2006 Dodge Charger 3.5l V6

If there’s one kind of car that Autofrei loves, it’s boring, old crapcans that were wrapped up in interesting sheetmetal, tied up in a strange corporate history, and (bonus!) endowed with some quality hoonage potential. Is this red, rear-wheel-drive V6 Dodge a perfect example of the breed? 

 

  
I look at this car and feel like it’s 2006 and I’m in a rented beige Pontaic Grand Prix in Florida in the summer, back seat, looking out the narrow windows on the rest of the traffic oozing through the bright, hot, humidity. Thousands of these red V6 Chargers share the roads with the Pontiac. All are rental-spec American cars, cruising to bankruptcy in the recession.

The 3.5 liter six under the hood of this particular red Charger was never well received. It didn’t make a lot of power (250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft.). It didn’t get great gas mileage (rated 17 city/24 highway). It was just there.

Interestingly, at the launch, Dodge sold more V8 Chargers than V6s. Everybody knew the car was built for
the Hemi V8, and all the burnout potential imparted by the gained cylinders.

According to the ever-curmudgeonly Robert Farago, even the V8 model had safe, steady handling and the ride was old-school floaty.

The car is built on the chassis of the even older Mercedes-Benz E-class, allowing Chrysler and Dodge to come out with new full-size rear-wheel-drive cars after decades of leaving RWD behind.

It was all part of the terrible merger between Mercedes and Chrysler. I can understand that Chrysler needed money and European technology, but it’s beyond me why Mercedes would pick up America’s bronze-medal carmaking giant while BMW went for more manageable fare with Rover (Mini) and Rolls-Royce. With tightening budgets and maturing markets, carmakers thought they’d have to merge or die, but the Benz/Chrysler affair was going nowhere but down. The only real success stories are BMW/Mini/RR, Renault/Nissan, and maybe, just maybe GM/Daewoo.

That certainly covers the strange corporate history side of things, so now to the looks. Just look at the Charger – it’s an everyday, utterly common four-door sedan that’s handsome but not overdrawn. Lowered just a bit on black steelies, this particular car is the most menacing, cool looking car in the neighborhood, short of the graceful, brown Jag XJ6 and just ahead of the black ’80s Cressida.

  The taillights are cheesy and flashy, but they’re the only blemish on an otherwise beautiful car. I mean, the interior is terrible, but hey, I don’t have to drive this thing, or park it in Manhattan streets, I just get to stare at it every day.

The moral of the story is that the Charger is gorgeous, deeply flawed, and destined for the junkyard. It’s not a few decades old and it’s not covered in rust and dents, but a car is never too young to be a future shitheap wondermobile. Autofrei gives its questionably-favorable stamp of approval!

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