The Dodge Charger is a full-size four-door sedan. It is mechanically similar to the Chrysler 300 and competes with vehicles like the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala and SS, Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon. Charger's most recent makeover was in 2015 and it's freshened for 2016 with new interior materials and additional convenience features.
Charger seats five on twin front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat. It's offered with rear- or all-wheel drive and a variety of V6 and V8 engines. Specifically, the Dodge Charger Hellcat is an ultra-performance, limited production model that's aimed directly at super sport sedans offered by European automakers.
The Hellcat gets a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels and comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual operation. Additional performance goodies include 20-inch wheels, automatically adjusting sport suspension, limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, sport exhaust, track gauge package, functional hood scoop and three-mode power steering. Hellcat even gets a special valet key that limits engine horsepower output.
Standard safety features in the Charger Hellcat include 3-mode stability control, all-speed traction control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, active head restraints and dual-front, front-side, driver-knee and side-curtain airbags. Also standard are blind-spot and cross-path detection, rear-view camera, rear-park assist, frontal collision warning and mitigation system and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist feature.
Charger Hellcat comes very well equipped and lists for $67,645. The limited list of options includes engine-block heater, Harman Kardon audio system, sunroof, summer tires and various body and trim enhancements. Charger has a $995 destination charge and is built in Ontario, Canada.
Currently, there's no vehicle that sells for less than $100,000 that offers more horsepower than the Dodge Hellcat twins (Charger and Challenger) -- that includes Corvette and Viper. In fact, Porsche doesn't even sell a vehicle, at any price, that can match the Hellcat's 707 horsepower. As you might expect, Charger Hellcat is a rocket. Given the right conditions and an expert driver, it will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds. Even more impressive is the engine's instant throttle response, simply bump the accelerator and the Charger jumps forward at extra-legal speeds. There is absolutely no pause in power delivery or hesitation in the transmission.
That said, the Hellcat engine is remarkably docile around town. It's happy to lug all day in rush-hour traffic and even has an economy mode. There's a myriad of driver adjustable performance settings, including track and launch control, as well color-coded keys for maximum performance and valet mode.
Putting more than 700 horsepower to the ground through the rear wheels is a challenge on dry pavement, throw in a little rain -- or, yikes, snow -- and things get downright tricky. All-speed traction control is standard and does a fair job at limiting wheel slip, but careful throttle modulation is needed at all times, regardless.
Official EPA ratings of 13 mpg city and 22 mpg highway are quite dismal. Premium-grade fuel further increases annual fuel costs. Thankfully, the selecting economy mode allows drivers to eek out a few extra mpg in routine commuting.
Charger Hellcat rides with the firmness of a single-minded sports car. There's little bump absorption and a complete lack of body lean in turns. Brake dive and acceleration squat are non-existent. The ride isn't intolerable but is certainly an acquired taste that's not suited for all.
Despite its 4500-pound curb weight, Charger Hellcat is agile, almost lithe, on twisty roads and in fast corners. The steering is firm, quick and accurate. Brakes have excellent stopping power, though they work best when warmed up a bit. Handicapped by its size and long wheelbase, Charger is most happy on the open road where its bulk and weight penalties can be offset by serious performance enhancements.
Interior noise levels are higher than in a typical sedan, but certainly more tolerable than just about any sports car. There's plenty of engine and exhaust noise, but tire rumble and wind rush are nicely muted.
From the thick, square-bottomed steering wheel to the t-handle shifter to the carbon-fiber trim inserts to the track-pack gauges, the Charger Hellcat's interior is awash in reminders that you are in a serious performance car. That's icing on the cake because even lesser Chargers sport an upscale and modern interior that is easily appropriate for the price point.
Front seats are heavily bolstered and somewhat confining, though certainly grippy. Head and leg room are ample. Outward visibility is good forward but a bit pinched to the rear thanks to the tall rear deck and high-set beltline. Entry/exit is a snap thanks to large doors and a high-roof.
The roomy rear seat is class appropriate. Head and leg room are great for outboard passengers but those riding the middle seat will find a very tall central hump that limits leg room.
Hellcat comes standard with Chrysler's uConnect infotainment system. That's highlighted by an 8.4-inch touch screen display that handles most map, climate and audio functions. It's also the home for many of the performance menus. The uConnect system is one of the best all-in-one infotainment solutions available, although it stumbles somewhat on startup and takes a little time to master. Android Auto and Apple Car Play support are lacking.
The trunk offers a respectable 16.5 cubic-feet of cargo space. That trails several key competitors. Thankfully the rear seatbacks fold and the trunk opening is large. Interior storage is just passable, highlighted by a few covered and open bins in the center console.
Though somewhat dated, Charger is a fine vehicle in its own right. Merits include a roomy interior, comfortable ride and multitude of engine and performance offerings. Stepping up to Hellcat requires not only a financial commitment but an all-in attitude. Quite literally, it's the fastest sedan you can buy in America -- at any price -- and doesn't mind showing it. Care must be taken when behind the wheel, but given the right driver and the right setting, Challenger Hellcat is an untamed beast.