The Dodge Charger is one of the most impressive cars on sale to wear a badge from an American company. It features a relatively sophisticated suspension setup, a rear-wheel-drive architecture like its German rivals, and if you order it with the 707 horsepower Hellcat V-8, it is the fastest and most powerful production sedan in the entire world.

When I got word that I was getting one of these big American sedans to test, I got excited at all the possibilities. Could I get a Hellcat model? Will it have the Hemi V-8? Will the new styling for 2015 look as good in person as it does in photos? All of these thoughts were running through my head as the mostly bone-stock V-6 Charger rolled into my driveway.

I am not ashamed to say that I was a little disappointed that I had been given the rental-fleet special rather than a fire-breathing V-8, but I was still prepared to give this car a fair shake. After a full week and several hundred miles, would this car be worthy of the Charger name, and is it worth your money?

You’ll have to read on to find out my full thoughts, but I can say that my final verdict on the Charger surprised me.

  • 2015 Dodge Charger - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    292
  • MPG(Cty):
    19
  • MPG(Hwy):
    31
  • Torque @ RPM:
    260
  • Displacement:
    3.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.0 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    140 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    27995
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Exterior Test drive
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The lighting element that Dodge uses in this car gives off a very soft glow that is even across the even but still plenty bright. It looks magnificent.

The seventh generation Dodge Charger rolled onto lots in 2011, and brought with it a very angry, aggressive look. The nose jutted forward with huge nostrils, the fenders looked like they had been sharpened like a medieval sword, and running down the side was a deep cut that made the car look like it was traveling at 100 mph when standing still. For 2015, Dodge has decided to give this machine a thorough rework to make it more svelte. The nose has been softened, and every panel on the car has been tightened and smoothed slightly. The result is a car that still looks like a Charger, but it is somehow a bit more handsome and interesting without losing much of its aggression. The car doesn’t look faster, but it looks more athletic somehow.

Even with that new nose with its softer curves, rounded headlamp housings with integrated LED lamps, and more gentle fenders, the new Charger maintains its coke-bottle shape and it still looks fast standing still.

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The long and elegant “racetrack” LED taillight spans the entire width of the rear end.

Move to the back and you will find that Dodge even found a way to improve the Charger’s best visual design piece. The long and elegant “racetrack” LED taillight spans the entire width of the rear end. The lighting element that Dodge uses in this new car gives off a very soft glow that is even across the entire light, but is still plenty bright. It looks magnificent. When you combine all these details with ours’ Granite Crystal Metallic paint, this Charger just looks amazing. My only complaint about the exterior design is the rather bland five-spoke alloy wheels.

But those are just the big things. If you really take the time to stop and look closely at the new Charger, there is so much more to see. In those new headlamps there are intricate and interesting cuts and angles to enhance the light output, and on the outside edge of each housing you will find a black trim piece emblazoned with the Dodge logo. Thanks to the optional sport appearance package, the rear is topped with a simple lip spoiler. The word "Dodge" is proudly displayed in raised letters in the center of the LED racetrack taillight.

Interior

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Interior
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2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Interior
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2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The seats may not be much to look at with their plain cloth covers, but they are well designed and comfortable.

The inside of the Charger is far less interesting and exciting. My car is the lowest trim SE model, and with it comes all the lower-tier equipment. I have drab black cloth seats, a relatively tiny 5-inch infotainment display, and huge slabs of black plastic and rubber that make up most of the dash and door panels. The only interesting piece of the interior is a large chunk of trim that looks like brushed aluminum.

There are some nice touches spots of luxury, with items like the thick-rimmed steering wheel that is covered in leather. The seats may not be much to look at with their plain cloth covers, but they are well-designed and comfortable. They could use a bit more bolstering in the back, but overall they are nice. The controls design is intuitive and the ergonomics are great.

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Interior
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One of my favorite bits is just to the right of the shifter.

Let’s get back to the details, which seem to be a theme with this car. On the steering wheel, the squared center section rimmed with a piece of chrome and the raised Dodge logo with its dual red angular stripes look rather handsome. The gauge cluster consists of two large dials with the 7-inch screen crammed between them. The dials are easy to read and have some interesting visual textures in the center, and the LCD lighting is bright and easy to read. One of my favorite bits, though, is just to the right of the shifter. There is a simple little tray for holding random things like keys or gum, but it is lined with a rubber band that has been stamped with an octagon that holds the letters “DB” inside and the words “Dodge Brothers.” It’s a tiny touch of history that really adds some extra character to the interior.

Interior space is better than expected, with plenty of headroom front and back, and the rear seats get extra points for above-average legroom. Even the trunk is sizable. I put my wife and two friends in the car and packed it with equipment, and we went up to the mountains for an evening of skiing. Everyone was comfortable and enjoyed the ride.

Drivetrain

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Drivetrain
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Shifts are quick, and if you drop the gear selector into the manual mode, the car will hold a gear all the way to the rev limiter and never shift up for you.

Under the hood of this particular model of Charger is the least-powerful engine you can get; the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. Although this is the same engine that’s in the Chrysler 200 I tested a few weeks ago, that isn’t really a bad thing. Thanks to some solid work by the engineers, this engine is good for 292 horsepower. And unlike the 200, the Charger sends all that power to the rear wheels. Another difference from its midsize cousin is that the Charger uses the slightly older eight-speed automatic transmission, but I prefer that.

The engine feels smooth and peppy, and the transmission responds quickly to commands. Shifts are quick, and if you drop the gear selector into the manual mode, the car will hold a gear all the way to the rev limiter and never upshift. If you leave the car to its own devices, it makes a great highway cruiser as well. It really is a solid, do-everything machine. It isn’t as comfortable as something like the Chrysler 300, a car with which it shares much of its platform, but it makes up for it by having more personality and better driving manners.

If you live in the Snow Belt, Dodge will sell you an AWD version.

Fuel economy is impressive, with EPA ratings of up to 31 mpg on the highway, but the city rating is only 19 mpg.During my test I was sitting in the 26 to 27 mpg range with a large skew towards highway.

Pricing

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Exterior
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As the cheapest model in the lineup, our Charger SE starts with a sticker price of $27,995. To bump that price just slightly, this tester came with both the Popular Equipment group and the Sport Appearance package. The Popular Equipment group added remote start, SiriusXM satellite radio and parking sensors for the reasonable price of $595. The Sport Appearance package is $995, but it ups the wheels from 17-inch alloys to 18-inch units, wraps those wheels in performance all-season tires, and adds the nice little spoiler on the trunk lid. All in, after the $995 destination charge, this Charger stickered at $30,580.

Driving Impressions


When I first set off in the Charger I was upset and disappointed. Here I was in one of America’s iconic muscle cars, but I was saddled with the least-powerful engine available. With 292 horsepower, the Pentastar V-6 isn’t exactly an asthmatic engine, but I wanted to feel the fury and the roar of a big HEMI V-8. I was prepared to hate this car and park it my driveway to wait away its week until my next delivery, but then something strange happened. The next day I decided to go for a nice long drive, and forgot that this car was a Charger. Instead of focusing on what I wanted it to be, I let the car demonstrate what it really was. I learned that the V-6 Charger is still one hell of a dance partner on a back road, and it begs to be beaten on.

The Pentastar may not have the pull of a huge V-8, but it is an eager engine and it loves to be revved. With the transmission in manual mode you can wring its neck and it will respond with angry exhaust noises and gobs of thrust. Few cars I have driven love to be held at the top of their rev range like this thing. Its more of a high-strung sports car than a big lazy muscle car.

The steering is wonderful, with solid weight and crisp turn in. The chassis itself may be shared with the 300, but Dodge has worked to make it more taut and sure-footed. The result is minimal body roll, tons of mechanical grip, and a back end that only steps out when your right foot commands it. If you really overcook it into a corner, the car will plow wide, but you have to be driving like a baboon being attacked by bees to really get this car to behave poorly.

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven Exterior
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Rounding out the impressive chassis is a set of brakes that pull the Charger down from speed with authority. The pedal is a little soft, but it’s very linear and easy to modulate. I found that repeated hard stops in a very short period of time could introduce a touch of fade, but overall they exceeded my expectations.

I just wish the interior lived up to the driving experience. The dark dash, seats and headliners couple with the high beltline and small windows to create a gloomy cave. The seats are comfortable and the cloth covers help hold you in place better than leather would, but I still couldn’t get over the general darkness of the cockpit. The dash could also use some work. While Dodge avoided using a massive slab of hard plastic, opting instead for a squishy rubber material, the texture of the material looks really cheap. It has a sort of worn-leather pattern, but it’s a bit shiny in places and just looks like it was pulled from the bargain bin. Kudos for making it rubber that feels nice and quiets rattles and squeaks, but it could be better. Thankfully, the leather wrap on the steering wheel is superb, and that is where your hands spend the most time, after all.

Competition

Chrysler 300

2015 Chrysler 300 Exterior
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The Chrysler 300 represents a perfect counterpoint to the Charger for all those buyers who just want a big sedan for commuting. With the same platform, same engine, and same transmission, the Charger and 300 are very similar in a lot of ways, but the 300 trades some sportiness and aggression for more refinement and a softer ride. The 300 is also a little bit larger, with more interior space and a bigger trunk.

The 300 is also a little more luxurious, with nicer interior finishes and options on higher trim levels, but it carries with it a slightly higher price as well. The 300 starts at just over $31,000.

Chevrolet Impala

2014 - 2015 Chevrolet Impala High Resolution Exterior
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When it comes to today’s big American sedans with historic nameplates, you can’t forgo the Chevrolet Impala. Just like the Charger, the Impala has morphed dramatically over the last five decades since the model’s first introduction. The Impala has traded its classic coupe roots for a more practical four-door, full-size sedan shape. In this transition, the Impala also lost its RWD architecture. All Impalas are now FWD, and Chevy has yet to offer an AWD option.

Powering the new Impala is 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 196 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. That isn’t competitive with the Pentastar V-6 in the Charger, but for a similar price as our tester, you can get the Impala with Chevy’s LFX V-6. This is the same unit found in the Cadillac CTS and it brings 305 horsepower and 262 pounds of twist to the Impala; both numbers besting the Charger. To equip an Impala with the V-6 and a level of equipment comparable to our test Charger you will be looking at $32,000. That is $2k over the Charger, but the Imapala’s standard screen is larger than the Charger’s, and it comes with Chevy MyLink app support allowing access to smartphones apps like Pandora through the center display.

Ford Taurus

Rounding out the full-size American sedans, we have the Ford Taurus. Like the Charger and the 300, the Taurus comes from the factory with a V-6 engine. Here it’s a 3.5-liter unit that dumps 288 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque. That makes it the least powerful V-6 engine in this comparison, but only by a small margin. The Taurus follows closer to the Impala in its drivetrain setup with a six-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels. Ford does offer an AWD drivetrain for those in snow country.

In the looks department, the Taurus is easily the most sedated, but considering the current model arrived in 2010 and had a facelift back in 2013, I fully expect an updated version by 2016. This will come with Ford’s new family look and be far more attractive than the current offering. Ford does take the crown on pricing, with a similarly equipped model with 18-inch alloys, MyFord Touch and the V-6 coming in under $29,000. For those keeping count, that makes the Ford $1,000 cheaper than the Charger and $3,000 less than the Impala.

If you want fuel economy, Ford also offers a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that boasts 32 mpg on the highway, the best of any car here. That engine does carry a cost premium of $1,000 and it sacrifices a bit of power over the V6.

Conclusion

2015 Dodge Charger - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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I really wanted to hate the V-6 Charger. Its puny engine and automatic transmission should have made it terrible to drive. I just knew it was going to feel like rental fleet garbage. I have never been so happy to be so wrong before. The chassis in nimble, the engine is willing and the steering is great. In fact, after my week with the Charger, I find it hard to think how it could legitimately be improved, aside from the addition of a clutch pedal of course. This is one of those rare cars that loves to be pushed, and only gets better the harder you beat on it. I have yet to drive a V-8 Charger, but I can’t help but think that they will be less of a driver’s tool, and more of a hooligan’s hammer. That said, I am more than happy to let Dodge prove me wrong again.

The 2015 Dodge Charger SE may be the cheapest Charger you can buy, but it has great exterior looks, wonderful driving dynamics, and price that won’t break your bank. It is an exquisite machine and I kind of want one.

  • Leave it
    • Interior is dark and dreary
    • Still no manual transmission option
    • Small infotainment screen looked like an afterthought
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