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Hazardous Ride 

by Clint Burgess & r & To be successful in today's automotive industry, manufacturers have to walk a fine line between vision and practicality. If the products are too forward or too backward, a company can have unprecedented success or miserable failure. While the recent woes of once mighty automakers like Ford have companies opting for the safer side of the road, Dodge has put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, with its latest incarnation of the classic '60s muscle car, the Charger. It has been on hiatus for years but makes a triumphant return in 2006 - could that have anything to do with the vintage model's revival via the just-released Dukes of Hazzard movie?


The Charger may seem like a contrived concept to capitalize on the hit-and-miss business of nostalgia vehicles. If Dodge wanted to turn a quick buck and be done with it, they could have. But that isn't the case with this car. It is easy to see upon inspection that designers took time to put everything in its right place to make the Charger more than what consumers might expect. To start, the base model's suggested retail price is $22,995. That is the price for a fully functional, 21st-century hot rod. The base model comes equipped with 250 horsepower V6 that is not for the faint of heart. Compared to other mid-priced sedans in its class, there is nothing that comes close to the Charger when it comes to power.


It is easy to draw the parallel between the Charger's burly brawn and its target buyer. While the car does exude the build of the classics of yesteryear, it is refined in all the right places. For most drivers the standard V6 will suffice, but if you really are looking to blow the minds of the neighbors and the guys at the office, then there is no other choice than the Charger R/T. Horsepower is increased significantly with this model weighing in at 340 horsepower, compliments of a V8 Hemi engine. Burning rubber doesn't even begin to describe it. The horsepower combined with its stunning design is worth the base price alone.


If you put aesthetics aside, the Charger still lines up nicely against the competition. Imagine satisfying the gearhead inside with a car that looks and performs like few in its class. And as ridiculous as it may sound, this car is perfect for hauling the family around. The interior design is very similar to its cousin, the Magnum. An extra long interior complemented by a wide wheelbase allows for maximization of space and comfortable seating for five. Leg room is abundant in the back where it is often overlooked, and the quiet interior provides a controlled environment to enjoy the state-of-the-art sound system. Even the small things like aluminum trimming on the interior accessories adds a subtle retro feel without going overboard with an ill-fated scheme.


The '60s incarnation of the Charger, and more specifically the General Lee from the old Dukes of Hazzard TV series, captivated audiences across the country with its plutonium orange paint job and Confederate stars and stripes. The movie has added additional interest in the Charger, but it's safe to say the General Lee didn't come equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, computerized traction control, a leather package or, as Dodge puts it, "massive amounts of torque." This Charger may be the perfect blend between bad-boy muscle car and souped-up family sedan. Or it may be a good excuse to wrap your unconventional self-image in something that comes a little closer to the extremist lurking inside.

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