COAL Update (Part 2): 2023 Dodge Charger GT – In With The New

I knew the day was coming for a new car.  I am not getting any younger, and knew that I needed to do something sooner rather than later if I expected to have a car paid off by the time I decided to (really) retire.  I also knew that I was really unenthusiastic about the current crop of new cars out there, so I kept putting off getting serious about replacing something in the aging JPC fleet.  (I guess that sentence works whether we think about the aging fleet or the aging JPC).

I see the current crop of cars as reminiscent of, say, 1981.  And yes, the SEO tool says that I have started each of the previous sentences with “I”.  But unlike most of life, this little essay is all about me, after all.

In 1981 automakers struggled to meet stringent new fuel economy regulations, so that many vehicles with tried-and-true powertrains were replaced with new ones designed to hit CAFE targets.  Electronics were more complex, gearing was more about hitting an EPA target than about the way the car drove, and most everyone made do with smaller, peakier engines that lacked the generous torque of the larger cars I had grown to favor.  We are seeing similar things today.  Do you want your four cylinder engine to come with or without a turbo, sir?

I had concluded that I was all but certain to choose a Mazda CX-5, a vehicle that has obtained the seal of approval of several CC contributors and commenters.  It is an older design and has continued to use a traditional automatic transmission instead of the CVTs that have become so common.  I wasn’t so much enthusiastic as resigned.  A 4 cylinder crossover that was not small but not big is not something in my automotive happy place.  Practical, yes – but it would have been the most common new car I had ever chosen and would involve more trade-offs than ideal.  Then, two things happened.

First, Marianne has found it increasingly difficult to get in and out of our Sedona because of its high floor, and most of our local driving together had been in the old Honda Fit.  So, maybe my next new car needed to be a sedan.  This was good news for an inveterate bargain shopper such as yours truly.  But the current crop of sedans enthused me even less than the current crop of SUVs and crossovers.  The second thing that happened was Aaron65’s new car.  A bright neon GREEN Challenger was never the kind of thing I had ever thought about.  But when he wrote it up, he said something quite surprising to me – that these leftover 2023 Challengers and Chargers are some of the best new car values going.

I mentioned Aaron’s car at home, but my finance committee suggested that something with 4 doors would be a wiser choice.  Which turned out to be a great idea, because the selection of leftover new 2023 Chargers was significantly higher than was the case with Challengers.  Which I learned when I was noodling around on TruCar and got a call from a dealer in southern Indiana who had over 30 of them.  I saw the deep discounts from sticker on those cars, but realized that I had never actually driven a Charger.

I started looking locally and found this one – a GT model (one up from the base SXT) with all wheel drive, and with markdowns similar to the ones I had seen online.  Marianne and I went up to look at it.  She found it easy to get in and out of, so one (very important) box was checked.  Next, I really loved the way it felt and drove.  There are two things in a car that really irritate me – a flexy structure and and engine/transmission combo that shouts its shortcomings with great frequency.  This car passed those tests.  The body felt solid as a rock, and the car surprised me at how smooth and quiet it was.  And then there was the powertrain.

A good powertrain should be like a good English butler – it does its job with dispatch, and never calls undue attention to itself.  I had driven some Dodge minivans and concluded that I loved the Pentastar 3.6 V6 engine, but I despised the way the transmission seemed to turn what should have been joy into irritation.  The 8 speed auto in the RWD/AWD cars is (as we say in Indiana) a whole ‘nuther thing.  This one passes the English butler test, and with great flourish.

We went home and thought it over.  I didn’t really feel like I needed the GT model (I could have done without the hood scoop and the 20 inch wheels, for example) or the AWD feature (with many moons of experience in balanced RWD cars).  But then again, this thing was priced REALLY attractively and was painted a color.

About that color – Dodge calls it F8 Green, after the color code for a similar color in 1969-70.  I was no fan of this family of greens back when the old, old Chrysler Corp. seemed to paint something like 79% of its output that color between 1969-75.  Wasn’t a Dodge sedan painted this shade of green the typical “old man car” of the 1970’s?  But then again, it was a color.  I had previously bought only three new cars in my life, and they were painted black, white and gray.  Not by my choice, but because those were the best options given other constraints.  There was a deep burgundy (Octane Red) which I preferred, but the only ones I could find had a sunroof.  I found myself listening to the voice of my imaginary Uncle Clem, who would say something like “I don’t know why anybody’d take a perfectly good, water-tight steel roof and cut a hole in it.  Yer jest askin’ fer leaks.”  The green GT lacked a sunroof, which was another point in its favor.  I soon decided that the F8 Green was my second choice of all the colors that were offered (out of 9 – yes, 9 colors beyond the normal black/white/gray options), and the more I looked at it the better I liked it.

The local car also came with the cold weather package (heated seats and steering wheel), dual zone automatic a/c, so it had quite a lot of what we wanted and not a lot that we did not.  I wonder if the combination of an AWD GT with no sunroof is what made this one stick to the lot for so long.

Experiment: Who can look at this front end and not see a Ninja Turtle?


We went back the next evening and cut a deal.  Anyone who has read my COAL series knows that I did not take much pity on the poor salesman, and we got them down about another grand before we signed papers for almost exactly $10k off the sticker price.  Coming from the drama-free life of Hondas and Kias, I chickened out and popped for the Mopar extended warranty that takes my bumper-to-bumper coverage out to 7 years.  Which will probably insure that I never have a significant service issue on the car.  At least until year 8.

I have not driven it much yet – and am struggling to come into the 21st Century with the U-Connect infotainment system.  At least I got the programming for the garage door figured out, so I am off and running.  And I am having the odd experience of digging for a key in my pocket as I approach the Charger, then expecting the door to automatically unlock for me when I get into the Kia.  But I will get there.  Because I am really settling into loving this car.

In addition to the retro paint color outside, we get the retro hound’s-tooth fabric on the inside.


After so many years of driving practical cars, I am finding that this Charger comes as close as it is possible to get to my automotive happy place in 2024.  It is a large car, around 4k pounds, with a wheelbase in the 118-122 range and enough power to scoot smartly when the pedal on the right is pressed.  And it is my favorite flavor of such a car, one that I call “adult sport”.  This Charger GT sort of channels the attitude of the Sport Furys, Chrysler (non-letter) 300s, Buick Wildcats and Mercury Marauders of yore.   Except that this one has a far more competent chassis than anything from that era when Sinclair dinosaurs roamed the gas pumps (while looking out for the occasional tank with a tiger in it).   Also, the F8 Green paint fits this attitude to a perfect “T”.  The Hemi V8 might have been nice, but the 300 hp Pentastar V6 is kind of the modern equivalent of choosing a ’69 Charger with a 383 instead of the 440 or the Hemi.  It is plenty of engine for me, in any case.  And could this be the last V6 sedan at a moderate price that exists?  Maybe this car is its own kind of dinosaur, and I need a custom license plate that says BRONTO.

With the Kia being pressed into service as my daily drive-to-work vehicle, I will be surprised if we put 6k miles a year onto this new Charger.  If I play my cards right, this car could fulfill a role I once routinely expected of any new car: it just might last me forever and eventually become a made-from-scratch Curbside Classic.