Daytona is a name with some history. Multiple cars from several automakers have used the moniker, some more notably than others. There was the Shelby Daytona coupe, the Ferrari 365GTB/4 nicknamed Daytona, the Dodge Daytona hatchback, the Studebaker Daytona family, the Ford Mustang Daytona concept, and of course the original Dodge Charger Daytona aero warrior. All take their name from Daytona Beach, Florida, the birthplace of stock-car racing. The locale is now home to Daytona International Speedway, host to the Daytona 500 and the Rolex 24 Hours, and some cars—like the original Charger—were homologation specials or commemorations of race cars.
Dodge reintroduced the Charger Daytona name for 2013. It appears in two variations for 2017: the standard Daytona with a 5.7-liter V-8 (tested here) or as the Daytona 392 with a 6.4-liter V-8. Both sit roughly midpack in the Charger lineup, which isn’t much of an honor for the first stock car to break the 200-mph mark at Talladega Superspeedway.
Charge It to the Name
The 2017 Charger Daytona is essentially a Charger R/T with special-edition add-ons, what Dodge calls the Customer Preferred Package 29S. The items touch just about every portion of the car, inside and out, mechanicals included, but it’s the exterior that sees the biggest changes. Unfortunately, those fall short of a massive rear wing or a beaked nose as on the original.
Most prominent is a black spoiler and a wide, matte-black stripe that stretches across the decklid and wraps down onto the rear quarter-panels and includes Daytona lettering. The exterior also features a matte-black roof, a matte-black bar on the hood emblazoned with HEMI branding, a functional hood scoop, a black grille, an SRT body kit, 20.0-by-9.0-inch black forged-aluminum wheels, two-piece wheel-center caps, LED fog lights, and special badging.
On their own, those visuals don’t make much of a statement on a muscle car that already looks pretty aggressive, so Dodge turns up the volume by making available vibrant retro colors such as Green Go, Go Mango, TorRed, and Yellow Jacket. Our test vehicle wore Green Go, eye glue that engendered looks of confusion, excitement, disgust, and sometimes all three at once. It’s possible to delete the HEMI hood and the Daytona rear-quarter decals for no extra cost, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the Daytona package.
The interior is not as outlandish, but it does come with plenty of features. Unique trim that Dodge calls Carbonite—watch out, Han Solo—looks like a brushed and beaten piece of metal and surrounds both the infotainment screen and the gauge cluster, while a separate piece encircles the gearshifter. The raw look of the pieces works well with the overall theme of the vehicle. Daytonas also come with a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated rear seats, metal-trimmed pedals, and illuminated cupholders. The heated front sport seats are upholstered in leather and microsuede, and there’s a power lumbar adjustment. We found these seats to be uncomfortably firm with intrusive bolsters, and the headrests are set at an awkward angle that leaves the driver with a sore neck.
The interior is nicely styled, but some of the cabin materials feel cheap. The rubbery, textured black trim fit poorly, and turning up the stereo volume for songs with heavy bass caused the door panels to rattle.
Date with an Eight
The engines might not be as big as the original Charger Daytona’s 426- and 440-cubic-inch powerplants, but at least they’re still substantial V-8s. The non-392 Daytona has the same engine as the R/T, a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, but it adds a Mopar cold-air intake and a functional hood scoop. Output is 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque.
Although it’s not the quickest or most powerful Charger, the Daytona sounds like a true muscle car, thanks in part to the active exhaust (now standard on the R/T as well). There’s no turbo hiss or electric whine, just a deep, old-school snarl that turns into a bark with the blip of the throttle. Stay on the gas, and it lets out a powerful battle cry.
The eight-speed automatic, the only transmission offered, sends torque to the rear wheels and delivers smooth, well-timed shifts. In our tests, the Charger went from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, an impressive number for a four-door sedan that measured in at 4287 pounds on our scales. And the quarter-mile passed by in 13.7 seconds at 105 mph. Dodge also lets the driver completely disable stability and traction control, all the better to rip huge burnouts and create massive clouds of tire smoke.
Beefy brakes helped the Charger stop from 70 mph in 171 feet, with slight fade. That’s an acceptable braking distance for this class, but in this car, stopping felt a bit like Wile E. Coyote digging his heels into the ground while the rest of his body lurches forward. The brakes require a firm foot, but once the pads contact the rotors, they inspire confidence.
Our test car wore Goodyear Eagle RS A2 tires, fairly sporty all-season rubber, but for $395, buyers can have performance tires, which likely would improve both the stopping distance and the 0.87 g the Daytona pulled on the skidpad—although we’ll note that the skidpad number already is 0.03 g better than that of the rear-wheel-drive BMW 530i, a car that’s significantly lighter and some $30,000 more expensive.
The Daytona might project a wild and in-your-face image, but the car’s demeanor is calm and balanced. Its electrically assisted power steering is on the heavy side, but it’s responsive and fairly precise, if mostly numb. This Charger’s ride is stiff, which we like, but those looking for more sedate cruising should look for a version with smaller wheels or a softer setup.
Not Bare, Not Necessary
Our test car had three additional option packages beyond the Daytona gear that added some $3000 to the total price. For $1495, the Technology Group includes blind-spot warning, rear cross-path detection, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beams, brake assist, turn-signal repeaters in the heated side mirrors, blind-spot warning, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The Driver Confidence package usually costs $1395 but is reduced to $550 since it shares a few features with the Tech Group, and it adds HID projector headlights. The last add-on, the Navigation and Travel Group, costs $1095 and upgrades the Uconnect system with navigation, SiriusXM traffic, SiriusXM travel, and a backup camera.
As a practical muscle car, the Charger provides a lot for its $44,125 sticker, but it would be even more of a bargain without the Daytona extras. That same money also gets the more powerful R/T Scat Pack with the 485-horse 6.4-liter. The idea for the Daytona is fun, but it seems like a vehicle honoring one of the most significant cars—and venues—in motorsports history should sit near the top of a lineup, not in the middle. The only direct connection to the original car is the rear stripe with the Daytona lettering. A heritage vehicle should be recognizable without a name screaming its identity; this car requires a bit of reading.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $44,125 (base price: $40,985)
ENGINE TYPE: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 345 cu in, 5654 cc
Power: 370 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 395 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 120.2 in
Length: 200.8 in
Width: 75.0 in Height: 58.3 in
Passenger volume: 105 cu ft
Trunk volume: 17 cu ft
Curb weight: 4287 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 12.2 sec
Zero to 130 mph: 22.7 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.7 sec @ 105 mph
Top speed (governor limited, C/D est): 145 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 171 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
EPA combined/city/highway: 19/16/25 mpg
C/D observed: 18 mpg