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2015 Dodge Charger Test Drive Review
The redesigned 2015 Dodge Charger doubles down on its masculine look with a tighter design and lunatic engine options.
With a sleeker front and brighter rear end to wrap the 2015 Charger, Dodge’s full-size sedan is more aggressive and further distances itself from its twin, the Chrysler 300. A mostly unchanged interior and predictable layout keep most Charger models approachable, if not a little less exciting than they once were. Of course, if you’re looking for excitement, a 6.4-liter, supercharged 200-mph machine is waiting for you.
Look and Feel
The Dodge Charger straddles the uncomfortable line of being a full-size sedan first, muscle car second. As a result, the sheet metal around the Charger is characteristically overly masculine—true to the new direction for the Dodge brand—and the Charger does its best to outrun its moniker of "the best-looking rental car you can buy.”
For 2015, Dodge sculpted a slightly sleeker and tighter Charger than in years past. From the crosshair grille and channeled aluminum hood to the squinty new LED daytime running lamps and projector headlamps, the front wraps around to the side to hold its massive, available 20-inch wheels that can be fitted on every model except the base SE. (Seventeen-inch wheels are standard on the SE, 18-inch wheels are standard on the SXT, and everything else gets 20-inch wheels.) The redesigned front fascia is a little more angular and open than in years past, something Dodge says it did to improve cooling on bigger-engined models that have a Howitzer stuffed under their hood.
Starting with the base SE, the Charger’s biggest seller is the SXT, which is one step up and offers more features. Both the SE and SXT are equipped with a V6 and offer optional all-wheel drive (AWD). The R/T models—R/T, R/T Road & Track, and R/T Scat Pack—are the value muscle of the lineup, with the R/T and Road & Track packing Dodge’s 5.7-liter V8 Hemi. The Scat Pack stuffs a 6.4-liter V8, which it shares with the SRT 392. The SRT 392 separates itself a little with bigger brakes, suspension tuning, and SRT-only interior packages. The crown mother of the Charger range, the Hellcat, packs a 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 for buyers with money to burn in tires, over and over again.
Engineers say they tinkered with the design for nearly every body panel for 2015, although the profile is virtually identical to last year's. The Charger’s massive side scallop returns, a deep hollow that runs from the rear wheels to the front doors and helps visually break up the acres of sheet metal required to build a full-size sedan. The rear pillar drops the roof down to the trunklid a little faster than in previous versions and helps the Charger cut the air a little quicker.
In the back, a redesigned rear fascia and exhausts play second fiddle to the massive LED brake lamps that span the entire rear end. Dodge has also added a rear stop lamp in the back window, but to be honest if you can’t see this thing braking from a country mile, you’re not paying attention.
Inside the Charger is mostly the same as last year, unless you’re willing to shell out the cash for a performance model. Beefier steering wheels and specialized interior packages are part of the myriad ways to outfit a Charger, but the available 8-inch touchscreen and 7-inch multi-function digital driver display system help the Charger stay relevant in the race for technology and keep a screen in front of your face 24/7. Our tester, a Rallye AWD with a 3.6-liter V6, was fitted with almost every available technology option and tipped the balance sheet at $39,875.
No sense burying the lede here: Dodge will build and sell you a Charger that can go 200 mph. Ralph Nader may have something to say about that, but for the rest of us laypeople, the Charger has a serviceable roster of engines that can keep daily commutes sane.
The Charger’s standard, 3.6-liter V6, feebly dubbed “Pentastar,” is the only engine available with AWD this year. (Tip for the Chrysler Suggestion Box: Rumor has it that many Chrysler engines are internally named after WWII fighter planes—Hellcat, Tigershark, et al.—which leaves Pentastar a little flat.) The 3.6-liter V6 produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and shifts through an 8-speed automatic transmission. According to the EPA the combination of the six and the eight helps the Charger realize 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive (RWD) or 18/27 with AWD.
On paper, the 5.7-liter V8 is the next engine, but in reality it isn’t the next-best option. The V8 cranks 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, which is managed with the same 8-speed transmission that wrings out 16/25 mpg. That combination manages to shuffle the Charger from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds, according to Motor Trend.
The better muscle pick is in the R/T Scat Pack, a 6.4-liter V8 shared with the SRT 392. At full grunt, the 6.4-liter launches the Charger (and your lunch) from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, thanks to 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Like the other Chargers, the 6.4-liter V8 is mated to an 8-speed transmission that helps it manage a respectable 15/25 mpg.
If ridding the world of its fossil-fuel supply is more your thing, the Hellcat’s 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 is your weapon of choice. Its 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque are show-stoppers and are brought to you by the numbers 9 and 1/2: It takes the Hellcat only 9 minutes to empty its fuel tank through half-inch fuel lines that feed the thirsty engine. Mileage, as if you care, is not good and not disclosed. (In limited testing, I’ve managed 12 mpg in mixed driving, according to the car’s computer, and single digits on the track.) Much more importantly, the Hellcat rockets from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds.
The V6 is potent enough without being annoying, and really is the best fit for AWD. Dodge dropped the option for AWD with the V8 for two very good reasons: First, the 5.7-liter Hemi V8’s 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque are enough grunt to make all four wheels writhe with pain, and second, no one really bought that car anyway.
Pushing the V6 through the streets of Montreal on Quebec highways and on a wide-open snow-covered runway reveals important information about the Charger’s modest mill. The motor’s power is best delivered from the bottom of the rev range, and the busy 8-speed transmission does its best to keep the revs close to that sweet spot. And drifting a V6 full-size sedan in snow is criminally fun.
The Charger isn’t a fast car with the V6, but it is manageable and sane. With RWD and a V8, the Charger punches as more of a muscle car with 4 doors. And in SRT and Hellcat trims, the Charger becomes a family Lambo.
Form and Function
Say what you will about the Charger’s mission (rental/company car, family sedan) but a Labrador could hop in and drive. The Charger’s straightforward layout and uncomplicated controls are sophisticated like a rock fight. For example, steering input requires deliberate motion to move the car's 2-ton mass; lock-to-lock, the wheel requires 3 complete turns.
The gear shifter, which is now a moving handle rather than prior years' gated shifter, is a small addition that adds class to the brute interior, and a small stamped Dodge Brothers rubber mat near the shifter serves as one of the car’s “Easter eggs” that Chrysler is so fond of now.
The Charger’s climate controls are easy-to-read buttons and knobs, but still manage to get a little lost under the big bright touchscreen and the mass of black dash material everywhere else. It’s worth noting that Dodge didn’t bother with complicated touch controls—the buttons are slightly more sophisticated than “Hot Now” and “Too Hot Now”—but they are a little dated.
Dodge’s infotainment system, dubbed UConnect, is still highly functional and easy to read, if not a little behind some of the other systems competitors use. As a test, I attempted to change the temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit and reset the tripometer within 30 seconds and found myself looking to phone a friend for help at the end. UConnect is informative, but its settings could stand to be a little more intuitive.
The rear seats are spacious and comfortable, and when equipped with rear-seat heaters, able to heat a burrito in the cold Quebec winter. Generally speaking, Dodge’s seats are big and roomy, which I appreciate in a mid-level, full-size sedan whose main goal is to haul kith and kin around the suburbs and on family road trips.
Our tester was fitted with studded snow tires, a law in Quebec, so road noise was perceptible. Other Chargers have been mostly comfortable and forgettable in cruising, which is to say, probably pretty good.
Dodge’s UConnect system, which has been around for several years now, is fitted in all Charger models. A standard 5-inch-screen premium radio wasn’t available, but in prior drives, it’s been an adequate unit if you’re looking to keep things simple.
The optional, 8.4-inch touchscreen is starting to show its age and could use an upgrade in the next few years. To summarize as best I can: UConnect plays not to lose, but doesn’t play to win.
Radio preset buttons are big, as are station information or album display, but they sometimes feel like wasted pixels that could have slicker design elements. For example, the Charger’s segmented UConnect and driver information display can be configured to show a compass in at least three places.
In contrast, Dodge’s 7-inch multifunction driver’s display is crisp and sharp, and it's highly helpful once you learn how the steering-wheel buttons are mapped to the menu system. It’s also worth mentioning that the buttons on the back of the steering wheel are among my favorite—generous, ergonomic buttons control volume and stations.
Dodge has included a standard roster of safety features including front and side curtain airbags as well as a knee airbag for the driver. Four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, standard pre-tensioning and height-adjusting seatbelts, and child-seat anchors in the rear (even in the Hellcat!) are included on the list of safety features that comes with every Charger.
Optional safety features include lane-departure warning, frontal-collision warning systems, and backup cameras when equipped. The bad news is that most of the active safety systems are spread across three different packages (Technology, Driver Convenience, and Navigation) that can add more than $4,000 to the final price if you’re looking to make the Charger as safe as it can be.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data isn’t complete for the 2015 Charger, but the 2014 Charger received 5 stars in every crash rating except frontal crashes, which was rated at 4 stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Charger Good in all crash tests.
Despite being synonymous with airport rental pickup lines, the Dodge Charger won the ALG residual value award for full-size sedans—ahead of the Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera.
That could be because the Charger’s starting price of $27,990 with a V6 and 8-speed transmission presents good value for the money when paired with its acres of interior space and comfort.
From there, the Charger can be optioned in countless ways, with 5 different powertrain combinations using 4 different engines. Buyers looking for a domestic full-size sedan commuter can be satisfied, as can muscle-car shoppers looking for a 4-seater sick-machine to shake up passengers in the back.
J.D. Power gave the car its performance award but dinged the Charger on overall quality, behind the Kia Cadenza, Nissan Maxima, and Avalon. The company also was bearish on reliability, rating the Charger 2 out of 5 in predicted reliability.
Roughly 30 percent of buyers pick an all-wheel drive version, and from where I sit, that’s a good pick for when weather gets rough. And by the way, I’m sitting in something that feels like my couch going sideways in the snow.
Forced into early retirement before his 1988 debut bout against "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase for the Intercontinental Championship belt, Aaron is a syndicated automotive columnist in newspapers spanning the Louisiana and Gadsden purchases and the Northwest Territories. When he's not writing about cars, he's driving them. And when he's not driving them, he's probably eating or sleeping because you need to do that too.
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2015 Dodge Charger Top Comparisons
Users ranked 2015 Dodge Charger against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.
Cars compared to 2015 Dodge Charger
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