Recalling ancestors from the muscle-car era, as far back as 1966, the 2019 Charger continues to entice enthusiasts and is unmistakably American. Aging gracefully, the Charger can be a V6 family sedan or, packing V8 power, a genuine muscle car. The basic platform hasn’t changed since the modern-day Charger debuted for 2005.
Dodge has reworked its model lineup for 2019, adding an all-wheel-drive SXT. The GT becomes a V6 model with performance looks.
New red, blue, and silver dual-center stripes decorate the SRT Hellcat. Dual carbon stripes are available on R/T and R/T Scat Pack. Performance upgrades for the Hellcat and Scat Pack include Launch Assist and Line Lock, plus a “performance” grille with dual air intakes. A Launch Control switch goes on the R/T Scat Pack, while the Hellcat adds Torque Reserve and an After-Run Chiller.
The Charger lineup now consists of SXT, SXT AWD, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat.
Base engine for SXT trim is a 3.6-liter V6 that delivers 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In the SXT AWD and GT, the V6 is rated at 300 horsepower and 264 pound-feet.
In the Charger R/T, a 5.7-liter V8 makes 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, for 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 6.0 seconds. The R/T Scat Pack boasts a 485-horsepower, 6.4-liter V-8 that slashes 0-60 mph time to about 4.5 seconds.
Topping off the lineup, the aptly-named SRT Hellcat unleashes a 707-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V8, capable of hitting 60 mph in a blistering 3.7 seconds.
Charger offers a decent selection of safety features, but inconsistent test scores. In crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dodge’s Charger rated five stars overall and for side-impact, as well as rollover prevention (a calculated figure); but only four-star for the frontal-impact crash.
Crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earned mostly â€œGoodâ€ scores, but only a â€œMarginalâ€ rating in the stringent frontal small-overlap test for the driver’s side. Headlights were judged â€œPoor.
A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are standard. Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.
A high beltline restricts outward vision a bit more than other large sedans.
Prices do not include $1,495 destination charge.
SXT ($29,220 with rear-drive, $33,320 with all-wheel drive) includes the 292-hp V6, cloth upholstery, keyless start, power driver’s seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, dual exhaust, and 17-inch alloy wheels (19-inch with AWD). The 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
GT ($31,495) has rear-wheel drive and a 300-horsepower V6. An aluminum hood with functional scoop, performance suspension and steering with paddle shifters, and 20-inch wheels are standard.
R/T ($35,995) gets the 370-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 with rear-drive, electronically-controlled active exhaust, 8.4-inch touchscreen, and “performance” components similar to GT.
R/T Scat Pack ($39,995) moves up to the 485-horsepower V8 with dual air intakes, adding a high-performance suspension with Bilstein dampers, Brembo four-piston brakes, Launch Control, matte black spoiler, 20-inch Black Noise wheels, heated cloth bucket seats, and SRT Performance Pages digital readouts.
SRT Hellcat ($67,245) packs the 707-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with rear-drive. Standard features include six-piston front brake calipers, adaptive dampers, flat-bottom steering wheel, and a drive-mode system that alters the character of the transmission, throttle, steering weight, and dampers.
An optional Dynamics Package adds six-piston Brembo brakes. Blacktop and Daytona option packages are available.
Though the base SXT model is relatively subdued, every Charger flaunts vivid throwback styling, descended from the vintage muscle car for which the 2019 sedan is named. In basic shape, it’s as defiantly American as any car on the road. Flamboyant color choices and wild stripes add to the Sixties character.
What used to be called Coke-bottle shaping features drawn-in bodysides and bulging fenders. Roof pillars are thick and pronounced. Texture of the wide black grille varies according to trim level. GT versions and up add increasingly assertive extras, like a hood scoop, sculpted side sills, and decklid spoiler.
Charger’s retro-inspired cabin is harmonious with its exterior. Subtly shaped surfaces highlight the soft-touch dashboard. A slash of thin matte metallic trim encloses the 7.0-inch digital instrument display, flanked by easy-to-read gauges. Either a 7.0- or 8.4-inch screen for the intuitive, easy-to-use infotainment system occupies the center.
Rubbery black plastic gives the base Charger a low-dollar look. Upper models rely on metallic trim and supple leather.
Upright styling helps give front passengers â€“ including those of ample girth â€“ plenty of space, with abundant elbow room. Even the Hellcat’s thickly-bolstered sport seats won’t pinch large passengers.
Interior space isn’t quite as great as the sedan’s dimensions would suggest. The wide-track design permits three-across seating in the rear, though knee and head clearance trail other big sedans. Because of the roof angle, passengers may have to duck their heads considerably. At 16.5 cubic feet, trunk space is sizable.
Even V6 models can be entertaining. V8s promise delight, stemming from vigorous sounds that accompany thrilling â€“ or SRT scorching â€“ acceleration.
The V6-powered SXT is efficient and reasonably powerful, impressively respectable in ride and handling. This competent engine mates well with the responsive 8-speed automatic transmission, providing effective midrange passing punch. However, the electronic gear selector can be difficult to decipher.
In an R/T, the V8’s exhaust rumble is augmented by an active exhaust system. Ride comfort is about as compliant and forgiving as that of a V6 Charger.
All Chargers handle well, with accurate steering and controlled moves. Body lean is noticeable in curves and corners.
Ride quality begins to suffer with the R/T Scat Pack, whose handling talents approach racetrack level. Husky 20-inch tires can smack against sharp bumps and potholes. Even top models won’t thrash occupants on rough roads
A choice of driving modes gives the all-out Hellcat different personalities. On the street, it can be calm and firm, as well as forgiving to occupants. Full-bore, the Hellcat turns intensively stiff for track duty. If the black key is used, output is limited to 500 horsepower, so valets might be less tempted. The red key unleashes all 707 horses, triggering pure exhilaration,
On winding roads, the Hellcat becomes quite a handful. Even when lightly pushed, its rear end threatens to kick out, tires are overwhelmed, and the ride stiffens. Through quick corners, the driver must fight against hefty vehicle weight.
Chargers are commendably quiet unless pushed hard. They’re fairly efficient with V6 power, but V8s guzzle. With rear-drive, the V6 is EPA-rated at 19/30 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers estimates to 18/27/21 mpg.
The 5.7-liter V8 requires mid-grade fuel and its EPA estimate drops to 16/25/19 mpg. The 6.4-liter V8 drinks premium, EPA-rated at 15/24 mpg City/Highway, or/18 mpg Combined. At the performance limit, the SRT Hellcat is EPA-rated at 13/22/16 mpg.
Dodge offers plenty of satisfying Charger choices, for family-focused buyers as well as latter-day muscle fans. Each scores well in performance, cabin comfort, value, and available features. Best bet for daily driving is the V6-powered SXT, which provides the essential Charger character at a moderate price, lacking only performance-focused extras. For performance, the 485-horsepower R/T Scat Pack is only one step removed from the outrageous SRT, which is vastly more expensive.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.