With standard rear-wheel drive and several flavors of V-6 and V-8 power on offer, the 2017 Dodge Charger is a large family sedan with the heart of a proper muscle car.
We've found the V-6 models to be very responsive with the Charger's standard 8-speed automatic transmission. In fact, the V-6 is really all that you'd need for keeping ahead of traffic, provided you're not going to miss having a V-8 under the hood. With any V-8, the 8-speed also allows for relaxed mid-throttle passing without having the engine belt out its full growl to Johnny Law.
If winter is a serious season where you live, you'll want to note that only the V-6 is available with all-wheel drive.
Even the Charger SE is a capable, composed handler in the tradition of European rear-wheel-drive sedans. A variety of suspension offerings tighten things up, but the full-blown Hellcat rides exceptionally stiffly. Then again, if you're buying a 707-horsepower car, you probably know what you're getting into.
2017 Dodge Charger comfort, safety, and features
Speaking of getting in and out, the big Charger is comfortable for four—although its rear seat is a little tighter than its enormous exterior proportions might suggest. Base Chargers are beautifully finished for the money, but those looking for more luxurious finishes should head over to their nearest Chrysler dealer to see that brand's Chrysler 300, which shares its platform and most of its powertrains (but not the high-performance versions) with the Charger.
The Charger SE includes some niceties like a touchscreen audio system, keyless ignition, and a power driver's seat. The SXT is more value-laden with heated seats, an 8.4-inch infotainment system with 911 assistance and an wi-fi hotspot (which requires a subscription), and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The R/T's big upgrade is its 5.7-liter V-8, but those looking for the most performance bang for the buck will like the R/T Scat Pack that combines the SRT-tuned 6.4-liter V-8 with a reasonable price point of about $41,000 including destination. The SRT 392 uses the same V-8 but lays on more luxury and capability with a three-mode adaptive suspension.
The 707-horsepower Hellcat, meanwhile, isn't for the uninitiated. It's more composed than its power may lead you to expect, and while it doesn't feel like a $70,000 car inside, that's easy to forgive once you open up its big, supercharged V-8. Good luck finding a place to test out its 204-mph top speed.
The Charger earned the highest five-star overall score in NHTSA safety testing. The IIHS gives it top "Good" ratings in all categories except the small front-overlap crash test, which means it doesn't qualify for Top Safety Pick honors. Buyers can increase the safety of their Chargers with such features as blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, forward collision warnings, and adaptive cruise control. Automatic emergency braking is bundled as part of the Technology Group on most Charger trim levels.
V-6 Chargers are EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined with rear-wheel drive and 18/27/21 mpg with all-wheel drive. Opt for any of the V-8 models and you'll spend much more at the pump. The V-8-powered R/T models come with cylinder deactivation to save fuel in low load situations, but they still return a mediocre 19 combined. Not that fuel economy is important to someone buying a 707-horsepower car, but the Hellcat guzzles to the tune of 16 combined.