The only Charger we might avoid from a performance perspective is the base SE, but only because it comes with a five-speed automatic while the eight-speed automatic that's included in SXT models is so much better. Otherwise, it's now simply a matter of whether you're okay with the V-8's extra price and thirst (and, perhaps, its less responsible image).
Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, making 292 horsepower, is what powers base Charger models, and it's made better through a very smooth and responsive eight-speed ZF automatic that provides a wide span of ratios. Paddle-shifters are included, and the combination gets up to 31 mpg highway.
Even though the V-6 is much more enjoyable this year, the V-8s remain the stars of the lineup. Not many sensory perceptions can equal the throb of a massive V-8 in full mating call, and the HEMI V-8 is the equal of Ford's Mustang V-8 for its lascivious racket. The 5.7-liter belts out 370 horsepower to an appropriately bellowy tune, and it can get to 60 mph in the 5.5-second range. The huge HEMI is a very forgiving engine, and it actually pairs well with the five-speed automatic, which includes a manual-shift mode.
If you want more engagement, a lot more torque, and a classic burble, while for the most engaging, tire-scorching performance you should head straight for the SRT8; with its 6.4-liter HEMI V-8, with 475 horsepower and a five-speed automatic, it's good for 0-60 mph times of under five seconds and tuned, in some ways, we think, to sound like a classic big-block engine.
The SRT8 handles surprisingly well for a big, heavy sedan—with much more of a nimble nature than a Ford Taurus or Chevrolet Impala. There's not a lot of lean or body roll in any of the models, but the SRT8 and its new adaptive suspension has the best combination of ride and control (it's selectable, from comfort-tuned to aggressively firm).With hydraulic power steering--run by a electric-operated pump--the Charger has a confident, nicely weighted tiller, with a feel that just about matches the somewhat beefy feel of all the controls. The suspension improvements introduced last year, with upgraded shocks, control arms and bushings, do improve body control and responsiveness, though they don't bring any more road feel to the steering wheel.
In general, the Charger drives like a somewhat smaller car--although if you opt for the available all-wheel drive system, the steering doesn't wind and unwind with the same neatness, and that alone can give the car a bulkier feel.
A number of packages not only bring the Charger a sharper look but add to its performance. A "Road and Track" package adds bigger roll bars, Goodyear sport tires, stiffer monotube shocks and tougher brake linings, and an "off" mode for stability control.
The Blacktop Package that was introduced last year has been made even better. As before, it brings 20-inch performance tires on Pitch Black five-spoke alloys; a performance suspension; sport seats; and a Pitch Black grille theme. This year with this package and the Rallye Appearance Group there's a cold-air intake and sport exhaust that bumps V-6 output up to 300 hp. An R/T Road & Track Package also includes a rear differential with 3.06 axle ratio, performance powertrain calibrations, a high-speed engine controller, 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, and special badging.