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 2017 with an upgrade to its available 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen infotainment system, the addition of Apple Car Play and Android Auto support and the return of the Charger Daytona trim.
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. Trim levels include SE, SXT, Daytona, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, Daytona 392, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat. SE and SXT come with a 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. R/T and Daytona get a 5.7-liter V8 with 370 horsepower. R/T Scat Pack and 392 models get a 6.4-liter V8 offering 485 horsepower. Hellcat boasts a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 707 horsepower. An eight-speed automatic is standard across the board as is rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional only on the SE and SXT.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, traction and stability control and dual-front, front-side, curtain-side and driver-knee airbags. Also available are rear-view camera, rear-parking sensor, blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert and forward-collision warning with brake assist. The available Uconnect system offers emergency assistance and can send text notifications when the vehicle alarm is triggered.
SE models start at $27,995. R/T, the entry-level V8 starts at $34,790. The line-topping limited-edition Hellcat sells for $67,645. All models have a $1,095 destination charge and are assembled in Canada.
While the Hellcat and other V8-powered trims garner most of the attention, the SE and SXT, with their potent-but-efficient V6, quietly garner the majority of sales. With 292-horsepower on tap -- 300 if you opt for the Rally Group -- the V6 is one of the most powerful in the class. It provides solid acceleration away from a stop and good passing punch. Step on the gas from a stop and the V6 Charger will hit 60 mph in a tick or two past 6 seconds -- quite fast for the class. Additionally, the engine is smooth and refined and mates well to the slick-shifting eight-speed automatic.
EPA estimates for the V6/AWD combo are just 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Those are near the bottom of the class. Additionally, the V6 doesn't have auto-stop, a fuel-saving feature that helps boost city mpg. Real-world fuel economy numbers are certainly dependent on driving style. Stop-and-go commuters will likely see about 20 mpg overall. If your commute includes a healthy dose of gentle highway cruising, you can easily top 28 mpg overall.
The AWD system does a good job of sending power to the wheels with the best traction, however, it's no substitute for a good set of all-season tires when combating Chicago's snow covered roads.
Despite its 4200-pound curb weight, the Charger is the kind of car that shrinks around you as you drive. The well-sorted chassis and compliant suspension do an excellent job of isolating road imperfections and providing a smooth and comfortable ride. At the same time, the Charger feels more athletic and agile than most other vehicles in the class -- partly due to its rear-drive upbringing. The steering is firm, quick and accurate. Brakes have excellent stopping power.
Interior noise levels are on par with others in the class. The Charger V6 models cruise more quietly on the highway than V8 models.
Inside the Charger sports a modern if somewhat masculine design that puts function ahead of form. Materials are appropriate for the price, but there are some wide swaths of hard plastic on lower-trim models. Fit-and-finish is good, but there are a few odd seams where the dashboard meets the door panels. The available 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system occasionally stutters between command inputs and occasionally locks up for a minute or so after startup. Otherwise, it's a joy to use compared to some of the more complicated systems in competitors.
Front passengers are treated to great head and leg room. Seat cushions are firmly padded but offer good support and long-trip comfort. Outward visibility is good forward but somewhat pinched to the sides and aft because of the high beltline. Entry-exit is best in class.
Rear-seat passengers will find that Charger isn't as roomy as the vehicle's wheelbase might indicate. That's likely due to the rear-drive design, which adds a large driveshaft hump in the middle of the floor. Still, there's enough head and leg room for two average-size adults provided the front seats aren't all the way back. A few front-drive competitors offer a bit more rear-seat space.
Cargo space comes in at 16.5 cubic feet. That's about average for the class. The trunk opening is large and there's a nice wide and flat floor. Rear seatbacks fold to increase cargo capacity. Interior storage is merely adequate with a few open and covered bins throughout.
Though the Charger plies its trade by offering rear-wheel drive and a V8 engine in a class dominated by front-drive V6 competitors, the Charger SXT is well worth considering. It offers good passenger and cargo room, plenty of performance, adept handling and lots of tech and safety goodies. Failings are limited to subpar fuel economy and that driveline hump that limits three abreast seating in back. Prices are very affordable and there are large discounts from Dodge as well. Shop wisely and try not to be too seduced by the seductive power of that Hemi V8.