The transformation of Chrysler under the leadership of Italy’s Fiat continues to astound the industry, as each new or redesigned product seems to be right on target.
That includes the newest version of the full-size Dodge Charger sedan, which got a “full body makeover” for 2015, the manufacturer says, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission for all trims, and more high-tech features.
While the car still looks much like the model it replaced, the new exterior is clearly more modern-looking and muscular, giving the Charger R/T I tested a more-menacing appearance to go along with its superb 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine.
The eight-speed automatic is now standard on all models, and there are additions to the lineup, as well. At the top of the pack is the new Charger SRT Hellcat, with its 700-plus horsepower Hemi V-8, along with the new SRT 392 and R/T Scat Pack models, also with enhanced Hemi engines.
Trim levels for 2015 start with the SE (base price $27,995 plus $995 freight; $30,995 with all-wheel drive), followed by the SXT ($29,995 rear drive; $32,995), R/T ($33,595), R/T Road & Track ($36,595), R/T Scat Pack ($39,995), SRT 392 ($47,995) and SRT Hellcat ($63,995).
SE and SXT come equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine with 292 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. Both are available with rear- or all-wheel drive.
All of the other models come with one of three different Hemi V-8s, and are offered only with rear-wheel drive.
The base Hemi V-8 included on our Charger R/T test car has 370 horsepower and 395 foot-pounds of torque, and the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, which previously had been available only on V-6 powered Chargers.
SRT 392 models come with a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi with 485 horsepower and 475 foot-pounds of torque, while the Hellcat gets a new supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi with 707 horsepower, 650 foot-pounds of torque, and a top speed of 204 mph. I’ve driven the corresponding Challenger Hellcat model with this beast of a powertrain, and it was one of the most fun driving experiences I’ve ever had.
Still, the Charger R/T is no slouch with its 370 horsepower, which is quite enough to get you in trouble with the guys pointing radar guns at you. (No, they didn’t get me, either with the Charger R/T or the Challenger Hellcat.)
Dodge says that “nearly every single body panel” of the new Charger was “re-sculpted,” and I have to acknowledge that the car looks great.
But I think I’m equally impressed by the revised interior, and particularly the dash with its new instrument panel layout, which takes up about two-thirds of the width of the dash. The big speedometer and tachometer and the huge new 8.4-inch audio/navigation/rearview camera screen are impressive, and the elements to the right of the steering wheel are tilted slightly toward the driver for easier visibility.
My driver’s side bucket seat was quite comfortable, and I was easily able to adjust it to my frame thanks to the eight-way power adjustment. There’s also a four-way power lumbar support system, although I don’t pay much attention to that feature on most vehicles.
The modern version of the Charger was introduced for 2006, returning as a four-door sedan rather than its original form, the iconic two-door muscle car of the 1960s and ‘70s. Although it wasn’t well-received early on by fans of the original, the Charger has become a successful product for Chrysler, and has developed its own new fan base.
Over the nine years since its introduction, the Charger lineup has grown to where there’s a model for almost everyone, whether they’re looking for a six-cylinder family sedan or a go-fast car to take to the track – or something in-between.
The R/T I drove this past week would work fine as a daily driver for someone who wants more than the entry V-6, although even the V-6 engine gives the Charger SE and SXT models a good measure of power that should suffice for most of anyone’s everyday driving.
There’s nothing quite like the kick of the Chrysler Hemi V-8, though, even in its mildest form. But the Charger R/T has a lot more going for it than just the 370 horsepower.
First of all, this car looks great. The tester came in the Redline Red Tri-Coat Pearl exterior color, which added $500 to the sticker. The interior was black with tungsten trim, featuring dual black cloth sport seats up front, and a three-person bench in the rear.
The transmission has paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for those who want to shift manually (without having to fool with a clutch, of course).
Included in the base price of the R/T are 20-inch satin-carbon aluminum wheels. But our tester came with the optional 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels with black pockets, part of a $1,295 Wheels and Tunes options group. Also included in this package was the Beats audio upgrade, with 10 speakers, including a subwoofer, and a 552-watt amplifier.
The car also had the Navigation/Backup Camera package ($995), which included the 8.4-inch touch screen, HD and satellite radio, 3-D navigation maps, SiriusXM TravelLink and Traffic, and the rearview camera system, which gave a great view of everything to the rear on that big color screen.
Up front, there are two 12-volt outlets and USB/auxiliary ports for connecting smartphones and other devices. But also, and this is pretty cool, there are two USB ports on the rear of the center console easily accessible to rear passengers, for charging of cellphones without having to plug into a 12-volt outlet. We used these to charge phones we had in the front seats, though, since we had no rear passengers. It’s great when there are charging USB ports for almost everyone in the car.
Road handling is surprisingly good in the R/T, thanks in part to its great performance suspension system, aided by all-speed traction control, electric power steering, electronic stability control and four-wheel antilock performance disc brakes.
Safety gear includes Ready Alert Braking to assist in a panic stop, Rain Brake Support, and Hill Start Assist. Of course, there’s also tire-pressure monitoring, front and rear side-curtain air bags, and a theft-deterrent system.
The car comes with keyless entry and pushbutton start, remote engine starting, automatic headlights, and a 160-mph speedometer (don’t try that on public highways, please).
Where I live, there are unmarked Charger police cars painted in the same color as my tester, so I did experience the phenomenon of people slowing down around me when I came up behind them on the freeway. Chrysler sells a lot of Chargers with the police package, but it seems that most of them have the V-6 engine to save money (and fuel).
We took a long weekend trip in the Charger, mostly on four-lane or wider highways and Interstates, and found the ride to be smooth and relaxing, except when people in older Honda Civics and Preludes seemed to want to race us.
The rear seat can hold three people, but knee room is limited if the front seat is moved back most of the way on its track to accommodate larger people up riding in the driver’s and front passenger seats. Two people can ride in the back quite comfortably, but an adult in the middle might not be so comfy.
Charger comes with a cavernous trunk, with an electronic release, but no automatic opener/closer. It has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space, with a 30-inch lift-over height.
Even the base Charger SE is definitely no stripped-down bargain model. It’s definitely is a bargain at the entry price, though – it looks, rides and drives like a luxury vehicle that costs thousands of dollars more.
With the V-6, the Charger’s EPA ratings are a very impressive 19 mpg city/31 highway (with rear drive; 18/27 with all-wheel drive). Our 5.7-liter V-8 model had ratings of 16 city/25 highway/19 combined. We averaged about 19.7 with about a 60/40 mix of highway/city driving.
Among the most-remarkable features is just how quiet the cabin is at highway speeds – it’s better than most expensive luxury cars. The front seats are heated, and there is a dual-control automatic climate control system.
Including options and freight, my R/T test vehicle’s total sticker price was $37,380.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com.
2015-16 Dodge Charger
The package: Four-door, five-passenger, front- or all-wheel-drive, V-6 or V-8 powered full-size sedan.
Advantages: Extensively updated for 2015, the Charger is a sporty and stylish big sedan that seems a lot more expensive than it is. It has a powerful base V-6 engine that offers great performance and decent fuel economy, and the cabin is quieter at highway speeds than even many high-end luxury cars.
Negatives: All-wheel drive would be nice on the V-8 models; it’s now limited to V-6 Chargers; rear knee room is limited.
Engines: 3.6-liter V-6 (SE, SXT); 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (R/T); 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 (R/T Scat Pack, SRT 392); 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 (Hellcat).
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 292 HP./260 foot-pounds (V-6); 370 HP./395 foot-pounds (5.7-liter V-8); 470 HP./470 foot-pounds (6.4-liter V-8); 707 HP./650 foot-pounds (6.2-liter V-8).
Length: 198.4 inches (SE, SXT, R/T); 200.8 inches (Scat Pack, SRT 392, Hellcat).
Curb weight: 3,934-4,575 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Trunk volume: 16.5 cubic feet.
Fuel capacity/type: 18.5 gallons/unleaded regular (premium recommended but not required for 6.4, 6.2 engines).
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city/31 highway (V-6, front-wheel drive); 18/27 (V-6, all-wheel drive); 16/25 (5.7-liter); 14/23 (6.4-liter).
Major competitors: Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Impala, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Alera, Hyundai Genesis sedan, Volkswagen Passat, Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKZ, Acura RL, Lexus GS, Cadillac CTS, Audi A6, Chrysler 300.
Base price range (2015): $27,995-$63,995, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $37,380, including freight and options (R/T model).
On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.