Thursday, November 03, 2016

Miscellany: 2015 - 2016 Dodge Charger R/T review - My Big Fat American Muscle Car

Thanks to my BMW 328i's unexpectedly long sojourn at the dealer to upgrade its onboard cellular system, I got the chance to live with the latest-gen Dodge Charger R/T for a week. The Charger is a common upgrade at rental car fleets across the country - here's what I liked and didn't like about the vehicle:


Pros

Engine: Though it makes 370 horsepower and nearly 400 lb-ft of torque, the 5.7 liter Hemi in this trim is actually the weakest V8 available in the Charger lineup; if you want even more power, you can step up to the 6.4 liter SRT 392 or the almighty supercharged 707 hp SRT Hellcat. The extra juice is overkill except for an enthusiast, I think, since the stock 5.7 gets you from 0-60 in a hair over 5 seconds and runs mid-13s in the quarter-mile. The engine is also smooth and quiet on the highway, since it barely needs to rev to maintain cruising speed.


Suspension: The Charger handles surprisingly well. Simple physics prevents it from having the same cornering characteristics of say, a Camaro or Mustang, but for a 4,000+ pound car, the Charger eats up swooping turns and highway irregularities with aplomb. It's not unlike the feeling you get in a big German sedan - solid and impervious.


Steering and Dashboard: When it comes to driver controls and feedback, the Charger is pretty squared-away. You get a big thick steering wheel with okay amounts of road-feel, an analog tach and speedometer, and a customizable center in-dash LCD that will relay everything from your fuel economy to your oil life. The infotainment unit uses a touchscreen, but has physical knobs and buttons for volume, tuning, and A/C, which I much prefer.


Cons


Interior Quality (considering the price): The dealer gave me the standard R/T model, which is essentially a base Charger equipped with the 5.7L Hemi V8. All of the money is spent on the engine; you get none of the niceties on the upgraded (and confusingly named) "R/T Road and Track" version. The cheap seats and hard plastics are acceptable in most American sedans, but a little hard to take in something that stickers for around $34 grand.


Efficiency: The naturally aspirated V8 is nice, and Dodge uses every trick in the book, including cylinder deactivation, but there's just no masking the fact that this is a heavy car with a thirsty truck-sized engine. The Charger's EPA-estimated 16/25 MPG is right on the money; you'll be stopping at gas stations much more often than you would in other cars that have similar horsepower via forced induction.

Trunk Space: Interior room in the Charger is definitely on par with the class (this is designed to be a police cruiser, after all), but I found the trunk to be surprisingly small. The limited cargo space is unlikely to woo people who fled the sedan market for crossovers and large trucks.


Conclusion

Overall, I liked my time with the Charger - it put down plenty of power, and proved to be very livable as a daily commuter. If I were buying one, though, I'd probably save up for the midlevel SRT 392 trim, given that it has the same fuel economy as the smaller V8 and has nicer everything else.

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