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2016 Dodge Charger SXT Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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BONUS CONTENT: Dodge Charger Reviews 2006-2016

Review by Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Here is something rare: a rear-wheel drive, full-size sedan with a good measure of retro-cool, an efficient powertrain and decent price – the 2016 Dodge Charger SXT. The one we have this week is remarkably red (they call it TorRed), which probably accounts for a stop by the Roscommon County cops who graciously did not give me a ticket even though I certainly was driving at a slightly extra-legal speed on their nice county two-lane.

While the Charger has experienced upgrades over the years, particularly in 2011 and 2015, it is essentially the car it was when cloned off the Chrysler 300 platform a decade ago. Prior to that 2006 reincarnation of the nameplate Dodge Chargers go back to the mid 1960s as concept cars, compact cars and a full-size coupe. This current 6th-generation Charger comes in many trim levels with multiple powertrains from the basic SE with V6 and 8-speed automatic to the thundering Hellcat with a 707-hp V8 and six-speed manual transmission. All-wheel drive is available only on V6 cars. Our test car is the V6 powered SXT, second-from-the-bottom trim level.

This Charger has a character like no other. Exterior styling started out with strong, 3-box, retro design elements that have been modernized with each update but it maintains that classic muscle-car formula. The front view has become less boxy and vertical with new LED DRLs, narrower grille and more sculpted details. Our tester has the optional 20-inch black wheels shod with tires wide enough for a race car providing an even more high-performance look. Side and rear views have evolved as well with sculpted side panels and full-width bright LED taillights along with chrome dual exhaust outlets.

Style and design inside remain unpretentious and little changed, with instrument cluster and controls simple and easily managed. The big news here is the newest iteration of the mulit-function touch screen for audio, climate, navigation, apps, vehicle settings and lots more. Large icons and reasonably intuitive navigation make it easier than most to do what needs to be done. I rank this among the best I’ve used recently – and, I am one who has little patience for unnecessary complexity.

Front seats are generous and comfortable with good lateral support and enough adjustment to accommodate most any human form. The one-piece dash panel seems out of date and of less-than-impressive quality but everything fits well and looks decent. The Dodge interior designers eschew trendy details but in this car that is OK. The interior design also adds to the retro theme of the car. Rear seats will easily fit three average size people and seatbacks fold for better cargo access.

Our affection for the Charger comes partly from the charming and efficient powertrain. This Pentastar 3.6-liter, naturally aspirated V6 makes 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It feels as strong as a small V8 with a sound equally as impressive. Kudos go to the acoustic engineers at Chrysler for squeezing such a nice rumble out of this V6. The 8-speed automatic transmission is a ZF unit manufactured in Germany. The EPA/DOT estimates we should get around 31-mpg on the highway, 19 in the city and 23 combined using regular fuel. We easily managed nearly 26 mpg in our mixed driving environment this week biased mostly to highway use. On one of our 250-mile freeway drives I reset the trip computer and realized 27.8 mpg. With the 18.5-gallong fuel tank we have an over 400-mile cruising range.

This Charger SXT “Blacktop” starts at $29,995. The Blacktop Appearance Package includes a variety of interior and exterior cosmetic features including cool 20-inch polished and painted aluminum wheels. Our review car came with a variety of options including: leather seating, HID projector beam headlights, heated and ventilated power front seats, heated second row seats, heated steering wheel, navigation package, sport suspension, Beats® premium speakers, paddle shifters and a track package with performance tires, 3.07 rear axle ratio and some other performance stuff. All this results in a bottom line on the sticker of $36,765.

The FCA new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

In terms of driving dynamics, we find the Charger competent, agile and entertaining. In spite of its full-size it is not a bit cumbersome. Quick steering, firm but compliant suspension and the earlier-described efficient powertrain combine for a driving experience that will please most buyers, and particularly those who enjoy the nuances of rear-wheel drive. The quiet cabin and simple, ergonomically well-designed controls make a jaunt to the grocery store or to grandma’s house two states away a pleasant prospect. If you get rambunctious and put your foot in it, winding it to red line using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, you can get a shot of adrenalin even with this V6. Remember, we have nearly 300 horsepower to motivate this 3,900-pound sedan.

Dodge’s brand identity has evolved nicely into a space where performance dominates. Dodge design language follows that thread as well. As one who is old enough to appreciate the heritage of Charger and as one who appreciates both the grunt and the trend-bucking simplicity – I would have this on my shopping list.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved