2020 Dodge Charger Review

Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s not old.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad.

In fact, it can be very good.

But you’d better get it while you still can.

What It Is

The Dodge Charger is the only remaining full-size American sedan that comes standard with rear-wheel-drive, offers burly V8 engines and costs less than $30,000 to start.

A few luxury-brand (and priced) sedans are still rear-drive and offer V8s but not for less than $30k to start.

The Charger hasn’t been updated significantly since 2011 which is a good thing if you’re not looking for some of the things which come standard in almost all new cars, including small, turbocharged and direct-injected engines and “fuel-saving” but complexity-adding features such as automatic engine stop/start (ASS) which shuts the engine off whenever the car isn’t moving. This may save a little gas, but it also reduces the life of the car’s battery, which probably defeats any money-savings.

There is also the engine stopping-and-starting itself which many people understandably don’t like because of the “paint shaker” effect of all that stopping and restarting.

Most of all, the Charger has old school Attitude.

It isn’t a rolling apology-mobile that tries to justify its existence based on how “safe” it is, though it is very safe because it is very big and very heavy.

It’s the kind of roller Americans used to drive. Not just rich Americans. Ordinary working and middle class Americans.

And you still can too if you hurry.

Prices start at $29,220 for the base SXT trim which comes standard with a 3.6 liter V6 (and rear-wheel-drive).

All-wheel-drive is available optionally.

The R/T trim which comes standard with the iconic 5.7 liter “Hemi” V8 engine stickers for $35,995.

An even stronger (and larger) 6.4 liter version of the Hemi is available. This is the Scat Pack version of the Charger. It stickers for $39,995.

The ultimate Hemi is the slightly smaller (6.2 liter) supercharged Hemi that comes standard in the Charger Hellcat. Almost nothing on four wheels can touch the performance delivered by its 707 horsepower certainly not for the very reasonable $65,545 Dodge wants for all that performance.

What’s New

Dodge now offers Charger Scat Pack buyers the opportunity to opt for the Widebody package that first became available with the Challenger coupe last year (the two cars share a common platform or underlying architecture).

This adds mondo flared fenders that allow huge 20×11 inch wheels and tires to fit without protruding beyond the widened body. Upgraded Brembo brakes and firmer-riding three-mode adaptive suspension are also part of the deal.

It’s a MAGA hat on wheels.

What’s Good

Big, roomy car.

Big available V8s.

Not-so-big price tag

What’s Not So Good

It’s a big car with a wide (37.5 feet) turning circle.

Cars like this could become the target of after-sale “carbon taxes” if the Orange Man loses in 2020.

Under The Hood

In addition to its available big V8, the Charger comes standard with a big V6 another increasing rarity.

3.6 liters is almost twice the size of the now-common 2.0 liter fours that have become the typical (and sometimes, only) engine available in mid-priced sedans, all of which are also front-wheel-drive sedans.

Rear drive sedans have become the chariots of rich folk as all of them (excepting the Charger’s Chrysler-badged brother, the 300) are luxury-branded and very expensive cars. And even those cars, models like the current Benz E-Class sedan and BMW 5-Series and Audi A6, come standard with tiny (vs. the size of the car) 2.0 liter fours.

Not that there’s anything wrong with these turbo’d smaller engines; they gin up tremendous power concerning their tiny displacement when that power is wanted and are capable of better gas mileage when it isn’t.

But not as much as you may think and they are without question more complex and parts-laden than larger engines like the Charger’s V6, which rely on their size to make power.

The V6 makes 292 hp in the base trim Challenger and 300 in the step-up GT and SXT more power either way than most of the turbo fours in this price class. This engine can be paired with either rear-drive or AWD.

An eight-speed automatic is standard.

Gas mileage — 19 city, 30 highway with RWD isn’t quite as high as that delivered by some of the turbo fours, but it’s not that far behind, either. In fact, it’s damned close. The current Mercedes E-Class sedan’s 2.0 liter turbo four which only makes 241 hp manages 21 city, 30 highway, a difference without any distinction. And the Benz’s base price is almost $25k higher.

For class-best power, there’s the optional 5.7 liter V8, which makes 370 hp. You can get your sweaty mitts on this for about the same as you’d pay to get a V6 Camry or a turbo four Accord.

The Hemi Charger does not offer AWD, but it does offer burnouts. And speed. Zero to 60 in the high fives.

Without direct injection (and potential carbon fouling, post-warranty).

If you want more speed, choose the 6.4 Hemi which makes 485 horsepower. It gets to 60 in the mid fours.

For Nextel stock car power, got for the Hellcat and the 6.2 liter supercharged Hemi which will give you the stock car experience with license plates and air conditioning.

Startlingly, mileage with the Hemi isn’t that far behind that delivered by the standard 3.6 liter V6: 16 city, 25 highway for the 5.7 in the R/T and 15 city, 25 highway if you pick the Scat Pack.

This last number is particularly startling given the 6.4 liter Hemi is significantly larger than the 5.7 liter Hemi and belts out 115 more horses without a meaningful reduction in MPG capability.

And the Hellcat? That’s another matter. But to even think about how many miles it goes on a gallon is like wondering what Megan Fox thinks about foreign policy.

If you must, here it is 13 city, 22 highway which is almost as startling as the expression on your face after running a 10 second quarter mile in this thing.

Yes. Really.

On The Road

No matter which engine you pick, the Charger lives up to its name. This car is quick and quicker.

Hemi-equipped models especially.

But it’s quick differently.

A big engine, especially a big V8 engine, makes power with less apparent effort. This is more a function of torque than horsepower and big engines specialize in big torque. The 5.7 liter Hemi makes almost 400 ft.-lbs. of it (395 to be precise) and the 6.4 nearly 500 (475 to be exact).

Either way, it’s exactly what’s needed to make a big car feel light on its feet.

Almost no pressure on the accelerator results in the kind of acceleration Americans once took for granted but which no longer is except at your Dodge store.

The Charger also rides like only a big car does as American cars used to do and which almost the only cars which still do are expensive.

Except the Charger.

It’s also an inherently safe car even if it doesn’t have all the latest safety tech because it is big.

Size does matter when it comes to crashworthiness.

Bigness also brings some other things along for the ride. If you’re not used to looking over a long hood, for instance. People who are used to smallish FWD cars with short hoods will need a little time to get oriented.

Overall visibility from behind the wheel is much better than in almost any crossover SUV because of the Charger’s larger glass area, especially the rear glass. And because the rear-end isn’t as jacked up as it is in the case of most crossovers.

The Widebody, on the other hand, does take some planning-for when it comes to parking. The additional almost four inches means more challenging close-quarters maneuvering. It’s easier to clip a corner in this one. But the upside is being able to cut corners better on those steamroller 305-series Pirelli ultra-performance tires, which also lay extremely impressive Widebody patches on the pavement.

Finally, be aware of ground clearance. There isn’t much. Even the AWD-equipped version only clears 5.2 inches, which means this isn’t a snow-day car. The R/T and Scat Pack Challengers with 4.2 inches of clearance are stay-home-when-it-snows cars.

At The Curb

The Charger is the anti-soy boy car.

It does not cringe with concern for what the “community” thinks about it. Isn’t ashamed to be brash, big, and big-engined. It is not an exaggeration to call it the Trumpster of transportation. And just like him, it drives the right people out of their minds.

All that’s missing is a set of side-exiting megaphone pipes.

Everything else is available including anti-Prius paint jobs such as sublime, and air scoops big enough to suck down a Prius, never to be seen again.

The scoops also serve as recognition cues similar to the silhouettes of opposing countries’ battleships the Navy used back in the day to figure out what they were dealing with on the wide open sea. If you see no scoops, it’s probably just a regular Charger. If you see twin scoops in your rearview, it’s a Hemi.

If you see one very big scoop, move over right now. That’s a Hellcat about to peel the paint off whatever you’re driving.

The Charger’s bigness also makes it practical something no other car available with 707 horses under the hood can claim with a straight face.

Its back seats are roomier than the front seats in many new cars. You’ll find 40.1 inches of legroom back there. That’s huge. Even though the action is up front, the back seats aren’t a bad place to be. They are another thing today’s Americans have gotten used to not having but still can, here.

You’ll also find a huge trunk — 16.5 cubic feet. This trunk is also wide like the Charger itself. Much will fit in there, including a real spare tire.

One of the reasons sedans have lost popularity relative to crossovers is because most current sedans have tiny trunks.

The Charger does not.

The Charger can also pull a trailer. The RWD/V8 combo is the same as you’d find in a burly SUV or pick-up, just lower to the ground and a lot better-handling. But amendable to dealing with a load, just the same.

FWD cars with tiny turbo fours not so much.

The Rest

Yes, it’s old.

The current Charger is more or less the same as in 2011. Which means you can avoid most of the things you’re stuck with in other 2019 models. You can skip Lane Keep Assist, Steering Assist, and other such “assists.” Dodge offers some of this stuff, but it remains happily optional, as these things ought to be.

Not everyone wants a transportation appliance. Some still want to drive. This is a car for them.

The Charger’s design, moreover, is proven. You know what you’re getting. Its track record for solidity is already well-established. Cops love these things, and anything cops love you should, too. If you want a car that can take popping a curb without breaking something very expensive and which will probably still be laying rubber 15 years from now, too.

You’re also getting what is probably the last of its kind as fuel economy edicts apply ever-greater pressure on manufacturers to stop manufacturing cars like the Charger.

Dodge, bless ’em, is not only refusing to cave in, but they’re also doubling down. In addition to the Widebody upgrade, the Hellcat will be upgraded to Redeye status and almost 800 horsepower enough horsepower to get air under the front tires and get through the quarter mile in the single digits.

The Bottom Line

If you want the American Car Experience, the time to experience it is now.

Before it’s gone for good.

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*** Photo courtesy of Caricos

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