Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s not old.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.
In fact, it can be very good.
But you’d better get it while you still can.
What It Is
The Dodge Charger is the only remaining full-size American sedan that comes standard with rear-wheel-drive, offers burly V8 engines and costs less than $30,000 to start.
A few luxury-brand (and priced) sedans are still rear-drive and offer V8s – but not for less than $30k to start.
The Charger hasn’t been updated significantly since 2011 – which is a good thing if you’re not looking for some of the things which come standard in almost all new cars, including small, turbocharged and direct-injected engines – and “fuel-saving” but complexity-adding features such as automatic engine stop/start (ASS) which shuts the engine off whenever the car isn’t moving. This may save a little gas, but it also reduces the life of the car’s battery – which probably defeats any money-savings.
There is also the engine stopping-and-starting itself – which many people understandably don’t like because of the “paint shaker” effect of all that stopping – and restarting.
Most of all, the Charger has old school Attitude.
It isn’t a rolling apology-mobile that tries to justify its existence on the basis of how “safe” it is – though it is very safe. Because it is very big – and very heavy.
It’s the kind of roller Americans used to drive. Not just rich Americans. Ordinary working and middle class Americans.
And you still can – if you hurry.
Prices start at $29,220 for the base SXT trim – which comes standard with a 3.6 liter V6 (and rear-wheel-drive).
All-wheel-drive is available optionally.
The R/T trim – which comes standard with the iconic 5.7 liter “Hemi” V8 engine – stickers for $35,995.
An even stronger (and larger) 6.4 liter version of the Hemi is available. This is the Scat Pack version of the Charger. It stickers for $39,995.
The ultimate Hemi is the slightly smaller (6.2 liter) supercharged Hemi that comes standard in the Charger Hellcat. Almost nothing on four wheels can touch the performance delivered by its 707 horsepower – certainly not for the very reasonable $65,545 Dodge wants for all that performance.
Dodge now offers Charger Scat Pack buyers the opportunity to opt for the Widebody package that first became available with the Challenger coupe last year (the two cars share a common platform, or underlying architecture).
This adds mondo flared fenders that allow huge 20×11 inch wheels and tires to fit without protruding beyond the widened body. Upgraded Brembo brakes and firmer-riding three-mode adaptive suspension are also part of the deal.
It’s a MAGA hat on wheels.
Big, roomy car.
Big available V8s.
Not-so-big price tag
What’s Not So Good
It’s a big car – with a wide (37.5 feet) turning circle.
Cars like this could become the target of after-sale “carbon taxes” if the Orange Man loses in 2020.
In addition to its available big V8, the Charger comes standard with a big V6 – another increasing rarity.
3.6 liters – almost twice the size of the now-common 2.0 liter fours that have become the typical (and sometimes, only) engine available in mid-priced sedans, all of which are also front-wheel-drive sedans.
Rear drive sedans have become the chariots of rich folk as all of them (excepting the Charger’s Chrysler-badged brother, the 300) are luxury-branded and very expensive cars. And even those cars – models like the current Benz E-Class sedan and BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 come standard with tiny (vs. the size of the car) 2.0 liter fours.
Not there’s anything wrong with these turbo’d smaller engines; they gin up staggering power in relation to their tiny displacement when that power is wanted – and are capable of better gas mileage when it isn’t.
But not as much as you may think – and they are without question more complex and parts-laden than larger engines like the Charger’s V6, which rely on their size to make power.
The V6 makes 292 hp in the base trim Challenger and 300 in the step-up GT and SXT – more power either way than most of the turbo fours in this price class. This engine can be paired with either rear-drive or AWD.
An eight-speed automatic is standard.
Gas mileage – 19 city, 30 highway with RWD – isn’t quite as high as that delivered by some of the turbo fours – but it’s not that far behind, either. In fact, it’s damned close. The current Mercedes E-Class sedan’s 2.0 liter turbo four – which only makes 241 hp – manages 21 city, 30 highway, a difference without any distinction. And the Benz’s base price is almost $25k higher.
For class-best power, there’s the optional 5.7 liter V8, which makes 370 hp. You can get your sweaty mitts on this for about the same as you’d pay to get a V6 Camry . . . or a turbo four Accord.
The Hemi Charger does not offer AWD – but it does offer burnouts. And speed. Zero to 60 in the high fives.
Without direct injection (and potential carbon fouling, post-warranty).
If you want more speed, choose the 6.4 Hemi – which makes 485 horsepower. It gets to 60 in the mid fours.
For Nextel stock car power, got for the Hellcat and the 6.2 liter supercharged Hemi – which will give you the stock car experience with license plates and air conditioning.
Startlingly, mileage with the Hemi isn’t that far behind that delivered by the standard 3.6 liter V6: 16 city, 25 highway for the 5.7 in the R/T and 15 city, 25 highway if you pick the Scat Pack.
The latter number is particularly startling given the 6.4 liter Hemi is significantly larger than the 5.7 liter Hemi and belts out 115 more horses – without a meaningful reduction in MPG capability.
And the Hellcat? That’s another matter. But to even think about how many miles it goes on a gallon is like wondering what Megan Fox thinks about foreign policy.
If you must, here it is: 13 city, 22 highway.
Which is almost as startling as the expression on your face after running a 10 second quarter mile in this thing.
No matter which engine you pick, the Charger lives up to its name. This car is quick – and quicker.
Hemi-equipped models especially.
But it’s quick differently.
A big engine – especially a big V8 engine – makes power with less apparent effort. This is more a function of torque than horsepower – and big engines specialize in big torque. The 5.7 liter Hemi makes almost 400 ft.-lbs. of it (395 to be precise) and the 6.4 nearly 500 (475 to be exact).
Either way, it’s exactly what’s needed to make a big car feel light on its feet. Almost no pressure on the accelerator results in the kind of acceleration Americans once took for granted but which no longer is . . . except at your Dodge store.
The Charger also rides like only a big car does – as American cars used to. And which almost the only cars which still do are expensive cars.
Except the Charger.
It’s also an inherently safe car – even if it doesn’t have all the latest safety tech. Because it is big.
Size does matter when it comes to crashworthiness.
Remember what Ivan Drago’s trainer says in Rocky IV? Whatever he hits, he destroys.
Bigness also brings some other things along for the ride. If you’re not used to looking over a long hood, for instance. People who are used to smallish FWD cars with short hoods will need a little time to get oriented.
Overall visibility from behind the wheel is much better than in almost any crossover SUV because of the Charger’s larger glass area, especially the rear glass. And because the rear-end isn’t as jacked up as it is in the case of most crossovers.
The Widebody, on the other hand, does take some planning-for when it comes to parking. The additional almost 4 inches means more challenging close-quarters maneuvering. It’s easier to clip a corner in this one. But the upside is being able to cut corners better on those steamroller 305-series Pirelli ultra-performance tires., which also lay extremely impressive widebody patches on the pavement.
Finally, be aware of ground clearance. There isn’t much. Even the AWD-equipped version only clears 5.2 inches – which means this isn’t a snow-day car. The R/T and Scat Pack Challengers with 4.2 inches of clearance are stay-home-when-it-snows cars.
The Charger is the anti-soy boy car.
It does not cringe with concern for what the “community” thinks about it. Isn’t ashamed to be brash, big – and big-engined. It is not an exaggeration to call it the Trumpster of transportation. And just like him, it drives the right people out of their minds.
All that’s missing, really, is a set of side-exiting megaphone pipes.
Everything else is available – including anti-Prius paint jobs such as sublime and air scoops big enough to suck down a Prius, never to be seen again.
The scoops also serve as recognition cues – similar to the silhouettes of opposing countries’ battleships the Navy used back in the day to figure out what they were dealing with. If you see no scoops, it’s probably just a regular Charger. If you see twin scoops in your rearview, it’s a Hemi.
If you see one very big scoop, move over right now. That’s a Hellcat about to peel the paint off whatever you’re driving.
The Charger’s bigness also makes it practical – something no other car available with 707 horses under the hood can claim with a straight face.
Its back seats are roomier than the front seats in many new cars. You’ll find 40.1 inches of legroom back there. That’s yuge. Even though the action is up front, the back seats aren’t a bad place to be. They are another thing today’s Americans have gotten used to not having – but still can, here.
You’ll also find a yuge trunk – 16.5 cubic feet. This trunk is also wide – like the Charger itself. Much will fit in there. Including a real spare tire.
One of the reasons sedans have lost popularity relative to crossovers is because most current sedans have tiny trunks.
The Charger’s isn’t.
The Charger can also pull . . . a trailer. The RWD/V8 combo is basically the same as you’d find in a burly SUV or pick-up, just lower to the ground and a lot better-handling. But amendable to dealing with a load, just the same.
FWD cars with tiny turbo fours not so much.
Yes, it’s old.
The current Charger is more or less the same as the 2011. Which means you can avoid most of the things you’re stuck with in other 2019 models. You can skip Lane Keep Assist, Steering Assist and other such “assists.” Dodge offers some of this stuff, but it remains happily optional, as these things ought to be.
Not everyone wants a transportation appliance. Some still want to drive. This is a car for them.
The Charger’s design, moreover, is proven. You know what you’re getting. Its track record for solidity is already well-established. Cops love these things – and anything cops love you should, too. If you want a car that can take popping a curb without breaking something very expensive – and which will probably still be laying rubber 15 years from now, too.
You’re also getting what is probably the last of its kind as fuel economy fatwas apply ever-greater pressure on manufacturers to stop manufacturing cars like the Charger.
Dodge – bless ’em – is not only refusing to cave in, they’re doubling down. In addition to the Widebody upgrade, the Hellcat will be upgraded to Redeye status and almost 800 horsepower – enough horsepower to get air under the front tires and get through the quarter mile in the single digits.
The scruffy beards of several soy boys just went white.
The Bottom Line
If you want the American Car Experience, the time to experience it is now.
Before it’s gone for good.
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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I think you’ll appreciate this:
A couple of years ago, I rented out a Chrysler 300 with a V6. That was a NICE car; I liked it. It was nice to drive a REAL American car again! Unfortunately, it’s a little pricey for me. Also, I don’t know if my garage could hold a Charger. Anyway, I liked the 300, which is a more civilized, dressed up Charger. Damn you, Eric! Now I want to go get one…
Me also. I love this car – and hope it manages to survive; that FCA can update it without ruining it.
Might as well hope Socialist Insecurity “contributions” become voluntary…
These are available for very affordable prices. I bought my 2016 300 Limited when it was less than one year old with 12k miles for less than a new basic 4 cylinder Camry or Accord. Much more car for the money IMHO.
Sounds cool if a bit bloated. a manual transmission would be nice. Very likely the last of these type of cars. as long as the engine doesnt fucking cut off at a stop i’m happy.
I don’t object to the Charger’s bigness – as opposed to the bloatedness of the typical small car (which weighs as much as big cars used to weigh). If Orange Man can hold the line – and manages to get re-elected – this car might actually thrive.
All depends on next year.
If you want a manual, you have to go with a Challenger.
My family has two of these, a Charger v6-AWD and my 300 5.7 RWD. I have owned a lot of cars since the 80’s as an on-the-road salesman, sometimes 50K/yr, so lots of cars. These cars have become my favorite of all time. Pick your pleasure with the huge added bonus of affordability and order them how you want.
The 8sp, around 2015? made these cars great, to me. My wife loved my 300 so much she traded in her MB for a V8 Grand Cherokee and is now her favorite vehicle of all time. My plans next time is the Scat Pack, not because of the 392 as I feel the std. V8 is plenty good for me, but because it’s the only way to get a factory posi, which I want for performance and better snow driving, even though I do drive my RWD 300 all year in the North East.
Long live FCA and the Charger/Challenger/300. Please!!!
How are these as far as smoothness, highway range, and mpg? Car I have at the moment has a 650 mile range, great mpg, but is not real smooth and the seats aren’t that great. Considering Charger for the next vehicle.
Bin, drive the different models to be sure. The only way.
I have the 300 S model which stands for Sport. It is a little bumpy on potholed roads here in the NE. However, at 50mph+ the car handles them smoothly. I believe the S gets slightly stiffer shocks but I’m not sure. I like the compromise. My S also gets the ‘sport’ button which makes the engine tuning more aggressive which I like a lot.
The C model I believe is more compliant however will float a little more at high speed.
Range is not the best, I think 300-350 mi. as the tank is pretty small. I get 23-25mpg hwy with the v8. My daughters v6 does 27-29 hwy. Pretty good for these higher hp older-school engines.
If it’s any indication, I will be buying another one.
My 2016 300 Limited V6 easily gets 30 mpg (and sometimes more) on the highway. When I fill up, the computer states the range is a bit over 500.
Agreed on the 8 speed. It makes a huge difference in drivability and economy. That and the upgraded UConnect infotainment system are significant upgrades around 2015 or 2016 (my 2016 300 has both).
Heres a question I had for you Eric – read somewhere that FCA is making a 1000HP+ “Hellephant” engine. Any idea what became of that, and if it will ever find its way into a car mere-mortals can buy?
I can answer that one. The Hellephant was a crate engine sold to people who build track cars and such, it was never meant to go into a road car. They all sold out within 48 hours of going on sale.
hahaha – Maga hat on wheels – how awesome is that…
Here is the future for a car like this. Make it right hand drive and start selling a cheap basic version in places like the Indian subcontinent and Australia….. manufacture or assemble somewhere cheaper if you have to. But definitely they still respect cars out in Asia the way we once did in the west…..
But im sure the powers that be dont want that cat out of the bag, now do they…..
I’ve been daily driving a Charger Hellcat and I’ve finally found a car that I intend to keep for a very long time. Everything in your article I’ve found to be true about the Charger model: it drives very well, the cockpit is comfortable, and the backseats can accommodate normal-sized adults. It is especially good at getting me around (or out of the way of) the ubiquitous clovers that clog the freeways with just the barest input to the accelerator. The deep burble of the V8 is the sweetest sound at idle, but on acceleration…oh that roar. To borrow the words of the late 20th Century philosopher Ferris, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
Love it Robert!
And I’m also jealous!
I was talking price and performance on a Charger recently at a local dealership here in Pittsburgh… Just as my daughter’s $25,000 semester tuition bill for that out of state Virginia college showed up…Damn!!!!!
Hi Jarhead John:
Great to meet a fellow Yinzer! And while not a jarhead, I am the grandson of one…one who got me into cars with his big Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Chrysler Imperials.
If not for our rough winters, I’d ride in a Charger or 300. Is AWD still offered?
@Jarhead John- So how is she adjusting to her new job at Burger King ? …and how is your new car ? LOL
Man wish I had some cash to burn to get one. Could trade in both my and wifes trucks for the scat pack nicely packaged but it wont haul groceries or two baby seats 🙁
Oh if I were 30 years younger and the cops were still peace officers with a sense of humor….. 😛
Agree with you 100%. And I love the attitude it packs.
Although it’s primitive, a big bore Hemi hooked up to a not so primitive, eight speed transmission is Very Entertaining to drive.
Sadly, I don’t think I’d be willing to buy a 2020 Charger. In its long lifespan, this model has suffered at least one too many “cosmetic refreshes.” The current version’s bulbous hood crashing into a disharmonic front three-quarter treatment looks pretty garish and tasteless.
The Charger vintage I’d like to snag would be back from the first year Chrysler offered the Hemi with the eight speed. They didn’t get really homely until the last couple of years.
The 8-speed transmission might just be the Charger’s “weak spot” in the long term, as many of the newer transmissions are not economically rebuildable. Of course, one could replace it with a Torqueflite 727 transmission when replacement is warranted…