The Dodge Charger began as a concept vehicle in the 1940s, debuted in production in 1966 and gained its fame as the car driven by the bad guy in the 1968 movie Bullitt.
Steve McQueen pursued the Charger and its stuntman driver Bill Hickman on the hilly streets of San Francisco in his 1968 Ford Mustang. The scenes defined muscle car bravado.
Not much has changed in the past half-century. The Charger and Mustang, in their best performance trims, remain iconic. They’re modernized, more powerful and both retain a link to the past.
The 2020 Dodge Charger knows its strengths. Hit the accelerator hard on a straightway, hear the growl and feel the power of 5.7-liter, 485 horsepower engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The beast accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds.
2020 Dodge Charger: Fast & Furious
When a situation arises in which drivers to the left and right lanes on the freeway simultaneously merge in your middle lane without using their turn signals, catastrophe awaits. But slam the accelerator and a disaster is instantly avoided.
It’s what muscle cars do best and it’s what the Dodge Charger does as well as any competitor at a price the manufacturer likes to tout.
With its Scat Pack trim, the Charger offers the most horsepower of any vehicle car with a starting price MSRP of less than $40,000. It’s about $52,000 with options.
Despite production year breaks for various reasons, the Charger hasn’t been deterred in its glory.
The driving scenes in Bullitt are always listed among cinema’s greatest chase scenes. Further notoriety arrived in light-hearted and dark-themed media with the Dukes of Hazzard television show and the futuristic Blade film series.
The 2020 Dodge Charger also continues the overall legacy of versatile, high-performance sedans. It’s an increasingly small market share as pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles continue to dominate nationwide sales.
Five trim levels of the five-passenger, four-door sedan, including the reviewed Scat Pack, are available. Rear-wheel drive is standard; All-wheel drive is available on the SXT and GT trims.
A power boost to the standard Charger, the Scat Pack features an increase of nearly 200 horsepower and torque as well as Brembo high-performance brakes and a limited-slip rear differential.
Highlighted features include xenon headlights, an upgraded suspension and tires, panoramic sunroof, two-tone leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and a Harman Kardon sound system.
The Widebody upgrade (flared wheel arches, wider wheels and tires and adaptive suspension dampers) is also optional offered on the Scat Pack.
Dodge splurged in 2020 by also offering a Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition limited to 501 units. It’s built on the power Hellcat trim and its Widebody features. An increase to 717 horsepower, premium leather upholstery and additional exterior and interior and upscale touches.
The seventh and current Dodge generation debuted nearly a decade ago. But the combination of its enduring legacy and performance have helped push annual sales closer to six figures. The Charger peaked with nearly 120,000 sales in 2007.
More practical, more family oriented and more fuel-efficient family sedans with sporting traits are available. (The Chargers’ gas mileage averages are 15 miles per gallon in city driving, 24 mpg on the highway.)
But if the characteristic preferences are reversed, a head-turner of a performance vehicle a family can enjoy together, the Charger is in a fraternity of one.
It’s attractive inside and outside and has a driving personality that exudes confidence. Steve McQueen and a few other actors and stuntmen would approve.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: [email protected].