Already a unique choice in the full-size sedan market, the Charger has a chiseled new design, a restyled and upgraded interior, improved fuel economy and V8 power that ranges from 370 horsepower all the way to a best-on-earth 707 horses for the new Hellcat model. If you're looking for a big sedan that stands out from the crowd, the latest Charger is an attractive offering at multiple price levels.
What Is It?
The 2015 Dodge Charger is a full-size four-door sedan offered in rear- or all-wheel-drive layouts. Although heavily restyled inside and out for 2015, its size remains effectively the same.
There are multiple engine options for the Charger, starting with the 3.6-liter V6 rated at 292 hp. The next step up is the 5.7-liter V8 in the R/T model. Well-known as the "Hemi," the base V8 makes a chesty 370 hp and 395 pound-feet of torque. From there you can upgrade to the 6.4-liter variant of the Hemi that churns out 485 hp (a 15-hp increase over last year) and 475 lb-ft of torque (up 5 lb-ft).
And if that's not enough for you, there's the all-new SRT Hellcat. It uses a 6.2-liter version of the Hemi fitted with a monstrous supercharger and loads of other upgrades that help it produce 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
All engines are fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission with different driver-selectable modes of operation and varying degrees of manual control, as well as steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. All-wheel drive, formerly available with the V6 or the standard Hemi V8, is optional only with the Charger's V6 engine for 2015.
What Body Styles and Trim Levels Does It Come in?
The 2015 Dodge Charger comes only as a four-door sedan, but there are — get ready for it — no fewer than seven distinct trim levels. But don't worry; it's pretty easy to determine which Charger belongs in your garage according to which of its engines suits your desired performance level. As is typically the case, the larger-engine trims also bring more standard equipment.
The 2015 Dodge Charger SE and SXT come only with the V6; all-wheel drive is optional and for the first time you can get AWD with the base SE trim. Standard equipment for the SE includes 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a six-way power driver seat and Chrysler's UConnect infotainment interface with a 5-inch touchscreen. The SXT trim adds items such as 18-inch wheels, heated front seats with 12-way power adjustment for the driver seat and an expansive 8.4-inch touchscreen in the dash.
Moving to the Charger R/T and R/T Road & Track trims adds the 5.7-liter Hemi V8; the R/T builds on the Charger SXT's equipment by adding, among other things, 20-inch alloy wheels, a blacked-out crosshair grille, sport exhaust and sport-tuned suspension and sport brakes. The R/T Road & Track starts to get serious with special bodywork, specific tuning for the electric power steering, "Super Track Pack" suspension tuning, performance brakes and Dodge Performance Pages to adjust control parameters and information displays via the standard digital gauge display.
The R/T Scat Pack and SRT 392 trims (essentially the replacements for the former SRT8 trim) bring the larger 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and a variety of performance-oriented upgrades. These include everything from three-mode adaptive damping to gigantic Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear brakes for the SRT 392.
Oh, then there's the SRT Hellcat. Think all of the above, plus the wild-child 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8, its own grille and hood design, unique transmission and final-drive gearing, navigation and just about everything else Dodge could conjure for one 700-hp, 4,500-pound ultrahigh-performance sedan.
Plenty of Power, but How Is It To Drive?
The Charger may have aggressive styling but it rides as smoothly as some luxury sedans. The 2015 model's suspension has been further fettled from an already fine starting point, gliding rather than merely "riding" on its absorbent independent front and rear suspension.
Its new electric power steering is geared and weighted appropriately for a full-size car, though some will find its highway tracking a little light and sensitive. Charger models that include adjustability of the steering effort permit you to firm things up for sporty road driving and offer specific settings for the racetrack that are sensitive but not over-assisted.
Thanks to the responsiveness of the eight-speed automatic transmission that's now standard across the 2015 Charger line, you're rarely left without sufficient punch regardless of which engine is under the hood. The substantial torque of the V6 and V8 engines combines with solid software calibration to make manual shifting something of a non-requirement most of the time, even if all Charger models now have standard paddle shifters.
Only occasionally does the smooth-revving 3.6-liter V6 feel outside its comfort zone and that's only at higher speeds when the throttle is pinned. The V8s, meanwhile, haven't changed, except the addition of more power. The "big" Hemi (the 6.4-liter unit powering the Charger R/T Scat Pack and SRT 392) at 485 hp is up 15 horses over the previous rating and is so brutally disdainful of physics you'll think it powered by fission rather than fossil.
Oh, and what about the Hellcat? Thoroughly developed electronics enables you to select modes that will restrain the suborbital supercharged thrust according to what's appropriate for the setting, to the point that it'll proceed as benignly as any family car. Loosen all the electro-manacles, though, and it delivers thrust that few sedans, let alone super sports cars, can match. Dodge SRT engineers claim the 2015 Charger SRT Hellcat outruns its two-door Challenger counterpart to top out at 204 mph.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort?
Old-school roominess is a Charger forte. Most average-size drivers will be swallowed by the width available up front, and the fore-aft seat travel will comfortably accommodate any driver not in the NBA. The performance seats that come standard with the Charger SRT 392 and Hellcat are simply outstanding — and available in a leather-interior option package for the R/T Scat Pack if you want the seats but don't require the 6.4-liter blunderbuss V8.
Rear-seat legroom in the 2015 Charger is as open as an Iowa farm; even with tall front-seaters, those in the back won't mind a bit. Despite dimensions that are effectively the same as the previous Charger, the rear seat in the restyled 2015 model somehow seems narrower; maybe it's a holdover impression after viewing the more sculpted body.
Dodge keeps doing great things with its instruments, and the new digital display for the gauge cluster is concise and highly visible, though we still found some of the fonts a little muddy in strong sunlight. You can call up all manner of information in the digital cluster, while the center dash, smoothed and restyled, is dominated by the screen of the UConnect system. The 8.4-inch top-of-the-line touchscreen is a delight, although the 5-inch screen standard in lower trims seems a little lost in the acreage of the Charger's dash, some of which, despite a visible upgrading of some interior pieces, still can look overwhelmed by fairly utilitarian plastic.
And we'd be remiss to leave unmentioned the vital upgrade to the Charger's gearshift. It's still fully electronic, but has been reengineered to move between distinctly defined positions. The new design eliminates the awkward action of the former shifter, which never truly left its starting place, leaving the driver to stutter back and forth to find the desired gear position.
How Safe Is It?
Another major upgrade here, as the 2015 Dodge Charger moves forward in the swiftly advancing realm of electronic safety features.
A rearview camera is standard for all but the base Charger SE, the same being true of a blind-spot monitoring system. Rear parking sensors are available for all models. Adaptive cruise control that will bring the Charger to a full stop and return to the set speed is available for all trims except the Charger SE and the Hellcat; such is the case for the new forward-collision warning and lane-keeping assist systems.
In government crash testing, the 2014 Dodge Charger earned a top five-star rating for overall protection, including four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. Because the 2015 Charger is structurally similar to the 2014 model, we expect similar performance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the previous Charger its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Big Sedan, Powerful Engines. What Kind of Fuel Economy?
The base 3.6-liter V6 with rear-wheel drive has a combined rating of 23 mpg (19 city/31 highway). Going with the all-wheel-drive system cuts efficiency to 21 mpg (18/27).
The 5.7-liter V8 is only available with rear-wheel drive and has a combined rating of 19 mpg (16/25). Moving up to the 6.4-liter V8 takes economy numbers to 18 mpg combined (15/25), which is an improvement of 1 mpg in the city cycle and 2 mpg on the highway when compared to this engine with the previous Charger's five-speed automatic transmission.
Although Chrysler and the EPA haven't released fuel economy figures for the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, don't buy it expecting to out-hypermile much of anything. Without final efficiency figures in hand when we drove the car, Chrysler engineers did concede the Charger Hellcat will be subject to the gas-guzzler tax.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Even before the advent of the near-undefinable Hellcat model, the Charger almost was in a class to itself. If considered primarily from a size perspective, the 2015 Charger's rivals include the muscular and modern Chevrolet Impala and the Charger's more buttoned-up corporate cousin, the Chrysler 300.
Many won't consider front-wheel-drive full-size cars quite the same animal, but the Toyota Avalon is plenty roomy and refined. As is the Hyundai Azera, with the added bonus of being by most measures a good value.
Mix performance into the equation and you could consider the Ford Taurus SHO or the Chevrolet SS, though neither stands a chance against either of the more powerful Charger SRT models and not much on four wheels offers anything near the performance-per-dollar of the Charger SRT Hellcat.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
You're interested in driving one of the most powerful production sedans ever built. Or maybe you just want a full-size sedan that's big, comfortable and handles better than your average front-wheel-drive cruiser. The 2015 Charger offers all such options, along with all-wheel drive for cold climates.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
This is a big car with big engines, and even with its new eight-speed transmission its fuel economy is still not a strong point. And although this year's interior makeover greatly improved the appearance of the Charger's interior, you'll find more refinement and better fit and finish from several other affordable full-size sedans.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which select members of the media were invited, to facilitate this report.