Imagine this scenario: those TV and movie rascals from Hazzard county, Bo and Luke Duke, decide to drive their car, the General Lee, to a repair shop for a tuneup. But they get the address wrong and drop the car off at Jesse James's outrageous workshop on the Discovery Channel's popular TV show, Monster Garage. When they return to collect their car, no vestiges of the 1969 Dodge Charger remain. "What is that thang?" asks Luke.
That "thang" is Daimler-Chrysler Corporation's new spin on a muscle-car classic that rocked the American enthusiast-car market when it was introduced in 1966. With its swoopy styling and hidden headlights, the Charger was a bestseller that lasted through 1974 when the company finally pulled the plug due to stifling emissions standards. Unlike the original, which was a coupe, the 2006 Dodge Charger R/T is a 4-door sedan with a chopped-top look reminiscent of a 1950s' California custom car. Love it or hate it, the new car's styling does attract attention. "I got a 'thumbs-up' from two gals in the office," said our Engineering Editor, "while a gal in a Mustang chased me down for another thumbs-up."
Compared with the original, the contemporary Charger is a big car — 200.1 in. long, or about as large as a BMW 7 Series or a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But "big" means there's plenty of room inside for five: two in bucket seats up front, and three on a bench seat in the rear. And I should add, there's a capacious trunk. Based on a rear-drive platform that's shared with other DaimlerChrysler products, the Charger R/T sports independent suspension, generously sized 4-wheel disc brakes and 18-in. wheels. Of course, it's got a Hemi, a throaty-sounding, electronically fuel-injected ohv V-8 whose 340 bhp and 390 lb.-ft. of torque propel this two-ton behemoth from 0 to 60 in 5.9 seconds. When not being flogged, the 5.7-liter powerplant enjoys 20-percent-better fuel economy, thanks to Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System, which deactivates four cylinders when full power is not needed. Also contributing to the engine's fuel efficiency is a 5-speed auto-matic with an "overdrive" top gear.
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