What could be more appropriate for Christmas than a bright, Santa-Claus-red Dodge Charger? One spin around the block and the reindeer could find themselves out of a job.
Not to mention the sleigh. Odds are that it lacks the comfort and is missing two very important extras that were present in the 2014 Charger my wife Paula and I had for review: heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Both of these features were noticeably quicker in the pre-winter cold than similar options offered by some competitors.
However, for all of its bright red paint, the full-size Charger sedan is mostly the same for 2014. Reading through the specifications, and checking them twice, reveals that Dodge has been content to offer a new Redline Package and bring back three historic colors, Header Orange, TorRed and Plum Crazy.
Dodge is also offering the Charger (and Challenger) as 100th anniversary editions to commemorate John and Horace Dodge introducing their first car in 1914. This was not only the first car from the brothers, who had previously made a fortune producing axles, transmissions and engines for Henry Ford, but the first mass-produced all-steel body passenger vehicle. The commemorative models will be available in the first quarter of next year, though the original Dodge did not appear until November 1914.
The 100th anniversary of the Charger offers unique colors, special 20-inch wheels and numerous exterior and interior trim upgrades.
Our review car was the mid-level SXT equipped with a 3.6-liter 292 horsepower V-6 engine. This engine was smooth and powerful. However, buyers looking for a real muscle car experience can opt for the R/T trim level with the standard 5.7 liter Hemi V-8, good for 370 horsepower, or the SRT8 version, powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 rated at 470 horsepower.
Still, our review car was impressively athletic, thanks in part to a smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox offered in the SXT. The base SE trim level combines the V-6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, with the eight-speed unit available as an option. The V-8 powered R/T and SRT8 models also use a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive an option. We had all-wheel drive on our car.
Acceleration with the V-6 engine was quick, despite the added weight associated with the all-wheel drive system. Our car reached 60 miles per hour in just 6.7 seconds. The 5.7-liter V-8 will cut that time by more than a second while the SRT8 can rocket to 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds.
The ride is comfortable over just about any surface. Control over pavement swells taken at speed is also quite good. Handling is secure with the car responding nicely to a driver’s inputs. The Charger is definitely a rewarding car to drive.
The interior is nicely done with a roomy and comfortable front cabin. The trunk is rated at 15.4 cubic feet, which is quite good. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds to enhance cargo-carrying capabilities.
Our SXT adds the automatic dual-zone climate control, a 12-way power driver’s seat, an upgraded audio system and remote garage door opener, among other features. The base SE model comes with all the power assists and air conditioning standard. A six-way power driver’s seat is also included.
While the festive red paint on our review Charger made it a perfect fit for the holidays, this is a car that works well in any season. It’s solid, comfortable and a pleasure to drive.
From a distance, the 2014 Dodge Charger looks smaller than it really is. It’s actually quite big, with a roomy interior, though it’s also easy to drive.
The interior, which fits larger drivers such as my husband Jim, has a few shortfalls for smaller motorists. For example, the seat bolstering on the driver’s seat back interfered with my elbows. Then I discovered the optional power adjustable pedals, which helped but didn’t completely eliminate the problem.
Chrysler’s touch screen radio systems are among the easiest and least distracting I’ve seen. Our Charger included remote control buttons on the back of the steering wheel for volume adjustments and changing stations or sound sources.
Putting these controls on the back of the steering wheel allows plenty of room for the adaptive cruise control buttons on the front of the steering wheel. Our review car also had blind spot and cross traffic alerts, forward collision warning and a backup camera.
The cross traffic alert is useful when you have to back out of a parking space with a large SUV on one side and a van on your other side. Your view is blocked as you back up, but the cross traffic alert goes to work and beeps if there is a car approaching. This Charger also had a rear park assist system that beeps when you get close to an object while backing. It’s handy, but in our trials the backup camera showed everything that would trigger the park sensor alert.
The engine delivers effortless acceleration on the recommended regular gasoline. The transmission shifts nicely but the shift lever on the console is the most irritating part of a car that is generally quite pleasant. I never did master the touch required to ensure that I went from park to either reverse or drive without double checking it. This same system has irritated me on non-Chrysler cars that use this transmission and lever.