ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: My problem with this 2014 Dodge Charger SXT isn't the look. I actually think the car has looked great these last few years. My problem is that the SXT is supposed to be the cheap version, but when you start ticking boxes you get all the way to $40K.
The 300-hp V6 is a good match for the Charger. It'll get you going without much of a problem, and send the tail out with a quick jab of the throttle. It just doesn't sound like a Dodge Charger should. It sounds like an Acura or a V6 Honda Accord. Put a couple glass packs on there and it'll be right as rain.
The seats weren't very comfortable on my narrow frame, but the heated functions on the front seats and wheel were great. Everything else inside was up to snuff. I like the Uconnect system now, it seems to work better than most, and the touchscreen works with gloves on -- that's a bonus.
The Charger is big enough to roll over most bumps without being upset. The only time you can really notice the potholes is when you're accelerating, and you get a little wheel hop. Steering is a good mix of directness and ease.
The newish Chevrolet SS might come in to challenge this car for buyers' attention. The SS is more expensive, but offers a V8. I suppose this Charger is pretty expensive, too. If fuel prices are a concern, I think the Charger will win out between the two. Both are similarly sized, though. And I don't think a buyer who wants a Charger would also be looking at front-drive options like the Ford Taurus or Fusion. Maybe Ford needs a big RWD sedan?
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: When it's packing a smooth, powerful Hemi V8, it's fairly easy to overlook the shortcomings of the Dodge Charger -- shortcomings like an aging-but-not-awful chassis and an interior heavy on the chintzy hard plastic.
This Charger SXT didn't have the V8, though. It had the V6, and that's really too bad. Not that the Pentastar is an unworthy engine; it's happily nestled under the hoods of innumerable minivans and Jeeps. And as Jake notes, the V6 is up to the task of motivating all two tons of Charger.
That doesn't mean I'd call it a good match if you're expecting a shot of performance in your rear-wheel drive sedan. Throwing the car into sport mode helps, slightly, but only because the engine is kept permanently strung-out and whining -- the car is never going to lope along comfortably with this setup.
There's no shortage of goodies inside, though. You pay for each of them in a series of options packages that add up to the nearly $41K sticker, so you'll have to decide if this represents a value. I suppose if you want to buy something from Fiat/Chrysler to haul your kids around in but can't stand the thought of a minivan or the Journey, this is your only choice at the moment.
Is there any advantage to the rear-wheel drive configuration? When it comes to this particular package, I don't think so. Contra Jake, I don't feel like anyone looking at a six-cylinder Charger would be opposed to a front-wheel drive alternative -- you're paying an awful lot for non-V8 performance anyway.
The well-equipped Chevy SS we just tested costs $6K more. To me, that's a relatively low price to pay for a gearhead who needs four doors, and it's a far nicer place to be inside.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I get what both Jake and Graham are saying about this 2014 Dodge Charger SXT, and I walked away from it equally conflicted.
While I echo the sense that a Charger sans Hemi is sort of missing the point, I found the Pentastar six in sport mode a satisfying performer from a different perspective. Yes, it stays higher up in the rev range than a V8 Charger would, but the engine also delivers that smooth cammy nature I so enjoy in the current Mustang's 3.7-liter V6. Likewise, the eight-speed automatic helps wring the most out of the six in just about every situation -- note that in standard (versus sport) mode it will frequently lug the engine to conserve fuel; sport eliminates that distraction at the expense of V8-like gas mileage. In other words, it's not a substitute for the V8, but rather an alternative that offers a different yet also entertaining personality. It's rev-happy and delivers plenty of punch, just in a sports-car way instead of a muscle-car way.
Unlike the Mustang, though, the rest of the Charger can't pretend it's a sports car. It's a big, wide, unwieldy American sedan. Highway manners are excellent, but when parking, negotiating tight corners and rolling into narrow driveways, the Charger feels SUV-big (and it's not far off). I was surprised how much bigger it felt than the Chevy SS I drove earlier this week, in part due to a lower seating position and overall sense of mass to the interior.
About that price: If I had to guess I'd say you could walk into a Dodge dealership and leave in this car for thousands of dollars less than our MSRP suggests. Charger sales are down 15 percent this year compared to the same period in 2013, and dealers are probably getting antsy. If you like a big, domestic, rear-drive sedan it's still tough to beat the Charger -- let's face it, the Chevy SS is a specialty performance car, not a volume sedan -- primarily because there's almost nothing with which it competes.
2014 Dodge Charger SXT
Base Price: $30,290
As-Tested Price: $40,734
Drivetrain: 3.6-liter V6; RWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 300 hp @ 6,350 rpm, 264 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,996 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 19/31/23 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 20.2 mpg
Options: Customer preferred package 28J including 18-inch wheels, performance P235/55R19 all-season tires, leather seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, power front driver and passenger seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, driver and passenger lower LED lamps, front overhead LED lighting, security alarm ($2,000); blacktop package including 20-inch black aluminum wheels, 245/45R20 BSW all season performance tires, Beats Audio equipment including 10 amplified speakers, 552-watt amplifier, sport leather seats, glossy black grill with honeycomb inserts, rear body color spoiler, steering wheel mounted shift paddles, performance suspension ($1,795); black roof ($1,500); driver confidence package including blind spot and cross path detection, rear park assist camera and ParkSense system, auto adjust rear exterior mirrors, auto dimming exterior mirrors, driver radio, seat and exterior mirror memory, power heat memory, multi-function exterior mirrors with manual fold away, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps, bi-function HID headlights, automatic high beam headlamp control ($1,495); navigation system including rear back-up camera group, Uconnect 8.4N CD/DVD/MP3/NAV, Garmin navigation system, ParkView rear back-up camera, one-year traffic service, 1 year travel link service ($995); adaptive cruise control group including adaptive speed control forward collision control, heated and cooled front consul cup holders ($925); driver convenience group including sport perforated leather seats, ventilated front seats, power adjustable pedals with memory, power tilt and telescoping steering column ($895); power sunroof ($840).
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