But if you’re not headed to the track or looking to wow friends with timed performance runs and Hellcat bragging rights, you could save a lot of money just going for the middle-of-the-range, Hemi-V-8-powered 2015 Dodge Charger R/T.
We recently spent a few days driving the 2015 Charger R/T, and found it to be what Dodge has been targeting all along—a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan that builds on the heritage of muscle cars but is something more sophisticated, above and beyond that.
Dodge is steering the Charger lineup away, at least somewhat, from the more retro-flavored direction it’s taken in recent years. With this more refined exterior for 2015, as well as better materials and trims (and improved displays) for the tight, quiet, modern cabin introduced a couple of years ago, plus some additional refinement added this year with new steering and a retuned suspension, it’s at last the full modern interpretation of the classic American rear-wheel-drive sedan.
But there's still plenty of muscle-car undercurrent. If the seemingly muscle-car-inspired Redline Red paint of our test car wouldn’t already tip you off, the moment you press the engine start button you’ll be reminded of this car’s muscle-car heritage. The big, 5.7-liter V-8 fires up with a pulsating V-8 rumble, and an ever-vocal tonality that’s present whether you’re idling or blipping the throttle.
While we haven’t driven the Charger Hellcat, we’ve driven the 707-hp Challenger Hellcat and even the 485-hp, 6.4-liter R/T Scat Pack models—all of which are offered in the Charger, so we can draw some comparisons and contrasts.
R/T skips the Hellcat insanity, but offers up lots of Hemi V-8 personality
The R/T’s Hemi lacks the exotic-car high-rev surge and absolute insanity of the Hellcat, as well as the noticeably beefed-up torque curve in the middle of the the rev band in Scat Pack models; but it has what big American V-8s are known for: lots and lots of low-rpm torque. The eight-speed automatic transmission performs flawlessly with this engine, and while you sure don’t need eight ratios for an engine with this kind of torque plateau, it does mean that the R/T is always on top of its game, giving plenty of intermediate ratios to choose from when you want to ease into a pass without going full-throttle (and turning the heads of law enforcement).
We like how Dodge has brought back a new version of the familiar, tried-and-true shift lever, and enhanced the level of in-dash displays instead. The Charger’s instrument panel feels refreshingly clean and straightforward compared to most other upscale sedans we’ve driven as of late.
The Uconnect Navigation system in our test car, with its 8.4-inch touch screen, was easy to use and figure out, with large lettering and icons, and no noticeable lag. The only thing that we didn’t like was that some commonly used items require the screen—like the heated seats, for instance, for which you need to select the climate-control screen (although the system does give you the chance to ‘renew’ the heated seats at engine startup).
Control and comfort: It's all here, really
In the past we’d said that V-8 models of the Charger don’t ride as well, but we’re changing our tune on that. The modest suspension changes for 2015 bring a well-controlled ride, like a snug pillowtop on a firm mattress. To the point, there's plenty of handling prowess in the Charger R/T, and plenty of body control for tail-out maneuvers if you dare—with none of the front-to-back snap that some earlier Chrysler LX cars exhibited.
There’s great seating comfort inside, provided you don’t set high expectations for rear-seat legroom. Dodge has also upgraded upholstery in the Charger for 2015, and while we love the sharply bolstered sport seats that are included with the R/T—as well as the chance to get heated seats and cloth upholstery—the upholstery itself here seemed to gather up pet hair we didn’t even know we were carrying. But rear seatbacks fold forward almost flat, and the trunk is huge and useful.
The R/T’s Hemi uses the Multi-DIsplacement System (MDS), also known as Fuel Saver Technology, which can run the engine on four cylinders during low-load conditions, like when you’re cruising steadily at lower freeway speeds. Although there’s no light for the system, you can hear it, as the engine goes into a somewhat deeper thrum.
Still, this big V-8 is very thirsty
That said, we didn’t find the R/T all that fuel-efficient. Our test car registered 16 mpg over 135 miles of driving—with about half of that around-town, stop-and-go errands and the other half freeways and higher-speed boulevards. That included a couple of full-throttle takeoffs, which are rather irresistible.
We do tend to think, just as with the Challenger, that the Charger represents the best value when equipped with the Scat Pack—an option that costs just $7,000 more and includes 115 horsepower more under the hood, plus serious suspension and brake upgrades. Otherwise, the V-6 SXT feels fully sorted in a way that none of the V-8 models quite do—with the right engine for the chassis, and performance that's plenty quick for any real-world needs on American roads.
The 2015 Dodge Charger R/T offers a lot of personality for well under $40k, however, even with some options added. The R/T includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, power front seats, LED fog lamps and running lamps, remote start, a HomeLink garage-door opener, a 276-watt, six-speaker sound system, and the Uconnect 8.4-inch infotainment system, with well-coordinated voice controls and a media hub with USB and SD-card inputs. Our test car had the Wheels and Tunes Group, a $1.095 pairing of polished-alloy wheels with black pockets, and a 10-speaker, 552-watt Beats audio system. It also added navigation (plus a rearview camera, HD Radio, and XM Traffic and Travel Link services), at $995, for a total of $36,580.
With this year’s refresh, Dodge seems a lot less set on recreating the past, and a lot more focused on trying to attract shoppers on the basis of what it is: a top-notch, well-focused rear-wheel drive performance sedan—and despite the good ol' American V-8 growl, one with a surprising level of finesse at that.