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BangShift Test-Drive: 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 – Second Rate, It Is Not

BangShift Test-Drive: 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 – Second Rate, It Is Not

Ever since the moment we learned that the Challenger ADR was to become the Hellcat, the question has been posed to me by many a friend: “When are you gonna get a Hellcat?” When the engine was green-lit, questions. When the Challenger Hellcat was unleashed, questions. When the Charger Hellcat was sent in as a second symphony, questions. And yes, with the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, questions. It’s not that it’s a Mopar product or not. It’s seven hundred and seven horsepower in a street-legal car that, to most everyday folk, looks like a Dodge Challenger or Dodge Charger. The only difference is, those cars are packing “and f*** you too” levels of horsepower that racers from fifty years ago would go weak in the knees for. Lohnes made it clear when he got his hands on a six-speed Challenger Hellcat: “It is everything I have in me not to sit rocking in the corner, begging anyone who will listen for the keys back.” You don’t put a sentence out there like that lightly.

So that makes a 392-powered machine the second fiddle by default. What is that quote, the second winner is the first loser? Yeah, screw that noise and every feeling that it conjures up. At no point when I was providing insurance information and my driver’s license information for the keyfob to this Destroyer Gray 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 did I feel like “first loser”. Truth be told, I felt like I was getting away with murder. Here’s the rub: over the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen me test out a handful of cars from the lot at Martin Dodge in Bowling Green, Kentucky. General Manager Bryan Metzger has been gracious enough to cut me loose in items ranging from a six-speed, off-road ready Wrangler Rubicon to what I suspect was the most expensive Ram 3500 dually on the lot. But none of the previous cars had me feeling quite like this…which is to say, the same way I felt the first time my stepfather encouraged me to haze the rubber off in the Chevelle I wound up owning, or the first night I had my Monte Carlo SS, a legit license, and no supervision, or even the one day a friend of mine and I made the unofficial Tacoma-Renton speed run record and got away with it fully. I alone could not truly be expected to keep a level head during this drive, so I invited my wife along to get some of her opinions…she’s a car lady herself, but compared to yours truly, who was floating on bliss, she was fully grounded.

Before we get into the photos, I’ll call my mulligans: I did not have enough drive time, I did not get into the throttle even a quarter of the way, no smoke poured out from the rear tires, and I still don’t care. And yes, the Daytona is going to be pricey. If any new-car review I’ve done is any indication, compared to the average BangShifter’s ideal, all new cars are. The question here isn’t cost, it’s how the Charger makes you feel when you drive it.

2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392. Ever since the four-door Charger got the Daytona badge (and stripe packages), I’ve always wondered if it was just a ploy on nostalgia instead of performance. Here, it’s both…enough nostalgia to be nice, enough performance to back up the stripes and then some. The Charger still has one of the meanest faces to ever come out of any form of Chrysler…ever since it reappeared in the mid-2000s, this has been one pissed-off looking car, and I love it for that alone. 

The 392 “Apache” V8, good for 485 horsepower and 475 ft/lbs of torque. I might have used 1/16th of that in my drive around the local area, mainly due to a low fuel level indication that wouldn’t give me an estimated range and a limit on drive time. Even with all of that, though…this engine’s praises, all of them, should contain some sort of expletive. It might not be a true hemispherical headed design, but it earns the Hemi badge just fine.

I’ll be blunt: I do not like Destroyer Gray. It looks like gray gelcoat. My wife adored the color and thought it fit perfectly with the blacked out trim, black stripes, and blacked-out roof. It’s the only thing I didn’t love. While we’re here, note the brakes: make all the fat kid jokes you want at the charger, but those Brembos stop the car better than I can explain. They aren’t just good, they’re borderline touchy. She thought they were too eager to clamp down. My inner delinquent pictured deeper dives into the corner at NCM Motorsports Park.

What I do love about the Charger Daytona is the exhaust note. This thing is in anger mode, all the time, from first light until you shut it down. It’s the right kind of noise…menacing, crackling, snotty…I’m running out of superlatives here. And it does not quit! There is no quiet mode. There is only V8 bark. Love it. Live it. Share it with your friends and neighbors. I did, gleefully.

The Charger Daytona is a muscle car first, a sedan second. If you still think that four doors negates any kind of muscle intentions, I dare you to drive one of these and tell me otherwise. And I want proof you drove it. This car begged to be cut loose. The steering feel promised the moon. The throttle pedal promised full attention from law enforcement. And the twin sound cannons out back promised to sing me a note of pure intoxication. All without feeling like I was shoved inside of a pillbox.

The Charger does do “sedan” well, though. This isn’t “ample” room…this is four adults, realistically, in comfort with room. No shoulder-to-shoulder, no knees to chest. (Ignore the front seat position…the seat automatically went back to full rear once I turned the engine off.)

One of the first details my wife picked up on is the improvement in quality and textures over our 2006 Chrysler 300C. It’s no secret that mid-2000s Mopars have super-plasticky interiors. The Charger’s is as far removed from that as you can get. The only super-plastic bits are tiny items you can give a crap less about. I love the spread-out driver’s section of the dash, too…it lends an old-school feel I just appreciate.

Gauges are clear and precise, with electro-analog speedometer and tach, and readouts for everything else.

Uconnect 8.4 with the Beats Audio Package: $995, but if you want to hear music over exhaust, this isn’t a bad way to do it. The subwoofer doesn’t eat much into trunk space.

I cannot harp on this enough: COOLED SEATS ROCK. And my wife agreed…the moment I kicked her seat on, Haley realized that no, I’m not crazy. She wasn’t too comfortable in the seats, but she loved the ventilation.

I was a good boy, I didn’t do anything too fun. But the Performance Pages are there, should your inner delinquent decide that today’s the day to nuke some tires. The paddle shifters for the TorqueFlite 8 automatic are great…click-shift, no hesitation, no problem.

Cost: $49,125 out the door. Standard price: $39,995. Can you get it cheaper if you skip the Daytona package? You might knock a few grand off if you go for a Scat Pack 392 instead, but do yourself a favor and get the Dynamics Package, which nets you 20×9.5″ wheels, Brembo six-piston brakes, and Pirelli 275/40ZR20 tires. That’s worth the price of admission, bar none. As it is, the Daytona is a 392-powered Charger with some flair. Whether you go for a bright color or something subdued, there is no toning down this thing’s attitude. This car doesn’t just rock, or scream, or whatever. This car struck a nerve…I did not want to give the key back. I would’ve bargained for more drive time. And getting back into Angry Grandpa…well, I could feel the difference, and that wasn’t a good thing. Lohnes might think the Hellcat is the drug of choice, but I’ll bet that this Charger Daytona is just as hard-hitting in the long run. I’ll crave this for years…

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9 thoughts on “BangShift Test-Drive: 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 – Second Rate, It Is Not

  1. Gary Smrtic

    I hate being cash poor, but that won’t last forever! 2016 being the rock bottom of the previous administration’s anit-American economic (and everything else) policies. Our company is recovering, and I’m going to have me one of these!

  2. Matt Cramer

    I’m with you on the color. This one needs something like Plumb Crazy, Curious Yellow or at least B5 Blue. Gray is too tame for something like that.

  3. C1BAD66 Malibu

    Izzat your house where the pics were taken, McT? ‘Nice. As a car guy, how do you keep your driveway so clean? Photoshop?

    1. bob

      No, that’s Mr. Martin’s house. Tags has a part time job with him selling Dodges. I am a little jealous, as all I can sell are Buicks. At 2:30am on a Friday night, ya understand.

  4. Don

    Not a fan of the grey, BUT that color does look nice with the black wheels and I am definitely a fan of blacked out wheels

  5. geo815

    A faster, somewhat affordable, more-door car that’s quicker than what in my garage? Contemplating if I want an FCA on my property, now. It does make noise out of the box and would piss off the NIMBY baby-boomers, stupid bastards, and religious freaks in my HOA. Shit.This is not gonna be an easy week, especially since the wife is out of town for a few days.

  6. Joe Rusciano

    Have a 2014 Camaro 2ss/rs. Thought that car was awesome till my buddy told me to test drive a Green Go Daytona 392. I took it for a test drive and bought it. Have had the car two days and love it more than the Camaro.

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