2013 Dodge Charger Review

2013 Dodge Charger - Charger successfully merges past with present


 While boasts abound of four-door sedans with the soul and heart of a spirited wildcat, few live up to the rhetoric. Dodge, however, delivers handsomely with Charger.

Performance-inspired, rear-wheel drive; check. Ample, under-hood power to curl thinning, aging and graying hair; check. Youthful, exterior glow capable of turning back said hair to its original light auburn (at least in one's mind); check check and double check. Checklists aside, the four-door Charger constitutes as one of the most recognizable family rides on the road by combining strong heritage with modern technologies.

And Charger has earned a home or two in pop culture. Rerun devotees of the, campy television series 'Dukes of Hazard' know all too well that the Good ol' Duke Boys tooled around the county of Hazard in a bright orange 1969 Charger (number 01 if keeping score), much to the chagrin of Boss Hogg and Uncle Jesse.

Those with enough gray hairs recall Chargers of the '60s and '70s sported two doors (which the Duke Boys used sparingly, opting instead for open-window egress) and were probably not parent's first choice of family travel. The current incarnation debuted as a 2011 model year offering with four side doors and convenient options including all wheel drive.

Charger's added doors allow greater comfort and convenience. Front buckets employ a high clearance, greatly appreciated by folks celebrating five or more decades of birthdays. The seat's position was higher than a recently tested full-size Toyota Avalon. Three adults fit adequately in row two, although the sandwiched sole must navigate the vertical floor hump. Leg room rates as good but headroom may be an issue for those past six-feet four inches especially in back with a tapering roof. Rear seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split allowing trunk access.

Minimal Charger changes from 2012 to 2013 include improved ease of use of in-dash graphics. Charger offer a dizzying array of trims and packaged options, including five returning major trims from the previous year: SE, SXT, R/T, SRT-8 and SRT-8 Super Bee. Sub trims include the SXT Plus, R/T Plus and R/T Max. New for 2013 is an all-wheel drive 'Sport' trim with glossy grille and goosed-up horsepower available on SXT and SXT Plus offerings. Expect a wide birth of price ranges from the base SE with few extras and standard rear-drive ($26,295) up to the SRT-8 and its $45,895 starting point. Our all-wheel-drive R/T Plus tester included a $32,495 starting point ending at $43,490.

Three engine selections are available, although the new Sport trim can be tweaked with cold air induction boosting horsepower to 300, making it a distinguishable fourth opportunity. A 3.6-liter, 292-horsepower Pentastar V-6 comes standard in SE and SXT and SXT Plus with eight-speed automatic transmission in SXT models. The R/T editions offer a HEMI V-8 with 370 horses, cylinder deactivation (eight to four) at highway speeds and five-speed automatic. Thirsting for more fun? The rear-drive SRT-8 and SRT-8 Super Bee deals up a 5.7-liter Hemispheric V-8 good for 470 horses and cylinder deactivation. Neither of Charger's domestic full-size competitors (Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus, both front-wheel drive) come close to 470 horses or offer V-8 power. None of the trio offer manual transmission.

Charger showcases high side belt lines coupled with narrower windows better than most (Dodge helped usher in the trend) while emphasizing sharp edging over smooth curves. Cup-like door handles propping open from the bottom add a retro touch as do non-wrap-around head light and tail light housing. Headlight housing enjoys 'I mean business' personality thanks to a downward sloping top brow, all flanking Dodge's familiar, protruding cross quad honeycomb nose grille. Straight line hood creases bore down from the windshield to the squared grille and bottom brow region. The hood also includes two 'U' embossments between straight streaks. Front-door scallops add texture.

Outside back, 164 light emitting diodes (LED) frame and outline single-bar tail and brake light region. Integrated dual exhausts adorn all trims. A low-slung rear spoiler looks very much at home (not a second-thought add on) and is optional or standard except entry SE. The 16.5 cubic foot trunk, average for the full-size segment, includes a temporary spare tire and conventional lead-acid battery under the flat cargo floor. This battery local helps balance out front-to-back weight distribution.

While interior quality has improved, driver interface a step ahead of the pack. Many rivals pair the fuel tank and trunk remote release levers together. Dodge smartly separates the two (reducing the chances of blindly selecting the wrong one in the wrong circumstance); and neither is floor bound. Finger tips do the walking on the back-side of the three-spoke, power-tilt and telescope steering wheel to change radio pre-set buttons and volume control. A great idea helping keep eyes on the road. Standard push-button start is found directly right of the column. Arm rests receive extra elbow padding.

The instrument panel and left-side dash gently skew toward the driver's perspective with gentle brushed aluminum outline, but not out of visual range of the shotgun rider. The compartmentalized, bi-level glove box is well designed. Side-by-side cup holders include heat and cool options. The in-dash touch screen/three-dimensional navigation system remains cinema-scope size, one of the largest (8.4-inches in all but SE trims which settle for a 4.3-inch version) in the business.

All Chargers smartly incorporate cap less fuel tanks which self seals once the fueling hose is removed from the lead. Topping the scales at 4,200 pounds, Charger R/T's a heavy haul; about 600 more biscuits that an Avalon. The R/T's standard performance braking package brings Charger to a prompt stop. The 5.7's engine purr was distinct without an overbearing decibel level. Precise handling never lets the firm ride out of control.

Those looking for happy fuel economy numbers stroll right on by because our tester's all-wheel-drive V-8 prioritizes performance. Expect 15 mpg city and 23 highway with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 coupled with all-wheel drive. The combo of the V-6 engine with eight-speed automatic transmission, however, translates into surprisingly notable fuel estimates for a full-size, performance-inspired offering at 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The fuel tank holds 19.1 gallons of regular, 87-octane fuel. If opting for the 5.7-liter V-8, mid-grade 89-octane is recommended for optimal performance while the 6.4-liter V-8 recommends premium 91 octane.

Currently, Italian automaker Fiat owns a majority 58.5 percent stake of Chrysler Group LLC, but eagerly is eying the remaining shares held within a United Auto Workers retiree fund as part of Chrysler's thorny 2009 bankruptcy proceedings. The Chrysler Group LLC includes Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and (since its 2009 split from Dodge) Ram Truck divisions.

Dodge also supplies specially tuned Chargers for municipal police departments (code named the Charger Pursuit). With Ford Motor Company's recent Crown Victory retirement, the search is on for a new generation of 'Serve and Protect' transports. Ford answered with a Police Interceptor version of its Chicago-built Taurus, but the Charger Pursuit just looks the part; as if it just stepped out from Central Casting.

At A Glance

2013 Dodge Charger

Price as Tested: $43,490

Wheelbase: 120.2 inches

Overall Length: 199.9 inches

Overall Width: 75 inches

Overall Height: 58.4 inches

Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V-8

Horsepower: 370

Curb weight: 4,253 pounds

Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city; 23 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty: Five year, 100,000 miles

Assembly: Brampton, Ontario Canada

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.