Don’t let the GT badge fool you. the Dodge Charger GT is not the four door muscle car you have been yearning to drive. It does have, however, have launch control.
Car Class: Full Size/FCAR
Availability: All major rental car agencies
Alternatives: Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Responsive drivetrain||All around visibility|
|Easy to use infotainment||Rear seat legroom|
|Front seat comfort||Lack of active safety features|
With the nameplate dating back to the 1960s, the Dodge Charger is one of the few muscle cars from that era that is still being built today, albeit in a very different form. Reinvented as a four door full size sedan back in 2005, the current Charger has morphed into a full size sedan sharing the same platform as the luxury-oriented Chrysler 300. Is the modern day Charger still worthy of illustrious nameplate? This week, we attempt to relive the good old days of American Muscle in the 2018 Dodge Charger GT AWD.
Most Dodge Chargers on rental lots will be powered by FCA’s ubiquitous 3.6L Pentastar V6 making 300 (292 in rear-wheel drive models) horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque. Available but harder to find on rental lots is the Charger R/T, which is equipped with a 5.7L Hemi V8 producing 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. For drivers who yearn for more oomph, SRT versions of the Charger ups the power equation with Hemi V8s that produce up to 707 horsepower in Hellcat guise. That said, we have yet seen any of these high performance versions at rental locations. Regardless of engine, a ZF 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available. Similar to its platform-mate, the Chrysler 300, the engine and transmission combo makes for smooth power delivery and almost imperceptible gear shifts. Given the high number of gears, fuel economy is quite good for the class. We averaged 10.9L/100km during our time with the vehicle, which is in line and even better than other front-wheel drive vehicles in its class.
Acceleration in the normal drive mode is adequate for large sedan. Pressing the ‘Sport’ button on the dash changes the throttle response and shift programming to enhance the responsiveness of the powertrain, making the car feel faster than it actually is. To further boost acceleration, there is launch control. While we enjoy the back into the seat feeling, we can’t help but question the usefulness of launch control in this version of the Charger. With standard 19-inch wheels in our all-wheel drive GT rental, ride quality is acceptable. By no means pillowy soft, the suspension does a good job of controlling body roll and dealing with road imperfections. On the highway, the Charger makes for an excellent cruiser, with minimum road and engine noise making their way into the cabin. When pushed hard and in sport mode, some engine growl can be heard, but it was never to the point of overbearing. We would even go out on a limb and say we enjoyed hearing the engine once in a while as it reminded us of the good old days of naturally aspirated V6 power.
Like the Chrysler 300, the retro-inspired styling of the Dodge Charger does take its toll in the form of visibility. With a squat windshield and high belt line, we had to adjust the seat higher than usual in order to have a decent view of the front and sides of the vehicle. Out back, the long trunk lid also does no favours to rearward visibility. Thankfully, our rental is equipped with the standard back up camera and optional sensors.
Comfort and Convenience
Despite having rented so many FCA products over the years, we still have yet to completely decipher their trim and option structure. What we do know, however, is that our rental is a mid-trim GT equipped with the Navigation and Travel Group and Power Sunroof. Like the packages’ name suggest, our rental features a 8.4-inch Uconnect 4 infotainment display with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, navigation and 4 USB ports, dual zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push button start, heated 12-way power front cloth seats and a sunroof. Active safety features, which is now becoming standard on many vehicles half the price of our rental, are nowhere to be found. While blind monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are available as options on most trims, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist are only available on the R/T trim, which is rarely used as rental vehicles.
Stepping inside the Dodge Charger, we were immediately reminded of the Chrysler 300. Despite each model adopting their unique styling language, with the Dodge being more sport-oriented, the overall materials used and layout remained largely the same. For the most part, this is a good thing. We like the use of soft-touch materials on most touch points on the dash and door panels. The metallic effect trim around the infotainment screen and gauges look questionable but at least it adds much needed contrast to the otherwise drab cabin. Covered in cloth, the front seats in the Charger feature numerous ways of electrical adjustments and we were relieved to not find any footwell intrusion, an issue that we experienced in the Chrysler 300S.
Drivers in the winter will be glad to find standard heated front seats in our GT tester. Despite being wrapped in beautiful perforated leather, the steering is not heated in our model. This feature, together with heated rear seats and ventilated seats are standard on the GT Premium Plus, SXT Premium Plus and R/T trims, which can be identified by the leather seats.
Ease of Use
We have said it before and we will say it again, Uconnect 4 is one of, if not, the best in the business right now. Like all of our previous FCA rentals, the Charger is equipped with a crisp 8.4-inch centre touchscreen that features the latest in smartphone connectivity and Garmin-based navigation. While there are bigger and fancier screens out there, what makes Uconnect standout is its ease of use and lightning quick responses. Everything is clearly labelled and there can be no confusion as to what each icon meant. Within minutes, most renters should be familiar with the system and ready to hit the road. With almost 1 USB port per passenger (total of 4), mobile devices should have no problems getting power on a long road trip.
Similar to other vehicles equipped with Uconnect 4, the Dodge Charger features a 7-inch centre gauge display that shows various vehicle, trip and media information. With a unique skin and font, the display and surround gauges evoke the gauges of the original Charger, which is a nice touch. Navigating through the various screens using the D-pad on the steering wheel can sometimes be a bit laggy, but overall the system works well in tandem with the centre touchscreen. However, we do wish that FCA would incorporate a home screen in the centre gauge display where a combination of trip, media and speed information can be displayded all at once, thereby eliminating the need to flip through different screens.
Fortunately the Charger ditches the Chrysler 300’s infamous rotary shifter for a traditional PRNDM shifter. In manual mode, shifting can be done using the gear lever or the steering wheel mounted shift pedals. However, given how good the transmission is, we left it to its own devices for the most part of the drive.
Despite its sizeable exterior dimensions, interior space of the Charger is surprisingly limited. Front seat room is abundant with lots of headroom and legroom for the tallest of drivers. However, owing the rear-wheel drive architecture, rear seat legroom is tight for the class when the front seats are adjusted for someone 6 ft tall. Likewise, headroom is tight due the sloping roofline. Fitting 3 across the rear will also be a challenge. While width is not a problem (the Charger is one of the wider sedans on the market), the large centre hump for the drive components means that foot space will be limited. As such, the rear bench is best left for two.
With a long trunk lid, cargo capacity is a generous 16.5 cubic feet, which is right in line with most other vehicles its class and more than enough space for renters’ luggage needs. Adding to cargo practicality are split 60/40 folding rear seats. Unfortunately, no ski pass through is available.
Dressed in Pitch Black paint and dark painted wheels, our Charger GT gave off a sinister vibe that is unique in the segment of full size sedans. While by no means an eye-catching ride, the Charger brings a healthy dose of sportiness, performance (in V8 guise) to a rental segment that is otherwise filled with vanilla options. Renters who value driving performance but also need space for passengers will not go wrong by choosing the Dodge Charger as their next full size rental. That said, given the wide range of options and packages, surveying the lot for a high trim example (i.e equipped with leather upholstery, sunroof etc.) will be the prudent thing to do before committing.
Avis/Budget: To date, we have seen Dodge Chargers of a variety of trims on Avis/Budget rental locations including the SXT Plus and GT equipped with various optional packages. Spot a high trim rental by the presence of leather seats and a sunroof.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Like other major rental car agencies, Enterprise/National/Alamo carries a wide range of Chargers in their fleet. We have spotted everything from the base SXT to R/T equipped with the more powerful Hemi V8. Differentiating between these different trims can be challenging but look for tell-tale features including the wheels (the bigger they are, the higher the trim), interior fitments (leather, sunroof) and badging (GT, R/T).
Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Interestingly, we have recently spotted only one configuration of the Dodge Charger at their rental lots, which is the relatively well-optioned SXT Premium Plus trim featuring Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps and many more.