In a time when too much is never enough, it’s always nice to drive a car that gives you enough of everything. And by everything, I mean performance, luxury, styling, space, and technology.
As tested, my near $43,000 2016 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD was the perfect example of a car that can be the single most rewarding and useful thing that one owns. If SUVs and crossovers are evil incarnate, know that the Charger can virtually do everything an ungodly truck can. The trick is to select the right trim, which happened to be the case here.
Although I’d love to review R/T and SRT Hellcat models every day, it’s refreshing to spend time in a suitable and satisfying car that the masses would actually buy. The Dodge Charger is a large family sedan designed for comfort and safety. In its limited category, it is hands down the best of the lot.
Addressing true needs
Most Canadian families have 1-2 children to take care of. As such, 3-row SUVs with up to 8-passenger seating seem like overkill for some. The Charger can accommodate five occupants with relative ease. Installing two baby seats on the rear bench can leave enough room for one small child in between.
With an overall length of just over five meters and a trunk capable of swallowing up to 467 litres, space for all gear is assured. On Saturday, dad can go golfing with a buddy as two golf bags easily fit in the rear. On Sunday, a trip to the in-laws with the kids, stroller, park, and day bags is equally a breeze.
In 2016, the human-machine interface (HMI) is critical. FCA’s got this covered thanks to its impressive Uconnect display. From the SXT on, an 8.4” touchscreen is standard and features all manners of controls for satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and the optional navigation. The HMI is intuitive, not to mention customizable (depending on selected options).
All the important controls are ergonomically arranged, and the 2016 Dodge Charger also includes a number of redundant buttons on the steering wheel. My SXT Plus AWD tester added paddle shifters to control the transmission. Their size and position on the wheel limit their usefulness, but they can be nice to have.
The Charger is a brilliant cruiser and can be equipped with pretty decent audio. My car included a Beats by Dr. Dre high-performance sound system with 10 speakers. It’s great for blasting SiriusXM’s Lithium for the old man or Justin Bieber for the kids. When the music’s off and passengers want to take a nap, the presence of acoustic glass all around keeps the cabin nice and quiet.
Good driving fun, too
The 2016 Dodge Charger has to live up to its classic namesake even if it’s primarily a family car. The base engine is a 292-horsepower 3.6L V6 that also puts out 260 lb-ft of torque. For a little extra oomph, the Rallye Appearance Group increases output to 300 horsepower and 264 lb-ft. This is plenty of power to get the 4,220lb (1,914kg) sedan up to speed.
One of the main ingredients in the fun-driving factor for the Charger is the 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission, whose gearing is perfectly adapted to the V6’s powerband. Although not fast per say, the Charger SXT Plus AWD boogies with aplomb. Feeling the autobox working the gears when pushed is quite satisfying. Equally pleasing is how smooth and seamless it can be when required.
The Charger’s AWD system is actually fairly sophisticated. It features front-axle disconnect for true RWD driving and less powertrain drag, but when engaged, the torque split is fully variable front to rear. To note, fuel consumption does increase 10%-15% with the addition of AWD. I averaged just over 12.5L/100km, which is acceptable.
On the road, the 2016 Dodge Charger SXT Plus AWD behaves like a big sedan would. For most people, even I who generally prefer smaller models, this car is a class act. The fully independent, “touring-tuned” suspension is perfectly calibrated for the daily struggle through the locally broken urban jungle and also for covering long distances on the highway.
Despite its penchant for comfort, the Charger can be hustled somewhat and will retort positively to sharp inputs made to the well-sorted electric power steering. Some body roll is to be expected, but it's a comforting amount. Should you overshoot a corner, the powerful and responsive brakes will bring it all back under control.
Handsome looks to close the deal
Of all the brands in the FCA group, Dodge is blessed with the most handsome products. We can thank Ralph Gilles for that. The crosshair grille up front and racetrack-style taillights in the rear play perfectly into the brand’s macho attitude. The SXT Plus model throws in some fitting 19” wheels, adding to the car’s street cred as an American sedan.
In this segment, the Chevy Impala, Toyota Avalon, and Ford Taurus are the other key players. None of these have the appeal or aura of the Charger, however. The Taurus was once a proud car, but that light has faded. The Avalon is nothing short of an old man’s car. The Impala is interesting as a basic car, but remains FWD without the option of AWD.
The 2016 Dodge Charger has all the necessary attributes to fulfill the average family’s needs with few if any compromises.