Home » Badass For 18 Straight Years: How Chrysler Worked Hard To Keep The Dodge Charger And Its LX-Platform Mates From Going Stale

Badass For 18 Straight Years: How Chrysler Worked Hard To Keep The Dodge Charger And Its LX-Platform Mates From Going Stale

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“Long in the tooth,” “old hat,” “dated,” “lipstick on a pig” — these are the common terms car journalists throw at cars sitting on bones older than about eight years. And while some writers used those words to refer to the Chrysler Lx-platform during its twilight years, for the most part, sentiments towards the Charger, Challenger, and Chrysler 300 remained the same for almost 20 years: These cars are badass. And to pull off two decades of badassery is an incredible feat that we should all applaud, so here’s our little tribute to the incredible Chrysler Lx platform and the hard work Chrysler put into keeping it special for so long.

When the 2006 Dodge Charger came out, it changed the game for a lot of people, including me. I’d already fallen in love with Jeep after my dad purchased a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’d already fallen in love with Ram after the third-gen 1500, with its imposing grille, made it impossible to resist. But the final straw that turned me into a legitimate Chrysler fanboy, and someone who would go on to study engineering and work at Chrysler, was the Charger. To many, it was blasphemous — “A real Dodge Charger cannot have four doors!” the old-timers cried — but in my eyes, it was epic. Styled by the brilliant minds of Freeman Thomas (who had designed my favorite car of all time at that point, the Audi TT) and Ralph Gilles (a true legend who has penned more gorgeous Chrysler products than I can even mention), the Charger looked tough, was outfitted with a firebreathing 5.7-liter V8 pulled out of a full-size pickup truck (!), and as a rear-wheel drive muscle-sedan it could do burnouts for days.

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The Charger, its stately Chrysler 300 cousin, and its equally-tough-looking Dodge Magnum sibling showed the world that a new era, brought forth in part by the DaimlerChrysler merger, was here for Chrysler — an era that would continue on well beyond the Teutonic partnership. Phil Patton from the New York Times broke it down well in his article “From a Bad Marriage, Pretty Babies,” writing:

When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler a decade ago, predictions for the offspring — chunky German sedan meets lithe PT Cruiser — ran to cartoonish extremes. But the 300 hangs marvelously and daringly on the edge of cartoonlike excess, never quite succumbing. The 300 and its Dodge sibling, the Charger, combine American bravado with German solidity, just as the authors of the merger hoped.

The Charger and the 300 changed the definition of the American sedan with an influence as profound as that of the original Ford Taurus in the mid-1980s or the cab-forward Chrysler LH cars — the Chrysler Concorde and Dodge Intrepid— that helped to save the company in the ’90s.

One of the ideas behind the union was to join German taste and restraint with the sort of American exuberance and design vitality demonstrated by Tom Gale, vice president for design at Chrysler from 1985 to 2000, in creating the Prowler, Viper, PT Cruiser and LH sedans.

The rest of the article talks about how Freeman Thomas, Trevor Creed, and ultimately Ralph Gilles (who penned his farewell to the Lx-platform, whose production ended Friday after almost two decades at the Brampton, Ontario plant) were responsible for the iconic 300 and Charger designs — yes, it was already clear as of the writing of that article, May 27, 2007, that these cars were iconic, with the author writing about the DaimlerChrysler merger that “wins as big as the 300 and Charger are historic,” and going on to note that hip-hop figures had “endorsed the look.”

 

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Indeed they had. From the jump, the 300 and Charger were humongous hits, finding their way into driveways of rappers and politicians alike (Barack Obama famously owned a first-gen 300), in some ways bridging the gap between social classes by offering timeless style at a reasonable entry price (the 2005 Chrysler 300 and 2006 Dodge Charger started at about $23,000, which is about $35,000 today).

And it wasn’t just about the style; the 300, Charger, and Magnum were solid performers for their size, too. “The great American sedan reborn — with a little help from Mercedes-Benz” was Motor Trend‘s headline for its 2005 Chrysler 300 review, which discussed the vehicles’ Mercedes-Benz underpinnings, stating:

There’s plenty of Benz, mostly of the E-Class variety, in these large machines. The aluminum five-link rear suspension on all 300s is based on the E-Class design, but the 300 has a wider track and bigger wheels and tires, with a steel cradle in place of the E’s aluminum one. The 300’s 120-inch wheelbase is two inches longer than the E-Class’s and just one inch shy of the Mercedes S-Class’s. Its seating position is 2.5 inches higher than the 2004 300M’s, and its generous interior has lots of rear-seat legroom and headroom for six-footers.

Motor Trend was a fan of the 300’s driving experience, writing:

The car rides more firmly than a Mercedes E-Class (including the air-suspension-equipped models in the softer of its dual settings). Carving up mountain roads tends to be limited more by the perceived size of the car than by its dynamics. There’s moderate roll at turn-in, but the C remains poised as you push it, with mild understeer. The 300’s steering is a bit too light, but it’s also direct and precise. And the big brakes, aided by the optional ABS and brake assist but without the Merc’s electronic brake transfer nanny, are powerful, lending Germanic effectiveness without the electro-artificial feel. Chrysler has thoroughly tackled the noise problem prevalent on the old 300M and Concorde (you couldn’t hold a conversation with back-seat passengers) with a stout chassis and lots of sound deadening. Frame rails are composed of octagonal sections, and there’s liberal use of polyurethane foam throughout. The result is a sedan that feels exceedingly solid and runs quietly until you stomp the throttle to the floor. This car is perfect for an old-fashioned cross-country family trip, but it won’t get soft and unappealing when you get to twisty mountain or canyon roads.

Car and Driver liked the Charger when it came out for the 2006 model year, calling it a “keeper” in the headline, and continuing:

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We hammered our Charger around Virginia International Raceway and were surprised at the car’s balance and general neutrality…

…Brake feel is terrific…

Throughout, the Charger’s body motions remained as studiously supervised as a Vassar faculty party. The firmer optional dampers eliminated even the minor dive and squat we’ve noticed in the 300C. In fact, during an 800-mile two-stop blast from VIR to Detroit, the ride-and-handling trade-off proved nothing short of miraculous until we encountered Michigan’s Baghdad-quality potholes. Even then, the platform held as firmly and shiver-free as a bridge abutment, and no subassemblies rattled or squeaked.

Here’s Motor Trend‘s take on the 2005 Dodge Magnum, essentially the wagon version of the Charger:

It should come as no great surprise, considering its kinship to the Mercedes E-Class and the oft-praised Chrysler 300, that the 120-inch-wheelbase Magnum is a superb long-distance hauler. Surprisingly, however, it’s also relatively agile. Smooth, linear steering, a low center of gravity, four-wheel independent suspension, aggressive tire fitment, and solid structure give it an enjoyable alertness when the road turns twisty, heightened in RT trim. Although well mannered for a large wagon, the Magnum doesn’t move with the finesse of leading midsize cars.

Other outlets weren’t as thrilled with the vehicles’ rather tremendous two-ton girth, and indeed, as time would go on, this — along with interior quality up until Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne bought Chrysler and fixed the cabin plastics around 2011 — would be the go-to complaint from journalists through the years, but it didn’t matter. That’s because Chrysler knew its cars were fat, and instead of sweating too much trying to lighten them, the company just leaned into the heft by throwing in more and more power. In fact, when I attended a 2016 launch of a new Dodge Charger Pursuit police cruiser, I recall the head of the Dodge brand Tim Kuniskis making a joke about why the event was being held right there on Woodward Avenue — there are no turns!

Yes, he was joking about how Dodges are heavy and not the best handling, and he could joke, because nobody cared. Dodges were drag-racing, loud, burnout-ripping beasts, and they were cool whether they could navigate a hairpin or not, and the sales numbers proved it.

I know some of the people who work on the vehicle dynamics team at Chrysler, and what they did with the Charger, 300, Magnum, and Challenger (the two-door coupe that would come for the 2009 model year) is remarkable, but the truth is, Chrysler knew that its cars weren’t going to beat BMWs on the handling circuit — that’s not what these cars were about. They were unabashedly about two things: 1. Swagger and 2. Straight-line, neck-snapping speed. By being honest — and confident — about what these cars were, Chrysler was able to extend the life of the LX cars by simply pumping more and more cubes and more and more boost under that hood.

It was a combination of continued styling improvements and continued power upgrades that prevented the LX cars from ever becoming anything less than badass over their 19 year span. So let’s talk about those.

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The LX-Cars Just Got More And More Powerful, And That Was The Ticket

2014 Dodge Charger R/t With Scat Package 3

In 2005, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum came with three engine options: a 2.7-liter V6 making 190 horsepower through a four-speed automatic transmission; a 3.5-liter “High Output” V6 making 250 horsepower through a five-speed auto; and a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 making 340 horsepower through a five-speed auto. When the Charger launched for the 2006 model year, it came with the same engines, though shortly thereafter all three vehicles — the 300, Charger, and Magnum — received SRT-8 variants, which had 6.1-liter HEMI V8s putting out 425 horsepower through a five-speed automatic.

For reasons almost certainly having to do with emissions, the 2.7-liter base engine’s power dropped to 178 ponies starting in 2008, the same year that saw the debut of the Challenger Coupe, but only in 425 horsepower SRT-8 guise; this was the very first LX car to be equipped with a manual transmission. In 2009, the Magnum died off, and the Challenger received the 250 horsepower high-output V6 as the base engine and the 5.7-liter HEMI for the R/T trim. But now the Hemi was stronger than ever, making 360 ponies in the 300, 370-ish in the Charger, and 370/375 in the Challenger (five horsepower more when equipped with the six-speed manual).

Kokomo Casting Plant
Kokomo, (Ind.) – August 9, 2010 – Chrysler Group LLC’s Kokomo Casting Plant facility. (Joe Wilssens photo)

 

Chrysler Trenton Engine Plant
Chrysler Trenton Engine Plant, Trenton, Michigan

 

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Chrysler Trenton Engine Plant
Chrysler Trenton Engine Plant, Trenton, Michigan

Not much changed for 2010, but in 2011, things got real. That was when Chrysler started pumping the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 into pretty much everything, and that included the L-cars. This 3.6-liter V6, which debuted with 292 horsepower in the 300 and Charger (“63% more standard horsepower!” Dodge stated in its press release) and 305 ponies in the Challenger, would replace both the 2.7-liter and the 3.5-liter V6s (the final engines built at the Kenosha Engine Plant, which was then leveled and has sat as an empty field for over a decade now, ending an over 100 year-long history of auto manufacturing in the town) and continue on as the base engine for the 300, Charger, and Challenger all the way until their final model-year, 2023.

2011 also saw the death of the Charger SRT-8, but as Dodge highlighted in its 2011 press release, the all-wheel drive Charger R/T stuck around (it had been around since 2007). This model was special in that it paired a playful all-wheel drive system with the 370 horsepower HEMI engine, creating the ultimate snow-drift mobile. I know this, because I was an intern at Chrysler in the summer of 2012, and an intern got a Charger R/T AWD for the weekend, and he ripped humongous donuts and did incredible drifts in it. Honestly, I’m amazed we all weren’t arrested. I also remember from that summer that, when asked what his three favorite cars of all time are, CEO Sergio Marchionne responded (and this is a rough quote): “The Ferrari Enzo that I own, Audi RS6 Wagon, and the all-wheel drive Dodge Charger R/T.”

As for the 300, it would get a whole new look (more on styling changes in a bit) along with a slight horsepower bump for the HEMI — to 363 from 360. The Challenger, for 2011, got a huge horsepower bump for its SRT model, with the figure jumping from 425 to 470 thanks to the replacement of that 6.1-liter HEMI with a 6.4. The Charger would get this same treatment when its SRT8 variant (and the cheaper variant, the “Super Bee”) returned for the 2012 model year.

2012 Chrysler 300 Luxury Series

Speaking of the 2012 model-year, that’s when the eight-speed automatic joined the party. It was optional at first on the 3.6-liter in the Charger and 300 (which got all-wheel drive for 2012), though the Challenger kept the five-speed automatic on all three engine options — 3.6, 5.7, and 6.4 (it’s worth noting that the latter two offered a stick shift, but only in the Challenger). The eight-speed was a huge deal for Chrysler, allowing it to boast about a “best-in-class 31 highway miles per gallon (mpg) and best-in-class all-wheel-drive fuel economy.”

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For 2013, the Charger’s base V6 horsepower could be bumped from 292 to 300 if you got the “Rallye Appearance Group,” and then not a whole lot changed until 2015, when Chrysler went ape-shit with the L-cars. That model year, the 300 SRT died off, as did the V8 all-wheel drive versions of both the 300 and Charger. That was a sad loss. On the plus side, the eight-speed automatic became standard on all models, but more importantly: There was power. Lots and lots of power.

2015 was the year that Chrysler truly democratized horsepower. Forget the 292/370/470 power options, you now had a humongous range of power choices. There was still the 292 horsepower Pentastar (which was now quite quick thanks to the eight-speed, doing 0-60 in the low sixes, just a few ticks off from the 5.7-liter V8 mated to a five-speed when the car debuted in 2006), which jumped to 300 horsepower with the Rallye package. And there was still the 370 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI. But the 6.4-liter jumped up to 485 horsepower, and could be had not just as an SRT (called the SRT 392) but also as a cheaper R/T Scat Pack. The Challenger also got the cheap (the Charger and Challenger Scat Packs could be bought in the low $40,000 range) but absurdly powerful R/T Scat Pack trim, and in a manual, too. This amount of power at this low price is something that should not be overlooked, because the Scat Pack was a huge deal, and yet it’s easy to look past the Scat Pack because… The Hellcat had arrived.

Supercharged 6.2 Liter Hemi® Hellcat V 8 Engine Is Rated At 707

Slide 4 Engine Open

For 2015, both the Charger and Challenger could be had with a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI making 707 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic, though the Challenger could be had with the Dodge Viper’s six-speed stick. There had never been anything quite like them — two impossibly powerful, rear-wheel drive muscle cars that you could buy from your Dodge dealer for just $65,000. The cars set the world on fire, with designer Ralph Gilles inaugurating, in the most epic way possible, what would later become a nationwide symphony of supercharged fury:

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Things got even crazier in 2018, when the Challenger Demon debuted with 840 horsepower and the ability to literally lift its front tires off the ground during launch. The thing comes with a TransBrake, which locks the transmission to load up the torque converter, and then with a single release of a clutch: BOOM, zero to sixty in 2.3 seconds — the quickest production car ever. Yes, ever.

2018 Dodge Challenger Srt Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger Srt Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Yes, the 2018 model-year was an absurd one for the Challenger, with Dodge stating about the available trims:

The Dodge Challenger has the strongest model lineup in its history, ranging from the 305-horsepower V-6 SXT model to the high-octane powered 840-horsepower SRT Demon, and including Challenger GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker, T/A, SRT 392, SRT Hellcat and SRT Hellcat Widebody models in between.

Yes, the lowest trim made 305 horsepower, the ones in between made 370, 470, 707, and then the top-dog Demon made 840. Just wow!

The Demon went away in 2019, but was replaced by the Hellcat Redeye, which didn’t make 840 horsepower, but did make 797.  The TransBrake was gone, and so was the 2.3 second zero to 60 time (up to 3.6 seconds), but it was still a monster. The Hellcat also saw a 10 horsepower jump to 717.

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The Charger Hellcat later saw that 10 horsepower bump in the 50th Anniversary Daytona models in 2020, and from 2021 on 717 became the standard Hellcat horsepower for the Charger. In 2021, though, the Charger got a Hellcat Redeye variant of its own, with Dodge boasting an absurd top speed of 203 mph. That same year, the Challenger received a “Super Stock” Trim for its Redeye models, bringing horsepower up to 807. Then in 2022, Dodge offered a “Jailbreak” option for the Charger Redeye, bringing power up to that same 807 figure. This would later become its own Charger trim in 2023, joining the standard 797 Horsepower Hellcat Redeye and the 717 horsepower Hellcat, as well as of course the 300 HP Pentastar, the 370 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and the 485 horsepower 6.4-liter naturally aspirated HEMI.

What has the 300 been doing all this time that Challengers have been getting 707 horsepower Hellcats and 797 Horsepower Redeyes and 807 horsepower Super Stocks and Jailbreaks? Not a whole lot. It’s stuck with its 292/300 horsepower Pentastar V6 and a 363 horsepower 5.7-liter V8. That is, until the final model-year, 2023.

Bu023 287ev

The car that started it all also ends it all, with Chrysler writing its farewell press release:

the 2023 Chrysler 300C — returning to the 300 lineup after a two-year hiatus — honors the powerful legacy of its forbears by delivering 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque, acceleration of 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, a quarter-mile mark of 12.4 seconds and a top speed of 160 mph.

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One of my favorite quotes comes from Dodge’s CEO Tim Kuniskis via AutoGuide, who writes about future plans for Dodge and the Brampton, Ontario plant:

“It’s been a 20-year run of Dodge muscle cars, over 3 million vehicles and over a billion horsepower. Brampton built the Dodge brand”

Just absurd.

The Second Ticket Was Styling, Which Changed Gracefully Over The Years

2010 Chrysler 300c

Chrysler 300c 2005 1280 14

D2006 107high

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In the previous section, I didn’t even mention the performance packs, the addition of active exhaust, the addition of launch control, the addition of line-lock for maximum burnout-effectiveness, and all the other times Chrysler added performance to the LX-platform cars. What the company did to keep those cars fresh from a performance standpoint was a true masterclass in relevancy-retention, but just as much of a masterclass were the styling refreshes. The 2005 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum looked like what you see above, and in 2006 when the Charger joined the party, it looked like this:

D2006 188h

D2006 235hi

By 2008, when the Challenger got in on the fun, it looked like this:

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Challenger Launch 15
FESTIÑ05/08/08 Ñ Chrysler rolls out the new Challenger at the Brampton Assembly Plant, April 8, 2008.

2008 Dodge Challenger Srt8

Have mercy that Challenger still looks fantastic. Also in 2008, the Magnum received a styling update that would remain for just 2008, the model’s final model-year:

2008 Dodge Magnum R/t
2008 Dodge Magnum R/T. DG008_007MA

In 2011, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger both received major updates, with platform changes from “LX” to “LD.” With that came all new styling inside and out:

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All New 2011 Chrysler 300 Series Sedans

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2011 Dodge Charger R/t

Dg011 038ch

The interior update from the hard plastics of the MCM (Material Cost Management) days of DaimlerChrysler was a huge boon to customers and automotive journalists, whose only real remaining major gripe was the cars’ heft — again, a gripe that Chrysler battled by simply leaning into it and injecting more and more power.

2015, like I said in the “power” section of this retrospective, is the year that changed the game. The Charger went from what you see above to looking like this:

2015 Dodge Charger R/t

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2015 Dodge Charger R/t

The Challenger went from what you see above to looking like this:

2015 Dodge Challenger R/t Plus

2015 Dodge Challenger Sxt / R/t Plus (shown In Pearl/black) With

I’d be a fool not to give the “Hellcat Twins,” as they’d become known, their own little section, so here are the 2015 Charger Hellcat and 2015 Challenger Hellcat:

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2015 Dodge Challenger Srt Hellcat

2015 Dodge Challenger Srt Hellcat Sepia Laguna Leather

2015 Dodge Charger Srt Hellcat

2015 Dodge Charger Srt Hellcat (shown In Ruby Red Alcantara Sued

Even the 300 got some love in 2015:

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2015 Chrysler 300c Platinum
2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum
2015 Chrysler 300c Platinum
2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum

From there, the big changes happened to the Challenger in 2018, when the 840 horsepower Demon arrived, along with a widebody version of the 707 horsepower Hellcat:

From Left To Right: 2018 Dodge Challenger Srt Hellcat Widebody A
From left to right: 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon.
2018 Dodge Challenger Srt Hellcat Widebody
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody
2018 Dodge Challenger Srt Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

For 2019, the Charger GT and R/T got a snazzier-looking hood, and the Hellcat got a new grille, but the bigger change was that the 485 horsepower 6.4-liter Challenger R/T Scat Pack (on the right in the pic below) could now come as a widebody, which is shared with the 797 horsepower Hellcat Redeye (on left in the pic below) that replaced the 840 horsepower Demon:

Screen Shot 2023 12 24 At 4.19.28 Am

Then in 2020, the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Scatpack got widebody versions just like the Challenger:

Screen Shot 2023 12 24 At 4.11.39 Am

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Then Charger got its own Hellcat Redeye in 2021:

2021 Dodge Charger Srt Hellcat Redeye: The Most Powerful And Fas
2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye: The most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world with 797-horsepower shown here in Triple Nickel with Dual Carbon stripes.

For 2023, Stellantis has shown off seven of each of the Charger and Challenger “Last Call” special editions, which you can view here on MotorTrend‘s roundup of the 14 last-hurrah models. But the very last L-Car to come off that Brampton Assembly Line is a one-of-2000 limited-edition Chrysler 300C, a trim that hadn’t been available in a couple of years, but now returns for the first time ever with that same 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that’s been found in R/T Scat Packs and 392 Chargers/Challenger SRTs:

Chrysler Brand Is Commemorating The Nearly 70 Year Legacy Of The
Chrysler brand is commemorating the nearly 70-year legacy of the Chrysler 300 with the 2023 Chrysler 300C, powered by a 6.4L HEMI® engine with 485-horsepower. The 2023 Chrysler 300C was revealed on September 13, 2022, on the eve of media day for the 2022 North American International Auto Show.

I’ve Barely Even Scratched The Surface

Screen Shot 2023 12 24 At 4.37.54 Am

There’s so much more that needs to be said about the L-cars. About the wagon version (basically a Magnum with a 300 face) offered in Europe, about the Lancia Thema (also a rebadged post-2011 300), about the police cars offered in the U.S.:

858762grouppolicehighres

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About the Chrysler 300 SRTs that Australia used as police cars:

About the roles they’ve played in the Fast and Furious Franchise:

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About how the cars were fundamental to the establishment of Roadkill Nights, the absolutely BONKERS high-horsepower, smokeshow of an event held each year on Woodward Avenue outside of Detroit:

 

I could go on and on about all the little special editions over the years that I didn’t cover above, about all the small styling tweaks, about all the powertrain tweaks, about all the chassis tweaks, but this article would take you hours to read, and I look at the analytics data of this website enough to know that you all have 2-3 hours. But suffice it to say that all these changes over the years are what have kept this incredible platform fresh. At no point in the last 19 years has the LX/LD platform ever been anything less than badass, and that’s a hell of a feat for any automaker to pull off. And as you can see by all the iterations I mentioned and those I’ve been unable to mention: Chrysler, Fiat Chrysler, FCA, Stellantis, or whatever you want to call them did this through hard work.

All Images: Chrysler

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Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
3 months ago

I wrote a little blurb for this piece, but David didn’t use it since it already ran so long. Luckily, I can post it here as a comment…

When Chrysler introduced the LX-platform cars, I knew it wouldn’t be long before my dad owned one. He was a Mopar guy from way back, as was his father, as was his father, and the announcement of a new rear-wheel-drive full-size Chrysler made Dad’s eyes light up. And sure enough, in 2006, I came to visit and found a brand-new sage-green Chrysler 300C with a 5.7 liter Hemi in the garage, in the spot recently vacated by a four year old Ford Escape. Quite an upgrade, to be sure, but I didn’t really “get” the appeal of the 300 then. It seemed like exactly what it was: an old man’s retirement gift to himself.

In 2014 he replaced it with a new LD-platform 300, this time a black John Varvatos edition, with a Pentastar V6 under the hood. Dad drove that one for almost a year, and the most frequent adjective I heard him use to describe it was “underpowered.” How can a car with nearly 300 horsepower possibly be underpowered, I wondered? Once you go Hemi, there’s no going back, apparently. He barely had the new car broken in before trading it even-up for a 2013 300C John Varvatos with 15,000 miles – and the Hemi.

Dad’s been gone for a year now, and that 300 now lives in my garage. It has just a little over 70,000 miles on it, and climbing fast. I drive it 50 miles round-trip to work every day. And I get it now. It is, to put it plainly, one hell of a car. There are faster cars, and better-handling cars, and better-built cars, but that 300 just feels right. It’s confidence-inspiring, and the horsepower and torque from that 5.7 liter Hemi are addictive. (I can’t even imagine what the more powerful versions are like, honestly.) It’s got great seats, a great stereo, and I love the look of it, with all the blacked-out trim, hunkered down on those big 20 inch wheels. It looks just a little sinister, but approachable, as if it’s saying “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go.”

Dolsh
Dolsh
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

There was a John Varvatos edition of the 300?? Had no idea. (And I’m not sure it’s a fit really)

Stephen Walter Gossin
Stephen Walter Gossin
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

This is such an awesome write up, Mark. Couldn’t have said it better than how you nailed it in the last paragraph. Bravo, my dude!

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
1 month ago

I love the recently departed last gen Charger. It looks fantastic, it’s fun to drive and quick in any engine configuration, not too big / not too small and came in cool fun colors. I could never own one sadly, as in my neck of the woods it’s driven almost exclusively by the worst kind of people behind the wheel, with driving antics to match, bolstered by irritatingly loud exhausts with crackle and pop feature. Thanks for ruining a great car for me D-Bags!

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
3 months ago

There have been 4 LX/LC/LD cars in my family.

My dad was the first when he bought a brand new 2012 Challenger SRT392. It was his retirement dream car that he got. Loved that car, the power was intoxicating.

Soon after, I purchased a used 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT8. It had 99K miles on it when I bought it. I still have it, the longest car I’ve ever owend. It’s currently at 233K miles on it. I’ve done a 300CSRT8 front end swap (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEjNnp-jayc), did my first full vehicle wrap on it.

My dad was rear ended in his Challenger and it was totalled, so it was replaced with a 2022 Challenger R/T Scat Pack.

And last June I took delivery of a Bright White 2023 300C. Having that 300C exterior with the bigger 6.4L Hemi is amazing. Love this car.

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
3 months ago

Great eulogy for the Lx-platform. I loved the Magnum when it came out. I even built the model kit version and painted it bright orange. I remember seeing a few with the 300 front end swapped on, and they looked good too.

My cousin bought a first year Charger, and while the interior was crap, the exterior was sharp. I don’t remember it having any problems in the 10 years before it was killed in a flood.

I might be in the minority, but I always preferred the Charger over it’s 2-door sibling. It was such an American machine. Big and fast. Also, Scat Pack is one of the best factory options. Give the people what they want.

Chi_spotting
Chi_spotting
3 months ago

I’m gonna miss seeing these beasts on the road. I almost want to throw caution to the wind and just get a Hemi Charger. Doesn’t have to be a Hellcat, I just want the last hurrah of the *American* V8 sedan.

Last edited 3 months ago by Chi_spotting
TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
3 months ago

Goodbye to one of my favorite series of cars ever to drive that I also never owned.

I worked for Farmers Insurance as an adjuster in 2006 and had the good fortune to get a Magnum as a company car. It had the 2.7L and was slow, but man was that car a comfy place to spend your day in.

Next experience was a 300 as a rental when I went to interview for my MBA program.

After that, when I ended up with a job with significant business travel the Charger/300/Challenger became my go-to’s on the rental aisle. I’ve probably driven a dozen of them over the years. With the Pentastar and the 8 speed they were always plenty quick, efficient enough for the accounting department, and comfortable for long drives.

I’m not sure what I’ll gravitate towards on the aisle now, but it won’t have the same swagger.

Martian
Martian
3 months ago

I remember reading or listening to a piece on best 4 door sedan. The sentiment then was Chrysler 300. This I got one! 156K miles and 10 years later and while sitting in it at Starbucks (right now) I reflect on it being the best sensible vehicle purchase (excluding Mustangs) I’ve made. Preceding the 300 was my ’06 Charger R/T. I miss that car! And I’m at the point where I’m thinking about buying a new car, and just wish my 300 was mint. Is buying a new 300 a smart move given the age of all things 300? How about given the industry is changing? And it looks timeless to me, but will it in another 10? – Conflicted

Turbeaux
Turbeaux
3 months ago
Reply to  Martian

I think the 300 has been handsome since the first generation, but all that matters is if it still looks good to you in 10 years. If by industry changing, you mean electric cars, that would push me even more to get a big V8 before they’re gone. There’s no replacement for displacement.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
3 months ago

“Other outlets weren’t as thrilled with the vehicles’ rather tremendous two-ton girth'”

Check the curb weight on a current compact BMW 3 series AWD and get back to me.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
3 months ago

This is not a segment I normally have a lot of passion for, and honestly, big V8s aren’t something I usually get hot and bothered for. Yeah I like speed, and sound. But that’s not usually the thing I look for most in cars.

I’ve always liked the Charger/300/Challenger/Magnum though. They just look right. They have a rare presence to them that you don’t usually get in a fairly affordable sedan. They bring a specialness to the table that all other automakers abandoned with their sedan options.

Those early interiors were an absolute horror show of nasty, hard plastic. Not a fan of that. But once Sergio showed up and deemed those interiors unfit for human consumption, the refreshed interior really did bring these cars to a place were I genuinely considered a Charger for a time. I know most of you here probably extoll the virtues of the V8s, but I actually found the Pentastar V6 motivated Charger to be perfectly acceptable when I drove it; a reasonably practical large family sedan with actual style and character.

Anyway, they will be missed.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
3 months ago

I feel like the designer of the Charger originally had the Coronet in mind, thinking they’d do a Charger as a 2-door, then they used the Charger name and the dude was like, “aw c’mon”. Then they come out with the Challenger 2-door and he’s really like
“Aw C’mon!”

Then they spent almost 20 years trying to make the Charger sedan look like the concept coupe, meanwhile the Challenger went fairly unchanged. Then they say the next one will be an EV…Charger, and it looks pretty much like the Challenger, and the guy’s like “Seriously WTH!”

Just noting it speaks to the marketing/naming department giving the designers a heads up before saying just give us a cool looking sedan, and then having to update bumpers and tail lights every 5 years to try and make it look like what you named it, including making it look like a Koi Fish at some point? and 18 years on it still doesn’t.

I actually like the 1st gen Charger look the best, boxy but also kind of leaner looking, interior definitely could use some love like any of the Daimler-era stuff, but the exterior look I like better. The new ones it’s like a pinched grill and the Vegas rear-end don’t really fit on the long sedan body.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
3 months ago

Even knowing their age, it only occurred to me as I started reading just how long it has been in production especially in the outgoing generations – lengths of time more often seen in truck/SUV segments. Other Chrysler products ran less time yet aged more quickly even with some nips and tucks along the way, I’d say any of the FWD ones whereas any RWD products held up well. Even the current Durango, one I forget they still make and always in the shadow of its Jeep cousin, but doesn’t seem 13 years old.

C/D had a comparison of large sedans with a 3.5 300 when it was new (a bit hard to read in the archived version) where it placed 2nd of 6. It was primarily let down by the interior and amenities especially as a more basically equipped Touring, but I could see it being first in a redo of the same comparo after 2011 with the new generations of each entrant.

Alec Rosenbaum
Alec Rosenbaum
3 months ago

This is an incredibly well written article and as you said, just barely scratches the surface. I’ve worked at a CDJR dealership since 2012 and driven countless of these cars. They are still great cars and the platform aged very well. I drive and inspect many non Stellantis cars as well as I’m in the collision center and we get lots of other cars to repair also. So I’ve compared them to lots of other vehicles. Yes, the 300/Charger/Challenger have some faults and shortcomings, but are some of the best engineered mass produced cars out there.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago

Great writeup. I’ve rented Dodge Chargers and even in 3.6L V6 form, I found them to be more than fast enough, smooth, decently efficient and they ride/handle well.

The people who say they don’t handle are the ones who haven’t driven one.

No they aren’t like Lotuses, but they handle way better than your typical mass market CUV and even better than my own Honda Fit Sport (which is no slouch in terms of handling either).

The LX cars are a great example of how just because something is ‘old’ doesn’t mean it’s bad or outdated.

The real issue with the LX cars was the platform wasn’t designed for any sort of hybrid or electric powertrain.

Combine that with tightening CAFE/emissions/CO2 standards and you have the real reasons the LX needed to be replaced with something newer.

But for what they are/were, they are great even by current standards and way better than the Ford Panther body cars.

NDPilot
NDPilot
3 months ago

The only new car I’ve ever owned was a 2009 Challenger R/T, easily the best driving vehicle I’ve ever owned. I drove it cross country several times and I loved every mile of it. Sadly I had to sell it after 5 years of ownership, I hope to justify the purchase of another Challenger or Charger while they’re still relatively fresh in the used car inventory.

Christopher Glowacki
Christopher Glowacki
3 months ago

Sadly my only experience owning an LX car was a 2010 Charger SXT with the 3.5V6 in gunmetal grey bought used at 2 years old. Wouldn’t have been able to afford a V8 R/T or 300C. Still ended up being a solid car for 4 years, nice to drive, enough grunt to get out of its own way. Little real sensation of speed though. Car just seemed to glide effortlessly so you could easily hit 90 and you might think you were doing 60. Would love a R/T shaker hood Challenger or V8 300C but at this point such a thing probably highly unlikely.

DDayJ
DDayJ
3 months ago

As an enthusiast you have to love these. At a time when everyone was cranking out 2.0 Turbo I4s with FWD, Chrysler just said “nah” and gave us high HP, RWD, V8 power. It went against everyone else and I loved them for that.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
3 months ago

The Magnum was not the wagon version of the charger, it predates the Charger. I had a 2005 Magnum RT, one of my favorite cars despite the cheap interior. It was fun to drive and had a ton of room. That was followed by a 2015 Charger RT and then a 2019 Charger Scat Pack. They truly were the last of the muscle cars. Big brutes with questionable handling, not like the much more refined Mustang. The Scat Pack had tons of torque and could melt tires quickly. It was a ton of fun to drive. It really compels you to drive like an idiot, the song from that 392 was something special. Amazingly I could manage almost 25 mpg highway down I5 to Los Angeles but my normal combined mileage was 13. I sold it during the pandemic for a lot more than I bought it for.

Last edited 3 months ago by JaredTheGeek
OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

Count me among the people who appreciate the 300C. Admittedly, most of my experience was with the S rental spec, but there was almost always one available when I rented and they were a comfortable way for me to get around and carry customers and co-workers. They are reasonably attractive, powerful enough even with the 6-banger, and big enough to carry some luggage and passengers comfortably. There is reality to the goodness of the big ol’ American sedan.

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