Consider Charger, the largest sedan gracing the Dodge lineup, when family travel demands a quick, stylized get away.
Performance remains a top priority as race-track-inspired rear-drive arrives standard rather than a front-wheel-drive platform favored by large domestic four-door rivals Chevrolet Impala ($27,095 starting price) and Ford Taurus (checking in at $27,100). Also, Charger provides Midwest friendly all-wheel drive optional, another perk Impala can't match, although Taurus does. Charger self proclaims it's, "the world's only four-door muscle car."
Multiple mix and match engine opportunities dove tail with several trim lelves and no less than 14 distinctive-looking wheel options. Each trim comes with uniquely enhanced quad-sectioned front faces. While all grilles include a narrow crosshair design, color schemes and finishes differ. Sleek headlight housing flanks the long grille.
Backsides remain stamped with Charger's LED-illuminated racetrack tail lamps, resembling a long extension cord of neon-illuminated lassoing; hard to miss when trekking behind. Cup-like body colored handles lift upward when opening doors. A low-lying spoiler adorns short deck lids. Dual exhausts come standard.
From peppy to ultra-oomph, Charger covers the engine spectrum. The base 3.6-liter six cylinder delivers 292 horses in entry SE and SXT trims. Both offer rear-drive or all-wheel drive. Three V-8 powertrains complete the remaining five trims all sporting rear drive.
A 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 delivers 370 horses inside R/T and R/T Road & Track trims. Opt for SRT 392 and R/T Scat Packs and enjoy 485 horses from the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. Need a wicked amount ponies under the hood? The SRT Hellcat's 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 delivers 707 horses. Compare this to the first generation Charger (1966-1967) with a 265 horsepower V-8. Taurus and Impala pass onV-8 power, instead opting for six and four bangers.
While engine selection requires a bit of decision making, the transmission choice remains straight forward. All trims come with an advanced TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic helping motivate Charger from a standing stop.
Since December 2014, Dodge has called the newly named Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (or FCA US) its corporate home. From 1998 to 2009 the Dodge brand found itself involved in an uneasy tug of war among shorter-term suiters including Daimler-Benz and private equity group Cerberus Capital Management. Fiat came calling with a controlling interest in 2010. In 2014, Dodge celebrated 100 years of automotive ingenuity.
Dodge reintroduced the Charger name to the lineup in the mid 2000's as a four-door effort after memorable, power-rich, American muscle heydays of the late 1960s and early 1970's. In 2015, Charger underwent a mid-cycle retweek of a much-heralded seventh-generation effort introduced in the 2011 model year.
This week's 2016 tester returns with minimal updates from 2015, limited largely to new exterior hues of Plum Crazy, TorRed and B5 blue. Charger sales in the 2015 calendar year checked in at 94,725, up slightly from 94,099 the year prior.
Charger starts at $27,995 for a rear-drive 2016 SE. Our six-cylinder SXT all-wheel-drive tester checked in at $31,995. Extra packaging quickly adds to bottom line freight. Heated side view mirrors ($295), Navigation/upgraded satellite radio ($695), Rallye appearance package ($1,295) and Plus Package ($2,495) padded the bottom line to $37,770 after slipping in a $995 destination charge.
Plus Packaging includes heated second row seats, heated steering wheel, leather trimmed seats, rear park assist and power leather trimmed front buckets with lumbar support.
Dodge, and just about all FCA US vehicles, incorporates a smartly designed, very user friendly sound/ventilation system. Even technical Luddites (myself included) feel empowered when interacting with FCA's touch-screen technology. Plenty of convenient redundancy tactile buttons await and most touch commands are just one quick push away.
Instead of secondary push buttons on the face, volume and station presets mount on the three-spoke steering wheel's backside, where hands remain hugging the wheel when scrolling pre-set radio stations with finger tips.
Graphics remain easily digestible within the larger, optional (8.4-inch) multi-function screen, with old-school 'words' accompanying most icons. Extra-large volume and station select twist dials flank a finite number of push buttons including defroster and temperature while a third, manly-sized twist knob controls fan speed. Fan direction takes place from a touch screen tutorial.
The front face of the manual tilt-and-telescope steering wheel includes large cruise control buttons at 3 o'clock. At nine o'clock, expect four directional and central 'OK" buttons guiding users through a multitude of digital opportunities illustrated inside a center instrument panel window.
This easy-on-the-eyes instrument panel includes two analog gauges (right-side speedometer, left-side tachometer) flanking said center window, including a digital speedometer readout (in kilometers or miles per hour).
Between bucket seats: a right-palm-fitting T-bar-type transmission shifter cruising through eight forward speeds. No manual transmission is offered. Dual side-by-side beverage holders reside directly behind, with a sliding cover. The large, deep storage bin includes a 12-volt outlet, and auxiliary port assisting portable electronics with convenient night-time illumination. Interior schemes include jet black and an assortment of secondary colors, including our 'plus package's' off-white Nappa seat leather.
The dashboard's top half gets framed with brushed aluminum trim, from the far left-corner air vent to the multi-function touch screen, skewing ever-so-gently towards the driver. Push-button start comes standard.
Charger even rewards a driver's audio senses. Our V-6 engine did not deliver V-8 horsepower, but included a wonderfully low-tuned exhaust growl when pushing the accelerator pedal to the medal. Library quiet Charger is not. Steering remains precise and low-end torque pleasantly plentiful.
Row two accommodates three adults in a pinch, but the vertical floor transmission hump hampers leg room, although headroom remains adequate. Back seat travelers have access to plug ports befitting portable electronics and seat backs fold forward via lasso tags topside with a 60/40 split.
Also part of each and every Charger: a cap less fuel lead, forever eliminating twist cap misplacement. Open the circular door and direct the gas pump's nozzle nose through a self-sealing barrier when entering and exiting; a great low tech/highly functional addition that's easily adaptable.
While the V-6 engine requires regular, 87-ocatne fuel, the higher output 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 recommends mid-grade 89-octane for optimal output, but accepts 87-octane. The remaining two V-8s recommend premium 91-octane fuel. Don't expect a gas-electric hybrid or all-electric Charger anytime soon. Challenger's eight cylinder engines don't match four-cylinder fuel economy found in Taurus or Impala; but with gas prices hovering around $2 a gallon, it's less of an issue than two years ago.
For two-door excitement when visiting Dodge lots, look no further than the Challenger coupe which offers the same available four engines as Charger. Both share an assembly home in Ontario, Canada and select underpinnings.
At a Glance
Price as tested: $37,770
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.4 inches
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Built: Brampton, Ontario, Canada