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.

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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

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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
4 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
4 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
4 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!

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
4 months ago

My LX experience is limited to rentals. I drove a couple Pentastar Chargers and was always rather astounded by how nice they drove, whether around town or on the highway. They just felt good.

Then in 2016 I got lucky at the rental counter and nabbed a Charger R/T. This was for a drive from Raleigh, NC to Atlanta, two weeks in ATL, and back to Raleigh. So I ended up putting about 1400 miles on the car. And what a car it was.

A great freeway cruiser of course. It went from quietly loping along I-85 in 4-cylinder mode delivering 30+ mpg to snorting and roaring with a little pressure on the throttle.

The Charger rose to the challenge when I was forced onto back roads by the eternal, never-ending, always-and-forever-amen construction on I-85 in the vicinity of Greenville, SC.

I discovered that, if a Charger R/T driver pulls out to pass a 45-mph semi on a two-lane road and mashes the go pedal, they will find themselves doing 95 mph by the time they’re in a position to wave to the truck driver.

Mariah Leight
Mariah Leight
4 months ago

As the former owner of 2 L- cars, a Mopar 12 Edition 300S (taken from me by a flash flood) and a ’15 Charger R/T (sold during COVID for what I bought it for 2 years prior since I felt it didn’t replace the feeling I had for my 300), I’ll miss them dearly and I hope to find a Hemi 300 for myself again one day. I feel like the 300 had something a little more special than the equivalent engine’d Chargers. I’d ideally find another Mopar 12 or a Varvatos Limited Edition. . . although I wouldn’t turn down a 392.

The nerd in me needs to point out though, David… The R/T AWD Charger existed in the “first gen” already, it wasn’t new for 2011. https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicle/700682772 Granted, it wasn’t common in the Charger. It was surprisingly common in the 300 and Magnum.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
4 months ago

I remember when I first noticed the Challenger on the road; it triggered something primal in my brain. I just immediately loved the way the car looked, it is American bad-assery turned up to 11. It’s platform-mates are also cool cars, but the Challenger really does it for me. Bravo, David, for a great write up on Christmas Eve!

Mike S
Mike S
4 months ago

Thanks for the great write up David. These are great cars. I too, fell in love with the Charger when they debuted. My first “new” car was a 2008 Charger R/T “Daytona” edition in bright “Hemi Orange” with the 5.7. It’s just a joy to drive even now 15 years and 75,000 miles on the odometer. This past summer I added a sibling to the stable, a 2018 Chrysler 300 S AWD with the Pentastar V6, and it is supremely comfortable with good looks and the ability to get out of its own way. I’ll keep these two forever.

Merry Christmas!

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
4 months ago

You can love em or hate em, but at the end of the day if you’re an enthusiast you have no choice but to respect them. Thanks for a great article on Christmas Eve, David! If we wind up needing more space once the little one arrives a V8 300 is high on my list of potential dad cars.

The Dude
The Dude
4 months ago

Can’t argue about respecting them – I’ve always really liked the Challenger and without a doubt would be my American coupe of choice.

Now the drivers on the other hand… That’s a different story.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
4 months ago

It’s already the morning of the 25th here in Australia, so Merry Christmas, Autopians!

Here’s some musings of mine on the LX/LD platform:

I was lucky enough to drive a 2010 300C SRT8 with the 6.1L for my 21st birthday, that beast gripped in corners so much better than I was expecting a big sedan to have any right to do so and the V8 had power to spare and it warps my mind that there are factory-built versions of the same engine with over double the power!

I’m gonna miss the 300C Highway Patrol cars we had here, the cops loved them and you could hear the V8s rumble through town as they left the station. I’ve had dreams of finding a crashed one at the local vehicle auction and swapping the V8 into an old Valiant.

I’ll never forget seeing a Challenger parked up in the old city centre of Antwerp when I was over in Belgium years ago. It stood out like you can imagine among the sub 2-litre economy cars and centuries-old buildings. I waited a moment to see if the owner would appear, imagining they probably looked like SWG or a member of The Prodigy to be rockin’ such a sweet ride.

I’m still salty we never got the Challenger when Ford and GM started selling RHD pony cars here in the past decade. A few have come in privately and were converted, but you never see them on the road like you do Mustangs or even Camaros here.

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
4 months ago

Yes they were big cars. Certainly not pony car sized like the Mustang and Camaro. But if you were around back in the day, Chevelles and GTOs, Road Runners and Chargers, Torinos. Muscle cars. Fun at the stoplight. Nothing wrong with that concept at all.

AverageCupOfTea
AverageCupOfTea
4 months ago

Always loved the 300, and that 2015 version with dark blue exterior is looking so good, i love the interior too.

Mike S
Mike S
4 months ago

I got a 2018 300S in July, god that interior is so supple and comfortable. Drove it 1200 miles round trip at Thanksgiving, it was great

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago

The eight-speed was a huge deal for Chrysler, allowing it to boast about a “best-in-class 31 highway miles per gallon (mpg)”

That 19/30 mpg drops to 14/22 on E85.

WOOF!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
4 months ago

“I’d already fallen in love with Ram after the third-gen 1500, with its imposing grille, made it impossible to resist.”

Gross.

“5.7-liter V8 pulled out of a full-size pickup truck (!)” As long as you know that’s not remarkable in the slightest. I think you do.

With my negativity out of the way, great article!
I really love the look and the performance of Challengers specifically. I never really liked the original designs, the ’15+ updated ones are much superior and entirely banish the “life’s fantastic made of plastic” mid-2000s DaimlerChrysler 3rd gen Ram aesthetic and the cross hair grille that didn’t particularly work on these. Facelifts almost always represent a microwave-reheating that significantly diminishes the ideal of the original design, but the 2015 facelift Challenger makes it look much more like the 1969 Challenger it was always supposed to emulate.

And, you know, you can’t beat RWD, big American horsepower, and a manual trans. Even automatics are cool in this kind of car, better launches and straight line speed and all that.

For all the parts bin remixing they did with these cars, I wish they had done more. Imagine a Viper V10 in a Challenger, a Hellcat v8 in a Viper, or of course a v10 Viper with the Hellcat supercharged treatment.

Also, I didn’t know they weighed 4000lb. That’s quite obese, there are many fullsize pickups lighter than that. Or maybe I should say thats quite obese by 2006 standards, a new Avalon is 3700lb, so that makes the Chargers weight pretty competitive in 2023.

Last edited 4 months ago by Rust Buckets
Clupea Hangoverus
Clupea Hangoverus
4 months ago

For European eyes the 300C was a refeshingly American Car, especially considering what Chevy was sending us at the time: Spark, Tacuma (do NOT look it up) etc. Not for everyone, but there is a certain audience for big bad rwd sedans with correct badge. Not korean econoboxes. And when it has to be a diesel, have the decency to fit it with the Merc V6, not the perfectly adequate 4-pot. Or some VM garbage (sorry David). Simple, sell US style cars for people that like them… like it had been done for a century (ok, at times a bit tough, but the image IS there). And then they decided to badge it Lancia, which was a dead brand walking – not even sold in some markets, at all. Unlike Chrysler WAS.

Personal experience: I was travelling for work, but decided to take some time off and rented a black on black Hemi in Vancouver. Drove up to Whistler and beyond. The sunroof was kept open most of the time, because of the sound. The exhausts melted the chocolates I tossed into the trunk. The infotainment started to beep ”off road driving” when driven on gravel in, shall we say, spirited manner. That must have been a rental exclusive feature… But one of the most memorable drives definitely.

AceRimmer
AceRimmer
4 months ago

I just had to look up that Tacuma. Gawd that’s awful! LOL

Cerberus
Cerberus
4 months ago

I’ve always been extolling the brilliance of these cars (even if the formula was nothing new, just apparently forgotten), particularly in their ability to appeal to such a wide range of people from enthusiasts to those who don’t really care about cars and even people like my tiny environmentalist-minded 20-something vegan cousin. They hit the base part of the brain we all have and even I, a fan of small lightweight vehicles that handle, think they’re great even if I don’t want to own one. And for the criticism they sometimes got for endless limited editions (a few of which I agree with in regards to the ridiculously overpowered ones), they had a lineup that fit a lot of bank accounts and desires from drag racers (or old guys cruising slowly to Sunday morning C&C) to people who just wanted a comfortable, larger RWD sedan with decent enough mileage for a reasonable price—a market to themselves—while offering enough personalization before leaving the dealer to stand out from all the other ones out there. For their ubiquity, they still somehow hold onto a bit of a sense of being special, which is a remarkable feat unto itself (it sure helps that so many new vehicles are just ugly 2-box eunuchmobiles that come in 3-4 different sizes and available from pretty much every OEM). Oh, and they also came in a wide array of actual awesome colors.

While the Camaro and Mustang were better all around performance cars, they largely missed the mark for mass appeal—instead of being an honest (and only) contender with broad appeal that embraced the OTT ridiculousness that made old school muscle cars so fun and cool, the other two took themselves way too seriously and tried to appeal to both muscle and sports car fans, largely failing, as borne out by the respective sales numbers (RIP, Camaro). As a sports car guy, I looked at the the other two multiple times, but kept concluding that they’re just too big and heavy for me, especially with the inherent compromises of such a car. For all their track handling capability on the high end models, they eat consumables too much for many track rats. For muscle car fans, I think they seemed too serious and cramped. Sad to see the LXs go.

Last edited 4 months ago by Cerberus
TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
4 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

I would argue that the Mustang has been extremely successful in a quest for mass appeal. There’s a Mustang for basically anyone that wants a coupe with extra (or extra, extra) power

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
4 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

The Mustang missed the mark and that is reflected in sales numbers? Have Mustangs 2006-2023 sold worse than other mustangs since 1970?

Anecdotally, I’d guess that the Mustang is the best selling sports car in my area.

ScottyB
ScottyB
4 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Mustang and Challenger flip flop for top sales over recent years, Camaro has been trailing in the distance for years now.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

Thanks for this deep dive DT. Looking forward to watching all the video parts.
Merry Christmas. Hope you’re feeling better.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago

Awesome article.

I’m glad the Demons and Hellcats exist. I love the idea of having far more power than the car itself can safely handle in a front-engine rear-drive configuration. I’d like them even more if they came in smaller/lighter/more aerodynamic packages, but fuel economy never was their focus, even if they got so much right on the whole for everything else.

Watching these cars tear ass out in the street is always a treat. I see people behaving very stupidly with them on a regular basis. They are frequently sighted in street takeovers with no tags or plates. The cops don’t even bother chasing them because they know they won’t catch them. Recently, one went airborne at triple digit speeds and smashed into a concrete wall at a park. It is unfortunate that the driver wrecked that machine. What a waste. But that’s part of the cost of the idiocy and general antics that come with the 350 credit score drivers of these cars around here, and it’s never a dull moment watching them tear ass around the hood.

A Charger Hellcat Redeye or a Demon 190 is on my list of possible dream cars, as is a 1st gen Viper, were I ever to have the spare money to justify frivolously purchasing them in addition to the necessary space to keep them(There ARE other cars ahead of them on my list, just to be clear).

We’re one fuel crisis away from these things possibly getting very cheap to purchase.

It’s unfortunate that the Viper never got an upgraded Hellcat treatment, also. Imagine the V10 tuned for even more ridiculousness. If there’s any car that deserved to be faster than a Demon 190, it is the Viper.

Last edited 4 months ago by Toecutter
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Good point about fuel crisis and cost levels of these dinosaurs. And ironic as I have spent several days on the web thing looking for something ridiculous and affordable. My first car was a 69 Super Bee in 74. With how much driving I actually do these days 6mpg is still affordable.

But now it’s time to start checking the prices in my neck of the woods.
Damn that DT guy.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“far more power than the car itself can safely handle”

People say things like this all the time and I don’t really understand what is meant by this. What determines the amount of power a car can safely handle? My 140hp Honda Accord and 190hp XJs have enough power to get you into trouble if you apply full throttle at a particularly bad moment.

Toecutter
Toecutter
4 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

This “far more power than the car itself can safely handle” is an amount of power that if not everything pertaining to the car’s powertrain/drivetrain/wheels/mounts is mechanically sound, catastrophic component failures could result. This car can reach freeway speeds(or more) from a stop in 3 seconds. If your brakes aren’t in their best shape, using it to even half its capabilities shouldn’t be considered, but in their best shape, will be sufficiently sketchy to induce butt puckering when used in a panic. I’ve ridden in Chargers much less powerful than a Hellcat, let alone a Demon, and they can get the operator and any occupants in a lot of trouble quickly. Then there’s the issue of the operator. Most vehicle operators would be incapable of using a Hellcat to half its intended capabilities without being a massive risk to themselves and others on the road. I’d include myself in that category. And I’ve read of things happening in the area pertaining to these cars.

Having that amount of power on tap really has an appeal all its own. It’s such a delightfully ridiculous machine.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

“I’ve ridden in Chargers much less powerful than a Hellcat, let alone a Demon, and they can get the operator and any occupants in a lot of trouble quickly.”

All that really says is they have far more power than some *operators* can safely handle.

The car’s chassis and driveline can handle the power. The real problem is when a lousy/unskilled/untrained driver gets behind the wheel.

That’s not a problem with the car.

That’s what I like to call a ‘defective user’ problem.

Last edited 4 months ago by Manwich Sandwich
Maymar
Maymar
4 months ago

I’m taking a couple of the pictures Ralph Gilles shared as tacit approval of keeping the splitter guards on, because the splitter guards are fine!

Also confused by the shifter boot on that one Magnum interior shot, because that wasn’t ever available from factory, was it?

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
4 months ago

Adding power worked for me. I didn’t care for these cars until they announced the Hellcat. Then I bought one.

Dolsh
Dolsh
4 months ago

In 2009, the Magnum died off

There’s an alternate universe out there where the Magnum lived on, and got the Hellcat treatment.

It was the only one of the LX’s that I liked…I just wish it lasted long enough to get the interior updates…and to maybe look like all the fan renders that are out there…

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
4 months ago

Rest in power to the MBZ w211 platform 2001-2023. Finally old enough to legally drink, and they go off and end my beloved.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
4 months ago

Never owned one, but rented a lot of them.

…they totally won me over. Especially the last iterations with AWD and the blackout S trims on the 300s…. not gonna lie, I still want one.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago

I’m mostly with you on this. The 300 I enjoyed, the Charger was okay as long as it had the newer (2011+) interior, but I could never really get into the Challenger. The Challenger was big on the outside, small on the inside, hard to see out of, and had none of the agility that the Mustang or Camaro possess. Literally every single time I got a Challenger for a rental I wished I’d gotten a 300.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
4 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Totally agree on the updated interior, once they did that all these cars were much better.

300 was my fav, and only had a Challenger once as a rental. It just so happened that I needed to get to the other side of Portland quickly for a meeting, which is what I told the rental car agent, then they handed me the keys to a black on black Challenger with a Hemi and said “I think this will do”.

I ended up being exactly on time for the meeting. 🙂

Last edited 4 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago

I could never stand that Dodge affixed the name Charger to the 4-door LX sedan. Even Ford, which pulls boneheaded moves all the time, didn’t sully its historic coupe names by turning them into sedans (although sticking the Mustang badge on an SUV EV is a disgrace).

The LX isn’t the worst car to carry the Charger name, that’s the ‘75-‘78 abominations. As a car, it’s actually quite fine. But not as a Charger. Hell, they didn’t insult Challenger fans by making it a sedan, why couldn’t they have come up with a different name? I mean, Coronet, Polara, Monaco, even some old Plymouth sedan badges were hanging out there. Or something new?

I don’t care how much horsepower these cars have, how many tires they melted, or how many donuts cops ate in them, I can never see these as Chargers.

Doesn’t make them bad, or me right, just the way I feel. So, I just can’t celebrate them. Not sorry they’re gone, won’t miss them or get nostalgic for them. That’s for a younger generation.

You made some great points about the fine qualities of these LX cars, but you’ll never convince me to call them Chargers.

But it’s Christmas, so no hard feelings. Have a wonderful holiday!

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I’m appalled that in 18 years’ of April Fools Days, Dodge never trolled people who complained about this with a 2-door Charger that would just be the regular sedan with two gaping holes where the back doors usually go, in the usual gamut of new-car publicity pictures showing a variety of trim levels and colors.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

That would’ve been great.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Charger name on a four door? C’mon now. That was and still is an insult to the name.
I fart in their general direction…

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Ford doesn’t put coupe names on cool sedans, but they did put coupe names on much-less-cool crossovers and FWD pickup things.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
4 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I get the Mustang Mach-E and agree that the new Maverick should’ve been the new Ranchero (being what the 1960 Falcon Ranchero would’ve evolved into if it hadn’t been sidetracked into muscle and persolux), but Maverick is only technically a “coupe name” since the 4-door sedan appeared for the ’70s car’s second model year and was probably part of the original design program.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
4 months ago

Even though I’d never own one, I always liked the Challenger; especially in hellcat widebody trim. As a wagon nerd I wish the Magnum stayed around for the refreshes but what always boggled my mind was why every brand in the Pentastar portfolio got a hellcat of some form except for the flagship Chrysler. It was right there!

Steve's House of Cars
Steve's House of Cars
4 months ago

As an owner of the “last call” 300C cars, and my wife a driver of an Challenger R/T 6M, plus a prior Scat Pack Charger and a Magnum R/T owner, I absolutely love this platform.

No, it doesn’t handle like our MR2 did, but they really aren’t that far off from any other similarly sized car I’ve driven. And they are excellent cars to drive daily. Extremely comfortable, practicle and even fuel efficient if you can keep your foot out of it.

It will be sad to see it go, I hope Stellantis can do something as an follow up that’s halfway as iconic.

STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
4 months ago

Fun fact: the LX is the only car that makes a double appearance on The Great Roster of Autopian writers’ rides.

Mark Tucker has a beautiful black V8 300C and I have a ’13 metallic brown 300C.

They are such underrated, beautiful cars. The best RWD sedan for the money/price point.

Last edited 4 months ago by STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
Goof
Goof
4 months ago

The most genuinely impressive thing Dodge/Chrysler did with the LX platform is they ensured there wasn’t a price umbrella for a competitor to sneak underneath.

It didn’t matter if you were spending under $30,000, or if you were spending over $100,000, there was a car for you. For the Charger and Challenger in particular, the basically turned it into the American muscle car equivalent of a Porsche 911, in that again, there’s a version of a 911 available for all kinds of buyers, at every price point.

This is the legit holy grail for car manufacturers. Very few have done it, and out of all the brands out there, Dodge/Chrysler actually pulled it off, and extremely well at that.

Well. Done.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago

Good to see your byline, David. I hope you’re feeling better, and want to wish for you a Merry Christmas full of warmth, love, and laughter.

STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
STEPHEN WALTER GOSSIN
4 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

TOSSABL really is a treasure of good vibes. This place is better off for them! Merry Christmas, homies!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago

Hey, you people do the work of entertaining us—the least we can do is help keep the mood light. Even if I do go on at times.
And a Merry Christmas to you & yours, Good Sir.

a thought: perhaps you could persuade The Bishop to work up a graphic of your secret lair festooned with lights for the holidays. I’m certain he’d have fun with that concept 🙂

Last edited 4 months ago by TOSSABL
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