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First Glance: Judging by first impressions
When I first saw the new Charger at the 2014 New York Auto Show, I was not a fan. Like a lot of people, one of my favorite aspects of the Charger was its front-end styling — that angry, get-the-hell-out-of-my-way face that set it apart from every other car on the road. The new one looked like they had simply grafted on the front end of the Dart.
Larger photos: Front (R/T) – front (SRT) – rear – interior – photo tour
Now that I’ve spent a little more time with the car, I’ve come around to the styling — which, I suppose, is exactly what you’d expect me to say once you figure out that my Charger preview included an extended drive in the 707 horsepower SRT Hellcat. (I’d like to think my journalistic ethics are beyond reproach, but the truth is I’d seriously consider selling one or both of my children for the chance to drive a car like the Hellcat.)
The simple truth is that the new Dodge Charger is a car that has earned my respect.
This is a perfect example of how to update an already-good car, with subtle updates where they were needed and no changes where they weren’t. As for the styling, Dodge gets credit for differentiating the front end of the SRT models from those of lesser Chargers, with sheetmetal updates that match the softer contours of the nose. Yeah, I’m still going to miss the way the old Charger looks, but when you consider the entire lineup, the fact is that Chrysler totally nailed it. The Charger promises action, and every single model in the lineup, from the V6-powered Charger SE to the 707 hp Charger SRT Hellcat, delivers on that promise.
In the Driver’s Seat: Leaving well enough alone
Larger interior photo
Chrysler’s designers did a rather nice job when they updated the Charger’s interior in 2011, and they have wisely left well enough alone. If you’ve driven a Chrysler product in the last couple of years, the switchgear and layout will look familiar (and if not, you can compare this shot of the ’11 Charger’s dash with this one of the ’15 Charger). New this year is a nice big color screen between the gauges, which can display all sorts of information; I’d argue that the digital speedometer and next-turn directions from the (optional) navigation system are the most useful.
The center stack is once again dominated by the UConnect touch screen, which controls stereo, phone, climate and navigation system. There are redundant buttons and dials underneath for basic stereo and A/C controls, though a button for the seat heaters is conspicuously absent. (Nothing like trying to page through touch-screen menus when it feels like your thighs are on fire.) There’s a new T-shaped transmission selector, but don’t worry, it’s not that awful ratchet-style unit from the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee; this one moves up and down like a proper shifter.
Stretch-out space is the Charger’s specialty; there’s plenty of room in all three dimensions for front-seat passengers. Back seaters get lots of legroom, though the center tunnel makes the center seat a less-than-pleasant place to be. (Front wheel drive cars like the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon score better here.) The generous trunk befits a car of this size, with 16.5 feet of suitcase-friendly space.
On the Road: Four great choices
For 2015, Dodge is offering the Charger with four different engines, all of them tied to Chrysler’s new 8-speed automatic and all of them fantastic. Bottom of the line — if you can call a 292 horsepower engine bottom of anything — is Chrysler’s much-vaunted (and deservedly so) 3.6 liter V6. Available in the $28,990 Charger SE and $30,990 Charger SXT, it’s plenty quick, if a bit muted, and if you opt for the optional Rallye Group, it steps up to an even 300 horsepower. The V6 is the only Charger engine available with all-wheel-drive, and it’s that nifty Chrysler system that disconnects drive to the front axle when not needed in order to save fuel.
Next up is the 370 horsepower 5.7 liter HEMI V8 (was it that long ago that this was the top-of-the-line engine?) found in the $33,990 Charger R/T. It adds significantly more thrust and a V8 rumble, albeit a muted one compared to bigger engines. From here, we move on to the 392: 6.4 liters and 485 horsepower, the latter more than was ever offered by the classic Chargers of the 1960 (and with good enough fuel economy to dodge the gas guzzler tax). Though most commonly associated with the $48,380 Charger SRT 392 model — which includes a three-mode adaptive suspension and bigger brakes — you’ll also find this engine in the R/T Scat Pack model, which is a bargain at $40,990. The 392 is, in my opinion, the sweet spot in the Charger lineup: Muscle-car fast and muscle-car noisy, but not completely over the top.
The completely-over-the-top engine is found in the $64,990 Charger SRT Hellcat: A supercharged 6.2 liter V8 that puts out an eye-popping 707 horsepower (the same engine found in the Challenger Hellcat). Capable of reducing the rear tires to a smoking pile of rubber dust with one prod of the accelerator, the Hellcat engine launches the Charger to 60 MPH in less than four seconds — if you can get the tires to connect, which is nearly impossible. I took an extended drive in a Hellcat and was impressed by how nicely it handled mundane everyday driving, but it’s nearly impossible to floor the accelerator without risk of losing control and/or your driver’s license. It was an amazing experience, but I think the normally-aspirated 392 is more than enough for me.
And the drive? It’s fine. The Charger rides comfortably and handles competently, though pushed hard it’s a bit of a blunt instrument. Dodge calls it a sports sedan, but I think it’s more of a muscle car that can go around corners well. However you define it, though, the Charger is a hell of a lot of fun.
Journey’s End: No weak sister
I expected the new Charger to be a disappointment, and yet it’s turned out to be anything but. The styling may be a bit more tame than the old model, but the rest of the car sure as hell isn’t. What I like best about the 2015 Dodge Charger is that there isn’t a weak sister in the lineup: Every 2015 Charger looks great, goes fast, and takes good care of the people inside.
This being a performance-oriented car, there are some sacrifices to be made. Front drivers like the Toyota Avalon and the Chevrolet Impala (the latter my personal favorite) offer more back-seat space and a more serene ride. (I intentionally left out the Ford Taurus; its back seat cramped by comparison.) But they aren’t the same type of car as the Charger — they don’t get the driver’s adrenaline pumping.
Of all the cars out there, the Chevrolet SS is the Charger’s best rival. A rear-drive sedan with a Corvette engine, the SS is big fun to drive and easy to live with, just like the Charger. But it only comes in one flavor, while the Charger comes in four. Ford’s offering is the Taurus SHO, and while it scores points for its all-wheel-drive powertrain, the high-tech turbocharged engine doesn’t deliver the Charger’s muscle-car feel.
The Charger may not be for everyone, as it trades practicality for performance. But if you want a car that is big, fast and fun, there’s no question in my mind that the Charger is the best of the bunch. The look may be a little softer, but the 2015 Dodge Charger is as hard-core as ever. — Aaron Gold
What I liked about the 2015 Dodge Charger:
- Four engine choices, all fast and fun
- Roomy interior and trunk
- Classy cabin
What I didn’t like:
- Nothing really sticks out
Details and Specs
- Charger is Dodge’s big muscle sedan, thoroughly updated for 2015
- Price range: $28,990 – $64,990 (including destination fee and gas guzzler tax, not including options)
- Powertrain: 3.6 liter V6/292 or 300 hp, 5.7 liter V8/370 hp, 6.4 liter V8/485 hp, or 6.2 liter supercharged V8/707 hp; 8-speed automatic; rear- or all-wheel-drive
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 19 MPG city/31 MPG highway (3.6 RWD), 18/27 (3.6 AWD), 16/25 (5.7 RWD), 15/25 (6.4 RWD), 13/22 (6.2 RWD)
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/100,000 miles powertrain
- Roadside assistance/free maintenance: 5 years/100,000 miles roadside assistance/no free maintenance
- Where built: Canada
- Best rivals: Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet SS, Ford Taurus SHO
Disclosure: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. Travel, accommodations, meals, vehicles and fuel were provided by Chrysler. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.