American muscle––Dodge Charger R/T Plus
If you’re looking for an inspired driving experience with a lot of horsepower, look no further than the Dodge Charger R/T Plus, says auto writer Greg Rubenstein.
When Fiat bought Chrysler in 2009, there were lots of questions about what the Italian auto conglomerate might do with what was arguably America’s most troubled car company. After all, Fiat’s own reputation was mediocre at best, especially in the United States, a market Fiat abandoned in 1983 (it finally returned in 2011).
Today, Chrysler’s vehicles, including those from subsidiary Dodge, dynamically answer those early questions with panache and power, passionately punctuated by the 2015 introduction of a 707 horsepower Hellcat engine. Available in select muscle car offerings within the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, this incredible powerplant creates “halo” products designed to demonstrate technical capabilities and bring shoppers into FCA’s vehicle showrooms.
Like the exotic sports cars produced by Ferrari—another FCA subsidiary—707 horsepower muscle cars aren’t for everyone. Although it gives up more than 300 horsepower to its halo-wearing Hellcat sibling, the sampled Dodge Charger R/T Plus is far from boring.
Fueling the Charger R/T’s fun factor is the robust 370 horsepower available from its standard-equipment 5.7-liter V8. Delivered through an also-standard eight-speed automatic transmission, there’s enough go to propel this 4,264-pound four-door from a standstill to 60 mph in less than six seconds. Equally impressive is the fuel economy accompanying the Charger’s performance. EPA estimated at 16 mph city and 25 mph freeway, a week’s worth of 100-plus degree summer driving returned a high of 28 freeway mpg, and 20 mpg overall, besting the EPA’s combined 19 mpg prediction.
For those wanting a go-faster—or go anywhere—Charger, there are four available engines, as well as all-wheel-drive. The base Charger comes with a 292-horsepower V6 engine, in either rear- or all-wheel-drive configuration. A V8 engine is available only with rear-wheel-drive, and besides the standard 5.7-liter V8, a 6.4-liter, 485 horsepower V8 is available in all but the base trim model. The monster 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 Hellcat engine can be had only in the top-of-the-line Charger Hellcat. All Charger models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment and control system is a central component of the Charger’s operation, offering primary and redundant controls for a wide range of vehicle functions. It’s also perhaps the best implementation of a multi-function vehicle interface available today—the only other comparable system is what’s found in Tesla’s electric vehicles, but Uconnect is a bit more intuitive.
Inside the Charger is an interior that’s both well conceived and superbly executed. Fit and finish is excellent, and materials feel high quality and are soft touch in high-contact areas. Controls are intuitively located, and the aforementioned Uconnect system is a model of functionality that other manufacturers should study and try to emulate.
The tested Charger R/T Plus included three optional packages: the Plus Group, the Driver Confidence Group, and the Navigation Group. “Plus” adds in 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, HID headlights, parking assistance with backup camera, front seat cooling, heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats. The Driver Confidence package includes power and heated side mirrors along with rear blind spot and rear cross-path detection systems, while the Navigation package includes 3D-display nav, HD radio, and satellite radio connectivity.
The Charger R/T Plus stickers at $34,290. With the Plus, Confidence, and nav groups added, suggested retail hits $37,580. The base Charger SE starts at $28,990, while the Hellcat’s priced at $64,990.
The road is filled with “leather-luxury” six-cylinder Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, and the ilk, which while not completely devoid of passion are nonetheless uninspired driving machines. Choose not to drive a boring car and take the V8 Charger for a whirl—it’s a fun, satisfying combination of Italian flair and American muscle.
The Dodge Charger R/T Plus’ Enviable List of Standard Equipment
What also helps make the Charger a real contender among near-luxury performance sedans is its standard equipment; check off a couple of option packages and it’ll match features with just about any German or Japanese competition in the segment.
Heated power front seats
20-inch diameter wheels
A 276-watt sound system with six speakers
Touchscreen control via an 8.4-inch center-console mounted high-resolution display screen.
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