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2017 Dodge Charger
New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Dodge Charger rear-wheel-drive sedan is about the closest thing America has to an old-school muscle car, while now being comfortable and user friendly, with modern technology.

For 2015, it was refreshed at every body panel except the roof and rear doors, but its design remains retro as intended. The 2017 Charger upgrades the infotainment system with an improved touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. New wheels and retro hound’s-tooth upholstery are also available on 2017 Dodge Chargers.

Base engine is a responsive 3.6-liter V6 making 292 horsepower, followed by a 5.7-liter V8 making 370 horsepower, a 6.4-liter V8 making 485 hp, and last but clearly not least is the horsepower king, the SRT Hellcat, a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 making 707 humongous horsepower. It will go 204 miles per hour. It’s surprisingly composed for a beast.

Charger V6 models use an 8-speed automatic, and have available all-wheel drive. Acceleration is quick enough to stay ahead of traffic.

Charger V8 versions, also with an 8-speed automatic, bring enough acceleration to enable relaxed passing at just half throttle.

The base models are beautifully finished for the money, but if it’s luxury you need, maybe you should look at the Chrysler 300, which shares the Charger platform and powertrains.

Fuel economy for the Charger V6 with rear-wheel drive is an EPA-estimated 19/30 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. V8 models with cylinder deactivation get 19 mpg EPA Combined, while the Hellcat gets 16 mpg Combined.

The Charger gets five stars in safety from NHTSA, while the IIHS gives it the highest score in every category, including rollover and side impact, but a Marginal in the small front-overlap crash test. Standard safety features include airbags for the driver’s knee and full-length curtain airbags, as well as active head restrains in front. But a rearview camera isn’t standard on the base model, only upper trim levels. Features including rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitors, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are optional, or come with packages and higher trims.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Dodge Charger SE and SXT come with 292-hp V6 engines. Charger SE comes with touchscreen audio, power driver’s seat and keyless ignition. The SXT adds heated seats, an 8.4-inch infotainment system and WiFi hotspot (with subscription), and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Rallye Group option adds cold air intake and dual exhaust that increase horsepower to 300 on Charger SE and Charger SXT.

Charger R/T comes with a 370-hp 5.7-liter V8. A Scat Pack for the R/T takes the bigger, 6.4-liter V8 of the SRT392, making 485 horsepower. Charger SRT392 adds luxury, as well as a three-mode adaptive suspension. Charger SRT Hellcat features the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 707 horsepower.

Walkaround

The Charger shape might harken back to the sixties, but its short overhangs and big wheels are contemporary. The 2015 refreshing didn’t alter the length, but made it appear more compact and aggressive, with blunt front and rear ends. The rear flanks appear smoother and less bulbous, and the wrap to big LED taillamps is slightly tapered.

The profile hasn’t changed much in 10 years. The view from the side is of swollen rear fenders, a high beltline, and pillars with hard edges.

In front the nose is low, while a black grille and headlamp surround gives it a storm-trooper look. The racetrack taillamps date to the sixties (although not LED back then); red light piping shapes an outline around the rear end. The smooth rear bumper integrates the tailpipes nicely.

Each model has its own tweaks. We like the R/T’s balance of aggression and restraint.

Interior

The big Charger is comfortable for four, although the rear seat is tighter than might be expected from a full-size sedan, although the space to stretch is decent. The high window line limits visibility, but the upright packaging results in good headroom. The wide front seats with aggressive bolstering are race-inspired. The available retro hounds-tooth cloth upholstery isn’t. But Nappa leather is also available.

The interior is simple, but rates a 7 for comfort, quality and technology. The surfacing is subtle, with soft-touch materials and trim accents in matte metallic. A 7.0-inch display screen is standard on the SE, while other models use the Chrysler 8.4-inch touchscreen. The Charger is let down in upper models that don’t upgrade the dashboard, center console, and door materials that are okay at $35,000 in the SXT, but not at $55,000 in the SRT.

The interior is quiet, while allowing the satisfying soft rumble of the Hemi V8 into the cabin.

Driving Impressions

We give the Charger top marks in the driving department, for the brilliant balance it strikes between performance and livability, even though the superb 8-speed automatic transmission is let down by a balky gear lever.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money for good speed, because the V6 is quick enough. The 3.6-liter in the SE and SXT brings 292 horsepower with 260 pound-feet of torque. The 6.4-liter V8 is much stronger than the 5.7, bringing zero-to-sixty time in about 4.5 seconds. As for the Hellcat, it’s the same engine in the Challenger Hellcat, but it’s even quicker, with zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds, all the way up to 204 mph.

Handling in the Charger is capable and composed, with remarkable control given the girth of 4000 pounds in the SE to 4500 pounds in the Hellcat. That’s thanks partly to accurate and nicely weighted steering. Suspension upgrades tighten things, although the Hellcat is already stiff.

The SRT models use huge Brembo brakes with six-piston calipers in front, and a multi-mode adaptive damping suspension that enables better control without that hurting the ride in town. All but the base R/T use modes enabling the driver to set the steering and throttle response.

Summary

If it’s a retro muscle car you want, and you’re a MoPar fan, the Charger won’t disappoint you. It maintains its classic looks, has a clean interior, and brings excellent powertrains, including a superb 8-speed automatic. The 3.6-liter can make 300 horsepower, and the Hellcat with its supercharged 707-horsepower Hemi is the ultimate.

Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports by The Car Connection.


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