Inspired by the original Dodge Charger coupe of the 1960s, the Charger is a full-size sedan with muscle-car styling and a pair of gutsy powertrain options. It's also more sophisticated than its looks would suggest, offering a well-appointed interior, responsive handling and up to 31 mpg on the highway.
For the latest model year, the Charger gets a handful of styling and technology upgrades, including an available "Blacktop" package for those who prefer the murdered-out look.
Outside, the Charger makes its sporting intentions known with an aggressive, Dart-inspired front fascia a coupe-like roofline. Another distinctive feature is the car's full-width tail lamp arrangement, which visually links it both with past Dodge models and the current Challenger muscle car. Dodge calls the tail lamps a "racetrack" graphic.
The interior - a point of contention for many Chrysler products in recent years - features upgraded materials and more cosmetically appealing designs, as well as optional Garmin navigation with Sirius Travel Link and the meaty corporate-wide three-spoke steering wheel that has arrived on nearly every new Chrysler product.
The Charger can be spec'd with Chrysler's Uconnect Access infotainment system (for a complete description of Uconnect Access, check out Leftlane's Spotlight On: Uconnect in-depth article). Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment setups on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the sedan's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. An 8.4-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
The charger's standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine delivers 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Pentastar returns 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
Optional Rallye Appearance Group and Redline packages add a cold-air induction kit and a sport exhaust system, upping power to 300 ponies and 264 lb-ft of twist.
Stepping up to the Charger R/T brings a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with an output of 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. Bolted to an eight-speed automatic, the V8 returns 16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Rear-wheel-drive comes standard on the Charger, while an optional all-wheel-drive system brings a segment-exclusive active transfer case with front axle disconnect. Dodge says the front axle disconnect helps save five percent on fuel economy by utilizing only rear-wheel-drive unless additional traction is needed. All-wheel drive is only available on V6-powered Chargers, and it lowers gas mileage to 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Although the Charger still rides on a Mercedes-Benz-derived platform, Dodge says that the architecture has been re-engineered so much that it now considers it its "second-generation" E-segment platform.
The Charger is offered in four trim levels: SE, SXT, R/T and R/T Road & Track.
The SE model comes with body-colored door handles, dual exhaust pipes, a capless fuel filler, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, a power-release trunk lid, manual A/C, a 5.0-inch touch screen, black cloth upholstery and a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
The SXT model adds a humidity sensor, automatic dual-zone A/C, a 8.4-inch touch screen that runs Uconnect, a shark fin-style roof antenna, an Alpine six-speaker stereo, a 12-away power adjustable driver's seat, a 180-amp alternator, 18-inch alloy wheels and an automatic defogger.
The R/T model gains a 160-mph speedometer, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels,
The R/T Road & Track model adds HID headlights, a 12-way power-adjustable passenger seat, leather-upholstered sport seats and a performance steering setup.
The Charger is available with a long list of appearance packages including the Sport Appearance Group, the 20-in. Wheel Sport Appearance Group and the Wheels and Tunes Group.
Available as an option on the SXT model, the Rallye Appearance Group a cold-air induction kit, a sport exhaust system, 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, a performance suspension, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and sports seats. Audiophiles will appreciate the Beats by Dr. Dre sound system, which includes 10 speakers and has a 556-watt capacity.
Another package now available on the SXT model is the Super Track Pack. This package incorporates several chassis enhancements to help the V6-powered SXT attack the back roads like its bigger, V8-powered siblings.
Every Charger comes standard with dual front, front side and front and rear curtain airbags in addition to a driver knee airbag. Traction and stability control systems are also fitted.
The Charger can be ordered with a number of electronic driving aids including adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, a blind spot monitoring with rear cross path protection and a rear backup camera with grid lines.
A Forward Collision Warning-Plus, an Adaptive Cruise Control Plus with Full Stop and a Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist join the list of options for the latest model year.
The only similarly-sized rear-wheel-drive rival to Charger in the same pricing ballpark is the Hyundai Genesis, which is slightly more expensive and puts an emphasis on luxury over performance.
If front-wheel-drive isn't a deal breaker, full-size sedans like the Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon also merit consideration.