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Review of the 2016 Dodge Charger: Harder Chargin'

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On: Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 9:05AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2016 Dodge Charger:  Harder Chargin'

If we are being honest with ourselves, America, we haven't been very good at producing many sedans worth talking about. Sad to say, but unfortunately it's true. Over the past few decades, Chevy, Ford, and Chrysler have produced a very minimal number of four-door fantasy cars, and instead have come out with things like the Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, and the Chrysler 200, which all leave us simply wanting, and needing more from our domestic distributors. These cars are passable, sure, but they don't inspire us like some of their competitors from BMW, Audi, and even Acura.

Thankfully, all is not lost. It seems Dodge has a plan to get all of our collective hearts racing with the 2015–2016 Charger. The Charger has already been a bright spot in terms of four-door haulers, because, the emphasis seems to be on "haul". The bold aggressive styling, the exciting powertrain setups, and the wonderful big-block exhaust note gave life and hope to every family man that had to sell their Corvette to make room for kids.

The Charger is even better with the 2015/16 updates. First and foremost, there is a Charger for just about every budget, and every speed need (want?). As with just about any other time in automotive history, how fast you go depends on how much you want to spend. The Charger's model lineup is a clear example of that philosophy. If you're on a budget, or just don't feel the need to compete in too many stoplight battles, you can opt for the base 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 SE and SXT models. If you want to put a little more haul in your family hauler, then why not go for the 5.7-liter 370-horsepower V8 Hemi R/T. Still not enough? Okay, then try on either the R/T Scat Pack or the SRT 392 that both use a monstrous 6.4-liter that produces a you-kids-better-be-buckled-up 485 horsepower, which by the way, is 15 more ponies than the 2014 model (who was complaining that 470 horsepower wasn't enough?). And for you speed-psychotics (God bless you), if nearly 500 horsepower wasn't enough, Dodge has an answer for that too. Let us introduce the Dodge Charger Hellcat. Yes, the same Hellcat setup as the Challenger Hellcat has that made it one of the most powerful cars in the world. The Charger Hellcat harnesses the same ungodly power in the form of a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 that produces a NHRA-level 707 horsepower and 650-pound-feet of torque. A bit of a downer here: All Chargers are going to be mated to the same eight-speed automatic transmission, which works fine, but it's hard to imagine letting a car shift for you when you're piloting anything north (or double) of 350 horsepower. But we digress… all V6 Chargers have optional all-wheel drive for you four-season frolickers, and all models get electric power steering, except for the Hellcat which sticks with a hydraulic pump, which we presume has something to do with its prodigious power.

Stylistically, the new Charger gets an all-LED treatment both front and back lights, while the corners of the car have been filed down a bit to give the appearance of a slightly smaller car than it really is. The front fascia looks even meaner than ever, which is impressive considering the model it replaces had a snarl of epic proportions. The SRT 392 even gets a Viper-style hood scoop that only adds to the dramatics. Inside, the Charger gets treated to a revised interior with (gasp) real aluminum trim around the shifter console and instrument panel. The steering wheel is new too (and heated!). The dash is treated to an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen media center that offers total connectivity, and the general fit and finish seems to be a step in the right direction. It's not quite German-feeling, but it’s a far cry from an early 2000s Chrysler Sebring. The Hellcat even comes with two key fobs, red and black. The red is used when all 707 horsepower are desired, and the black is presumably for the not-so-trustworthy valet or just-got-my-license-kid because it limits the amount of power on tap. Good thinking, Dodge.

In terms of drivability, the Charger models seem to have a Goldilocks feel. The V6 is a little too cold. It does what a basic sedan is asked to do, albeit with a little more oomph, given its nearly 300-horsepower motor, but it doesn't get your blood flowing quite like you'd wish it did. Conversely, the Hellcat is a little too hot. With 700 horsepower, it's a little much for a daily driver, fun as all hell(cat), but only the die-hards will truly be able to appreciate its power all the time. Which leaves us with the R/T and SRT models, and either of these feel just about right. The R/T Scat Pack uses the same 485-horsepower motor as the SRT for a little less out of pocket, so one of those is right where the sweet spot is for these cars. The exhaust note from the 392 sounds like it came straight out of a muscle-car fairy tale, and it's nothing short of wonderful.

Price range for the new Chargers ranges from $28,990 to just under $65,000. That's a pretty fantastic price point when you consider it in terms of ponies-per-dollar. 30 years ago, a 700-horsepower car would've cost you a couple hundred thousand dollars and would've comewith a pit crew and a chief mechanic, not to mention racing slicks and a roll cage. Now, you can get a car that runs an 11.0-second quarter mile and tops out at 204 mph for just about what it costs to buy the top-of-the-line Hyundai. But, alas, not everyone wants the most frightening Dodge this side of a Viper. If you're more the family type, then by all means opt for the AWD models, or maybe grab the SRT and a set of snow tires and call it even.

In terms of performance, the Charger lineup ranges from a 0–60 mph time of about 7 seconds flat for the V6 down to 3.7 seconds for the Hellcat, with the others falling somewhere in the middle. Curb weight ranges from 3,950–4,600 pounds (that big engine isn't light). Fuel economy goes from a very respectable 22 city/31highway for the RWD V6 down to 13 city/19 highway for the Hellcat with the V8s coming in at about 16 city/23 highway.

All in all, we think that the Charger is a fantastic American ambassador to the full-sized sedan market and has the fit and finish, and certainly the power, to compete with (and in some cases, obliterate) anything from Germany or Japan. Obviously, quite a bit of personal taste factors into the ultimate decision for buyers, but it's nice to be able to hold our collective heads up high and be proud that the Charger siblings are representing us in the best (and fastest) light possible.

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