Dodge Charger has gone through several generations, with lots of drastic changes inside and out over the years, including moving it to a sedan with its modern reincarnation.
The 1966 Charger, introduced at the Rose Bowl, featured an “electric shaver” grille with hidden headlights, four standalone anatomical seats, a long console from front to rear and folding rear seats as well as exclusive door panels and dashboard lights
Changes have included engines and transmissions, size and platform, and notably, exterior and interior design. The Daytona model was introduced in 1969 and 1970 brought a big chrome bumper, a split grille and high seatbacks.
The body shape became more rounded in 1970. By 1974, the era of muscle cars was ending, with the Charger performance car becoming a personal luxury car.
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Forward through many more changes, the four-door sedan 2006 Charger had little in common with its muscle-car ancestors beyond the name and the choice of several Hemi V-8 powerplants under the hood.
The modern second-generation “four-door fastback coupe” brought a redesigned grille and hood and the first appearance of “racetrack” taillights. Inside, it gained premium soft-touch materials, high-end Nappa leather (2015), Garmin navigation and several other convenience features. An iconic 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 delivered 370 horsepower.
Charger Daytona, named after the highly modified, record-breaking coupe created in 1969 for NASCAR, revived in 2006, was produced until 2009, then returned for 2013. It’s now offered for the first time on the updated second-generation model as Charger Daytona and Daytona 392.
With a sportier exterior, unique interior features and Mopar-modified components, Charger is a special performance car with four doors (the world’s only four-door muscle car), seating for five and a big trunk – designed to deliver more performance and heritage-inspired styling to Dodge’s 5.7-liter and 392 Hemi lineup. SRT Hellcat-inspired functional performance styling presents a more-menacing appearance.
Every Charger is equipped with an innovative TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission. All Hemi V-8 models now have Active Exhaust, a 2.75-inch electronically controlled system to deliver signature Dodge muscle-car rumble.
The 2017 Charger lineup consists of six models, starting at $27,995 for a base 292-horsepower SE, to a middle-of-the-line 485-horsepower Daytona 392 for $44,995 (my tester), and the top-of-the-line 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat for $67,645. SE and SXT ($29,995) are available with AWD.
My Charger Daytona 392 had an eye-catching (read LEO) new yellow jacket exterior, with a 6.4-liter 392 V-8 SRT Hemi MDS engine, riding on wider 20-by-9.5-inch forged-aluminum Mopar wheels finished in low gloss hyper black with a new center cap featuring Dodge stripes, wearing Pirelli P Zero Summer tires ($595).
Black Brembo brake calipers, 15.4-inch two-piece rotors with six-piston high-performance front and four-piston rear calipers (the largest ever on an FCA US vehicle) for outstanding heat management, thermal capacity, longevity and stopping power, peeked through five split spokes.
Besides the Brembro brakes, the new Daytona 392 adds functional Mopar cold-air intakes, a new air box with directed cold-air induction and Mopar conical air filter, unique “Daytona” embroidered leather/suede SRT performance-bolstered seats, a Dodge performance steering wheel with paddle shifters, “392” fender decals, a 180-mph primary speedometer and a 220-amp alternator.
The 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 provided more than enough power for neighborhood driving and short trips on the highway, and is EPA rated to achieve 15 mpg city/25 highway/18 combined. I averaged 19 mpg, with great effort to control the tendency to enjoy the “muscle.”
Unique Daytona satin black hood graphic with Hemi logo on the NACA duct, “Daytona” grille badging, satin black roof, cutout “Daytona” deck-lid to rear-quarter graphics, one-piece satin black spoiler and four-inch round exhaust tips with the custom Mopar exhaust system left no doubt this was a special car.
The NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) duct, along with the air box, brings air into the engine compartment with very little increase in drag. The power-bulge supporting the duct delivered a menacing look along with keeping the engine at optimal operating temperature.
Unique exterior details included side door scallops, “flying buttress” rear roof pillars (for extra stability), and a continuous glowing ribbon of light from the seamless LED racetrack taillights.
Headlights and taillights wrapped around all four corners, with LED turn signals front and rear. Puddle lamps on the heated power mirrors lit the ground by the front doors when I pressed the unlock button on the fob. A new capless fuel filler features an electronic locking door with a release in the cabin to foil theft or tampering.
Daytona is offered in 13 exciting colors with interesting names, including yellow jacket (bright), green go (primary), destroyer gray (battleship) and octane red (garnet). white knuckle and contusion blue (what were they thinking?) rename current hues. Contusion blue is medium to dark blue, with a black tint. Redline Tri-Coat (medium red) adds $695.
The interior of my Charger was black (the only color available for Daytona), with brazen gold stitching on the door panels, door armrests, center console armrest (with a coin tray, two USB ports, aux port, and 12-volt outlet), accent strips through the quilted suede seats and backrests, embroidered “Daytona” on the upper backrests and the thick bolsters.
Most of the interior was matte black plastic, with gloss black accents, and the notable exception of the instrument panel/dash/center stack and the center console/shifter (looks and feels like a traditional linkage shifter) surround, which were “Carbonite” – rough textured, gray aluminum. Carbonite, according to Wookieepedia, is a liquid substance made from carbon gas, which could change into a solid through rapid freezing, used for preservation of goods and hibernation of people.
Premium velour-bound floor mats with embroidered “Dodge” logo, sport pedals, and a “Daytona” instrument panel badge finished the interior. Front seats were heated and cooled and 12-way power adjustable.
Rear passengers had two USB ports, heated seats/controls and air vents. The middle passenger had a large hump in the floor and a firm, flat seat between the outer bucket-style seating areas.
All-new fourth-generation 8.4-inch Uconnect included Apple CarPlay connection allowing iPhone access to Apple Maps, Messages, phone, and Apple Music through Siri Voice control or the Uconnect touchscreen.
Android Auto connection allowed access to Google voice search, Google Maps, and Google Play Music via the touch screen or steering wheel controls. The new Uconnect improvements include faster startup time, enhanced processing power, vivid imagery, higher resolution and sharper graphics. The new touch screen with navigation offers multi-touch gestures with pinch, tap, and swipe capability.
Daytona also has Dodge performance pages, which provide the driver with a shift light indicator, reaction time, zero-60 mph times, G-force indicator, and lap time. But I didn’t have a track to check it out.
My Charger had a driver confidence package ($895) with blind spot and cross path detection, parksense rear park assist, bi-function HID projector headlights, heated exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, memory and blind spot indicator.
A Uconnet 8.4 NAV package ($695) added navigation, Traffic Plus, and Travel Link to the standard Uconnect system. SiriusXM satellite radio is standard and comes with one year of SiriusXM Guardian Service. With Guardian, the driver can remotely start the vehicle (warm the heated steering wheel and seats), lock/unlock from anywhere, flash lights/sound horn to locate the vehicle, locate the vehicle on a map, and send destinations to the navigation system with Send & Go.
Charger has more than 80 safety and security features, including adaptive cruise control with full stop, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, rain brake support and ready alert braking.
Charger Daytona projects an amped-up attitude, with its low, lean profile, power hood and scalloped bodyside, and the distinct, imposing crosshair grille leaves no doubt about its muscle car heritage.
This Daytona is fun to drive, powerful, and versatile enough for daily driving with room for four adults, or five passengers if at least one is a child.
Options and destination charges of $1,095 brought the delivered price of my Charger Daytona to $48,275.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.