The Dodge Charger is a family sedan with the heart of a muscle car, available in a range of models from powerful to outlandish. Still a heavy and fuel-thirsty vehicle, the Charger shows off its clean, modern lines, while the simple interior layout relies on premium materials. Passengers can expect satisfying space and comfort, though the back seat is snug for a car of this size.
For 2016, Charger adds a Super Track Pak for V6 models and a new Blacktop Appearance package. The 2016 Challenger SRT 392 gains additional equipment. New technical features for 2016 include a drag-and-drop menu bar on the 8.4-inch touchscreen control interface, Siri Eyes Free voice control, a Do Not Disturb feature, and a digital owner’s manual. Dodge offers heritage color options, including Plum Crazy that is new for the 2016 model year. The lineup was refreshed for 2015.
Charger SE and Charger SXT models come with Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, producing 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which delivers a satisfying driving experience. V6 output rises to 300 hp and 264 pound-feet in an SXT with the Rallye Appearance Group, consisting of cold-air intake, engine-control software revisions, and a different exhaust setup. An 8-speed automatic is the sole transmission. We have found the V6 models to be quite responsive. Few drivers really need more, unless they simply cannot do without that familiar V8 sound and response.
In the V8 group, R/T is the starting point, with a 5.7-liter Hemi that makes 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet.
Stepping up a sizable power notch, R/T Scat Pack and SRT 392 models unleash a 485-horsepower, 6.4-liter V8 that’s a lot stronger than the 5.7, delivering 0-60 mph acceleration time in the mid four-second range.
Reaching from the sublime to the outrageous, the Charger SRT Hellcat contains the same 707-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 as the Challenger SRT Hellcat, but the sedan accelerates even more quickly (0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, says Dodge). The SRT 392 and Hellcat upgrade to huge Brembo brakes, as well as multi-mode adaptive damping.
The V6 models are fuel-responsible, but the V8s tend to guzzle, even with cylinder-deactivation on some versions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives Charger Good ratings, its highest score, in all categories except the small front overlap crash test.
The 2016 Dodge Charger comes in sSeven distinct models. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available for the V6-powered Charger SE and SXT.
Charger SE ($27,995) includes power locks and seats, AM/FM/CD audio with touchscreen control, Uconnect services, and Wi-Fi hotspot. Charger SXT ($29,995) upgrades with dual-zone automatic climate control, Alpine premium audio, 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, Bluetooth, 18-inch alloy wheels. The Super Track Pak option lowers the suspension 0.5 inch and adds high-performance steering, firmer suspension tuning, and Performance Pages. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Charger R/T ($33,695) gets the 5.7-liter V8, die-cast paddle shifters, and a sport suspension. The R/T Road & Track includes performance tires on 20-inch wheels, a performance powertrain controller, 3.07 rear axle, and heated/ventilated sport seats.
R/T Scat Pack ($39,995) is the heritage model, with a 6.4-liter V8, power bulge hood, aluminum pedals, high-performance suspension, 20-inch black/satin wheels, Brembo four-piston brakes, and an active exhaust system.
The SRT 392 ($50,995) gets premium Laguna leather upholstery, navigation, HD radio, power passenger seat and heated rear seats, plus a Brembo six-piston ultra-high performance brake package. Bilstein adaptive damping has Auto, Sport, and Track modes.
SRT Hellcat ($65,945) gets the monster V8, Sport, Track, and Eco modes. A red and black keyfob is included, with the black one reducing engine output to 500 horsepower. A 900-watt, 18-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system is standard, as are a flat-bottom heated steering wheel and T-handle shifter.
Safety features include full-length side-curtain airbags and a driver’s knee bag. Rear park assist and a rearview camera are standard on the R/T Scat Pack model and above. Rear Cross Path Detection is standard on SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat, with Blind Spot Monitoring on the Hellcat. Also available: Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, Full-speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus, and Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus.
Retro-look coupes are common enough, but the Dodge Charger is one of few four-doors to combine elements of old muscle car styling with clean, modern aesthetics. Its Coke-bottle profile harks back to the Sixties, but short front/rear overhangs and large wheels suggest modern performance. Any Charger looks like it will slip powerfully through the air rather than merely charge ahead with brute force. The latest Charger looks more like a midsize car, with an authoritative presence, than a full-size sedan.
In addition to a low nose with a slim blacked-out crosshair grille, Chargers have a tall beltline. Projector headlights are surrounded by C-shaped LED daytime running lights. LED racetrack-style rear lights are a Charger signature.
Big front doors make getting in and out of the front seats easy, and the elongated roofline eases entry into the back seat. An upright profile brings plenty of headroom for everyone, though leg space in back is somewhat limited. Front seats are wide and well-bolstered.
Interior materials excel in the quiet, sophisticated cabin, with ample soft-touch materials and impressive switchgear. With a V8, all you hear is throaty, enticing engine rumble.
Connectivity and entertainment features are refreshingly simple. A seven-inch thin-film TFT screen sits in the center of the instrument cluster, while the center stack contains a Uconnect touchscreen up to 8.4 inches across. Icons are large enough to be tapped easily with a fingertip, and the interface is easy to understand.
Across the lineup, Chargers hit and surpass the mark on performance, given their level of comfort and everyday usability. They also handle surprisingly well for a big, heavy sedan. Except for a bit of lean and body roll, a Charger is much more nimble than a Ford Taurus or Chevrolet Impala. Ride quality is on the firm side, but quite comfortable.
Satisfying and quite responsive with the V6, the Charger imparts a secure, confident feel. A V6 is really all that most drivers need.
Still, you can’t beat the character and firepower of eight cylinders. With any V8, the 8-speed transmission allows relaxed mid-throttle passing. Typical of American V8s, the R/T provides plentiful low-rpm torque, and the automatic performs flawlessly, though the engine is quite vocal.
V6-powered Chargers are EPA-rated at 19/31 mpg City/Highway, 23 mpg Combined; all-wheel drive drops the figures to 18/27 mpg. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is EPA-rated at 16/25 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined. Hellcat? Think 13/22 mpg, or 16 mpg Combined.
The Dodge Charger brings pony-car fun to a big four-door sedan, long on comfort and day-to-day usability. A range of models and options widens its appeal.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.