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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
SRT8 is never at a loss for power
Acceleration with the 2.7-liter is tepid
Car and Driver
Felt tied down with excellent damping that never felt floaty
Despite its strong, muscle-car looks, the 2009 Dodge Charger is relatively docile in V-6 form. For a true "Dukes of Hazzard" driving experience, you'll need the R/T or SRT8 version of the 2009 Dodge Charger.
The 2009 Dodge Charger features four very distinct engines. TheCarConnection.com's research and driving experiences in the Dodge Charger reveal that the V-6s are uninspiring, but the V-8s are more than capable of moving the Charger in a hurry. ConsumerGuide states that "SE models have a 178-hp 2.7-liter V-6 engine," while "optional on SE and standard on SXT is a 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6." Moving up to the bigger V-8 models, ConsumerGuide says that "R/T models get a new version of Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 370 hp, an increase of 30 hp over 2008 models," and the Dodge Chrysler "SRT8 has a 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V-8." Cars.com agrees, noting that "the SRT8 is never at a loss for power, and Dodge says it can run from zero to 60 mph in a little more than 5 seconds." Car and Driver notes that "acceleration with the 2.7-liter is tepid, as the engine works hard to move the Charger," but Autoblog reports that "the 3.5L provided perfectly adequate acceleration." Car and Driver also mentions that "the larger V-6 moves the Charger with much more spirit than the base engine, but it will seem a bit slow if one samples the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8."
One unusual benefit of the Dodge Charger is that it is a mid-size sedan with available all-wheel drive. ConsumerGuide reviewers report that the base V-6-powered Chargers come with "a four-speed automatic transmission...while AWD versions have a five-speed." Cars.com approves of the transmission underpinning the V-8, calling it a "cooperative five-speed automatic transmission that features Dodge's AutoStick clutchless-manual mode." Unfortunately, they also claim that "while the response is quicker than what you might find in a model of lesser performance, there's still too much shift lag." Automobile Magazine agrees, finding that "the only real letdown is the five-speed automatic, which has a limited, awkward manumatic function and no sport mode. If only we could order this beast with the Challenger R/T's six-speed manual."
One area where you won't find anything close to positive reviews of the Dodge Charger is fuel economy. While there are many modern updates on this ’60s classic, fuel economy is still abysmal. The RWD 3.5-liter V-6 gets an estimated 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. On the V-8s, the EPA estimates that the RWD Challenger R/T will get 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, while the brutally powerful Dodge Challenger SRT8 returns 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. For the AWD versions, the story is slightly worse.
The original Detroit muscle cars were straight-line machines and never intended to handle turns in the way that German sportscars do. The 2009 Dodge Charger, however, easily shrugs off its forebears, winning over reviewers with its impressive (for a sedan, at least) handling. ConsumerGuide says "these big cars aren't nimble in quick direction changes, but they have fine balance and grip in turns." ConsumerGuide also praises the ride, calling it "generally smooth and composed," while Automobile Magazine terms it "rough, but never unbearably harsh." Cars.com is more enthusiastic, proclaiming that the Dodge Charger features "a more comfortable ride than expected—even on older, worn-out roads." Autoblog notes that "the only real complaint would be the no-feedback steering," whose "weighting seems entirely relative to the steering angle and not the cornering force." When it comes time to stop the large Dodge Charger, Cars.com is pleased to report that "these performance brakes shed speed quickly at the lightest touch of the brake pedal."
Handling is surprisingly sharp, but you’ll need to go with the optional V-8 if you want performance worthy of the exciting exterior.