2006+ Dodge Charger
Okay, let's get this out of the way right off the bat: As Motor Trend put it, Enough about the four doors, already. While the so-called "purists" are still bellyaching that the latest incarnation of the Dodge Charger doesn't look almost exactly like the original, Dodge has moved past that and isn't going to look back. And frankly, I don't think they need to: they've created a good-selling, profitable vehicle that has improved over time and has established itself as a really good performance sedan in a traditional American mold.
There, I said it.
The Charger was always something of an oddity for the retro trend, eschewing the temptation to hew closely to the original "look and feel" of a classic car, and instead performing an almost complete reimagining. Hard to tell if it was a risky proposition or not at the time. The Prowler hadn't, arguably, met with resounding success, and neither had the new Ford Thunderbird. The new retro-styled Ford Mustang was only in its first year or so of sales, and the new GTO, itself a not-terribly-faithful rendition of the original was also meeting with disappointing sales. So, what to do with a classic muscle car from the past: make something of a modernized clone or go off in a totally new direction? Either way had its pitfalls.
Well, I for one think they got it right.
I should probably mention that the original Charger was never one of my favorite muscle cars. I much preferred the Road Runner (at least the initial offering), Mustang, and AMX, despite my Car Lust compatriots' obvious disagreement on that score. My favorite from the early days is really the '66-'67 Charger: I've always thought those years looked rather stylishly muscular, more suited to the road course than the drag strip. That and my hip young aunt from California had one. I also never watched The Dukes of Hazzard so never developed a fondness for the General Lee (or its latter-day incarnation in The Fast and the Furious). I certainly had respect for the model, but it's fair to say I don't have much of a dog in this fight.
So when I heard a new Charger was coming out with four doors, I wasn't automatically disturbed. Matter of fact, I was quite intrigued by the idea. I have kind of a thing for full size muscle: note my adoration for the Marauder, both the old '60s version and the newer one. I dunno, there's something elegantly menacing about a big, 4-door sedan with healthy load of oomph under the hood. Nasty but still classy, ya know?
And for the most part, I think they did a pretty fair job with the new Charger. If you're going to make a muscle car out of a sedan, you'd better make it at least a wee bit aggressive and that they did. In its native black color it looks something like a panther on steroids: high back haunches, bulging wheel arches, and slanted glaring headlights. Performance-wise, it was up to snuff, based on the Mercedes E-Class chassis, up to a 6.1L Hemi -- a Hemi! -- and the handling, though not quite up to European sport sedan specs, was generally regarded as more than adequate for such a large car. About the only real deficit has been a sub-par transmission and cheap interior materials, both apparently rectified somewhat in the 2011 iteration.
Truth be told, however, I'm not here to provide a detailed performance review; my aim is really to highlight what I think is a legitimate success story that many would not have expected. True, Chrysler had already seen success with the 300 and Magnum and word has it that the Charger was already designed and ready to roll before the moniker was applied. We Americans love our big, beefy V8 rear-drive cars, and those were getting pretty sparse on the landscape. The Magnum and 300 showed that there was a market niche for such vehicles that didn't automatically include the AARP set. Younger people could get a nice, powerful 4-door muscle car as an upscale 300, a family-and-cargo-friendly Magnum -- why not toss in a somewhat downscale and more aggressive version of the 300 to appeal to the middle-management crowd as well? You could get the room and convenience of four doors without appearing geriatric. And it's sold well and produced a profit, which is really, IMO, the main criterion for judging the success or failure of a car (though certainly not the only one).
So yeah, let's just stop with the four-door nonsense; it's not 1968 anymore and we ought to be celebrating the return of a fine nameplate on an altogether spectacular car rather than obsessing about the number of doors it has.
And besides, at least it's not, well, you know. . . .
Credits: Top photo is from Wikipedia, and the two lower photos are from SeriousWheels.com.