Two big sedans. One platform. Very different styling attitudes.
We honestly could not pick which of these two full-size sedans to write about for this series, so we opted to do both. It makes sense, in this particular case, because the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 debuted at the same time and have each consistently appealed to different types of buyers. Whereas the Charger takes full advantage of its rear-wheel drive and optional V8 combination to paint itself as a muscle sedan, the 300 focuses more on refinement with more balanced performance, especially since the SRT8 trim was dropped.
The Charger and 300 were unveiled for the 2006 model year, both riding on the same LX RWD platform. They were replacements for the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler 300M and Concorde. The Charger revived a famous nameplate synonymous with the brand’s late 1960s and early 70s muscle car heritage, while the 300 was a modern interpretation of the classic Chrysler 300 Letter Series from the mid-1950s to mid-60s. The 2005 models, especially the 300, were dramatic departures from the styling of the sedans they replaced, thanks to bolder designs and a return to RWD. It was the end of Chrysler’s cab-forward design era. Beginning with the Charger, its front end design was, in a word, aggressive. It really did have a charging appearance.
The headlights were appropriately angled and menacing for an overall “in your face” look. Combined with certain exterior colors, such as “Top Banana” for the 2006 RT Daytona, the Charger was (and still is) often considered the poor man’s BMW 5 Series. Interior styling and overall build quality for both sedans, however, was disappointing. Remember, this was during the pre-Fiat Chrysler era when the automaker was owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Put it like this: there was a lot of cheap plastic throughout the interiors. The 300’s exterior styling, however, was not softened compared to the Charger, just different. Its large front grille, long hood and low roofline gave it sort of a retro look. A Chrysler was finally cool again.
Sales for both were excellent and a second generation was launched for 2011. Built on the same though updated platform, this is the Charger and 300 that are still on sale today, though both were refreshed for 2015. While their overall personalities were retained for the redesign, significant changes were done. For starters, each received a completely new body with new fascias and hoods. The Charger was also given sort of an indented side swoop from the front doors to the rear. As for the 300, it received bi-xenon projector headlights, new LED taillights, and an updated version of Chrysler’s so-called “winged badge”. It looks like the car you’d want to rob a bank with, assuming you’re a criminal. Elegance with a dangerous attitude.
Step inside and the new interiors are dramatically better thanks to soft touch plastics, improved ergonomics, and generally better build quality. It's amazing what happens when an automaker and not private equity fund actually owns and runs a car company. Under the hood, both come standard with FCA’s excellent 3.5-liter Pentastar V6 which produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque in the lowest trim. Both have optional Hemi V8 engines: the 5.7-liter with 363 hp and the 6.4-liter with up to 485 hp. The Charger also gets the supercharged 6.2-liter Hellcat V8 with a 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
Despite sharing an aging platform (seriously, the LX platform is nearly 15 years old), engines and gearboxes, as well as most other mechanicals, each sedan has a unique personality. FCA could have easily done a simple rebadging job and called it a day, but no. A serious amount of time and money was invested in both cars, particularly the second generation, in order to ensure the days of cheap badge engineering were forever over, at least for FCA. The result is a pair of big sedans that take us back to an era before crossovers. Without question the designs of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 appropriately suit them.
Compared side by side, it can almost be hard to tell, to the untrained eye, just how much mechanically they have in common. Combined with powerful engine choices and RWD (AWD is optional on both), the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 unapologetically make their presence known. While both will continue to be built for the next few years or so, beyond that we're not so sure anymore. A couple of years ago an FCA designer hinted to us early work had begun on successors, which would likely ride on the same RWD platform as the Alfa Romeo Giulia. However, given the fact cross-town rival Ford has put the brakes on the next generation Fusion, others could follow suit. We should appreciate the Charger and 300 while we still can.