2012 Dodge Charger SXT V6 – Instrumented Test

What Is It?

It’s the recently redesigned Dodge Charger with the Pentastar V-6. We’ve already tested a 2011 Charger with the V-6, though. That one was even rear-wheel drive, like this example. So why are we testing this one now? The first car weighed three fewer pounds less, and it was orange with a black and tan interior; this car is all black. Also, this one has the new eight-speed ZF automatic, whereas that orange car had a five-speed.

How Does It Drive?

It drives a lot like that other V-6 Charger, which is to say like a big German sports sedan. There’s a masterful balance between ride and handling, and the car is much more agile than its immense size would suggest. It still feels big from behind the wheel, even when you’re pushing it, but it moves like a much smaller car.

The eight-speed takes some of the edge off our complaints about gear spacing in the old five-speed but doesn’t smooth them out entirely. Stretching five ratios so thin meant that the fiver held onto first until nearly 60 mph and second until beyond 90, seriously hindering around-town pep. With three extra gears, though, Chrysler allotted only one more ratio for the 0-to-100 window, with shifts now happening around 45, 65, and 100. Green-light readiness is notably increased, but we wonder if maybe one more gear in that gap wouldn’t have helped more. The Audi A8 has a version of this same transmission but with different gearing; its shifts occur around 35, 55, 85, and 105. Of course, its 80-hp advantage also helps it step off with more aggression. The shorter gearing of the eight-speed versus the five accentuates the Pentastar V-6’s nonlinear power band, the quicker spurt through each gear making the lulls and surges in delivery more noticeable.

It’s easy to see, though, that Chrysler’s focus was the top end in selecting ratios for its version of the eight-speed. This was not for speed, mind you, but rather fuel economy—the Charger hits its 114-mph governor in eighth, seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth. At 70 mph in eighth, the engine turns 1500 rpm. Heck, at 114 mph in eighth, it’s turning just over 2400. Such low engine speeds are the root of the Charger’s 31-mpg highway rating from the EPA. In the city, the car is rated at 19 mpg. We averaged 20 over the course of our 1100 miles with the car.

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