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2008 Dodge Charger Test Drive Review

Picture of 2008 Dodge Charger R/T RWD America's muscle sedan brings something for almost everybody.

6.3 /10
Overall Score

Since relaunching the Charger name as a modern 4-door sedan for 2006, Dodge has continued its streak of building aggressive-looking cars with big engines. Very few changes are in store for the 2008 model year. Most notable is a better-quality interior.

Look and Feel

6/ 10

Is any sedan more brash, menacing, or silly than a Dodge Charger? There's something refreshing about designing an average family sedan to be obnoxiously aggressive and not care so much about the many people who won't think of buying one. But that's Dodge—and its doing well by it. The wide crossed grille and dark-tinted headlights appear to be snorting and squinting. The tall body panels and slim glass create a chopped roof effect like those of 1930s hot rods. When dressed in bright colors, 20-inch rims, spoilers, and silly decals, the Charger isn't just a poseur—it's a doer, and it'll do loud, fast, and dumb things all day. Can't say that about a Camry or a Fusion.

The interior is a bare-bones warehouse that's been upgraded with (some) softer materials for 2008. Hard cheap plastics still prevail, and it's an ugly space by any measure. But being seen in a Charger is what counts, because nothing else on the road looks like it. The police love the intimidating looks so much they're buying them straight from Dodge as factory cruisers.

Performance

8/ 10

Based on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class from the 1990s, the Charger and its clones (the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300) are an American-German mashup from the short-lived DaimlerChrysler era. That means good solid bones from expensive luxury cars, including the suspension components and certain transmissions. Disregard the base Charger SE and its 2.7-liter V6, which has only 178 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque to move a heavy car. The 3.5-liter V6 and the 4-speed automatic are the better pair on the SE Plus and SXT, with 250 hp and 250 lb-ft. That would be enough for most people, but the better Charger models aren't for most people.

Those are the R/T and Daytona R/T, which pack a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 340 hp (350 on the Daytona), 390 lb-ft of torque, and a 5-speed automatic. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional on the V8 R/T and V6 SXT; all other trims are rear-wheel drive (RWD). To reach peak Charger, you must buy the SRT8 and brace for a 6.1-liter V8 with 425 hp and 420 lb-ft. The SRT8 also comes with Brembo brakes, 20-inch summer tires, and a stiffer suspension. Yes, it's loud. The ride on any Charger falls on the stiff side, and their weight and imprecise steering make them feel like the 1960s muscle cars they really are.

Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg city, 26 highway, and 21 combined for the 2.7-liter V6. The 3.5-liter V6 with either transmission is 17/24/20 (with AWD, it's 15/22/18). The R/T AWD returns the same mileage (with the RWD V8 being 15/23/18). On EPA tests, that's because the V8 can shut off half its cylinders under light loads. Don't believe that kind of fuel efficiency will ever happen in real life with an engine that huge. The biggest 6.1-liter will drain the tank at a rate of 13/18/15.

Form and Function

4/ 10

What's helpful about the Charger's terrible interior is that there's nothing at all nice to distract you. The blue-tinted gauges are the best part, and the optional Uconnect system incorporating the stereo and navigation is easy to use. So are the climate controls, which look pulled out of a commercial Ram truck. To make matters worse is the roof. No one approaching six feet is ever comfortable in the back seat, and as a driver, you can't really see out the back. The 16 cubic feet of space in the trunk is good. Dodge just hopes you'll be driving too fast to notice how poorly made and designed it is inside.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The base Charger has air conditioning, a four-speaker CD stereo, cloth seats, 17-inch steel wheels, power windows/mirrors/locks, cruise control, and remote keyless entry. Good, but avoid it unless there are options that include 18-inch wheels, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a power driver's seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SE Plus has the better engine, plus alloy wheels and disc brakes. Things get cushier with the SXT, which is one of the few cars on sale with power-adjustable pedals. It also comes with an upgraded stereo and heated mirrors. More SXT options include 18-inch wheels, heated leather seats, dual-zone climate, Boston Acoustics stereo, auto headlights, navigation, moonroof, and an onboard hard drive for storing music called MyGIG. New for 2008 is a rear entertainment package that lets people crammed in back play a movie, should they have to sit there for 2 hours.

The R/T can be equipped with a trip computer, remote start, illuminated cupholders, and microsuede seat inserts. The SRT8 is available with a subwoofer and surround sound.

Safety

6/ 10

The 2008 Charger comes with dual front airbags and ABS as standard. Traction and stability control are standard on all trims except the SE, where they're optional when the SE is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. Front side airbags and front and rear head curtain airbags are optional on every trim. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested the Charger but applies scores from the Chrysler 300. Since they are two separate cars with entirely different body panels, CarGurus will not report these tests as applicable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the 2008 Charger five out of five stars for the driver and passenger in a frontal crash, four stars for the driver in a side crash, and five stars for the rear passenger in a side crash.

Cost-Effectiveness

7/ 10

The 2008 Dodge Charger starts at $21,350 for the SE. Other popular trims include the $28,035 SXT AWD and $30,755 R/T RWD. The SRT8 bases at a $36,355 minimum. The Charger is crude and cheap-feeling inside, but its performance and exterior style are way past the competition. Add in the availability of AWD and impressive tech options, and there's some good value in this bonkers Dodge sedan.

Updated

Clifford Atiyeh is a reporter and photographer who has spent a good portion of his life driving cars he doesn't own. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and committed to saving both manuals and old Volvos.

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Dodge Charger Questions

2008 Dodge Charger Cranks For Split Of Secnd Then Stops!

Ok, I believe I have a electrical issue with my 08 Charger, BUT im no expert and ran out of ideas.. At first there was a bad rod bearing which was replaced.. Since reassembling the motor, the car ...

Dodge Charger Shift Issues

I have a 2008 charger with the 3.5 v6. It shifts really smooth until it gets to a higher speed then it doesn’t want to shift. Could that be a sensor in the trans?

Key Stuck In Ignition.

My key fob gets stuck in the ACC position on my 08 Charger RT. I put the vehicle in park and the car will turn off but will not release the key. If I disconnect and reconnect they battery the key f...

Car Will Not Make A Sound When I Turn The Key

I have a 2008 Dodge Charger and all the interior lights on the dash broad will not come on. The headlights and the horn works. The car will not turn over. It just makes that beeping sound when I tur...

Car Want To Cut Off

Why do my car act like it want to cut off when you start driving?