30 Minutes With: The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona
The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My fifth car of the day was a big change from the first four (Jaguar XE 35t AWD,  Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC,  BMW 540i, Lexus IS 200t), in that it replaced refinement with raw, brute power: The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392.

Map of Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade
Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade (courtesy Google Maps).
Laureles Grade is about five and a half miles of non-stop twists and turns between Carmel Valley Road and CA 68, and thus perfect for a pack of automotive journalists and some high-grade machinery.

Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392
2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392.
There is nothing subtle about the Dodge Charger Daytona 392.  It is, pure and simply, a muscle car in  this new Platinum Age of same, an era in which the cars are not only faster than the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, but do more than run in a straight line.  They handle.  They stop.

The Charger Daytona 392 is the second-most-powerful Charger at 485 horsepower.  There's an SRT 392 above it in the pecking order with more aggressive suspension and braking bits and launch control, but with the same 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and the same power output.  The only way to get more power in a Charger is to go all the way to the Charger SRT Hellcat.  It makes 707 horsepower.

As Carroll Shelby used to say, speed costs money.  How fast do you want to go?  The Charger Daytona 392 is fast enough for yours truly, thanks.  0-60 comes up in about four and a half seconds, for those brave enough to mash the pedal to the floor and count onemississippitwomississippithreemississippifourmississippifivemiss......

I am not that guy.  One-third to one-half throttle was enough to tell me that this car could easily end my future as a licensed driver or my future, period, without some maturity and restraint.  Driven agressively but not crazily, what impressed me most was the Charger Daytona 392's road-handling ability.  Laureles Grade is the kind of road that would have completely undone old-school American muscle cars, but the Daytona was more than capable.  And given the brute-force nature of the machine itself, I was very impressed with the level of refinement.  I had a few minutes at last year's Media Days in the Chevy SS, and the Charger Daytona 392 seems like a much more polished machine.

Interior view of 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona
2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 interior.
The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 has a base price of $44,995 (if you have to have the Hellcat, you'll start at $67,645).  As with all the cars at Media Days, window stickers were not available, so actual equipment and pricing are a best-guess kind of thing, performed using the "build it" feature on the Dodge website.  I know it had the Beats audio group ($995) and the power sunroof ($1,195), so with $1,095 destination charges, figure the bottom line was $47,280.

Frankly, I expected the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392 to be a hard-to-live-with boy racer car.  In truth, it comes off more like the sedan equivalent to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT we drove last month.  Not sure I'm the guy who would ever buy one...but they're both better cars than you might imagine based on the fire-breathing image.