Yes, you read that right, a half-mile. The Charger had a check airbag light on it and I refused to take it. Regrettably, when a newer rental car has a check airbag light on it is an almost guaranteed situation that the driver airbag was removed - I'd rather not eat steering wheel in an accident.EXTERIORThe new 2012 Charger is an evolution of its current form with some much needed tweaks and updates. The rear taillights in particular, which outline the entire deck lid in red LED is particularly attractive and very distinctive. See this on the road and there is no mistaking that it is a Charger.Chrysler has gotten better at going a bit more "upscale" in its base models and this version of the Charger did not scream "rental car," and/or, "government issue police investigation vehicle," but it was close. The wheels on the rental model fill the wells much better, there is some accents on the outside and the paint is deep and attractive.INTERIORThe new interior on the 2012 Charger is vastly better than the previous offerings. However, it is clear these are incremental improvements, and not the dramatic changes seen in Chrysler products like the new Jeep Cherokee. What was once one of the drabbest seas of black hard plastic this side of a Coleman cooler, has been replaced with richer looking materials and some soft touch appointments. The center console is massive, along with the front seats. The front driver seat was a bit softer than my liking, and appears to lack some side support. Throw the Charger around I suspect you'll be needing to brace yourself. The tilt/telescope feature of the steering wheel is nice, and after a few minutes I found an acceptable position.The stereo and other controls, including basic HVAC functions and customized settings are adjusted through a small touch screen in the center stack. It is nice, easier to use than My Ford Touch, but far more primitive. In the center console there is a USB port, power outlet and 1/8" stereo input aux jack. The Charger would not recognize my Zune 80, but did recognize my iPhone 4S.DRIVELINEReally all I can comment is this. The five-speed auto is dated and remains one of the Charger's biggest weaknesses. The new Pentastar V6 is supposed to be vastly better than the God awful 3.5L V6 it replaced. It has a nice burble at start and idles so much smoother than old horrible mill that Chrysler use to slap into its base rental fodder. I wish I could have actually driven the car to give it more of a review.THOUGHTSGiven the price point, RWD, the room, the features, and the available options. The Charger is a screaming bargain of a car that really does sit in a class of its own. Sure there is the Chrysler 300 but that is a cousin and then you have... With the Pontiac G8 and the Ford Panther platforms gone the only game in town right now if you want an affordable RWD sled with room to spare along with horsepower under the right foot, the field is very narrow.Offerings from the Germans send power through the wrong wheels. The CC only seats four. The G37, A6, 5-series, E-class, and ES are all WAY more money, and the Charger doesn't play in the same league.Overall score without a meaningful drive: C+/B-With a fully updated interior and the introduction of the 8-speed automatic coming, the Charger will only get better. But even with the B- score, if you want V8 RWD seating for five with comfort and a Mafia grade trunk, this is about the only game in town for under $30K.
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