Used 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2012 Dodge Charger fares well enough as a large sedan. But factor in its potential performance value and the Charger has no peer.
It's rare to find a car that looks mean, sounds meaner and accelerates with the exuberance of a muscle car, yet can still comfortably schlep kids to school or pick up grandparents from the airport. Plenty of expensive European luxury sport sedans satisfy most of the criteria, save for the "look mean" bit. The 2012 Dodge Charger, meanwhile, satisfies all of the above.
The Charger's breadth of personalities is pretty unique for its class. While its sloping roof line cuts into some rear headroom, the Charger otherwise offers the comfort you'd expect from a large sedan, with plenty of rear seat legroom and a reasonably big trunk. Its interior design is also a cut above most other family sedans.
Performance, however, is where the Charger really distinguishes itself. Three different engines are available, along with several degrees of handling and performance upgrades. The hard-core 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 returns to the lineup with a new 470-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 and other pumped-up enhancements to its handling and braking. There's also the bargain-priced R/T with its 370-hp V8. But unlike in years past, getting a V8-powered Charger is no longer a must to enjoy good performance. The 3.6-liter V6 offers plenty of power and good fuel economy, especially with the new eight-speed automatic.
The 2012 Charger isn't for everybody. Its in-your-face attitude will no doubt turn off many large sedan buyers wanting something more stately. For them, the Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus or Hyundai Genesis will probably work out better. But if you want something a bit more aggressive than the norm, that can comfortably haul the family around and not break the bank, you won't do better than the Charger.
2012 Dodge Charger configurations
The 2012 Dodge Charger is a full-size sedan available in SE, SXT, R/T, SRT8 and SRT8 Superbee trims.
Standard equipment on the SE includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone manual climate control, a six-way power driver seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a touchscreen infotainment interface, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, and steering wheel controls. The optional Connectivity Group adds Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Satellite radio is also optional.
The SXT gets the above items included along with an upgraded transmission, heated mirrors, foglamps, remote ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, a larger touchscreen interface and upgraded speakers. With all-wheel drive, the Charger comes standard with 19-inch wheels. Also optional are 18-inch wheels and leather upholstery. The Rallye Appearance Group adds 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, ventilated front sport seats, steering wheel shift paddles and a nine-speaker sound system. The Blacktop package is the same but with painted wheels and a special blacked-out grille.
The R/T adds to the SXT's standard equipment a V8 engine, 18-inch wheels, performance tires, upgraded brakes, the same sport-tuned suspension as the Rallye (rear-wheel-drive only), xenon headlights and front sport seats. The Super Track Pak adds the 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, performance steering, upgraded brakes and a three-mode adjustable stability control system. Leather upholstery and a nine-speaker sound system are also available.
Both the SXT and R/T can also be equipped with power-adjustable pedals, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions, the auto-dimming driver mirror and ventilated front seats (late availability).
The SRT8 is a high-performance model that features a bigger V8 engine, a two-mode adaptive high-performance suspension, 20-inch wheels, three-mode adjustable stability control, upgraded brakes, a rear spoiler and special styling. It also includes the R/T's optional equipment along with a heated steering wheel, special interior accents, heated and cooled cupholders, heated rear seats, a navigation system (with real-time traffic), a rearview camera and a 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
The SRT8 Superbee is essentially a less luxurious, more affordable version of the SRT8. As such, it has a smaller touchscreen interface and does without adaptive suspension, xenon headlights, heated sideview mirrors, remote ignition, shift paddles, Harman Kardon audio, rearview camera, auto-dimming driver mirror, navigation system, power-adjustable pedals, power-adjustable steering wheel, power passenger seat, heated/cooled cupholders and heated/ventilated seats and steering wheel. The Superbee still has its own personality via yellow or black paint accented with Superbee emblems and graphics, unique grille and hood treatments and special cabin features including striped cloth seats with embroidered Superbee logos on the front headrests.
Some of the upper trims' standard luxury features can be had on the lower trims as options. For example, the R/T offers the navigation system and rearview camera. Other options, depending on trim level, include a power sunroof, adaptive cruise control (with a forward collision warning system) and a Driver Confidence Group that features side blind spot and rear cross-path warning systems as well as rain-sensing wipers and auto-dimming headlights.
Performance & mpg
The 2012 Dodge Charger SE and SXT come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 292 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard on the SE; an eight-speed automatic is optional on the SE and standard on the SXT. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but the SXT can be equipped with all-wheel drive. The SE should return an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. With the eight-speed automatic, Chrysler says highway fuel economy jumps to 31 mpg. In Edmunds performance testing, a rear-drive SXT went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is an average time for a full-size sedan.
The Charger R/T gets a 5.7-liter V8 good for 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive R/T accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 16/25/19 with rear drive and 15/23/18 with all-wheel drive.
The Charger SRT8 is powered by a 6.4-liter V8 making 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard. In Edmunds testing, it hit 60 mph in a brisk 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy is, not surprisingly, low at 14/23/17.
Standard safety features for the Charger include stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front seat side airbags, a driver-side knee airbag, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. Optional features include a blind spot warning system, a rear cross-path warning system, a rearview camera and a forward collision warning system that's included with adaptive cruise control.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Charger SXT with the optional 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in a very short 113 feet, which is about 10 feet better than average. An R/T was essentially the same, while the SRT8 managed an even shorter 108 feet.
In government crash testing, the Charger received a top five-star rating for overall crash protection. Within that rating, it earned four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for overall side-impact protection. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Charger was awarded the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
In the past, getting a Dodge Charger without a Hemi V8 was something you kept quiet. Usually it meant you were driving a rental car or couldn't pony up for the extra horses. Thankfully, this is no longer the case, as Chrysler's new 3.6-liter V6 puts down strong power and returns good fuel economy. The addition of the eight-speed automatic improves efficiency even more.
So, you no longer have to get the V8, but this is still a Charger we're talking about. The big V8 transforms the Charger from a handsome, pleasant-to-drive sedan into the muscle car its name evokes. Step all the way up to the SRT8 and you'll give Corvette drivers a run for their money in a straight line.
The 2012 Dodge Charger also earns high marks for a suspension that delivers a good balance between ride comfort and competent handling. The car's sheer girth makes it tough to hustle along a tight road, but precise steering and a composed suspension make it a more involving drive than most other full-size sedans. This is especially true for Chargers fitted with the many performance upgrades available throughout the lineup.
The Dodge Charger's interior used to be its weak spot, marred by cheap materials, boring design and a generally low-buck vibe. That all changed with last year's redesign. Now the interior is not only more interesting to see and feel, but also vastly better in its construction. We're big fans of the available 8.4-inch touchscreen interface, which features large, well-marked "buttons" and a clear menu structure. The smaller touchscreen on the base SE is not quite as desirable, but still better than the older touchscreen models found in other Dodge and Chrysler cars.
Cabin space is excellent in the Charger, though the car's slanting roof line restricts headroom for taller backseat passengers and limits rearward visibility. The front seatbacks may be overly firm for some, but should offer good long-distance support nonetheless. The trunk's 15.4-cubic-foot volume is merely adequate for a large sedan, although 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks are standard for occasions when you need more room.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Let's begin with some numbers. Packing 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the new-for-2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is nudging into BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG territory. The Big Bad Dodge runs hard up against the smaller Cadillac CTS-V, too, for less money. And it does all this without a turbo, a supercharger or more than two valves over each combustion chamber.
What the numbers don't tell you is how confident, complete and wholly American this assembled-in-Canada sedan drives. This isn't some pretend performance car with front-wheel drive or a truck stuffed with big wheels and tires. It's a broad-shouldered and bullying rear driver with deep roots in muscle car history. This is a tough guy looking to brawl.
And yet it's one of the most comfortable cars Dodge has ever built.
No Replacement for Displacement
Chrysler somehow survived the DaimlerChrysler merger/takeover and divorce, privatization, bankruptcy and a merger/takeover with/by Fiat and emerged stronger from the ordeal. Aggressive management and a "deliver now or die" attitude has re-energized the product roster. The Charger was thoroughly retooled for 2011 and the 2012 SRT8 version rides in on those sharply chiseled, heritage-styled coattails. The LX platform underpinnings haven't changed much from the 2006 Charger resurrection, but the sheet metal is new and tougher-looking, and the old haphazard interior has been replaced by a fresh design executed in altogether higher-quality materials.
While the base Charger V6 is now much better and the R/T is fortified with 370 hp from its 5.7-liter Hemi V8, it's the SRT8 that has gained the most. "The most" being 392 cubic inches — 6.4 liters — of Hemi V8 power: old-school pushrod technology thumped up to an SAE net-rated 470 horses and 470 lb-ft of grunting torque.
That's, not coincidentally, the same displacement of the raised deck and wide head Hemi Chrysler first installed in the 1957 300C and Imperial. But the new engine makes a lot more power. The dual-quad carbureted '57 300C's Hemi maxed at 390 hp — back when engines were gross rated on primitive engine dynamometers with a correction factor applied by the marketing department.
However, the original 392 was the Hemi so tough it could take the abuse of burning nitromethane — while being stuffed by a supercharger. In other words, it's the engine that made Top Fuel drag racing the spectacle it is today. It's the legend upon which the 426-cubic-inch in street and race Hemi legends-upon-legends were built. It's why the Hemi name is so dang marketable. Of course, Chrysler had to bring it back — or at least its displacement.
The new 392 effectively replaces the 425-hp 6.1-liter (370-cubic-inch) version of the Hemi used in all the previous SRT8 concoctions. It was first seen in the 2011 Challenger SRT8 and will also nest under the hoods of the Chrysler 300C SRT8 and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
The Garlits Zone
Backing the amped-up engine is the familiar Mercedes-derived five-speed automatic transmission, boasting paddle shifters and SRT-spec calibrations for firm, responsive up- and downshifts. This trans is no dummy, offering conventional "normal" Drive and more aggressive "Sport" Drive modes, plus sequential operation with the console shifter if you prefer stick to paddles. Before we burn rubber, let's check out the new accommodations....
Screw that. Let's burn rubber!
Fire up the new 392 and it hardly seems as if there are 470 horses ready to be let off the chain. Unlike the old solid-lifter, lumpy camshaft days, this Hemi idles smooth, and the exhaust thrums like an old, all-wooden Chris-Craft power boat. There isn't a Hyundai or Honda running at full throttle that sounds as good as the Charger SRT8 does at idle.
Select Drive, mat the throttle and it launches hard, fast and loud: Zero to 60 takes just 4.6 seconds (4.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) if you get it just right. And 75 comes up just 1.8 seconds later. Then there's that sound. The SRT elves have worked hard to let this engine be heard; they've opened up some throaty intake roar, and a special "active valve" exhaust system allows for straight-through mid and rear mufflers, giving an extra-throaty exhaust roar under engine load. All this motor music exits via 4-inch chromed dual exhaust outlets that resemble the business end of a Howitzer. You won't be shopping for an aftermarket exhaust system for this one — it comes standard — quiet on the cruise, and it roars when you're hard on the gas.
The transmission shifts firmly and crisply (some would say "abruptly"), holding each gear and delaying the shift to redline in Sport mode if you keep your foot in it in Drive. You won't need the paddles or manual shifting to get the best acceleration; just keep your foot to the floor and let the engine, trans and engine management system do their business. The manual shifting is most handy when you want to control the car with engine braking, such as when coming down a curvy mountain grade.
Don't worry about the lack of a 6th gear. This car's torque band is so wide, it could get by with a direct connection between the crankshaft and rear pumpkin.
The EPA's ratings are still pending, but Dodge has worked hard to make the SRT8 as frugal as a 470-hp car can be. Cruise along at part throttle and the ECO indicator lights up on the dash as the big Hemi's cylinder-deactivation "Fuel Saver" system shuts down half the engine to run on just four cylinders. Other than that ECO light blinking, the Fuel Saver's engagement is seamless; there's no feeling or sensation of cylinders cutting in or out.
At 4,371 pounds, the Charger SRT8 is thick and densely packed. It's one thing to stop a Porsche and something else to haul down a dreadnought that's running at ramming speed.
Fortunately the Charger SRT8 has monster brakes and an all-independent suspension system that keeps the tenacious tires planted under hard deceleration. Nosedive is minimal, modulation is perfect and every stop was short with no apparent fade. The 60-0 runs averaged just 108 feet. There's no technique involved either; just stomp on the brake pedal until your femur cracks and let the antilock system work its electronic magic.
The brakes themselves are from the usual suspect in these matters, Brembo. Up front four-piston Brembo calipers chomp down on big 14.2-inch-diameter slotted and vented rotors. In back is another pair of genuine Brembo four-piston calipers, crushing 13.8-inch slotted and vented rotors. These aren't half-measure brakes — you know, big Brembos in front and generic dwarf discs in back. About the only way to get a shorter stopping distance in this Charger would be to go full Vanishing Point and aim for the spot of sunlight shining between the two bulldozers' blades.
For those of you scoring at home, that means the brakes have 16 pistons — beating the engine in piston count by a stunning two-to-one margin.
Fleet of Feet
As effective as the brakes are, they're abetted by the SRT8's standard 20-inch forged alloy wheel and tire package. The 245/45R20 Goodyear Eagle RS-A 2 tires are rated as all-season radials, but they stick better than that usually implies. There's lots of grip going on here and the suspension keeps the tires well planted. We drew 0.88g on the skid pad with the stability/traction control on or off. That's not Lotus 7 territory, but outstanding for a big sedan.
Those talents show up in the slalom, too, where this big Dodge — lineal descendant of the Polara and Royal Monaco Brougham — ripped through the cones at 66.5 mph. Again the Goodyear tires get some credit, but even more should go to the German engineers who originally designed this basic suspension system way back when for the Mercedes E-Class. The front end rides on short and long A-arms, coil springs, Bilstein shocks and a 30mm anti-sway bar. The rear uses five links, coil springs, two more Bilstein shocks and an 18mm bar.
Standard is a new "Active Damping Suspension" system cleverly dubbed ADS that uses a range of on-road and driver inputs, such as vehicle speed, steering angle, steering speed, brake torque, throttle position and lateral acceleration to automatically adjust the Bilstein shocks for specific conditions. The driver need only select between Auto and Sport — the car and the computers calculate and adjust the rest.
All that ability doesn't come at the expense of a comfortable ride. The Charger SRT8 never becomes punishing, even on rough road surfaces. Dodge nailed the ride/handling balance this time; this Charger rides firmly but never over the top, and rolls like a limo on smooth surfaces. Yet when boogie-fever strikes, it's as pinned down as a Baywatch graduate on Celebrity Apprentice.
The just-superseded Charger's instrument panel, console and dashboard were almost random collections of cheeseball plastic. In contrast, the new dash materials are high quality and the design puts all the gauges front and center where they're easily scanned. And there's a large, clear and bright 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen that dominates the center stack.
The new seats are terrific. The side bolsters are rich-looking Napa leather with a pinholed suede material covering the centers; this grippy stuff keeps you cool and holds you in place during aggressive cornering. The steering wheel incorporates neat silver shifter paddles (done the right way, too: flick the right paddle toward you for an upshift, fan the left paddle for downshifts, with no thumb action required). There are also a wide variety of audio and cruise control functions built into the chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Want a Challenger 392 but need four doors — the Charger SRT8 is your answer.
Sure, there are big-dollar sedans that are faster, more luxurious and carry more weight at the valet. But none of them possesses the sheer swagger of this monstrous Mopar. Not a bad deal for $50K.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of this evaluation, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 Overview
The Used 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is offered in the following styles: SRT8 4dr Sedan (6.4L 8cyl 5A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Dodge Charger?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.