Monday, September 5, 2016

I'm cured of my lust for a Dodge Charger.

Forever and a day, I've lusted after the Dodge Charger. The current version - not the old one. I love the looks, front and rear. With larger wheels and lower profile tyres it looks amazing. I love the wraparound red tail lights and the similar part-wraparound daytime running lights on the front. It just looks like it means business.
Then I rented one. An R/T version with a Hemi.
And now I don't want to own one any more.
Driving it was fun, for sure, but it was not a pleasant concert of well-balanced parts that were easily orchestrated. It was more like three drunks racing shopping carts down a back alley at night.
The engine was very urgent - too urgent. With an alleged 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque (although it really didn't feel like it), the lightest touch of the accelerator and it took off, meaning it was largely useless in stop-go traffic. Once in the open though, it felt a bit more natural, at least until it came time to overtake. If left to it's own devices, the command to kick-down for an overtake is faxed to the engine, to arrive with great delay, to the point where you end up pressing harder on the accelerator thinking maybe it didn't realize what was going on. Apparently this 8-speed box is a vast improvement over the older one but if that's the case I'm wondering just how bad the older one must have been. I mean this current generation one is so indecisive it spends a great deal of time hunting between gears. Far better is to use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel to force it down a gear - that's nearly instantaneous. And mercifully once in manual mode, after a short period of time the gearbox goes back to full auto (unless the shifter is in the "M" position).
The steering had three settings, which Dodge optimistically refer to as sport, normal and comfort. Those translated to vague, vaguer and vaguest. Compared to even the cheapest European runabout, the Charger's "sport" mode steering was sloppy and vague and to be honest there wasn't much difference between the three modes.
Oddly, there was a dedicated "sport" mode button in the center stack, which seemed to tighten up the gear ratios but didn't switch the steering to 'sport' mode - I had to do that three levels deep in the touch screen menu.
The brakes were pretty good - big-ass rotors with 4-pot calipers, and the feel through the pedal was not bad given the amount of power assistance in the way.
But again - driving it felt disjointed and awkward, not fluid and smooth like I'd hoped. I think some of this was down to the suspension. Calling it "choppy" is being kind. After five days of driving on regular roads with ruts and potholes, it was actually becoming painful and distracting to drive. Every small bump became a crashing, jarring punch in the spine.
I put a lot of these observations down to the car being a rental, but then I released it only had 900 miles on it, so it was basically brand new. It showed two previous Bluetooth phone connections and the registration document was dated 5 weeks ago so I was probably only the fourth or fifth renter.  
In the end I think they went 100% muscle, all-out for straight-line speed without a lot of consideration for turning, and I think THAT might be why it feels so bizarre to drive.


Markus said...

What tires were you on? Rentals tend to have "all-weather"-rubber which turns handling matters to the worse. Even more so with high-power cars.

Chris said...

They were likely whatever the stock tires are from the factory.