By Aaron Bragman on April 16, 2014
Competes with: Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Chevrolet SS, Chevrolet Impala
Looks like: Dodge Dart styling replaced retro-chic
Powertrains: Standard 292 hp, 3.6-liter V-6, optional 370-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8; eight-speed automatic; optional all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer 2014
It used to be that nearly every American brand had a big rear-wheel-drive V-8-powered sedan as its mainstream family car. Those days are gone, and of the dozens of choices only two remain and one of those is the Dodge Charger.
It's the least-expensive full-size rear-wheel-drive sedan you can buy, but according to Dodge, that's not why the majority of its owners buy it - more than half of its buyers are young people, Millennials and Generation X-ers who cite the primary reason for buying a Charger as its style and powertrains. So for them, it's a sports car - cross-shopped most often with Dodge's own Challenger, believe it or not.
The updates Dodge has made for 2015 reflect the brand's desire to move the Charger to a more modern, less retro look - it's leaving the nostalgia market to the Challenger coupe. Despite the car being dimensionally the same as the current model, the 2015 Charger looks considerably different. Shorter, actually, an effect of having its corners chopped off in favor of much more curvaceous sheet metal.
Up front, a new grille, headlights, bumper and fog lights create a completely different look for the Charger, one that draws heavy similarities to other Dodge family products like the Dart compact and Durango SUV. That aggressive face features new signature LED running lights and a blacked-out grille on the R/T model; other trim levels get body color grilles. The sides look the same, but the scallop in the doors has been smoothed out a bit.
In back Dodge designers said that they "chain-sawed" off the rear corners of the car, those square and muscular haunches that defined the current Charger and drew inspiration from the 1969 model. Taillights are still the LED "racetrack" look that debuted on the current Charger and which has spread to most of the rest of the lineup. The new look is much more taut and svelte, almost European in its dimensions. Two new colors are available as well, TorRed and B5 Blue, iconic hues that Dodge has pulled out of its history books.
Inside, the changes are less dramatic. The dashboard has been slightly revised with some new materials, and incorporates the optional next-generation Chrysler Uconnect multimedia system. Chrysler's latest trend is to put a big, reconfigurable LCD display in between the round tachometer and speedometer gauges, and a 7-inch one now appears in the Charger too, behind a new three-spoke steering wheel. Seats get some new materials, but tan is no longer an option - the interior is black, with standard black cloth or optional black, red or white leather depending on trim level.
New for the Charger is Performance Pages, the app that's part of Uconnect that was previously only available on the SRT versions of the car. It allows the owner to call up all sorts of meters and gauges in both the central gauge cluster and on the Uconnect touch-screen to measure zero-60-mph times, g-forces, quarter-mile times, engine output, temperatures and more. Uconnect Mobile allows customers to use a number of their own apps in the car, such as Aha, iHeartRadio, Pandora and Slacker, and play them over an optional Beats Audio premium sound system.
Engines carry over from the current Charger, but neither needed much changing. Standard will be a 292-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and sending power to the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is optional on SE and SXT grades. The combination is good for a surprising 31 mpg highway, but if more power is your desire, Dodge is still offering its 370-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, also now mated to the eight-speed automatic. The big Hemi can hit 60 mph in the high-5-second range, says the company, while cylinder deactivation helps keep fuel economy from being too atrocious (Dodge has not published estimated numbers for the V-8). Opt for the Road & Track Package and you'll get a more aggressive 3.07 rear axle ratio, instead of the standard 2.62 ratio, and special engine and transmission calibration for faster acceleration.
The Charger adds several new-for-2015 safety features, including forward collision warning with autonomous braking, which can bring the car to a stop if a collision appears imminent. Adaptive cruise control with a stop-and-go feature is now available, as is lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear parking sensors with an autonomous stopping feature and 911 assist that can be summoned by the push of a button.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron