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The Dodge Charger has the basics of a mid-size sedan covered, but there's a secret tucked under its sculpted, coke-bottle-shaped sheetmetal. Properly equipped, it can rage on with the raw horsepower of the powerful musclecars available today. It's a sleeper, but one only when it's saddled with the basic V-6 engine.
The Charger bristles with bravado. It's unabashed, in classic Detroit fashion, but it's also a sensible vehicle choice with just enough refinement and sophistication. It's the type of car that restores your faith in the idea of a well-built, well-engineered American-made car.
For 2014, the Charger sees very few changes, though the new Redline Package includes a tuned version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, good for 300 hp, as well as a few styling cues and an upgraded audio system.
The Charger has helped move the Dodge brand to a higher plane, and has brought a new kind of buyer into the fold, with its split personality. You can essentially go two ways with the Charger. Keep the bottom-line price down and get a V-6 model—it's economical, refined, and no slouch—or go with one of the V-8 models, which give its performance to rival some machines that wear M or AMG badging. The Charger SRT is a serious threat, at a much lower price.
The Charger's style hasn't changed all that significantly on the outside since it was introduced for 2005, but it still stands out as one of a kind. With a Coke-bottle look alongside, a high beltline, and the Dodge crosshair grille, along with its unmistakeable tail and bar of LED lamps, this sedan has a commanding shape, careful retro-modern detailing, and an aura of masculinity all around. Forget the Dukes of Hazzard and any NASCAR associations for the moment; this sedan looks curvy and exotic from some angles, blunt and punishing from others. A couple of years ago the dash was smoothed over, with a design that's less flamboyant but a lot more pleasant and practical—and driver-oriented.
The flamboyant muscle-car look doesn't impact interior space or usability all that much, although you do pay for that high beltline with outward visibility that's a little more limited than in other sedans. But thanks to the rather blunt, upright styling, there's plenty of headroom all around. Front seats are wide and well bolstered, and wide doors make ingress and egress easy. Legroom especially is a little tight in back, but if they complain too much you can remind them that it does meet police-car standards.
The 2014 Charger is well equipped, especially from the SXT level and above. Even base SE Chargers include air conditioning; cruise control; power windows, locks and mirrors; a power driver seat; pushbutton start; and an AM/FM/CD player with a 4.3-inch touchscreen control. Other good tech options include navigation with real-time traffic and voice control, as well as the option to plug a cell-network data dongle in and create a local wireless network.
The only Charger we might avoid from a performance perspective is the base SE, but only because it comes with a five-speed automatic while the eight-speed automatic that's included in SXT models is so much better. Otherwise, it's now simply a matter of whether you're okay with the V-8's extra price and thirst (and, perhaps, its less responsible image). Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, making 292 horsepower, is what powers base Charger models, and it's made better through a very smooth and responsive eight-speed ZF automatic. Paddle-shifters are included, and the combination gets up to 31 mpg highway. Go with the R/T and its 370-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 (and five-speed automatic) if you want more engagement, a lot more torque, and a classic burble, while for the most engaging, tire-scorching performance you should head straight for the SRT; with its 6.4-liter HEMI V-8, with 475 horsepower and a five-speed automatic, it's good for 0-60 mph times of under five seconds and tuned, in some ways, we think, to sound like a classic big-block engine.
The SRT handles surprisingly well for a big, heavy sedan—with much more of a nimble nature than a Ford Taurus or Chevrolet Impala. There's not a lot of lean or body roll in any of the models, but the SRT and its new adaptive suspension has the best combination of ride and control (it's selectable, from comfort-tuned to aggressively firm).
There's no reason to hesitate about safety either; the Charger has earned a five-star overall score in federal testing, and it's been an IIHS Top Safety Pick. A rearview camera system, active cruise control, and blind-spot monitors are available in addition to all the expected standard items.
- Thrilling V-8 powertrains
- Well-coordinated interiors
- Coke-bottle body
- Up to 31 mpg highway
- Responsive eight-speed automatic
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- Thirsty V-8 models
- V-8 models don't ride as well
- AWD versions don't steer as well