Inspired by the original Dodge Charger coupe of the 1960s, the latest 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.
Outside, the Charger makes its sporting intentions known with an oversized version of Dodge's crosshair grille, faux hood and fender vents and 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. With 164 LEDs, 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.
Several upscale options were recently added to the Charger, including adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross path protection and a rear backup camera with grid lines.
New to the Charger for the latest model year is the availability of 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 features one V6 engine instead of the previous two. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine delivers 292 horsepower (up 63 percent) and 260 lb-ft of torque (up 36 percent) compared with the previous entry-level 2.7-liter V6 engine. The Pentastar also produces 42 more horsepower and 10 lb-ft more torque than the outgoing 3.5-liter V6.
Entry-level Pentastar-equipped Chargers make do with a carryover five-speed automatic, while mid- and upper-level trims get a new eight-speed auto. Mileage with the five-speed is rated at 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, while opting for the eight-cog unit increases efficiency to an impressive 19/31 mpg.
An available Rallye Appearance Group adds 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. The HEMI motor pairs up with a five-speed automatic gearbox, and the combo is good for 16/25 mpg.
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. AWD brings fuel economy down to 18/27 mpg for V6 Chargers and 15/23 mpg for HEMI-equipped models.
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 offers no less than seven distinct trims levels, guaranteeing that a wide variety of buyers will be able to outfit the sedan according to their needs.
The entry-level SE trim comes with the five-speed automatic, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Uconnect infotainment system with a 4.3-inch touch screen, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with AUX and USB inputs, a power-adjustable driver's seat, automatic headlamps and 17-inch painted aluminum wheels.
The SXT adds the eight-speed automatic gearbox, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, an 8.4-inch touchscreen for the Uconnect system, an upgraded, 276-watt sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, heated exterior mirrors, fog lamps and SiriusXM radio.
The SXT Plus brings leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, heated and cooled cupholders, 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, a power adjustable passenger's seat and LED interior lighting.
Available as an option on the SXT and SXT Plus, the Rallye Appearance Group adds the aforementioned engine upgrades as well as 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.
The R/T includes the SXT's features but swaps out the V6 for the Hemi V8 and also adds sport bucket seats, a sport suspension, upgraded brakes, HID headlamps, 18-inch painted aluminum wheels. The R/T Plus essentially mirrors the SXT Plus' features, save for the upgraded engine.
The R/T Road and Track Package brings 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, a satin black grille surroun, perforated leather-trimmed seats with suede inserts and ventilation and steering wheel mounted shifter controls.
The range-topping R/T Max adds a navigation system, a nine-speaker, 506-watt sound system, a backup camera, forward collision alert, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection.
For the latest model year, Dodge has created a new Sport package that adds several sporty and sinister touches to all-wheel-drive Chargers.
Available on Charger SXT, SXT Plus, R/T and R/T Plus models, the AWD Sport package includes a gloss-black grille, unique 19-inch wheels with gloss-black accents and a rear spoiler. Inside the package adds steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, sport seats and a Beat Audio sound system.
On V6-equipped models, the Sport package includes the same cold-air induction kit and sport exhaust system as the RWD-only Rallye Appearance Group and Blacktop Package, which boosts output to 300 horsepower.
Another new addition to the options list is the Blacktop package, which can be had on any Charger save for the entry-level SE model. It adds 20-inch gloss black wheels, gloss black front grille, and a body-color rear spoiler to the Charger's standard features list. Inside the Charger Blacktop comes equipped with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a Sport Mode and a Beats Audio system that boasts 10 speakers with subwoofer and 552-Watt amplifier.
Limited-Edition Daytona Package
For the latest model year, Dodge has resurrected the individually-numbered, limited edition Daytona styling package that appeared on the previous-generation Charger.
Available on the standard Charger R/T as well as the Charger R/T Road and Track trim level, the Daytona package brings etro-inspired Satin Black touches to the sedan's hood, roof and rear spoiler and gloss black-accented 20-inch polished alloy wheels. In addition to Daytona Blue, the package will be offered on Bright White, Billet Silver and Pitch Black Chargers. Further setting the sedans apart is a big "Daytona" graphic on the rear quarter panels.
Underneath, the Daytona package includes a performance-oriented 3.06 rear axle ratio, a high speed engine controller, a sport mode for the paddle shifters and uprated steering and suspension. A Daytona Blue engine cover dresses up the sedans' interior bays.
Inside, a Beats audio system is standard, as is black upholstery (leather with the Road & Track trim) and blue stitching and piping. The front seatbacks receive big "Daytona" embroidering, while the dashboard gains unique dark brushed aluminum trim. A Mopar pedal kit finishes out the interior.
Dodge will make just 2,500 Charger Daytonas available, each of which will be individually numbered with a dash-mounted plaque.
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 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.