Is there a full-size sedan on the market with a more diverse line-up than the redesigned 2015 Dodge Charger? Available with anything from a respectable V6 all the way up to a bonkers 707 horses from the supercharged SRT Hellcat model, the Charger offers family car shoppers a breadth of choice that's simply absent from the showrooms of its competitors.
Although the SRT Hellcat might get all of the press, the reality is that most Charger sales consist of far more reasonably-packaged models that don't threaten to stop the Earth's rotation if you hit the gas pedal too hard. It was with this in mind that I spent a week piloting the 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD, a six-cylinder model that presents the best features that the platform has to offer matched with its most popular drivetrain.
If Looks Could Kill
It's rare that a family car receives the type of extroverted personality styled into the 2015 Dodge Charger, a vehicle which has ostensibly drawn from the brand's deep muscle car well in putting together its revised package of visual cues. Significantly refreshed for the current model year, the Charger's new uninterrupted taillight bar and smirking front fascia sharpen the edges of what was already a surprisingly buff full-size sedan. My SXT Plus model featured the Rallye package, which further enhanced its sporty looks by way of a gloss black grille appliqué and a rear spoiler, with only the extra ride height of the optional all-wheel drive system detracting from the performance theme. A red-on-black two-tone leather treatment linked my tester's interior to its exterior hue, an affectation that some passengers found overwhelming but others considered fitting given the Charger's dynamic first impression.
High Tech Homestead
The SXT Plus represents one of the best-equipped models in the 2015 Dodge Charger family, with a particular focus on infotainment and active safety. The Charger's Uconnect 8.4 touchscreen interface controls navigation, some aspects of the climate system (heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel), Bluetooth connectivity, and of course the Beats audio system that comes with the Rallye package. Uconnect is on another level of user-friendliness and interface design as compared to even luxury car infotainment setups, and is one of the Charger's strongest points.
Another area where the Dodge sedan stands tall is advanced safety. The car I drove offered a blind spot warning system, a lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control with a forward collision warning and automatic braking, and a rearview camera. These features - which all worked quite well - are occasionally absent on six-figure sedans, so their inclusion with the Charger is to be applauded.
Finally, it's worth commenting on the Dodge Charger's interior room, which is quite good, if not class-leading. I stuffed three six-footers across the rear bench with minimal complaints (other than the transmission tunnel killing legroom in the middle position), and the front seats offered a spacious perch from which to observe the road ahead. The Charger's trunk is also useful, and measures on the high side of average.
Thanks to the Rallye package's cold air intake and sport exhaust system, the Dodge Charger SXT Plus saw its 3.6-litre V6 bumped from 292 to 300 horsepower (and 264 lb-ft of torque). There aren't any mechanical changes made to the six-cylinder Charger for 2015, but each of the three V8 models - the R/T, the SRT / Scat Pack, and the Hellcat - now offer the same eight-speed automatic transmission that was previously reserved for the V6.
The 3.6-litre mill's acceleration was strong enough to occasionally chirp the rear tires, which surprised me given the presence of all-wheel drive. While the Hemi V8 in the R/T is significantly stronger (to say nothing of SRT and Scat Pack options), there's no need to step up to the larger motor for every day driving - and you lose the AWD option if you do so. I didn't see much evidence of the Rallye package's stiffer suspension tuning during my time with the sedan, but the Charger handled well and didn't beat me up too badly over potholes in the process.
Standing On Its Own
If you want a full-size, rear-wheel drive sedan (with the option of all-wheel drive) at a reasonable price, you're shopping for either the Chrysler 300, the Dodge Charger, or the Hyundai Genesis. Of that trio, the Dodge is the least expensive by a significant margin, and it's the only one without premium pretensions. As fun as the performance-oriented eight-cylinder editions of the Charger are, there's still a lot to like about the more modestly-gifted, but still comfortable and modern entry-level V6 model, especially when paired with the under-$40k SXT Plus trim. Consider this latest update a re-focus, and not a re-design of what the Charger does best, and you'll no doubt agree with me.