The formula for the full-size sedan is pretty simple. It has to be spacious and comfortable, and a reasonable price wouldn't hurt, either. The Chevrolet Impala and Dodge Charger fit that bill.
Each takes a different route to that destination, though. With the Impala, Chevy opts for front-wheel drive and 4-cylinder or V-6 power, while the Dodge Charger goes with rear- or all-wheel drive and V-6 or V-8 power. Both work well, but which is best for you? Let's dig deeper to find out.
Both cars are equally attractive. The Impala's crisply themed sheet metal has a bit of Mercedes CLS in its rear quarters. Most cars are best approached from the front, but the elegance and sophistication of the Impala is best appreciated from the rear. Inside, the dash is ambitious, if not quite as unified. The designers shaved away unneeded dash below the beltline, but the chorus of lines, textures, and materials needs a more muted approach.
The Charger combines elements of old muscle car styling with a modern aesthetic. The Coke-bottle shape is right out of the '60s, but the car also has the short overhangs and large wheels of a modern performance sedan. The cabin features subtle surfacing, contrasting matte metallic framing accents, and plenty of soft-touch materials.
Performance a point in the Charger's favor, mostly because it offers V-8 power and some high-performance models.
Nonetheless, with its 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, the Impala is a sleek, athletic performer. It accelerates to 60 mph in about 6.8 seconds. Handling and comfort are balanced, and the ride is damped extremely well. Base Impalas carry a 196-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 that moves the car along smartly enough under most circumstances but struggles during hard acceleration.
The Charger's base 3.6-liter V-6 puts out 292 hp. It's all you need for keeping ahead of traffic and offers similar performance to the Chevy V-6. One step up from there is the R/T, with its 370-hp 5.7-liter V-8. The 5.7 starts to make the Charger feel like a muscle car.
Buyers can also opt for a pair of models with a 485-hp 6.4-liter V-8 that can vault the Charger from 0 to 60 mph in the mid four-second range, as well as the ridiculous 707-hp SRT Hellcat. The Hellcat accelerates to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds on its way to a holy-rolling top speed of 204 mph.
On V-8 models, the Charger's ride quality is on the firm side, but quite comfortable, until you tighten down the Hellcat's dampers. Base models have a springy feel and lots of body lean.
2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in Go MangoEnlarge Photo
2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in Go MangoEnlarge Photo
2015 Dodge ChargerEnlarge Photo
Of course, all that power comes at a penalty to fuel economy. With the 5.7, the Charger returns a mediocre 16/25/19 mpg. The 6.4 is rated at 18 mph combined and the Hellcat gets 16 mpg combined.
The V-6 models offer very similar fuel economy, though. The Impala is rated at 19/29/22 mpg, while the V-6 Charger returns 19/31/23 mpg. The most fuel efficient of the group is the 4-cylinder Impala, which gets EPA ratings of 22/31/25 mpg.
Interior comfort and quality
We give the nod to the Impala for interior comfort and quality. The front seats are supportive, and space is vast through the back seat, except in headroom. The trunk is large at 18.8 cubic feet. Despite some quality materials, the Impala's busy look keeps the cabin from feeling upscale.
The Charger's interior materials and trims are excellent, with plenty of soft-touch materials and impressive switchgear. Big doors and elongated roofline make getting in and out of both rows easy. The front seats are wide and well bolstered, but rear legroom is a little tight for long-legged people. Unfortunately, the high window line creates a bathtub-type feel, hurting outward visibility.
Features and safety
Both the Impala and the Charger are well equipped, with similar prices, and they offer about the same level of safety.
Impala prices range from about $28,000 for the base model all the way to $41,000. The highlight of Impala's interior features is the MyLInk infotainment system, which is run through an 8.0-inch touchscreen and offers Apple Car Play compatibility. MyLInk is easy to use, and offers pinch, swipe, and voice-to-text capability.
The Charger lineup is more expansive, starting with a $28,000 SE V-6 model and ranging all the way up to the $66,000 Hellcat. Like the Impala, the Charger offers a top-notch infotainment system. It's called Uconnect and it comes with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and a drag-and-drop menu bar. Other notable features include Dodge's "heritage" color options, and a series of stripes and appearance packages.
Safety is a strong suit for both cars, but crash test scores could be better. The Impala comes standard with 10 airbags and can be fitted with blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warnings. It's earned a top five-star overall rating from the federal government, but has only partial scores from the IIHS.
The Charger also gets five stars from the government, but receives a "Marginal" score in the IIHS's small front overlap crash test. Buyers can get the same active safety features as the Impala, plus rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keep assist.
Counting up the points, this contest ends in a tie. The Impala's front-drive approach gives it the win for interior comfort and quality, while the Charger's rear-drive layout and high-horsepower models push it ahead in terms of performance. We can't help but think that, for most daily drivers, the Impala makes a lot more sense--unless your daily drive needs to factor in some spectacular tire-melting.