Dodge Charger SXT AWD: The Rental Review
CB last edited by CB
“Does the 4 mean it's a four-cylinder?” my dad asked, half-joking, half-serious. I shrugged, hoping it meant AWD and not fuel-economy. When booking a rental car for my latest trip home, Budget had a “Charger or similar” option, which I checked and got what was expected. Looking at this large four door sedan that has been around since 2006 (the 2011 refresh got a new generation code, but it was really an interior and exterior upgrade more than something all new), it wouldn't have surprised me if Dodge had put in a four-cylinder to meet emissions targets and keep the aging platform up to date.
The Charger is an exercise in branding and identity, with Hellcats and Hemis taking headlines and bringing the appeal to this family sedan. It leans heavily on its Detroit, muscle car roots, advertising its heritage in the centre console. Which is weird, since this Brampton-built car, with its V6 and AWD, feels like a decidedly Canadian choice. The question is, is this still worthy of the Charger name, and is it still any good in 2020?
The Helliphant in the room
Let's get the engine out of the way. The 3.6 litre Pentastar V6 makes 300-ish horsepower (or 292, depending on where you're looking, apparently the AWD makes more power?), a far cry from the Hellcat's 707 horsepower, but still nothing to sneeze at. And yes, I know it's not even a 5.7 litre V8, but it's a solid powerplant. After a few highway jaunts, on-ramp run ups, and at-speed acceleration to get around the more lethargic drivers on the 401, I can say that the V6 is pretty good, particularly due to the eight-speed automatic. The shifts are quick and I never found it hunting for gears. The paddle-shifters are quick and generally let you do your thing, which is pleasant.
Now, the engine note definitely won't make you feel like you can take on Frank Bullitt, especially with how quiet the interior is, but the 6.4 second 0-96 km/h time would at least embarrass a few of the older Mustangs. And yes, I know there was a V8 AWD Charger, prior to 2015, that was apparently rad as can be, but that's long dead and buried as Dodge seemingly hates Canadians. At least the V6 gives some decent fuel economy, with the Charger's highway mileage allegedly 7.6 l/100 km. Due to my lead foot and Toronto being a place that doesn't let you drive for more than three minutes without stopping, my average was around 14 l/100 km for around town, highway, and hooliganism driving. I wouldn't buy this car if you were overly concerned about your carbon footprint.
Handling-wise, the Charger is solid, and maybe a smidge on the firm side. I never really noticed the all-wheel drive system, which is rear-biased and allegedly decouples the front axle when it's not needed for improved mileage. The added heft from the AWD on top of the around two tonne weight means it's no Fiesta ST, but it can hustle and dance around with minimal fanfare. Which also means that, if I were to have attempted sideways shenanigans in a wet parking lot, the absurdly sized 235/55R19 snow tires wouldn't let me. Boo. At least the brakes work, which I tested more than enough times with some of the more brilliant choices of Toronto drivers.
Styling-wise, the Charger is a real looker, even in SXT trim. The large wheels and pronounced haunches make it look the part for a muscle car. I'm personally indifferent to the grille, as I feel the pre-2015 front end looks better, but it's a solid package. And that rear, with the distinctive taillights, looks positively badass.
The interior is also quite a pleasant place to be. The front seats are supportive and didn't cause any aches and pains, and are heated. The rear seats are also heated, which is a nice touch. The heated wheel feels good and quality, minus a few blank buttons. The infotainment system is a hi-res touch screen, which is quick and easy to use. I get why reviewers rave about it now. It's not as much as a pillbox as I thought it might be, with excellent visibility all around, and blind spots covered by sensors that were more than happy to let me know when a car was hiding beside me if I flicked on the turn signal.
The audio system, an optional Alpine system, was bangin' and allowed me to enjoy all the finest alt-rock that 102.1 could throw at me. It was also nice that it didn't have to compete with road noise, as the interior manages to keep most of that out. And I'm sure the dark leather and plastic interior would have been easily lit up if I had bothered to try out the sunroof, but I never cracked it open. Blame my paleness for that one. As dark as the interior is, at least the materials are pretty good and well put together. It almost had me questioning how true the rumours of build quality were. To be fair, I do drive a Volkswagen, which isn't the highest bar to clear.
My only complaint is that I could have used a few more physical controls for the things I actually used, as the heated steering wheel and seat options are in the infotainment, though they're not hidden in a sea of menus. They were at least nice enough to leave permanent icons for radio, navigation, phone, apps, climate controls, et cetera at the bottom of the screen. There's a few hard climate control buttons, some knobs for radio tuning and volume (which are complimented by some buttons on the back of the steering wheel), and dedicated buttons for sport mode and “Super Track Pak”, which brings you into all the settings for your steering feel, throttle response, manual shift modes, and launch control.
Yeah, this rental car had launch control. You can't say Dodge doesn't know what its customers want.
With all that said though, it's time to crunch some numbers. I went and played on the Dodge Canada build-and-price site, and built out this car. It came to around $44k CAD before taxes and after incentives. Which is a rather exorbitant amount of money, considering this is the base model SXT. Granted, if you want a rear-wheel drive/all-wheel drive sedan that'll comfortably sit four adults with enough room in the trunk for all their luggage, your options are the 5-series, E-Class, the XF, the G80, the Legacy, and the Stinger. And I think the CT5? I don't know, Cadillac confuses me. Realistically though, when you look at the prices, the Charger is in a league of its own. Until you start getting into the higher powered V8s, but hopefully that's a review for another time.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Charger. As someone who doesn't drive a lot of cars, it doesn't feel old or outdated in any way, and was an absolute pleasure to drive around in for a few days. For someone who lives in a snowy climate, I'd say it's worth a look if you're in the market for a sedan.
Now, who wants to lend me a Challenger for a comparison comparison review?
CB is a Canadian man who needed an excuse to take car photos and used a rental car review as a platform. When not cleaning up after his husky, he's working on the world's worst novel and shouting obscenities into the open and empty fields of Saskatchewan.
Good review! I feel like you should be able to get one for less than 40 but who knows these days.
Is that last pic at the scarborough bluffs?
S65 last edited by
@CB Nice review, seems like a good car in it's own right, even if it doesn't have a Hemi. You took really nice pics of this rental, now we gotta get you a Mirage!
BicycleBuck last edited by
@cb The Challengers I had as rentals all had a zero-60 timer. Part of the fun was trying to get that below 6 seconds. Every light was a new opportunity. I hit a couple of 6.0s, but never managed to get it any lower.
Shoop last edited by Shoop
And that rear, with the distinctive taillights, looks positively badass.
Hike last edited by
Nice write up and great pics! I've had a couple V8 Chargers and a Challenger and honestly, aside from the view out (the Challenger hood goes on forever), they drive almost the same. The Charger rides a little better due to the longer wheelbase. However, there's something fun about walking up to a Challenger. That car has some fantastic presence.
Sidenote, I've seen a few complaints about the heated seat controls, but there is an option for the heated seat and steering wheels to come on automatically, which iirc happens at 42 degrees.
rctothefuture last edited by
So glad folks are enjoying these! When I worked at Dodge, our dealer knew these were going to sell like crazy here in Wisconsin. I had a loaner 300 with AWD and it's a hell of a car as well. I've got friends and family looking for a new family car and I always recommend the Charger/300. FCA really refined these cars and made them to be solid vehicles for those needing AWD, decent fuel economy and space.
EssExTee last edited by
@cb I've rented a Chally R/T and basically everything you've said applies, except knock a few points off for bad visibility and add 30,000,000 for sounding like this:
nth256 last edited by nth256
Excellent review, thank you!!
Slight typo: "My only complaint is that I could have used a few more physical controls for the things I actually used, as the heated steering wheel and seat options are in the infotainment, though they're not hidden in a
seesea of menus."
@ibrad Agreed, and yep, down at Bluffer's Park.
@S65 I can't wait for the Mirage review. Bets on if it'll be released posthumously after I get run off the road.
@BicycleBuck This one did too, but I was far too busy trying to deal with Toronto traffic and their suicidal tendencies.
@Hike Yep, the heated seats constantly came on. It was about -1 Celsius, and it decided "high" was the appropriate setting. Pathetic.
@nth256 That's what I get for writing this after being up for sixteen hours. Thanks!
nth256 last edited by
@cb A singular typo on a homophone word? After 16 hours being awake? Not a bad track record, homeslice!
Long_Voyager94 last edited by
(the 2011 refresh got a new generation code, but it was really an interior and exterior upgrade more than something all new)
While this may seem the case due to the base chassis mostly staying the same, the "update" actually consisted of exterior, interior, suspension, and driveline updates. So realistically, most of the car changed.
People love to hate on Mopar, but even their base models are generally nice places to spend time with minimal road noise.
Charger/300 are on my short list when the time comes for another newer vehicle.
fintail last edited by
I bet you can get these for 20% under MSRP without trying (if you can find a non-V8 even on the lot, I suspect a lot of this trim production goes straight to fleets).
just-a-scratch last edited by
I like it. The right amount of real experience coupled with snark and self-deprecating humor. I'll have more of that any time.
WhoIsTheLeader last edited by
This is an excellent well rounded review. Thank you. I do think the current Charger is excellent at what it does and shouldn't be discounted due to its age. It just works as a fun stylish cruiser. I haven't managed to notice any AWDs down here yet but I've seen a few widebodies and they look really cool, if a bit on the stupid end of cool.
Also, excellent photography. I didn't know you were writing a novel. Bet Sammy is a great editor. . .
@just-a-scratch I'd love to do more, but I bet the press pool for cars in Saskatchewan is... small.
@WhoIsTheLeader Thanks! The widebodies are absurd and I love them. And yeah, the novel moves slowly (it's a rewrite of some high school trash). Sammy's not allowed near it since she tends to read with her teeth.
WhoIsTheLeader last edited by
@cb Sometimes editors need to read with their teeth. . . I know many a research paper benefitted from that.
The widebodies are totally stupid but totally lovable because of it. Dodge really knows their customers.
RallyDarkstrike last edited by
Great write-up! If I were to EVER get a large car, as they are decidedly not my thing....I think the Charger would be it. I actually really love the styling and even think the interior is pretty well done. They seem to be pretty reliable as well overall, and for all people harp on them for being outdated on an old platform, that age means they have pretty much all the bugs worked out.
davesaddiction last edited by
@cb Moved to Best of OPPO.