2017 Dodge Charger Review

2017 Dodge Charger - Charger delivers horsepower-driven family travel


Many mid-size and larger sedans like boosting about sporty underpinnings. Charger easily delivers on this claim, but also looks the part, as if stepping straight out straight from central casting. A retro-yet-modern 'flagship sedan' for the Dodge brand, Charger proudly self-proclaims itself as the "world's only four-door muscle car."

Dodge reintroduced the Charger name to its lineup in the 2006 model year with a second-generation arriving in 2011. Our tester is based on this aging-like-good-wine, but still vibrant platform. Heritage dates back to the mid 1960's as Dodge's answer to the burgeoning muscle-car craze.

Expect a chested body structure rather than rounded nuances. When viewed from behind, "LED Racetrack" lighting provides continuous illumination (analogous to a long illuminated neon rope) from side to side with lasso loops at each end. Dodge enjoys a little front-end variety with unique grille patterns and shades for the quad-style narrow region dependent upon the many trims available.

A large, square rear window joins a long deck lid with end spoiler (black in our tester) along with cup-like pull-up door handles and dual exhaust. Enjoy an abundant 13 exterior colors to choose from, including four new-for-2017s: Yellow Jacket, Green Go, Destroyer Grey and Octane Red.

Suspension provides feedback and connection with the road rather than an ultra-glide plush experience. Even with Charger's V-6 entry engine, passing power never was in question while tuned exhaust sound effects were proper, but not overpowering. Charger's a comparatively weighty sedan, so potent engines come in handy.

From a content perspective, little changes from the 2016 model year after undergoing a mid-cycle refresh in 2015.

Tech-mined drivers will appreciate the large; 8.4-inch UConnect in-dash multi-function screen with new fourth-generation updates. Already one of the industry's most intuitive and user friendly touch screens, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility make for easier pairing with ubiquitous portable Smartphones. The available navigation screen adds pinch and swipe capabilities.

Also, two trims join an already expansive palate: Charger Daytona and Daytona 392 models add a higher-level of heritage-inspired styling. Remaining 2017 trims include SE, SXT, R/T, R/T scat pack, SRT 392 and the ultra-horsepower provider SRT Hellcat.

The performance trend continues when peaking under the hood. Charger offers not one, but four different powertrain opportunities. Very few four-door sedans or multi-purpose crossovers of any size provide this diversity of engines.

The engine spectrum starts with a base 3.6-liter six cylinder delivering 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 Daytona trims. Opt for SRT 392, Daytona 392 (a reference to 392 cubic inches of displacement, equivalent to metric's 6.4 liters) and R/T Scat Pack and enjoy 485 horses from the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. Need a wicked amount of under-hood ponies? The SRT Hellcat's 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 delivers a whopping 707 horses and a top speed of 204 miles per hour. Compare this with a 265 horsepower V-8 from a mid-1960's Charger.

Every engine mates to an eight-speed 'Torqueflite' automatic transmission. No manual transmission is offered. Domestic full-size sedan competitors from Ford and Chevrolet (Taurus and Impala respectively) pass on V-8 power, instead opting for six and four bangers.

Charger proudly offers rear-wheel drive, contributing to a better-balanced performance experience. Most rivals (including Taurus and Impala) settle for very efficient, but dreary front-wheel drive with more vehicle weight tilted towards the vehicle's front half. Think of Charger as a niche player within the large sedan populous with a showy personality.

In late 2009, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) spun off the Ram name from the Dodge camp into a separate, stand-alone truck division providing the opportunity for Dodge to laser focus efforts on sporty means of transport.

The lowest-priced Charger, a rear-drive SE checks in at $27,995. Options add up quick. Our V-6 SXT Plus all-wheel-drive tester started at $31,995 (subtract $2,000 for front drive). Stand-alone options include a $795 in-dash navigation system and $1,195 power sunroof. A $2,495 'Plus Package' and $1,095 destination charge brought the bottom line to $38,070.

By comparison, a 2017 front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Impala starts at $27,300 while a front-drive Chicago-built Ford Taurus SE checks in at $28,220.

The Plus Package included a radar-sensing rear park assist, power front driver and passenger heated seats, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and illuminated rear cup holders.

The eye-appealing instrument panel shares similarities to one found in the all-new, more pedestrian 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Two circular analog gauges frame a multi-panel animation window scrollable through a front face steering wheel button.

Always present with the digital screen: quarter-moon fuel and temperature indicators curve-framing the inboard portions of each analog gauge. Atop the right-side fuel gauge is a digital, secondary 'prnd' gear shift indicator.

Another top-shelf idea borrowed from many FCA family vehicles; secondary volume and station preset tactile elongated ovals mounted on the steering wheel's back side, allowing finger tips to do the walking while in a natural drive-ready placement.

Other thoughtful perks include night time illuminated side-by-side beverage holders between front buckets just aft of the stubby T-bar eight-speed automatic transmission shifter. Plainly spelled out to the right of the steering column, amber illuminated 'run' and 'off' wording framing the circular electronic push start button, providing an extra layer of documentation to the engine's current state.

Below the 8.4-inch UConnect screen, ventilation controls consisting of a large center dial controlling fan speed flanked by red (up) and cold (bottom) dual temperature buttons.

Both trunk and fuel door releases are up off the floor and separated enough to minimize confusion. The circular trunk release button makes its home left of the manual tilt-and-telescope steering column gracing the dashboard while the gas button resides alone and easily recognizable on the driver's door.

Charger's second row handles two adult riders in optimal comfort with average leg room. A steeply sloping rear roof line also contributes to the cozy environ. Most large sedans welcome three adults, but for those with nuclear or extended families totaling four, Charger's a hoot.

Charger includes a cap less fuel lead, forever eliminating twist-off cap misplacement or leave behinds. Open the circular fuel door and direct the gas pump's elongated nozzle nose through a self-sealing barrier when entering and exiting; a great low tech/highly functional addition that's easily adaptable.

For two-door excitement, check out another name from Dodge's storied past, the two-door Challenger, offering the same available four engines as Charger. Both share an assembly home in Ontario, Canada and select underpinnings.

At a Glance
Price as tested: $38,070
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.4 inches
Width: 75.0inches
Height: 58.2inches
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 292 horsepower
Curb weight: 4,233 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles
City/Highway economy:      18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway (AWD)
Built: 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.