behind. But the body was aerodynamically stable and relatively slick, and that along with Chrysler's 426-cubic-inch Hemi V8 took Dodge to 18 wins and the manufacturer's title during the NASCAR's 1966 Grand National season.

The street version of the Charger's interior featured four bucket seats with a large center console that ran between both the front and rear pairs and contained the floor shifter on both manual and automatic transmission equipped cars. The rearward pair of buckets would also fold forward to extend the cargo-carrying capacity under the large rear window. The instrument panel was also unique to the Charger and featured four round bezels into which the speedometer and other gauges were sunk (a tachometer was optional).

The base engine in the Charger was the thoroughly lackluster 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) overhead valve V8. Inhaling through a two-barrel Carter carburetor, the 318 was rated at a nominal 230 gross horsepower — and likely made far less. Backed by a standard three-speed manual transmission or optional three-speed Torqueflite automatic, the 318 was severely challenged by the Charger's 3,500-pound curb weight.

So most buyers opted for the optional OHV V8s which started with a so-so 361-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) with a two-barrel making 265 hp, a 383 (6.3-liter) with a two-barrel at 270 hp, another 383 with a four-barrel at 325 hp, a 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) beast with a four-barrel carb at 365 hp and, way up at the top of the range, the legendary 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) Hemi rated at 425 hp.

The Charger was not an instant hit, with Dodge selling just 37,344 examples during the inaugural season — and only 468 of them had the Hemi. But it established a unique presence in the market as a premium muscle machine.

To no one's surprise, the 1967 Charger was pretty much a carryover from '66. In appearance, there was some new chrome added to the car's sides and all the interior trim was upgraded to Coronet 500 levels. The 375-hp 440 Magnum V8 was now an option, too. Still, no one seemed to care and sales slid to 15,788 units — with just 118 of them getting the Hemi.

While the Charger was relatively unloved in its first iteration, it survived to thrive in its second generation.

Second Generation: 1968-1970

The second Charger is the Charger everyone thinks about when they think about Chargers — the car that was Steve McQueen's ominous black nemesis in Bullitt and flew across TV screens as the orange "General Lee" on The Dukes of Hazzard.

There's a simple reason why the second-generation car has inspired so much misty-eyed affection: this is the best-looking car the Chrysler Corporation ever produced. From its bold and blunt nose, through its muscular fenders, along its square-cut hardtop roof, to the tunneled rear window and the slight flip on the trailing edge of the deck lid, this Coke bottle-shaped Charger wasn't just beautiful — it was perfect.

But under that all-new skin was a very familiar car. The entire chassis and simple suspension system from the first Charger (and hence the Coronet) carried over intact along with the 117-inch wheelbase to the 1968 model. At 208 inches long overall, the '68 stretched another 4.4 inches longer than the already long '67 but most of the other dimensions were within fractions of an inch of before.

"After sinking into soft seats that look and feel like real leather," wrote Motor Trend about the '68 Charger's all-vinyl interior, "you look outside and see eerie sweeps of metal and hypnotic, fascinating shadows that soothe the pounding sun and make the car an almost organic, protective embrace. Appearances are seductive from all angles. Doors flash back a sporty elegance with the new map pockets, and the pleated, blended colors of the seat upholstery will be hard to excel by any maker this year. Instruments are all there without glaring back at you. White on black, they are all well calibrated and informative, and refreshingly convey the request that you actually are needed, after all. Dials and gauges abound — speedometer is in 2-mph increments, fuel, temperature, oil pressure, alternator and optional tach (which was conspicuously absent from our R/T). Lots of toggles and buttons and knobs made us feel good again — not only are they laid out in tasteful elegance, but they make the machine controllable." You don't see alliterative indulgence like that in every Motor Trend story.

The powertrains also carried over pretty much intact from the '67 with base-level "Charger" models coming with the 230-hp 318 V8 standard and the "Charger R/T" models having the 375-hp 440 V8 in its engine bay. Three-speed and four-speed manual, and three-speed automatic transmissions were offered. The 383 V8 was offered as an option in regular Chargers while the 426 Hemi made its way into 467 Charger R/Ts.

Motor Trend's 440-equipped Charger R/T also had a TorqueFlite automatic and the testers managed a commendable 6.5-second 0-to-60-mph clocking and ran the quarter-mile in 14.9 seconds at 95.5 mph. Though those times seem modest now, in the midst of the muscle-car era they were commendable.

The '68 Charger was a hit with Dodge churning out an incredible 96,100 of them. So changes would be minimal for the next year. And yet those minimal changes were particularly appealing.

The '68 Charger's grille was undivided with hidden headlights and its round taillights were styled to look like exhaust pipes and the car looked fine. But for 1969 Dodge divided the front grille with a gray plastic centerpiece and redesigned the taillights into elongated hockey sticks. There are those who say the '68 was the best-looking Charger but, generally speaking, the consensus is that the '69 was the best-looking Charger ever made. The consensus is right.

Other changes to the '69 Charger lineup were for both good and ill. For no apparent reason, the 225-cubic-inch (3.7-liter) "slant six" was now offered in base Charger models. Producing a gross rated 145 hp, this engine was severely taxed by the enormous Charger's mass but Dodge found 500 buyers for the miserable combination anyhow. There was also a new Charger S/E model that added a dollop of luxury equipment atop the Charger R/T's sporting equipment.

However, the really special Chargers built during the '69 model year were made to do one thing: win stock car races. The Charger may have looked great, but it was an aerodynamic disaster. The deep set grille added lift to the front end while the tunneled-in rear window disrupted airflow in the back leading to high-speed instability. If the Charger was going to win in NASCAR, changes would have to be made.

Dodge's first attempt to turn the Charger into a race winner was the special "Charger 500" which used a flush-mounted front grille with exposed headlights and a modified rear window also mounted flush with the trailing edge of the roof. The Charger 500 was aerodynamically roughly equivalent to its main competition, the standard Ford Torino, but it was no match for the super-slick Ford Torino Talladega and hopeless on the longer tracks. So Dodge went forward one more step.

That next step was the radical Charger Daytona that, starting with the Charger 500's slicker body, added a special drooped fiberglass nose that extended the car's length to an absurd degree and a tall rear wing for downforce. There were also two small blisters added atop each front fender so that in racing trim, holes could be cut there and the racing rubber could poke through the top when the suspension fully crushed. The Charger Daytona was a bold and radical aerodynamic experiment that paid off on the racetrack. In fact a Charger Daytona driven by Buddy Baker was the first stock car to lap at more than 200 mph. Dodge only sold 503 Charger Daytonas — just enough to convince NASCAR to let it race.

More than 89,200 Chargers were built during the '69 model year — and though it tried, the production of The Dukes of Hazzard didn't destroy all of them.

The Charger Daytona was gone from the 1970 Charger lineup though it continued to race in NASCAR. Other changes were minor with the car getting yet another new front grille that lacked the '69's dividing centerpiece and was encircled by a chrome bumper. There were also simulated vents on the leading edge of each door — as if the window-opening mechanisms needed additional ventilation. The Charger 500 name was back, but its special bodywork was gone as it became the name of a trim level between the basic Charger and the R/T.

Another 49,800 Chargers were made during '70. And that was that for this classic body style.

Third Generation: 1971-1974

Though it wasn't as handsome as the second-generation Charger, the third one had a look that was impressive in its own way. But this is the Charger that had to face down encroaching emissions and safety regulations, and those left it emasculated by the time it left production. But at least it was robust at the start.

"A Dodge Charger? A piece of sculpture?" Those were the rhetorical questions Car and Driver asked upon meeting the 1971 Charger for the first time. "What the hell kind of individual artistic statement can that be when 50,000 people a year make the same statement? Besides you've got to admit that an objet d'art created by a guy with a name like Gallo, or Toler or Quasar (who everybody knows works in a vital environment like Ibiza or Johnson's Pasture or St. Tropez) has a bit more cachet than anything [Dodge chief designer] Bill Brownlie can slap together out of modeler's clay in gay, romantic Hamtramack, Michigan.

"But that does not alter the fact that Brownlie and his associates have come up with the best-styled new car for 1971…. The Charger comes off as anything but a styling compromise. Not only is it apparent to people viewing the car from the outside but the driver is aware that he is controlling something far from normal as well."

Designed around a more exaggerated Coke-bottle shape than the second-generation Charger, the third had swoops where the second had creases. The front grille was now split into two halves with each half surrounded by chrome or body-color bumper and featuring either an exposed or hidden pair of round headlamps depending on trim level. The whole cockpit area was new, too, with a semifastback rear window transitioning into a deck lid with an integral ducktail spoiler. By any standards this car was both flamboyant and handsome.

While most of the chassis and structural components carried forward from previous Chargers, the third-generation car rode on a wheelbase shrunk 2 inches to 115. There were now six different Charger models ranging from the base plain-old Charger in both hardtop and coupe body styles and then rising through the Charger 500 hardtop, the more luxury-oriented Charger 500 SE hardtop, the high-performance-oriented Charger 500 Super Bee hardtop and, at the top, the Charger R/T hardtop. The base Charger power plant was a 145-hp 225-cubic-inch slant six with the 230-hp 318 two-barrel optional; the Charger 500 started with the 318 and had the range of V8s available; the Super Bee started with the 275-hp 383 V8 with the 370-hp 440 "Magnum" four-barrel, 385-hp 440 "Six-Pack" (that's three two-barrel carbs) and 425-hp 426 Hemi V8s optional; and the R/T started with the 440 Magnum under its hood and was also offered with the Six-Pack and Hemi.

This expansion of the Charger line is understandable because Dodge had eliminated the two-door version of the midsize Coronet. So if you wanted a '71 Dodge intermediate with only two doors, your only choice was a Charger of some sort.

Car and Driver measured its Charger 500 SE equipped with the 440 Magnum and a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and completing the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 95.7 mph. Not slow, but not particularly quick for a car with such an enormous engine.

"One of the more enjoyable aspects of the third-generation Charger is its feeling of compactness," wrote Car and Driver. "The wheelbase has been reduced by 2 inches and overall length by 3 inches, but in one of those curious juxtapositions of fact over feeling, a dimension which has actually grown, makes the car feel smaller. This is the width: the '71 Charger is over 2 inches wider than its immediate predecessor but you feel more secure….

"Our test car was loaded down with nearly every conceivable option known to exist which caused this 'intermediate' to weigh over 2 tons and resulted in a front-to-rear weight bias of 58.5/41.5 percent. Consequently it should come as little surprise that the Charger SE was victim of massive understeer. For normal expressway driving, this presents no problem as the car will track beautifully, and is predictable to the extent of being boring. And for this type of driving the optional 440-cubic-inch engine performed effortlessly and was surprisingly responsive."

A total of 82,681 '71 Chargers made their way out onto America's roads including 85 equipped with the Hemi and 277 with the 440 Six-Pack. That was a sales success.

So the Charger carried into 1972 with few readily apparent changes on the outside, and some significant omissions and revisions inside. The line was pared down to just three models with the base hardtop, R/T, Super Bee and 500 all dropped. The lineup now consisted of the base Charger Coupe, an SE hardtop and a new Rallye hardtop. The 225 slant six, now net-rated at just 110 hp, was still the base car's standard engine with the 318 two-barrel V8, now net-rated at 150 hp. The Rallye's base 440 Magnum four-barrel engine now carried a 280-hp net-rating. A 400-cubic-inch V8 based on the old 383 was offered in the Charger SE and rated at 190 hp when breathing through a two-barrel carb. The 426 Hemi was gone from the options list, though the 440 Six-Pack remained there's a dispute as to how many (if any) were produced. Motor Trend measured a '72 Charger SE powered by the two-barrel 400 and stirred by a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic churning to 60 mph in a grim 11.5 seconds and running the quarter-mile in 17.6 seconds at an utterly lousy 76 mph. The muscle-car era was over.

Sales drooped to a still healthy 75,594 Chargers during the '72 model year, however, so the car continued into 1973 with a few cosmetic changes. There was a new grille for all Chargers that used exposed headlamps, a new rear-quarter window treatment that divided it into three opera-style segments and new taillights. The 225 slant six's output dribbled to 105 hp, while the range-topping 440 Magnum remained at 280 hp. But for no apparent reason, sales bumped up to 119,318 cars.

With those robust sales behind it, the third-generation Charger bounded into the 1974 model year with virtually no body changes beyond oversize rubber bumperettes designed to meet new government regulations. The 440 Magnum's engine was rerated to 275 hp, but the other engines carried forward pretty much untouched. Sales plummeted. It was time for a new Charger. But it wouldn't be a better Charger.

Fourth Generation: 1975-1977

The fourth Charger was a Chrysler Cordoba with a slightly different grille. Born amid the fuel crises and emissions regulations of the mid-'70s, it wallowed atop the same 115-inch wheelbase as before and again retained the same suspensions and structural elements. But it was now 218 inches long overall — a full foot longer than the '71 Charger.

While previous Chargers had at least made a nod toward fastback styling, the fourth one had a starkly formal roofline that hacked abruptly down to an overstyled deck lid. The nose featured single round headlamps in their own binnacle just outboard of slightly smaller round turn signals that, in turn, were just outside an upright rectangular grille. The bumpers were awkwardly massive chrome pieces. If the Charger looked like anything other than its near twin the Cordoba, it was the then-contemporary second-generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Offered only as an SE, the 1975 Charger was available only with a 360-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) V8 with the two-barrel carbureted version rated at 180 hp and the optional four-barrel version at 200 hp. The only transmission available was a three-speed automatic.

Except for the storied name, there was nothing sporting about the '75 Charger. This was a car built to float rather than roar and even the addition of dual-tone painted "Charger Daytona" model at midyear could make it exciting. With a resurrected Coronet two-door taking some sales, 30,812 Chargers made their way to customers during this model year.

The Charger soldiered forward through 1976 and 1977 with changes to the line that were minor — the base Charger returned and the 360 V8 was supplanted by the 318 as the standard power plant in '76, there was a new grille for '77 and the base Charger was gone again, the option packages were juggled — but nothing made these cars interesting. After selling 52,761 Chargers and Charger SEs during '76 and 36,204 Charger SEs during '77, Dodge mercifully killed the name.

The Charger was replaced for the 1978 model year by the Magnum that used the Charger body introduced for '75 with a new grille and new rectangular headlights behind clear covers.

How bad was the fourth-generation Charger? So bad that they've essentially disappeared from America's roads while the first-, second- and third-generation machines remain cherished collectors' items (with the second, by far, the most desirable). In other words, here in the 21st century you're far more likely to see a '69 Charger than you are a '75, '76 or '77.

But this abysmal car was not the last indignity which the Charger name would have to carry.

Fifth Generation: 1982-1987

Dodge's fifth Charger was nothing like any previous Charger. Introduced as the "Omni 024" during the '79 model year, this hatchback three-door coupe used the front-drive platform that underpinned the very ordinary Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon five-door economy cars. Like a proper late-'70s econobox, it used a transverse-mounted four-cylinder engine up front sending thrust through a manual or automatic transaxle. The front suspension was MacPherson struts, while the rear was a beam axle on coil springs. The Omni 024 was a very ordinary, but not bad machine.

The Charger name was applied to the 024 during the 1982 model year when Dodge's larger 2.2-liter, SOHC, four was fitted to the car as an option in place of the standard 1.7-liter engine. The 1.7 was rated at just 63 hp, so the move up to the 2.2's 84 hp represented a substantial increase in performance. Not that the "Omni Charger 2.2" was quick, but it wasn't as disastrously sluggish. The standard transaxle with the 2.2-liter engine was a five-speed manual and a three-speed automatic was optional.

While the basic sharply creased 024 body was unchanged with the Charger package, the car did sport a nonfunctional hood scoop, nonfunctional side scoops and some aggressive flat-black graphics. It was better than a regular 024, but hardly worth getting excited about. Motor Trend measured a Charger 2.2 steaming to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds and completing the quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds at 78.5 mph — decent enough for an economachine of the era. Dodge sold 14,420 Omni Chargers that first year.

The 024 and Omni names both disappeared off the coupe that once wore them with the introduction of the 1983 models. All front-drive small hatchbacks were now Chargers whether they were powered by the 1.7-liter engine or 2.2-liter engines, or they had a four- or five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transaxle. A 1.6-liter engine replaced the 1.7 as the base power plant about halfway through the model year. Rated at 62 hp, it soothed the tender nerves of those buyers who found the 63 hp of the 1.7 overwhelming. Other changes were minimal.

The one big addition for '83 was the new Shelby Charger that appeared midway through the model year. Developed by the legendary Carroll Shelby, the Shelby Charger was approaching interesting. Thanks to a higher compression ratio, the output of the 2.2-liter four in the Shelby bounced up to 107 hp and it was paired with a revised suspension and big 15-inch aluminum wheels. In appearance the Shelby had a solid roof panel behind the B-pillar instead of glass and dual-tone silver and blue paint. The silver and blue theme carried forward in the interior as well.

While the Shelby Charger was generally a better performer than other Chargers, it still suffered from the base car's inherent disadvantages. "The engine pulls hard," wrote Motor Trend, "with a certain European feel to it. Typically, European engines are smooth in the upper rev ranges, even the inline fours, because they're designed for extended high-speed running. They have a long-legged sense to them. The Chrysler 2.2 in the Shelby has that same feel; that horsepower peak at 5,600 rpm is genuine, usable, pleasant….

"Behind the engine, all is not so wonderful, though. Here, in fact, is first evidence that this car is part Shelby, part Chrysler Corporation; and some of the philosophy of the Old Chrysler Corporation hasn't yet been washed off the walls. The ratios in the five-speed are fine, but getting from one to another is less than warmly memorable. Chrysler designed a new cable shift to try to eliminate problems with the old four-speed's rod-type linkage, but the Charger and other L-Body cars do not get the new mechanism (no great loss, really, since it barely improves feel anyway). Rods and bell cranks and levers move the gears inside the Shelby's five-speed transaxle, and the general looseness of the hookup makes the whole gear change operation a slow and sloppy affair. Shush thunk, shush thunk, it goes, all vague and rubbery."

Acceleration on the Shelby was just so slightly better than the Charger 2.2 for Motor Trend. The Shelby made it to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds and consumed the quarter-mile in 17 seconds at 82.9 mph. And the praise for the engine behavior came despite the fact that it still inhaled through a pokey two-barrel carburetor.

The Charger's nose was redesigned for 1984 with dual quad headlamps replacing the single units on all but the Shelby versions. This blunter, uglier styling put the Charger in line with much of Dodge's other models' styling at the time — and that styling was comprehensively bad. And along the way, the Charger 2.2 lost its cosmetic air scoops. What a pity. But in compensation it got a small rear spoiler.

On the Shelby side of the Charger equation, the styling carried over from '83 (with the addition of new "ground effects" lower body panels) but a new camshaft engorged the engine all the way up to 110 hp. Also new was silver-on-blue paint to go along with the blue-on-silver scheme.

Except for slight modifications like a shift indicator light, the regular Charger carried over to 1985 pretty much unchanged. That wasn't true of the Shelby, however.

The Shelby's color palette expanded this year to include black and "Garnet Red" base paint, but the car under those new hues was substantially quicker even if it looked pretty much the same. That extra speed came with the fitment of a turbocharged and electronically fuel-injected version of the 2.2-liter engine. Rated at a robust 146 hp, this was a seriously quick machine for the time. Dodge and Shelby liked to brag about a 5.3-second 0-to-50-mph blast achieved during testing by the NHRA.

All Chargers for 1986 got a new third brake light oddly perched on their rear hatch as mandated by federal law. But otherwise it was pretty much status quo in Charger-ville.

The axe of doom held over the Charger going into its last year, 1987. So the regular Chargers were once again virtually indistinguishable from the previous year's edition. But the restlessness at Shelby continued with the introduction of the Shelby Charger GLH-S. "Using the same technology they developed on the 'world's fastest shoebox' (the Omni GLH-S)," explained Motor Trend, "Shelby's group upped the inline turbocharged four-cylinder's horsepower to 175, an increase of 30 hp. A Shelby Automobiles-designed intake plenum takes most of the credit for the power increase. Additional engine hardware includes a larger radiator, Shelby Electronic Logic Module, bigger fuel injectors and a larger Air Control body. The larger Garrett Research Turbocharger rounds out the engine hardware. And, of course, there's a black wrinkle-finish cast aluminum cam cover with the Shelby name embossed on it." How quick was it? Zero to 60 was achieved in 7 seconds for Motor Trend (it was a tough car to launch) while the quarter-mile now flew by in 15 seconds at 94 mph.

Most of the front-drive Chargers were undistinguished small cars that have long ago gone to the crusher to come back as Hyundais and Suzukis. But those Shelby Chargers are still around and cherished by a hard core of enthusiasts. So, though these front-drive Chargers were in a sense a betrayal of the Charger heritage, there was enough good in them that they weren't as embarrassing as the Cordoba-clones.

There wouldn't be another Charger for 19 years. And that one has more doors than ever before.

Sixth Generation: 2006 to Present

Reborn for 2006 and based on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger immediately received mix reactions from the public. Welcomed by folks who liked the idea of a four-door muscle car but scorned by purists who felt it should have been a two-door coupe like the original, the new Charger was nonetheless the best one yet in terms of balanced performance, handling and passenger comfort.

There were initially two trim levels, base SE and performance-themed R/T. Highlights of the SE included a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V6, 17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, a CD player, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories and cruise control. More luxury was available via the available SXT package that added alloy wheels, a power driver seat, a 276-watt Boston Acoustics sound system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, foglamps, and chrome interior and exterior accents.

The R/T boasted a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 340 hp, dual exhaust outlets, larger brakes, leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels and a tire-pressure monitor. If you wanted more flash and dash, there was the Daytona R/T Package that added flat-black graphics and decals, spoilers, a Hemi orange engine cover, load-leveling shocks, thicker anti-roll bars, retuned steering, upgraded brake pads, performance tires, unique alloy wheels and 10 more horsepower. The Daytona also included a power passenger seat, heated sport seats and automatic climate control. If you wanted just the performance upgrades of the Daytona without the eye candy, there was the Road/Track Performance Group. All Chargers had a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.

Our test of a Road/Track-equipped R/T had it scooting to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds and running down the quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds. In other words, this family sedan was about as quick as a 1969 Charger R/T sporting a 440-cubic-inch Magnum V8. As if that wasn't enough, the Charger SRT8 that debuted later in the model year boasted a larger (6.1-liter) Hemi V8 bristling with 425 hp. Also fitted with a five-speed automatic, the big Hemi launched Charger SRT8 to 60 in 5.4 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds, meaning it would embarrass most any old muscle car, Mopar or otherwise.

For 2007, a smaller (2.7-liter, 190-hp) V6 fitted with a four-speed automatic became the new base powertrain, while four-wheel drive became available for the SXT and R/T.

An upgraded cabin arrived for 2008, bringing upgraded materials and a restyled dash and console. Outside, there were new wheels and the option of xenon headlights. Other newly available features included front side airbags, a hard drive for music storage and Sirius Backseat TV.

Detail changes occurred in 2009, among them more power (now up to 368 hp) and greater fuel-efficiency (via variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation technology) for the 5.7 Hemi. The Super Bee version, not seen since the early '70s, returned with bright yellow or orange pain as well as retro graphics.

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