Let's get things straight: Nobody needs a 707-horsepower family sedan, but that isn't a reason to fault Dodge for making the ultra-powerful top-of-the-line Hellcat version of its Charger.
The Brampton, Ont.,-produced car makes a brash statement, looks great, has loads of power, handles better than you might think, is surprisingly fun to drive, and can easily fit a couple of car seats in the back.
Realistically though, most buyers will likely go for one of the less-mean models, such as the SRT 392 variation driven for 90 minutes through the countryside from downtown Washington, D.C., to the 10-turn, 3.2-kilometre Summit Point Motorsport Park that served as Dodge's test venue for its 2015 Charger lineup.
Completely redesigned, the 2015 Charger has pleasing lines and a more refined look. The Ram-truck-like, cross-design grille is replaced by a sleeker wrap-around one, mirroring curvy styling that was already on the back. Like the rest of the line, the SRT comes in 10 exterior colours and 14 wheel choices to keep even the pickiest buyer happy.
Inside, the dash flows from the driver's side to the passenger's with a nicely styled console in the middle where the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen multimedia centre rests.
The SRT 392 seemed like a big car from the inside, mostly because of the large hood intake that towers ominously over the cockpit, although this isn't an issue on the Hellcat or other models which don't have the same style bonnet.
The SRT Charger didn't seem completely at home on the tighter sections that required a nimble chassis, but it also didn't feel like a sedate family sedan. On the highway, the SRT 392 Charger responded effortlessly to the gas pedal and quickly pushed the needle up to licence-losing speeds.
The trek to the track offered the opportunity to preview the SRT's three drive settings: Default (or street), Sport, and Track. Each step notches up the suspension, steering and shifting to increase stiffness and responsiveness. If the car is only to be street driven, the sport mode should probably be labelled "Goldilocks" – it's not too soft and not too stiff.
Once on the racetrack, it took a few turns to get accustomed to the car's heaviness and it took patience to get the Charger around corners fast. Think of it as an overweight guy who can bust a move: It's not always pretty, but it still gets the job done.
The eight-speed automatic transmission – there is no manual available – delivered seamless shifts on the road, while switching the car into the top performance track setting brought impressive staccato-like, 160-millisecond shifts around Summit Point.
Of note: The Pursuit version, made specifically for police use, was outrun by every other car in the Charger lineup.
You'll like this car if ... You want a powerful, loaded-with-extras car that makes a bold statement and offers room for a family of five at a better price than its competitors.
- Base price: $50,495; as tested: $54,185
- Engine: 6.4-Litre HEMI V-8
- Drive: Rear-wheel drive standard
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 15.7 city/9.5 highway
- Alternatives: Ford Taurus, Buick Lacrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Nissan Maxima
- Looks: The Charger has a more refined feel than previous models. It oozes fast, even when parked. The available B5 Blue colour is spectacular.
- Interior: Available ventilated front seats will come in handy on hot summer days, as will the available heated second row seats in winter.
- Technology: Dodge gets full marks for its new eight-speed automatic transmission. Lane assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop, and active braking are available safety features.
- Performance: The steering, braking and handling are good, but the Charger is at its best when accelerating. Buyers will never worry about making a quick pass on the highway.
- Cargo: Ample trunk with large opening.
The engine alone makes the Charger line fun to drive, the new exterior and interior are winners, and the generous standard equipment gives it great value. It's the car to beat in the full-size sedan segment.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.
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