The Charger series has always faced a few issues, but it still has a loyal following. Here's a look back at the 1981 Dodge Charger, its specs, and why it's still a sought-after classic car.
History of the 1981 Dodge Charger
Autoevolution, the 1981 Dodge Charger was the start of something new and different for the Charger name. This was the first Charger in the fifth generation of the car, and it was quite different from earlier Chargers.
It was the first Charger to have an engine in the front and front-wheel drive. On top of that, instead of coming with a V-8, it had a four-cylinder engine instead. Dodge made these design choices to target the car at the European market at the time.
The new Charger had a hatchback design, and its headlights were rectangular instead of round. It didn’t have a remarkable interior. After all, it was the ‘80s, so it wasn't exactly full of high-tech equipment. That said, it had bucket seats and a folding rear bench, so it could comfortably seat five people.
Just how powerful was the 1981 Charger?
Unfortunately, since Dodge switched to four-cylinder engines for this generation of the Charger, it wasn't a true muscle car anymore. Its standard engine was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder, and it got 62 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque.
It had eight engine options in total, and all of them were four-cylinder gas engines. The most powerful option was a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and it got 146 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque.
Those low numbers aren't great for a supposed muscle car. On the flip side, owners were driving a fairly fuel-efficient car. The standard 1.6-liter had an estimated fuel economy of 40 mpg combined, while the 2.2-liter clocked in at 22 mpg combined. But these numbers are from the NEDC testing standard, so EPA estimates will vary.
Unsurprisingly though, due to its weak engine but great fuel economy, this generation ended up being a good car for commuters. It wasn't a great muscle car, however, because it simply wasn't as fast as its competitors.
Why is this classic Dodge still popular today?
The 1981 Charger isn’t known for power, but at the end of the day, it's still a Charger. For muscle car fans, it's simply a matter of history. Even though things are very different now, this Charger represents Dodge’s efforts in the ‘80s.
At the very least, this Charger was a unique entry in the lineup, and it stands out from the other Chargers. A lot of people who grew up in the ‘80s may want to remember their childhood with this model. For some, the dream car they had as a kid could very well have been a Charger.
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