2015 Dodge Charger SXTPosted on January 16th, 2015
Not available in plain vanilla
By Nina Russin
The Dodge Charger might look like a midsized car but it’s really a two-plus-two, albeit a very big one. The newest Charger that rolls out for the 2015 model year builds on the heritage of the original 1966 model: a sporty coupe based on the four-door Coronet.
Being bigger than the average two-plus-two has its advantages. In the 1960s the Charger’s large engine bay gave engineers room to stuff a Hemi engine the size of a grocery cart inside to earn some NASCAR bragging rights. The newest high-performance Charger called the Hellcat comes equipped with Dodge’s 6.2-liter 707-horsepower Hemi engine and has a top speed of 204 miles-per-hour.
While its speed and performance rival some exotics, the Charger is also eminently affordable, with the base SXT model priced from $29,995 excluding the $995 destination charge.
The SXT comes standard with Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine: the same block used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Challenger and Jeep Wrangler. Those readers who think the base Charger is a plain vanilla version of the pricier Hellcat should think again. The Dodge Charger is not available in plain vanilla.
The newest Charger features a similar large, crosshair grille to the outgoing model. The coke bottle shape of the body also speaks to the car’s heritage, as does the single track-style tail lamp. LED daytime running lamps frame the grille, connecting the front of the car to its bullet-shaped profile. A rear spoiler provides a punctuation point at the back.
Eighteen-inch wheels and a high beltline contribute to the car’s distinctive exterior. In the back, dual exhaust tips are integrated into the lower bumper: a cleaner style that also prevents the exhaust pipes from sagging during the car’s lifetime.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I drove the rear-wheel drive Charger SXT on surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as parts of the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. After putting 100 plus miles on the car, I was convinced that the newest Dodge Charger had succeeded in capturing the spirit of the ’66 muscle car, but in a thoroughly modern fashion.
The test car comes equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, boosting highway fuel economy to 31 miles-per-gallon. Average fuel economy for my test drive was 24.4 mpg: better than the EPA estimate of 23. AutoStick enables drivers to manually select gears for more aggressive performance.
But in purely automatic mode, the Charger is no wallflower. Engineers tuned the V-6 engine for high-speed performance, with 292-horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. An optional rallye group package adds ten-horsepower and four foot-pounds of torque.
Although the engine doesn’t reach peak torque until 4800 rpm, the driver doesn’t need to dip far into the throttle to make tracks off the line. Leading the pack on freeway entrance ramps is a non-issue.
Eighteen-inch carbon aluminum wheels give the Charger an ample footprint for high-speed stability while minimizing unsprung weight. The rear-wheel drive chassis feels well balanced front-to-back, with no tendency to fishtail during normal driving conditions. I had the opportunity to drive the car during a couple of rainstorms and was pleased with its directional stability while cornering and braking.
The electric power steering system has surprisingly good on-center response, rivaling a hydraulic unit. The four-wheel independent suspension incorporates gas-charged monotube shocks to keep the Charger flat while cornering. Although the ride is firm, it’s by no means uncomfortable over rough pavement.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing engine, wind and road noise intrusion to the cabin. The driver can enjoy a throaty exhaust note during hard acceleration, but should have no problems conversing with passengers in both rows on the highway.
I was surprised that the car doesn’t come with a standard rearview camera. It needs one for drivers to overcome the rather large blind spots created by the car’s narrow greenhouse and thick rear pillars. I would highly recommend the option for those who can afford it.
The base interior is attractive and nicely equipped, with standard convenience features including keyless entry and start, information screen in the gauge cluster, an 8.4-inch color center stack screen, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat and heated front seats.
The large gear shift lever is reminiscent of Hurst shifters from the muscle car era, in keeping with the car’s retro styling.
I found both the gauge cluster and center stack screen easy to read at night and in bright sunlight. The power driver’s seat has a separate lower lumbar control, and I was able to adjust the seat high enough for a clear forward view. The steering wheel is on the large side for a small-framed woman but not uncomfortable.
The Dodge Charger comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, hill start assist, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring and Uconnect emergency services.
Dodge builds the Charger at its Brampton, Ontario assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, affordable midsized two-plus-two with excellent performance.
Dislike: Rearview camera is not standard equipment
Model: Charger SXT
Base price: $29,995
As tested: $30,990
Horsepower: 292 Hp @ 6350 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/31 mpg city/highway
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