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2018 Dodge Charger Test Drive Review
For better or worse, the Charger is a throwback. But with the latest tech and available all-wheel drive, this old Dodge is capable of new tricks.
Few modern cars are like the Dodge Charger. In more than just styling, it is a retro sedan. In a world of front-wheel-drive conveyances, the Charger is a rear-wheel-drive muscle-sedan, and it's available in a host of unique trims and special editions. Under the hood, engines can range from standard V6 power, which is more than the average sedan's base engine, to an insane 707-horsepower V8. There’s nothing on the road like it.
But don’t let its old-school recipe fool you; Dodge has taken great strides to keep the Charger relevant in the modern sedan market. New four-door family sedans have gotten better than ever, and the Charger can’t trade on power and style alone. The Charger comes with the latest infotainment and safety technology, and you can even buy a Charger with all-wheel drive, like the vehicle we tested for this review: the new 2018 Dodge Charger GT.
Look and Feel
The 2018 Dodge Charger has some old bones. The seventh-generation Charger was introduced for the 2011 model year and underwent a facelift for the 2015 model year, with more modern styling.
Despite the facelift, the LX platform that underpins the new Charger also underpinned the previous-generation 2006-2010 Charger. That platform is actually shared with the 2002-2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and even the 2000-2006 S-Class. Dodge has made the most of this platform, but it sure has some years on it.
To keep the Charger in the conversation, Dodge still sells a long list of trims and special editions like the R/T, Daytona, Scat Pack, and Hellcat. It's also available in a host of colors like Yellow Jacket, White Knuckle, Go Mango, and TorRed, all to make the Charger stand out among a parking lot full of boring sedans.
Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, some of these bolder special editions and colors may say to onlookers, “I’m 45, and I’m single.” Happily, not all colors are so attention-grabbing; our test car came in the new IndiGO Blue exterior color. It manages to be menacing, but in a more subdued manner.
In past years, the SE was the base Charger trim, but it's been dropped for 2018. That leaves the SXT as the entry-level trim. It comes standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels, dual stainless-steel exhaust, push-button start, a 6-way power driver’s seat, dual USB ports, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The SXT Plus adds fog lamps, power heated (but manual-folding) outside mirrors, all-season performance tires, 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual-zone automatic temperature control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power eight-way driver's seat, heated front seats, and a stereo with six premium speakers.
The GT trim comes standard with all-wheel drive (AWD), as well as a Gloss Black front fascia and 19-inch aluminum wheels. It also features a flat-bottom performance steering wheel with integrated paddle shifters.
Our test car was the GT Plus. In addition to AWD, it comes with heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel. Otherwise, it has many of the additional features from the SXT plus, as well as access to other option packages.
The R/T is the most affordable trim that comes standard with V8 power. The R/T features a sport suspension, 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, and an active exhaust, which makes the exhaust note loud or quiet, depending on drive mode and throttle use or manual adjustment.
The R/T with Scat Pack upgrades the powerplant to Dodge’s potent 392-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) V8. The Scat Pack also includes 20-inch satin aluminum wheels, cloth performance seats, and Brembo performance brakes.
If you like the R/T's 5.7-liter V8 power, but want a bit more performance out of it, Dodge offers the Charger Daytona trim. It offers many of the same features as the R/T, but with the addition of a Mopar performance cold air intake, three-mode electronic stability control, and a performance suspension (upgraded over the R/T's sport setup). It’s also available with heavy-duty disc brakes. Visually, the Daytona features a blacked-out grille, projector LED fog lamps, an aluminum hood with high center hood scoop, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, bright metal brake pedals, and specially designed perforated seats unique to the Daytona.
The Daytona 392 offers many of the same features as the Daytona, but with the upgraded 392-cubic-inch V8.
Moving to the SRT 392, performance becomes even more focused. This trim features red Brembo brake calipers, a high-performance active damping suspension, body-color rear spoiler, 20-inch SRT wheels, and a host of unique SRT interior touches. The SRT Hellcat features many similar features to the SRT 392, but boasts the most potent engine in the Charger lineup.
The Charger SXT, SXT Plus, GT, and GT Plus all come equipped with a 3.6-liter V6. It delivers 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission. In GT trims and SXT trims with the Super Track Pak, output rises to 300 horsepower and 264 pound-feet. With most trims, power is sent to the rear wheels, but with the GT, power is sent to all four.
The R/T and Daytona are both equipped with a 5.7-liter V8. It makes 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque. The R/T Scat Pack, Daytona 392, and SRT 392 feature a 6.4-liter V8, making 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. That engine has a displacement of 392 cubic inches, hence the name.
Above all other versions is the Charger Hellcat, fitted with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8. It makes an absurd 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
The AWD in our GT test car provides added traction compared to the standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) layout. If you live where it snows, AWD pays dividends in improved winter driving capability. On dry surfaces AWD provides better cornering abilities, seemingly evening out the typical roll that comes with cornering this beefy sedan.
The Charger gives you a few ways to tune and liven up your driving experience. You get steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a tap-shift manual mode on the actual shifter, and a Sport-mode button in the dash. The Sport button would be better if it were located on the steering wheel (so you can mash it with your thumb without looking), or down on the center console near the other drive-mode toggle buttons.
Our Charger GT, even with the base V6, had great acceleration and provided strong braking. That braking inspires confidence, allowing you to push the Charger in normal driving situations. Of course, more “spirited” driving will impact fuel economy—and we’re not talking about an improvement.
The most efficient Charger is one with RWD and the V6, which returns 19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined. Our AWD V6 setup returns 18 mpg city, 27 highway, 21 combined, but in a week of combined city and highway driving, our test model came up a little short of that, with 19.1 mpg.
The least-efficient version is the Charger Hellcat, which gets just 13 mpg in the city, 22 highway, 16 combined. Even the most efficient V8 version, the R/T, gets 16, 25, 19.
Form and Function
For a car this size, the front seat is not massively spacious, although the seats themselves are comfortable. For front-seat passengers, the GT model presents a unique issue. The added drivetrain components for the AWD system result in a hump on the right side of the center transmission tunnel that cuts into front-passenger legroom. Still, it’s a small price to pay for the benefit of added traction. Front-seat occupants benefit from cubbies in the doors, a large center console bin, and a small compartment below the climate controls that's perfect for your wallet, phone, and keys.
The second row of the Charger is quite spacious, even for this vehicle class. It provides plenty of legroom, although you have to lower your head a bit to get into the rear seat. The drivetrain hump is not that large, so you can shimmy across from one seat to another.
The Charger provides up to 16.5 cubic feet of trunk space that can be expanded with standard 60/40 split-fold rear seats. The actual trunk opening is just about fine for the class—it’s not impressively large, but it's not on the small side either.
The Charger comes standard with the very easy-to-use Uconnect system. This system has been the gold standard for infotainment for the past few years. For 2018, the standard system in the Charger SXT is the 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen. It replaces the smaller 5-inch screen that was in base models from 2017. This system also comes outfitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Literally every other trim gets the larger 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, including our GT test car.
This large infotainment system has a tablet-like layout. It allows for extremely simple navigation through various menus. While infotainment systems from other automakers require moving back out to a Home screen, the “dock” of buttons at the bottom of the screen allows you to seamlessly jump from menu to menu.
The Charger GT also comes with Dodge Performance Pages. Found within the “Apps” section, Performance Pages provides gauges measuring all manner of driving data. This includes 0-60-mph times, 0-100-mph times, 1/8-mile times, 1/4-mile times, and even the G-forces generated by your performance driving. It’s a cool way to review your afternoon carving up the countryside.
Dodge has added a reversing camera and rear parking sensors as standard equipment across the lineup for 2018. These two features join already-standard front- and side-impact airbags, active head restraints, the LATCH child-seat anchoring system, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
You can also get available safety features like blind-spot warning with rear cross-path detection, which were both on our Charger GT as optional equipment. Our test model also featured the Charger’s optional Technology Group, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams. However, cars like the Toyota Camry already offer many of these features as standard equipment. So any rival making you pay extra for these safety technologies is slipping.
The 2018 Dodge Charger has a base MSRP of $28,995 for the SXT trim; the SXT Plus starts at $30,495. Our AWD GT starts at $32,995 and a GT Plus starts at $35,995. Of course, if you want V8 power over AWD, the R/T trim starts at $35,495, and the Daytona starts at $38,995.
The cheapest way to get the massive 392-cubic-inch V8 is with the R/T Scat Pack, which starts at $39,995. The Daytona 392 starts at $44,995. Rounding out the top end of the lineup is the SRT 392, which starts at $51,145, and the wild 707-horsepower Hellcat, starting at $66,295.
Our Charger GT featured the Technology Group as well as the Preferred Package, which packs a host of creature comforts for about $3,000. Our test model also included the available Navigation package and larger 19-inch painted dark wheels. With all the options and packages, the price of our test car came to $39,775.
The Charger competes with other family sedans only in that it has four doors, four wheels, and seats five. It has much more personality than the rest of the segment, although cornerstone family sedans like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have finally started to deliver in that department. Those models have started to embrace more aggressive styling, and in some cases they even deliver on the looks with decent acceleration and cornering.
But those rival sedans merely dip their toes into the performance realm. If you want a car designed from the start to be fun that still covers the basics of the family sedan, few do it with the swagger of the Dodge Charger.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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2018 Dodge Charger Top Comparisons
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