Tom Crosby: Charger flexes new muscles, designs for ’15

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

There are nine 2015 Dodge Charger muscle cars either all new or redesigned for 2015, the year of the Charger’s 100th birthday, including the new Hellcat, the fastest and most powerful sedan on the road today.

We didn’t play with the big boys, instead test-driving the middle-of-the-pack Charger R/T Premium, an affordably priced four-door muscle car that can serve comfortably as a family sedan. Or, aided by several electronic safety controls, drivers can test their courage and experience by sampling the full-size sedan’s limits on a racetrack (speedometer’s top speed is 160 mph). Equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 HEMI engine, it roars its credentials when accelerating, shifts smoothly utilizing a new TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission and underway saves gas with Dodge’s four-cylinder Fuel Saver Technology — much appreciated in a car that averages 19 mpg. It’s not for fuel sippers.

The rear-wheel drive Charger competes with Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, and its automotive cousin that shares the same platform, the Chrysler 300. Our tester included an optional $5,995 Premium Group package, an essential add-on with many safety features (lane assist, adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, etc.) and an array of comfort, style and information features like heated front/rear seats with black Nappa leather, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with black pockets to match the granite-colored exterior, navigation and a premium 10-speaker BeatsAudio system with HD.

Outside, the Charger maintains its menacing look with a new crosshair grille, new front and rear fasciae, a slightly pinched middle (some say it resembles a Coke-bottle) with side scallops, wrap around LED headlamps/tail lamps and a deck-mounted rear spoiler. Weighing slightly more than two tons, the Charger handles well, helped by the larger tires, a performance suspension and precision responses when twirling the thick-rim three-spoke steering wheel. Driver-selectable modes include Normal, Comfort and Sport, choices for the differences in a slow commute or interstate traveling.

Inside, road imperfections were muffled and barely felt, even at higher speeds. Front bucket seats are comfortable and rear seats do not challenge adults, as do many muscle cars. Aluminum trim and soft materials provide a pleasing interior ambiance. The 8.4-inch touchscreen uses Dodge’s Uconnect Access system that can also contact emergency services when needed and a new 7-inch Driver Information Display cluster can download apps such as Aha, iHeartRadio, Pandora and Slacker. The trunk contains a spare tire. Push button remote start can pre-warm/cool the interior.

LIKES: Power, looks, handling, interior space, price, ride

DISLIKES: Fuel economy

BOTTOM LINE: Better than ever as it flexes muscles in competitive sedan market.

Base price w/destination charge $33,990 ($41,180 as tested)
Vehicle weight 4,264 lbs.
Wheelbase 120.2 inches
Length 198.4 inches
Width 75 inches
Engine 5.7-liter, V8, HEMI, fuel saver technology
Horsepower 370 hp at 5,250 rpm
Torque 395 ft-lbs. at 4,200 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic w/Autostick manual shifter
EPA Rating 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway
Range 18.5-gallon tank, 89-octane recommended
Performance 0-60 in just under 6 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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