The name “Dodge Charger” elicits excitement from certain people, some for memories already made and some for memories to be made.
The current Charger is a large sedan with performance, luxury and attitude to spare, and one of the few in its class to offer V-8 power on lower priced models – from the $33,895 R/T to the $67,645 Hellcat, our test vehicle for the week.
For 2017, nine trims are available, starting at $27,995 for a “basic” SE with a 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine, rated at 31 mpg on the highway, to the notorious Hellcat with a 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi SRT Hellcat V-8 engine.
The Hellcat, with EPA ratings of 13 city/22 highway/16 combined, is capable of going from zero--60 mph in 4.1 seconds.
Rear wheel drive also is standard on Charger, but all-wheel drive is offered on SE and SXT V-6 models.
Add in-your-face styling (including two large, deeply sculpted active hood air vents, a wide integrated hood scoop, and a large lower grille) and lots of special options for a sedan with strong value in its segment. Drivers can personalize from a comfort-oriented Charger to a track-ready performance version.
I drove the extraordinary SRT Hellcat with a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, dressed in Billet Clear-Coat with Dual Carbon Stripes ($995), riding on eye-catching 20-inch SRT Matte Black forged aluminum “Slingshot” spoke wheels wearing P Zero Summer Tires ($595).
P Zero tires are Max Performance Summer tires drawn from Pirelli’s 100 years of motorsport experience, developed for drivers of powerful cars. Bold Brass Monkey wheels are optional for $995.
Ten exterior colors are available, including sweet B5 Blue Pearl and GoMango, fierce Maximum Steel Metallic and hot TorRed. Four interiors are available: Laguna Lux Perform SRT Emboss Logo in Black or Black/Sepia and Alcantara Suede/Nappa Leather SRT Perform Seats in Black or Black/Ruby.
The interior of my Hellcat was all black with upgraded Laguna Lux leather seating, with white top-stitching; gun-metal details and gun metal on the flat-bottom steering wheel; dark engine-turned aluminum interior accents on the doors, dash, center console and center stack; and red tachometer and speedometer in the instrument cluster with reconfigurable seven-inch driver information display.
The T-handle shifter was a nice retro touch. The engine-turned accents, in which precise spins are applied in overlapping rows on aluminum, producing a basket-weave look, harken back to race cars and airplanes of the 1920s and 1930s, and street cars starting in the 1940s.
Front seats were heavily bolstered, with retro-look “tucking” near the elbow area of the wing-shaped bolsters and the thigh area of the seat bolsters. The tucking was echoed on the door panels, a more luxurious look. The cockpit felt cavernous, with 38.6 inches of headroom and 41.8 inches of legroom.
Rear passengers were comfortable, with plenty of hip and shoulder room, excluding the middle position, which had no legroom to speak of due to the massive tunnel for the driveshaft.
Legroom for outboard passengers was 40.1 inches, with 37.9 inches of headroom. Outboard seats were heated, and there were two USB ports on the rear of the center console, along with air vents.
Folding rear seatbacks increased hauling capacity of the already large trunk, at 16.5 cubic feet.
An 8.4-inch touch screen with large “virtual” buttons fit into the right half of the wide dash and was easy to use with intuitive layout and quick responses. The screen serves multiple vehicle and infotainment functions, including Uconnect.
With the Uconnect Access app, your smartphone connects to your vehicle via 3G WiFi, allowing you to start the engine, lock/unlock the vehicle, send destination to vehicle, find vehicle, and much more.
A Vehicle Health Report/Alert sends a summary of the vehicle’s condition and an alert if attention is required. Emergency Assistance can call 911, help track a stolen vehicle, or alert the driver if the theft alarm is activated – by text or email. Voice texting allows listening and replying to text messages using Bluetooth Message Access Profile, supported by certain smartphones.
My Hellcat also had Performance Pages to access real-time stats such as engine performance and handling to peak g-forces, acceleration times, braking distances, and more. Car and Driver says “There’s even an eco mode with a green-leaf graphic. This is for comic relief.”
Five drive modes are available – Track, Sport, Custom, Default and Eco – displayed on the 8.4-inch touch screen with the touch of a button on the center stack, each with five parameters – Power, Transmission, Paddle Shifters, Traction and Suspension – to help drivers choose the desired driving experience, depending on circumstances or mood.
Using the Custom menu, Hellcat’s 707-horsepower engine can be detuned to 500 horsepower, which obviously tames the Cat, but doesn’t diminish usable passing power. The Eco setting also tunes down to 500 horsepower, softens throttle response, and advances shift points (disables the manual paddle shifters) for a sweeter ride along with almost decent fuel economy. I achieved 17.3 mpg mostly driving on the highway. A gas-guzzler tax of $1,700 is tacked onto the vehicle price.
Hellcat comes with two key fobs – one red, one black – for Keyless Go, remote start, and Sentry Key Theft Deterrent System. The black fob restricts power to 500 horsepower, while the red fob allows the full 707 horsepower.
My tester only had the red fob, wasted on me since I don’t have a safe area to put 707 horses to the test. Acceleration, however, was astonishing, with a satisfying roar under the hood to match. Hellcat owners can experience all its features with a complimentary SRT Track Experience, a $700 value.
In addition to all the other exciting features, my Hellcat had an outstanding Harman Kardon Audio Group option for $1,995, with 19 premium speakers including subwoofer. The package also added floor mats.
Standard equipment included Brembo high-performance brakes with ABS, electronic roll mitigation, all-speed traction control, GPS navigation, ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, ParkView Rear Backup Camera, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, 200 mph speedometer, heated and cooled front seats, HD radio, SiriusXM radio/Travel Link/Traffic, LED daytime running lights, and automatic bi-function HID projector headlights.
Bold and muscular, Charger Hellcat is lots of fun to drive even while behaving well in city traffic. It’s roomy for four adults plus one small child (or three children in the rear), and filled with special features and heritage – a future “barn find” The major drawback is the lower fuel economy. Visibility out the rear is also compromised by the small rear window and large (stylish) pillars.
Total delivered price for my 2016 Hellcat was $72,225, including $995 destination charges. That’s based on the 2016 starting price of $65,945 versus the 2017 base price of $67,645.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.