The Charger shares its platform with the more upscale and luxurious Chrysler 300.
I recall that when the current iteration of the Dodge Charger was released reviving the nameplate back in 2006, I was disappointed with the fact that it had four doors. Every Charger prior had been a proper two-door coupe, so the name just seemed wrong on a sedan. Of course, Dodge had the Challenger in the works at the same time, which filled the two-door coupe void quite well. Thirteen years later though, the Charger has its own new identity, and stands as one of the few remaining full-sized American family sedans.
While the true high-performance models like the SRT (reviewed here) and the vicious Hellcat only represent a small portion of the Charger’s sales, they are a great example of how a halo model can really give the rest of the lineup a distinguished identity. Our tester this week, a 2019 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD is a perfect example of this. It has the aggressive looks and performance equipment that has become associated with the Charger name, but with a practical and livable V6 powering it all.
As an SXT model, one thing our tester does not get is the sportier looking front fascia and scooped hood. Nonetheless, it still has a muscle car vibe that’s only highlighted by the Blacktop exterior appearance package. The $595 package includes gloss black 19” wheels, a nicely integrated satin black rear spoiler and blacked out badging. The black theme is carried onto the roof with the rather pricey option ($1,395) to have the roof painted black.
All the black makes for a really interesting look when paired with the F8 Metallic Green of our test car. The Charger’s design isn’t without ugly warts, such as the bulbous door handles, but the rear end of the car is just so classically masculine with the full length “Racetrack” LED taillights and big dual exhaust outlets, that it’s really hard not to appreciate it.
The Charger shares its platform with the more upscale and luxurious Chrysler 300, and happily, many of the refinements from the 300 have made their way into the Dodge. That means it’s not exactly a cheap car, starting at $37,095. The good news is that the higher starting price means Dodge doesn’t have to squeeze every penny to build the Charger to a rock-bottom price point like some of the competitive Japanese and Korean sedans.
As a result, the interior is quite refined and well put together. Our tester did come with plenty of interior upgrades, but even a base Charger’s dash, door panels and centre console use a soft-touch matte finish material. It’s quite nice, if maybe a bit shiny, and the dash fascia uses a metallic mesh that looks and feels both interesting and high-tech while harkening back to the muscle cars of the 60s and 70s.
Our tester came with the $2,495 Plus Group, which feels expensive at first, but this one package really decks out the interior with just about every gadget you could want. This includes Nappa leather ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats, premium stitching on the seats and dash, leather wrapped heated and power telescopic steering wheel, blind spot and rear-cross path detection and a long list of other interior conveniences.
Like a good full-sized American sedan should, the interior offers huge amounts of space for passengers and a very generous trunk. I did find the front seats a little uncomfortable and even with the adjustable lumbar just couldn’t get the position right. There is loads of storage up front, and the dash layout is visually pleasing and extremely easy to navigate. Our tester came with the larger 8.4” touchscreen, running the fantastic UConnect infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.
The gauge cluster is also very well done and includes a seven-inch full color display that can be setup to provide info at a glance on everything from tire pressure and fuel economy, to driving and performance data. One criticism here is that the fonts and layouts on some of the display screens can be cluttered and difficult to read.
The base engine for the Charger is the extremely popular Pentastar 3.6L V6. You can step up to a series of V8s starting with the 5.7L HEMI and up to the ridiculous 707-horsepower Hellcat. Our tester stays to the sensible side of performance with the V6, which puts out 300 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. The Pentastar is an engine we’re very familiar with, and while praised for economy, reliability and top end power, it falls short on low-end torque. This is acceptable in a family hauler, but it does distract from the experience the Charger.
The V6 does deliver brisk acceleration and confident highway passing, especially once the eight-speed automatic has dropped a couple gears, giving you access to that higher-RPM torque. It does deliver power fairly smoothly, and the transmission shifts quickly to keep you in the power band. One other little detail with the V6 is that it really doesn’t sound very loud or pleasing, and in a big powerful looking car like a Charger, a little more sound would go a long way.
Engine aside, the Charger’s chassis is obviously hugely capable given its ability to manage much higher-powered engines. As a result, it handles sharper than anyone might expect, and the rear-biased AWD system keeps it confidently moving through the ice and snow, while still plenty happy to have some fun breaking the rear end loose. One aspect that caught me off guard is just how light and agile the Charger feels. It does not feel like the huge sedan that it is from behind the wheel where it feels light, poised and very responsive to steering inputs.
There are two interesting buttons on the center stack inside the Charger. The first one is labelled “Sport”, which adjusts the steering, shifting, engine and traction control for spirited driving. It’s definitely a good way to have some fun. Next to the Sport button is a button labelled “Super Performance Pack” which pulls up the performance pages on the infotainment screen. Here you can track things like g-forces and acceleration times, and configure the car’s drive settings to your liking.
One of my favorite traits associated with big sedans like this is their ability to just melt away highway miles. The Charger is no exception; cruising at speed is relaxed, quiet and confident with a firm on-center steering feel. This, coupled with the Charger’s fun performance features make it a great long-distance commuter for anyone who appreciates the occasional bout of spirited driving. The cost of the Charger’s taunt performance suspension is that it doesn’t ride quite as well in the city as other large sedans.
Thanks to the V6, we didn’t take a bath at the pumps either, averaging 10.9L/100km after a week of rush hour winter commuting. It’s not exactly a fuel miser but remember that we’re talking about a full-sized AWD sedan, which does boast 300 horsepower. Of course, the V6 is happy on regular 87-octane as well.
The Charger isn’t exactly bargain-basement territory, and it gets significantly pricier when you start to option it out like our tester. The base price for an SXT AWD Charger is $42,245, and ours got a series of aforementioned packages and additionally, a $1,895 Technology Package. This adds safety equipment such as advanced brake assist, lane keep warning and assist, forward collision warning and active braking, adaptive cruise control and more. Factor in the $245 optional paint color and a $50 cargo net, and the total sticker hits $51,060 before destination charges.
Over $50,000 is a lot of money for a V6 Charger, even one as enjoyable to drive as our test car. You can get into a V8 model for the same money or less, if you’re willing to forego some of the gadgets equipped here. Whether or not you go in that direction, the Charger is a very easy performance car to live with and a fantastic daily driver for an enthusiast craving something fun, practical and modern to get through the daily grind. Most of all, the Charger keeps the flame brightly lit for the American full-sized sedan.