The 2012 Dodge Charger offers a broader selection of choices in its lineup with the addition of a new mid-level SXT trim and the return of the ultra-high-performance SRT8 model. The performance-oriented Charger continues its role as one of the last non-luxury sedans of its kind in the U.S. market to offer rear-wheel drive and V8 power. A new 8-speed automatic transmission offered on select models enhances both performance and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated fuel economy. The Charger's 292-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 370-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8 are joined by a new 470-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8 in the SRT8. All-wheel drive is a new option with the V6 engine.

The 2012 Charger continues to be a good used-car choice for the performance-minded driver who wants spaciousness and style in an affordable package.

What We Like

Fuel economy of 3.6-liter V6 with new 8-speed automatic; coupe-like styling; Hemi V8 performance; expanded all-wheel-drive availability; Uconnect infotainment system

What We Don't

Navigation is sometimes glitchy; front seats aren't supportive enough; Hemi fuel-saver mode is over-aggressive sometimes; steering could provide more road feedback

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The Charger SE and SXT feature a Pentastar 3.6-liter dual overhead camshaft V6 with four valves per cylinder and sequential, multi-port fuel injection. The Pentastar pumps out a healthy 292 hp and packs 260 lb-fit of torque. It's a flex-fuel engine that can use regular unleaded gas or E85 ethanol. It has an EPA rating of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the rear-wheel drive and the standard AutoStick 5-speed automatic transmission, or all-wheel drive and the new 8-speed automatic. Ratings improve to 19 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with rear-wheel-drive models using the new 8-speed.

The Charger R/T continues with a 5.7-liter OHV Hemi V8, which produces 370 hp and a robust 395 lb-ft of torque. It runs on regular unleaded. A fuel-saver mode allows the Hemi to switch to four cylinders under light throttle. Rear-wheel-drive models are EPA-rated at 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy, while all-wheel-drive Chargers get a 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy rating. V8 Chargers are only available with a 5-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shift control. No manual gearbox is offered.

The Charger SRT8 features a larger, 6.4-liter version of the Hemi V8 with 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Only rear-wheel drive is offered with the SRT8 and a 5-speed automatic is standard. Premium fuel is required. EPA ratings are 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2012 Charger comes in SE, SXT, R/T and SRT8 trims.

Typical SE equipment includes A/C, cruise control, cloth seats, a power driver's seat, tilt/telescope steering wheel, split fold-down rear seat, power trunk lid release, remote keyless entry, a 6-speaker Uconnect 4.3-inch touchscreen AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 decoder, USB and auxiliary input jacks, auto headlamps, LED tail lamps, 17-in alloy wheels, stability and traction control, ABS 4-wheel disc brakes, a 3.6-liter V6 with 5-speed automatic transmission, dual exhausts and power door locks, mirrors and windows.

SXT adds the 8-speed automatic transmission, fog lamps, heated side mirrors, auto A/C, interior overhead console, Alpine premium DVD audio with 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen and Sirius satellite radio, voice command with Bluetooth, auto-dim rearview mirror, power passenger's seat, driver's seat lumbar control, leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, heated front seats and remote start. All-wheel drive is an option.

Upgrading to the R/T adds the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 5-speed automatic, HID headlamps, a deck-lid spoiler, sport-contoured front buckets, Homelink garage door opener,18-in alloys and performance suspension and brakes.

The SRT8 drops in the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and 5-speed automatic, Brembo brakes, heated and ventilated front seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, Harman Kardon premium audio, 20-in forged alloy wheels, security system, limited-slip differential and drive-mode selector with adjustable suspension damping.

Popular options such as leather seating, heated and cooled cup holders, navigation, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, 20-in wheels, adaptive cruise control, a backup camera, blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning and more are available in option packages.

A Super Track Pak combines Goodyear Eagle F1 performance tires with larger anti-roll bars and performance shocks, steering and brakes -- as well as 3-mode stability control.

Pricing

The Charger's sporty styling and traditional rear-drive performance resonate with enthusiasts. Expect all-wheel-drive Chargers to command higher prices in the snowy Northeast and Upper Midwest.

To check the 2012 Charger's price range, see the Kelley Blue Book used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see models for sale in your area.

Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recalls for the 2012 Dodge Charger:

Headlamp wiring may overheat and disable the low beam lights.

A wiring defect may result in the seat-side airbags not deploying in a crash.

An overheated electrical wiring junction may cause the loss of stability control and anti-lock brake functions.

The 3.6-liter V6 may suffer connecting-rod bearing failure, causing the engine to seize.

The tire pressure monitor may underreport underinflated tires, leading to a loss of control or blowout.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

NHTSA rated the 2012 Charger at four stars for frontal impacts, and five stars for side impacts and rollover performance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 Charger a Good rating for moderate-overlap front-impact tests, side-impact tests and rear-impact tests.

The Chrysler Group covered the 2012 Charger with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty including roadside assistance, along with 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain and corrosion perforation warranties.

Dodge certified pre-owned (CPO) cars cannot have more than 75,000 miles and must be no more than five years old. Every CPO Charger undergoes a 125-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 3-month/3,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the car's original date of sale. Also included is a Carfax report, 24-hour roadside assistance, a car-rental allowance and a 3-month trial of Sirius/XM radio.

Other Cars to Consider

2012 Ford Taurus -- Ford's biggest car was all new for 2010 and continues to trump the Charger in interior and trunk space and 5-star safety ratings. A torque-sensing all-wheel-drive system is also available. But the Taurus can't match the sporty looks of the Charger.

2012 Chevrolet Impala -- While the front-drive Impala is more often found in fleets than personal use, the long-serving sedan continues to offer a comfortable ride and up to 30 mpg hwy. Its 6-speed automatic and 3.6-liter DOHC V6 are new for 2012.

AutoTrader's Advice

While the sporty looks and Hemi V8 sounds of an R/T might be enticing, the SXT and its 292-hp Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic offers a better balance of fuel economy and sensible transportation. Still, the enthusiast's choice is the SRT8, and is a good investment for someone looking to retain the most value. Rear-wheel drive is always more fun from a performance standpoint, but an all-wheel-drive Charger will alleviate traction headaches when winter weather comes. Look for a certified pre-owned Charger, if possible, and check with the dealer to make sure all safety recall items are resolved.

Find a used Dodge Charger for sale

author photo

Ron Sessions first plunged into automotive journalism to support his aging fleet of patina-rich Alfa Romeos and Volvos. He has since huddled with all four major U.S. auto enthusiast magazines, launched a 4WD adventure magazine, and penned a Nissan Z car coffee table book and three Camaro restoration titles. Ron resides near the Motor City.

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