The Dodge Charger doesn’t apologize for its size. It takes seven steps to get from the trunk to the hood. The doors open so wide that most people have to hang out of the car to reach them. The trunk is large enough to swallow a few full-size adults.
It’s the anti-Prius.
It’s also one of the last of its breed, and once GM pulls the plug on Holden’s Australian manufacturing and kills off the SS, it will be the last traditional American front-engine, rear-drive sedan. Never mind that it’s made in Canada; the Charger is as American as a sedan gets.
The model tested here is a 2015 SXT Plus AWD Rallye. That curiously spelled “Rallye” badge means that the venerable Pentastar V-6 has been bumped up from 292 horsepower to an even 300 and that it has enough options to elevate it above rent-a-car specs.
2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD Rallye
|Engine||Power||Torque||Transmission||MSRP||As Tested||TFL Rating|
|3.6 liter V-6||300 hp @6,350 rpm||260 lb-ft @4,800 rpm||8-speed automatic||$32,995||$38,475||Lease It|
The Rallye package adds exterior touches like the R/T grill and a rear spoiler to further differentiate it from its Hertz-bound brethren. It also adds a Beats audio sound system and paddle shifters.
The Charger has been around for a while – the current generation being around since 2011 – but the 2015 facelift saw the gaping-mouth grill replaced with a longer, narrower grill that gives the car a sneering appearance. It’s by far the best looking Charger since it was re-introduced as a sedan, although it also means the basic architecture is approaching 10 years old.
Inside, the Charger has an attractive interior with an enormous dash, with the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen the focal point. The test car also has the Plus AWD package that adds Nappa leather sport seats with cream-colored accents that are carried over to the doors.
There are some hints of old Chrysler lurking in the interior, however. The dash and center console are covered in thick rubber that is meant to look like leather but feels cheap, especially around the console where the rubber can be easily pulled away from the rest of the console.
The squared-off upper door panels with pop-up door locks also look like old Chrysler, as does the single multi-function stalk on the left of the steering column. The stalk handles turn signals, high beams and windshield wipers. It tries to do too much and so something has to suffer, in this case the wiper functions. A right-hand stalk would be a much better solution.
The right side of the steering column is conspicuously empty. This is an artifact from a time when cars like the Charger would have big, bulky column shifters for their automatic transmissions. Since all Chargers have console shifters, Dodge should think about adding a right-hand stalk for wiper functions on their next update.
The test car has the same Uconnect system as the Jeep Cherokee tested earlier this year, with all the good and bad that entails. The good is that the system has one of the most intuitive interfaces in the business, with an attractive, easy-to-use layout. The bad is that it has the same infuriating problem as the Jeep – there’s no way to turn off the audio, so whenever the car is started, whatever was played last will start playing automatically. Even when switched to something that’s not present before turning off the car – say, the SD card – the system will switch to XM radio when the car is started. A simple audio on/off button would fix that, and Fiat-Chrysler should work on that right away.
The Charger also has the same steering wheel controls as the Jeep, which means it has the audio functions on two small rocker switches on the back instead of on the front of the steering wheel where they belong.
Under the hood, the pumped-up Pentastar V-6 – rated at 300 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque – propels the large sedan with gusto, the eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic well matched to the engine. Shifts – both up and down – happen quickly and without much drama. It’s worlds better than the 9-speed automatic found in the aforementioned Jeep and other FCA vehicles.
The engine spins quickly up to its 6,500 RPM redline and sounds great in the process. It’s a good enough engine that most won’t miss a V-8. What the V-6 does is make the Charger an easy car to live with day-to-day, offering power when needed while not constantly reminding the driver of its presence.
The console shifter has a manual mode in the proper racing pattern – forward for downshifts and back for upshifts. The transmission can also be shifted with the optional paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but the 8-speed doesn’t shift particularly quickly, so it’s best to leave the transmission in Drive.
The Charger will never be confused with a sports sedan, but the big guy can still hold his own when the road gets curvy, kind of like a linebacker that can still run the 40 in four-and-a-half seconds. The steering is nicely weighted and accurate and body motions are kept to a minimum, while still offering a mile-eating ride on the highway. The front seats are a little too aggressively bolstered for some drivers, but the Charger overall is a great long-distance companion.
The EPA rates the test car at 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with a combined rating of 21 mpg. During the test period, this Charger managed an excellent 24.7 mpg in mixed driving, a spectacular number for such a large car with all-wheel-drive.
The Charger doesn’t really have any direct competition, especially in V-6 trim. The only other rear-drive, non-luxury sedan sold in the U.S. is the Holden-built Chevrolet SS. Although that offers some things that the Charger doesn’t – namely a manual transmission – at over $45,000 and with a big V-8, it competes more with the V-8 versions of the Charger. If Chevy sold the police-only, V-6 Caprice to the masses, it would be the Charger’s only direct competitor.
Still, the Charger is a bit of a specialty vehicle, as it competes with other front-drive sedans and all-wheel-drive crossovers. Because of this, it will never sell in large numbers. Without the pull of a V-8 engine, the V-6 Charger, despite being a good car, just doesn’t have the mass-market appeal as either its front-drive competition or V-8 models of the same car.
The Charger will appeal to those who like the look and image of the Hemi or Hellcat Chargers but want something more sensible for daily driving, or even those who are looking for something a little different than the usual bean-shaped crossover that still has all-weather traction.
The Charger SXT AWD starts at $32,995, and with the Rallye and Plus groups, the test car is priced at $38,475. It’s a fair price for what is a lot of car, both in size and content. The fact that it can get around 25 mpg in normal driving and can still go in snow and ice makes it an even better value.
On the TFL Car scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
The 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD Rallye gets a Lease It!
The Charger is a fine car, and one of the last of its breed. But some cheap-feeling interior pieces and an aging chassis hold it back from being truly excellent. And no matter how good the Pentastar V-6 is – and it is a fine engine – a big American sedan needs a big American V-8.
Check out this TFLcar video of the 2015 Dodge Charger SXT: