Being a Native Floridian, I am proud to see a modern sedan named after a familiar city. The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona is a reference to Dodge's dominance at the historic track. The original Daytona was built to win the aero wars that were taking place at NASCAR's fastest tracks. The transformation involved adding a 23" tall rear spoiler and aerodynamic nose to the 440ci powered Charger R/T. The incredible advantage allowed it to be the first car to break the 200 mph barrier. NASCAR responded by banning the low production supercars and their Ford rivals.
Since the Charger returned as a sedan in 2006, we have enjoyed the power and value of the HEMI V8. But with Hellcat and Demon getting all the press, we honestly forgot about the venerable 5.7-liter. The bigger V8s get all the notoriety because of the higher output, but with exponentially less fuel mileage. We were glad to see our weekly test car arrived with the smallest V8 in the lineup. Because advances in the big brothers inevitably trickle down to lesser models. That is the case here, as the latest 5.7 has active cam timing and four-cylinder mode.
The Daytona package is aimed at value. It combines a host of popular interior and exterior upgrades under one line item. This keeps the dealer from gouging you on them individually. Black wheels and vinyl accents have proved to be very successful for the SRT models, but you will pay a premium for the 392 or Hellcat. Driving the Charger is just as rewarding as it always has. Visibility is great, and the ride is very comfortable. Building a strong chassis for the SRT cars, Dodge has relaxed the spring rates and sway bars on the regular production models. Try as we might, it took on ever pothole and speed bump with the grace and agility of a Mercedes. That's because the Charger rides on an evolution of the previous E-Class suspension, back from the Daimler-Chrysler days.
The black 20" wheels are beautiful, but it would be nice to have SRT Brakes behind the spokes. Another gripe is rear wheel drive. The police edition Chargers also have the 5.7-liter, but All Wheel Drive is standard. If it is rated for Law Enforcement abuse, why is it not available to the public? The Chevy caprice doesn't even have a civilian model, I guess we don't deserve it. The reason it needs all wheel drive can be demonstrated by your right foot. Going wide open from even a decent roll will have the skinny 245 rear tires screaming. Even with all the customizable suspension settings, cars of this weight and power are ridiculous on skinny tires.
The control interface is great. A sport screen allows the driver to customize the steering, suspension, and stability settings, which is something we wish every car had. The audio is from Beats, and the sound is clean. But the bass is more than the door panels can take, so they rattle at any decent volume. In all honesty, this could have been done by hooligans that had the car before us, and it's something a dealer could easily fix. The funky shifter looked straight out of an arcade. We know it has no physical link to the automatic transmission so it would be nice to use that space more effectively. Safety includes the latest in lane keeping, cross traffic, and forward collision warning. Things you might not expect are an adaptive cruise, LED fogs, rain sensing wipers and very comfortable lumbar seats. Rated at 25 mpg, the window sticker of $46,315 is a bargain for what you get. Dealer incentives along with a plentiful aftermarket will allow for years of fun without breaking the bank. See you in Daytona!