Story and photos by Paul Williams May 24, 2005 Durham, North Carolina - It was like a fashion parade at the 2006 Dodge Charger launch in Durham, North Carolina. To help set the tone for the event, auto writers wore "Go ManGo" Dodge jackets and retro Charger ballcaps. The jackets did have a practical application: they were needed for track time at nearby Virginia International Speedway (you have to wear long-sleeved apparel while driving on the track) and the ballcaps enabled us to blend in at Durham Athletic Park (the location for the movie "Bull Durham") during an evening of classic Chargers, batting practice and barbequed beef. But there was no bull when it came to the cars. This new vehicle from Dodge isn't a retro reincarnation of the original 1960s and '70s Chargers. It's a "Modern car for a modern customer," according to Charger senior design manager Mark Hall. Actually, it's a sedan version of the Magnum, but there are several other differences between the two vehicles beside the fact that it doesn't have a rear hatch. The roofline is different, as is the treatment of the grille, fascia and front lights. And although it's not a coupe (like the original Chargers) there is something of a coupe profile, with its distinctive C-pillars, and short rear deck. Front and rear fenders are tautly rendered to suggest the performance potential of the car, while the optional 18" wheels add some sparkle to the overall stealth look. The front, of course, is designed to be aggressive and forceful. Look in the rearview mirror and see one of these fast approaching, and most people will smartly move out of its way (especially if it's black and white and has lights on top, as the police interceptor versions will surely be). Yes, the Dodge Charger is built just the way police departments like them: rear-wheel drive, lots of available power, roomy interiors and a big trunk. The platform is shared by the Magnum and Chrysler 300, but the Charger's "Touring" suspension is tuned for more performance. There'll be four versions available, all with standard electronic stability control, antilock brakes, traction control, air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering column, power amenities, CD player and cruise control. The $27,495 SE will use a 190 horsepower, 2.7-litre V6 that makes 190 lb-ft torque, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. It wears 17" steel wheels. At $31,385, the SXT features the 250 hp, 3.5 L V6 making 250 lb-ft torque, and adds 17" aluminum wheels, power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, fog lamps, chrome grille and premium Boston Acoustic sound system. The transmission on the SXT is a five-speed automatic. The Charger R/T is equipped with a 5.7 L HEMI V8 engine making 340 hp and 390 lb-ft torque, five-speed automatic transmission, and costs $37,550. It adds performance brakes and suspension, 18" aluminum wheels, performance touring tires, dual exhaust, leather-faced seats with heated front seats, power adjustable pedals, silver interior accents and a tire pressure monitor. Finally, the Charger Daytona R/T is a special package limited to 8000 cars for the 2006 model year (with 5-10% coming to Canada). Available in Go ManGo orange or Top Banana yellow, the Daytona R/T gets and additional 10 hp from its specially tuned exhaust, and features a Road/Track performance package (an available option on the R/T) with load levelling suspension, 18" polished wheels, unique front facia, front and rear spoilers, suede seat inserts, matching body-coloured centre stack bezel, and a special numbered limited-edition Daytona badge on the instrument panel. Price for the Daytona R/T is not yet confirmed. There's no manual transmission available on any Charger models, and to be realistic, it's unlikely that there would be more than the slimmest demand for one. Nonetheless, a five or six-speed manual on the Charger Daytona R/T would fit well with the car's character. Maybe on the upcoming SRT8 version, which will arrive with a whopping 425 hp. On the local highways, the Charger impressed in both 3.5 V6 and 5.7 V8 forms (I didn't get an opportunity to drive the 2.7 L V6), with its quiet, stable and comfortable ride. Both engines are virtually inaudible at 100 km/h, and cruising speeds can be much higher than that without wind or engine noise. Fit and finish is superb in these spacious, Canadian-built, driver-friendly vehicles. Passengers will love the rear seat roominess. When considering the competition (Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Five Hundred, Chevrolet Impala, for example) the pricing for both SXT and R/T is very competitive. With the Charger, buyers definitely have another contender for their sedan dollars, as long as they'd like a car with a bit of attitude. That attitude, as I said, is no bull. On the track (in R/T guise with the Road/Track package) the Charger is stable in hard braking from 170 km/h, cornering is balanced, and acceleration is fierce. For a big sedan, this is a lot of handling and performance, and it translates into a high potential for safety and control for the average driver using the car as a family hauler. The 3.5 V6 versions will likely be the volume seller, however. It provides all the looks, much of the personality, and more frugal fuel consumption than the HEMI V8. The Dodge Charger will be available in early June, 2005.