2014 Dodge Charger Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 18, 2014

The 2014 Dodge Charger's interior may surprise luxury car shoppers, but it'll definitely delight the blue collar crowd.

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.

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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.

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2014 Dodge Charger

Styling

The 2014 Dodge Charger is bold and assertive, but that's only on the outside; form follows function remarkably well inside.

The 2014 Dodge Charge remains a standout in the segment, even though it hasn't changed all that much since its debut in 2005.

With its crosshair grille, unmistakable bar of LED taillights, Coke-bottle silhouette and high beltline, the sedan has a retro-mod look that's both commanding and decidedly masculine. Try to look past its NASCAR and Dukes of Hazzard associations–this thing is exotic all in its own right.

The Charger looks most like a muscle car from its rear and profile–especially in burnt orange with the packages that add lower aero-work. In back, 164 LED taillamps comprise a racetrack of rear lights that spans across, and the squarish tail is topped off with a spoiler on some trims.

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 materials are better-coordinated than before—almost up to the level of a luxury car—with metallic-printed plastic with some wide but nicely contoured stretches.

8

2014 Dodge Charger

Performance

You'll find impressive performance from V-6 models of the Charger, but there's no measuring up to the seductive firepower of HEMI models.

With hydraulic power steering--run by a electric-operated pump--the Charger has a confident, nicely weighted tiller, with a feel that just about matches the somewhat beefy feel of all the controls. The suspension improvements introduced last year, with upgraded shocks, control arms and bushings, do improve body control and responsiveness, though they don't bring any more road feel to the steering wheel.

In general, the Charger drives like a somewhat smaller car--although if you opt for the available all-wheel-drive system, the steering doesn't wind and unwind with the same neatness, and that alone can give the car a bulkier feel.

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 that provides a wide span of ratios. Paddle shifters are included, and the combination gets up to 31 mpg highway.

Even though the V-6 is much more enjoyable this year, the V-8s remain the stars of the lineup. Not many sensory perceptions can equal the throb of a massive V-8 in full mating call, and the HEMI V-8 is the equal of Ford's Mustang V-8 for its lascivious racket. The 5.7-liter belts out 370 horsepower to an appropriately bellowy tune, and it can get to 60 mph in the 5.5-second range. The huge HEMI is a very forgiving engine, and it actually pairs well with the five-speed automatic, which includes a manual-shift mode.

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).

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).

A number of packages not only bring the Charger a sharper look but add to its performance. A "Road and Track" package adds bigger roll bars, Goodyear sport tires, stiffer monotube shocks and tougher brake linings, and an "off" mode for stability control.

The Blacktop Package that was introduced in 2012 has been made even better. As before, it brings 20-inch performance tires on Pitch Black five-spoke alloys; a performance suspension; sport seats; and a Pitch Black grille theme. This year with this package and the Rallye Appearance Group there's a cold-air intake and sport exhaust that bumps V-6 output up to 300 hp. An R/T Road & Track Package also includes a rear differential with 3.06 axle ratio, performance powertrain calibrations, a high-speed engine controller, 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, and special badging.

8

2014 Dodge Charger

Comfort & Quality

The muscle-car stance and rear-wheel drive do rob some interior space, but the Charger is surprisingly practical inside.

If you value ride comfort more than muscle-car impressions, you should keep in mind that ride quality in V-8 models, and those with larger wheel upgrades, is noticeably harsher than in V-6 models. R/T or SRT models can be a little jittery at times, while V-6 Chargers are more sophisticated and quiet.

HEMI cars also have a bit more engine noise entering the cabin--if you call the HEMI's throaty rumble noise, that is. Road and wind noise are well damped no matter what, and interior materials and trims are top-notch. 

However, the flamboyant muscle-car look of the 2014 Dodge Charger 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.

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.

8

2014 Dodge Charger

Safety

The 2014 Dodge Charger offers excellent safety that goes along nicely with the assertive look and feel.

With its bold, brash looks, the 2014 Dodge Charger is one of the safest sedans on the road. A rearview camera system, active cruise control, and blind-spot monitors are available in addition to all the expected standard items. Front-seat active head restraints were added to the Dodge Charger's list of safety features two years ago. And electronic stability control, full-length side-curtain airbags, and a driver's side knee bag remain included in all Chargers.

The Charger has earned a five-star overall score in federal testing, and it's been an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick in the past - but since there's no small-overlap crash-test data, it doesn't merit the Top Safety Pick award this year. The Charger has earned top 'good' ratings in all categories of IIHS testing.

In the more stringent federal NCAP tests introduced last year, the Charger has achieved five stars overall (out of five), with a top score in side-impact protection and four stars for frontal impact.

8

2014 Dodge Charger

Features

The 2014 Charger has a simpler infotainment interface than some rival cars, but all the connectivity and entertainment goodness is there.

It's what's under the hood that will likely attract most Charger shoppers, but for those looking for options and accessories, there are several trims from which to choose. Two of these trims–the SE and SXT–receive the 3.6-liter 'Pentastar' V-6, while R/T cars are powered by a 370-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8. And if you're really going for the gusto, the SRT Charger has a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 that produces 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque.

The R/T Road & Track includes die-cast paddle-shifters, heated-and-ventilated sport seats, power adjustable pedals and steering column, a performance powertrain controller, a rear differential with 3.06 axle, and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels with performance tires. And the R/T Max packs on the tech, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path, ParkSense, ParkView (camera), Alpine surround, SmartBeam headlamps, a heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, and more.

Base SE models are reasonably well equipped, with push-button start, keyless entry, a power driver's seat, a 4.3-inch touch screen, the LED taillamps, and 17-inch alloys. Moving up to the SXT is all it takes to get the beautiful new Uconnect Touch (or Uconnect 8.4) system (plus voice commands and integrated Bluetooth); SXT models also get dual-zone climate control, Alpine premium audio, power heated front seats, and power heated mirrors.

The Charger also gets the Beats by Dr. Dre audio treatment--with a powerful 12-channel amp and proprietary equalization--on R/T Max, with several of the major options packages, and in all AWD models. Also, Rallye Appearance and Blacktop Package V-6 models now get a boost to 300 hp with a cold-air intake and performance exhaust.

On both the SXT and the R/T, a Plus package adds 18-inch chrome-clad wheels, premium leather, heated/cooled cupholders, LED overhead lighting, and LED-illuminated footwells.

The Charger also opens up USB ports for plug-in dongles that turn 3G into in-car WiFi, and offers a Garmin navigation system, which we have mixed feelings about, but in any case has a nice streamlined interface.
6

2014 Dodge Charger

Fuel Economy

Charger R/T or SRT models are the lushes of the lineup, although the Charger V-6 models are responsible consumers.

The Charger can be more efficient than it looks–especially if you get the eight-speed automatic with the V-6–which earns up to 31-mpg on the highway.

Go with any of the V-8 models and you'd better be prepared to dig deeper into your wallet. Even though HEMI V-8-powered R/T models include Fuel Saver Technology (cylinder deactivation), they return 16/25 mpg, with AWD models down to 15/23. SRT models figure in at 14/23 mpg--which really isn't bad considering their output. And if you're getting an SRT, gas mileage can't possibly be a priority; that model gets 14/23 mpg.

Rear-wheel-drive V-6 models slot in at 19 mpg city, 31 highway--very respectable for a large, performance-oriented sedan. While with all-wheel drive, the V-6 lands at 18/27 mpg.

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