Save the Manuals: Why the Dodge Charger Needs a Stick Shift
Earlier this month we pondered the idea of Subaru taking the turbocharged 2.0L flat four from the WRX and dropping it into the already popular Crosstrek to create a one-of-a-kind rally-bred exploration machine. That scheming also got us thinking about another potentially awesome car that’s just a few parts bin changes away—a stick shift Dodge Charger.
Despite its age and the fact that it’s a four-door sedan living in an SUV world, the Dodge Charger continues to be a successful part of FCA’s product lineup. Why shouldn’t it be? In base form it offers a roomy interior, traditional RWD layout, competitive pricing and it only gets better when you dig into the V8 options.
The Charger is available with no less than three different Hemi V8s, starting with the 5.7L Hemi in the R/T, the 6.4L Hemi in the Scat Pack/392 models and of course, the top dog 6.2L supercharged Hemi in the big bad Charger Hellcat.
An Automatic Just Isn't the Same
While any of those three engines are a recipe for tire smoking fun and acceleration that can rival and often destroy much more expensive European luxury sedans, the Charger is only offered with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission across the board.
As far as automatics go, the ZF 8-speed is a great gearbox. It delivers quick upshifts and downshifts and surprisingly good fuel economy when mated to the big Hemi V8s, but driving one just doesn’t make for the same experience same as a traditional manual transmission. That’s why we think the current V8 Charger deserves a manual option.
It Wouldn't Be Hard
Unlike some of the unrealistic fantasies enthusiasts tend to have have, putting a stick into the Charger wouldn’t be hard to do at all. That’s because the Charger’s platform-mate, the Dodge Challenger, has long been available with a six-speed stick in all of its V8 trims.
In the last couple years we’ve seen Dodge expand the Challenger lineup with models like the Demon, Redeye and the Widebody Scat Pack—and a stick option would be a good way to spread some of that love over toward the Charger.
In terms of R&D costs, it’s not like there are many new parts would be need to be engineered outside of perhaps some new pedals and a new center console and shift boot for the Tremec six-speed shifter.
The brawny V8 Charger is already a car that stands out on the market, but the idea of offering one with a stick shift would make for a car unlike anything else available. Especially now that the Chevy SS is no more and most RWD sport sedans no longer offer a manual option.
Sure, there’s no doubt that the take rate for manual-equipped Chargers would be low, and that’s surely why Dodge hasn’t yet offered one. But we think the publicity alone would be worth the effort, and we could even see buyers willing to pay a premium for the manual option.
Making Something Special
In its current form the Charger is already a pretty special car that combines that practicality of a family sedan with the attitude of an American muscle car, but having the option to shift the gears yourself would take it to another level. If any brand is going to do something crazy like this, Dodge would be the one.
It’s well established that Dodge likes to do bold things with its performance cars and isn’t afraid of blazing its own path. Giving us a V8 Charger with three pedals would not only create an instant enthusiast favorite, it would help breathe some new excitement into a platform that’s nearly 15 years old.
At this point we aren’t sure how much longer the aging LX platform will be around or how exactly FCA plans to follow up the Charger, but why not do something a little wild send the current one out with a bang...of gears?