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2012 Dodge Charger Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Dodge Charger was new.


Performance: 8.0

Complaints about the 2011 Dodge Charger have not fallen on deaf ears. Last year, test drivers raved about the Dodge Charger’s new V6, but disliked its outdated five-speed automatic transmission. Now, Dodge is offering an optional eight-speed automatic transmission, and reviewers love the combination for its power and fuel economy. Additionally, all-wheel drive is now an available option on both V6 and V8 models. Critics also agree that the Charger is a competent handler, especially for an affordable large car, but a vocal minority points out that you shouldn’t expect the nimble driving dynamics of smaller cars.

  • "Chrysler's new 3.6-liter V6 puts down strong power and returns good fuel economy. The addition of the eight-speed automatic improves efficiency even more." -- Edmunds 
  • "Whatever the key zero-to-60 time, the Charger V-6 still felt satisfying from the driver's seat and was a generally quiet partner on interstate trips." -- MarketWatch 
  • "Some V6 muscle cars have the looks of their big-engined siblings, but very little of their power or agility. Basically, they're sheep in wolves' clothing. This is not the case for the V6 Dodge Charger - which is a kind of smart, nerdy wolf, but a wolf nonetheless." -- Men’s Journal  

Acceleration and Power

The base engine of older Chargers used to make it tough for this Dodge to live up to its muscle car name. Fortunately, the 2012 Dodge Charger carries a base 3.6-liter V6 that generates 292 horsepower. Charger R/T models continue to carry a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 370 horsepower. According to the EPA, the base Charger gets 18/27 mpg city/highway with the five-speed automatic, while models with the eight-speed transmission get 19/31 mpg. The rear-wheel-drive Charger R/T gets 16/25 mpg city/highway. All-wheel drive Chargers get 18/27 mpg and 15/23 mpg city/highway with the V6 and V8, respectively.

Reviewers have always liked the V8-equipped Charger, but they now agree that the new V6 provides enough oomph to please most drivers. Additionally, the V6 is now available with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Most critics agree that the V6 engine and eight-speed transmission make a great combination, offering good fuel economy and ample power. All-wheel drive is also optional on the V6 Charger, which is new for 2012, while V8 models continue to offer rear- or optional all-wheel drive. Despite their praise for the eight-speed automatic, most critics agree that the base Charger’s five-speed automatic transmission is lackluster at best. They say it doesn’t make good use of the engine’s power and that the shifts are sluggish. Although V8 Chargers are only available with the five-speed transmission, some critics expect an eight-speed option in the future.

  • "Getting a V8-powered Charger is no longer a must, though; the 3.6-liter V6 offers plenty of power and good fuel economy, especially with the new eight-speed automatic." -- Edmunds
  • "The V-6, because of that eight-speed transmission, now is very much the package of choice. Lighter and thus, nimbler, than the Hemi V-8 (because the V-6 weighs less) and, ta-dah, available now with all-wheel drive formerly reserved for the V-8." -- USA Today 
  • "There was no big Hemi V-8, but a much-improved V-6. The 220-cubic inch, double-overhead cam engine produces 292 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. In the real world that means a six that can more than meet the needs of the typical driver while producing an EPA-rated 18-27 mpg on regular unleaded. I got 21 mpg while still enjoying putting my foot to the floor to merge with interstate traffic." -- MarketWatch 
  • "You might think that gear-switches with an eight speed would be annoyingly ever-present, but it's just the opposite. The ride is ultra-smooth, with very little drop in torque as you pick up speed." -- Men’s Journal 

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are generally pleased with how the 2012 Dodge Charger handles, but a few critics note that it still lacks the agility of smaller cars. Additionally, not all test drivers are in love with the Charger’s steering. Some say that it’s light and has too much power assist, while others mention that it lacks road feel.

  • "The car's sheer girth makes it tough to hustle along a tight road, but precise steering and a composed suspension make it a more involving drive than most other full-size sedans." -- Edmunds 
  • "There's a suspension tweak - hydraulic bushings instead of hard urethane - that better targets the elusive blend of comfort and control that a proper suspension provides." -- USA Today 
  • "Surprising is how solid the Charger feels on a canyon road. You would think it would drive like a boat and inhibit any carving of asphalt. But pushing the Dodge into a series of esses, the independent front and 5-link rear suspension work well together." -- Road and Track 
  • "The Charger feels like a big car, and it's more at home cruising than carving corners. The steering tuning reinforces this, as there's plenty of power assistance so it only takes light effort to turn the wheel, which provides some feedback." -- Cars.com 
  • "As we would quickly find out, the brakes worked just fine on the street." -- Autoblog 

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