Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8

July 27, 2012

Bottom line: This is a wonderful full-size sedan of limited aesthetic and practical appeal. But it has a solid market. Fans love it enough to pay the price — both purchase and maintenance — to own it. Also, Dodge has wisely loaded the Charger line with enough trim variants to capture a wider audience.

Ride, acceleration and handling: A beefy four-wheel independent suspension does a nice job of carrying the car’s 4,365-pound curb weight over ruined city streets. That suspension is tight enough to keep the car’s big, heavy body disciplined in tight curves. Acceleration is something to behold.

Head-turning quotient: Love it or hate it. The Charger SRT8, deliberately intimidating in stance and overall presentation, with a menacing blacked-out cross-hair grille, is styled to polarize.

Body style/layout: A full-size, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan that lives up to its name. It is the top of a five-trim-level line, which also includes an all-wheel-drive SXT model.

Engine/transmission: Comes standard with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine producing 470 horsepower and 470 foot-pounds of torque). The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually, via a floor-mounted gear lever or with paddle shifters on the left and right sides of the steering wheel.

Capacities: Seats five people. Rear-seat space is tight for adults. Cargo capacity is 16.3 cubic feet with the split rear seats up. Fuel capacity is 19.1 gallons. Premium gasoline is recommended.

Mileage: Not much. The Environmental Protection Agency says you can get 14 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. You will get substantially less than that in real-world driving — about 12 mpg city and 21 highway, if you’re lucky.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes (Brembo); emergency braking assistance; emergency brake-force distribution; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic stability and traction control; and front, side, and rear head sir bags.

Price: Base price is $45,925. Dealer’s invoice price for that model is $44,281. Price as tested is $49,415, including $1,690 in options (adaptive cruise control, 20-inch-diameter BSW performance tires, lane-change warning system, backup warning system with onboard navigation, backup warning, rear-view camera) and a $995 destination charge and $1,000 federal gas-guzzler tax. Price as tested is $47,607. Warning: This is a popular model. Dealers might attach premiums. Look at comparable Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro models.

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