While everyone else is driving around in Hellcats I get to test something more attainable to the average family-sedan shopper: a V6 Dodge Charger equipped with all-wheel drive. It kind of looks like a Hellcat and I have had a few positive comments on it already, but the price and horsepower reflect something a little more pedestrian.
My Charger tester is equipped with a 3.6L Pentastar engine and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This combination is still rated at a reasonable and respectable 292 hp. And although that is a far cry from the Hellcat's 707 hp, the average family won't miss it.
The first thing I noticed about the Charger was the door handles. I find it odd I haven't read it elsewhere but the Charger still sports the old style flat door handles that open upward, not the newer type of pull handle found on nearly every car built in the last 15 years -- odd. Perhaps I noticed because I find they look dated and feel cheap, let us know what you think in the comments.
My tester is loaded with all the latest doo-dads and technology: radar cruise, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, blind spot detection, reverse camera and much more. Oddly it does not sport a sunroof or ever-popular panorama roofs but the outside roof is black, giving it the look on the outside without the function on the inside.
This is a large sedan, very large in fact. The trunk load height is higher than that of some SUVs I have tested and the trunk itself can easily swallow two 19-inch tires.
Pricing: 2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD
Base Price: $40,590
Options: Rallye Group -- $1,395; AWD Premium Group -- $5,295
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $47,280
I never really noticed how large the Charger was before I had some time to sit in it and stand beside it myself. Seeing them on the road does not really make them look all that big, but when you get up close and personal with one you realize that this is a very large car.
Because of its size you get a very large trunk while not compromising on leg room for the rear passengers either; this really is a full-size sedan. A few people I have talked to about the car immediately associate the name with a sporty car, or confuse it with the Challenger. There isn't really much sporty going on here, it truly is a comfortable and capable family sedan.
On the inside, the loud and proud red seats stand out, but are comfortable. The dash is made up of an interesting type of plastic that is textured and is visually appealing. The large infotainment screen that displays the HVAC, navigation and entertainment systems is one of the best in the industry and something that Chrysler has been getting right now for a couple of years.
The gauge cluster on the other hand is a little too busy, the fuel gauge is difficult to read and there just seems to be too much information jammed up together in the middle. The biggest notable about the interior is how seeing out is compromised by the low window line, not as low as the Chrysler 300 but noticeable nonetheless.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised but the Charger's long wheelbase certainly gives it a signature ride. If you are looking for a sedan that won't beat you up, this is it. The ride is compliant but not soft in a way that is uncontrolled. Yet if you hammer it over speed bumps both the front and rear soak it up like nothing happened.
Out on the highway the Charger is also quiet with very little road noise and basically no wind noise to speak off. That combined with the controlled ride make this an excellent highway cruising car -- I can only imagine having 707 horsepower underfoot must make it the ultimate highway eater.
Despite my tester's "lack" of power it still moves quickly and with authority. The eight-speed transmission is quick to downshift if you plant that right foot into the throttle and if you switch it to sport mode it will hold the revs slightly longer. You can also manually shift the transmission via the gear lever or the paddles on the steering wheel, but I have found it works best just to let it do its own thing.
My tester is all-wheel drive but you can tell that the Charger was first and foremost designed as a rear-wheel-drive car. The turning circle is good and despite its large size the Charger feels planted in corners, even at silly speeds.
The radar cruise control works well on the Charger, usually a feature I hate around town but I've used it and enjoyed a few times as it follows closer than most systems. I'm not a fan of the climate control system though, it keeps turning on the ventilated seats and freezing me, without asking.
The Charger certainly is a star when it comes to highway cruising; it is quiet and extremely comfortable and soaks up imperfections and even speed bumps like they do not exist. It has a large fuel tank too with a cruising range of around 800 km from the 74-litre fuel tank.
If you are quick with the math you already know approximately how my fuel consumption went this week with the Charger. If I'm honest, I was a little disappointed to see 9.1 L/100 km on a sedan. Yes I know this is a large sedan and yes it does have all-wheel drive, but with mostly highway driving I was hoping for better when some SUVs are returning the same.
What I took away from the Charger this week is that it is a large comfortable family sedan -- it did surprise me a little with its road holding abilities. A few times I took the Charger to the extreme on on-ramps and was surprised it held on and didn't even squeal the tires -- I guess I should have pushed harder.