Test Drive: Dodge Charger Daytona 392 a wolf in wolves' 'cool' clothing

Test Drive: Dodge Charger Daytona 392 a wolf in wolves' 'cool' clothing

September 9th, 2017 by Mark Kennedy in Business Around the Region

The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona is a head-turning muscle car.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Dodge Charger interior features black leather seats and a simple, functional gauge cluster.

The Dodge Charger interior features black leather...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Tell your wife you're shopping for a new family sedan, and then come home driving this banana yellow Dodge Charger Daytona 392.

Before she can nix the deal, swiftly make your pitch.

Point to the Dodge Charger Daytona's four doors and its roomy back seat: "See, hon."

Highlight its seat heaters for those chilly mornings in the middle-school car line: "Cool, right?"

Gesture to the bright yellow paint and point out that it's a passive safety feature: "Gotta protect those babies."

Then, assure her that this is the perfect family hauler: safe, comfortable and capable of great speed in case of an emergency like a broken bone or a fast-moving hurricane.

Fast facts

Model: Dodge Charger Daytona 392

Exterior color: Yellow Jacket

Interior color: Black/Brazen Gold

Engine: 6.4-liter Hemi V-8

Horsepower: 485

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

Local Dealer: Crown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram

Price (as tested): $48,275

Then, if she reluctantly says "OK," jump inside the Charger, stomp on the accelerator, emerge from the tire-smoke cloud and race back to your Dodge dealer to cement the deal.

The new-for-2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 is the perfect middle-age plaything for people who want the full, muscle-car experience without the scary power numbers of the more expensive Dodge Charger Hellcat (707 horsepower) or the insane, 840-horsepower Dodge Charger Demon (passenger seats optional).

After a few days in our Yellow Jacket tester, we still haven't gotten tired of the looks and giggles this car elicits. Driving it would provide excellent shock therapy for introverts. Tickle the gas pedal with your right foot and the 485-hp Hemi V-8 in the Daytona 392 roars to life.

Our factory tester has a list price of $48,275, which makes it one of the most cost-efficient, fun-mobiles you can imagine. Fuel economy is about what you'd expect from a heavy modern muscle car, 25 mpg highway and 15 mpg city.

STYLING AND FEATURES

The Dodge Charger Daytona 392, unlike its coupe cousin the Dodge Challenger, has the dimensions of a family sedan. Back-seat legroom is immense with easily enough room for three adult passengers in the back.

Still, the Charger Daytona 392 is definitely designed for "business on the inside, party on the outside." The exterior design of Charger Daytona is a riot of muscle car cliches: garish yellow paint, Hemi graphics, menacing black 20-inch rims and a hood scoop. Taken together, all these design elements are eye magnets that make the Daytona one of the most attractive cars we've ever driven — meaning it attracts maximum attention.

By now, the Dodge styling cues are familiar to most car lovers: the rounded, honeycomb grille; the prominent ground effects and exaggerated rear shoulder line. Except for a small Daytona badge embedded in the grille, there's little to distinguish the Daytona 392 from more sedate trim levels.

The Daytona comes with a generous array of standard equipment including a 180-mph speedometer (dang!), steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, and 8.4 inch telematics screen with Chrysler's excellent Uconnect interface, Apple Carplay and Google Android.

Under the hood, there's 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that can propel the big sedan from zero-to-60 mph in about 5 seconds. The Charger has an 8-speed automatic transmission and Brembro high-performance brakes.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

While the Charger Daytona 392 has the will to thrill, it's also a comfortable car to drive softly. However, its full-throated exhaust note is ever-present, like a loud kid who just can't remember to whisper in the library.

But the Daytona's combination of show-stopping visual pretense and high-performance engine means that you have to be ever vigilant to avoid attention from speed enforcers.

Even a trek to the store for a loaf of white bread becomes a load of giggles as the big V-8's exhaust crackles and pops; sounds I hadn't heard in a production car since I last drove a Jaguar F Type. Meanwhile, other motorists will either be delighted or annoyed by the Daytona's exhaust sounds; either way, the feedback is entertaining.

Our tester comes with a $895 Driver Confidence Group that includes blind-spot and cross-path detection, heated mirrors, and special high-intensity headlights. Grippy P Zero summer tires are a $595 option, and Uconnect with navigation bumps up the bottom line by $695.

BOTTOM LINE

The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 is a grand compromise between the no-frills, bargain basement Chargers and the monsters of horsepower like the Hellcat and Demon that belong at the track.

There's nothing on the road, save perhaps a Mazda MX-5 Miata, that delivers this much fun in this price range. And remember, like Disney World, the Dodge Daytona 392 is fun for the whole family.

Right?

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.


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