Who needs the gym when you can drive the industry's only muscle sedan? This is the Dodge Charger, Mopar's big-shouldered, tire-punishing four-door. Dodge introduced the current-gen Charger for the 2011 model year and gave it a midcycle face-lift for 2015. For 2022, the only update is a Deluxe Security alarm optional on lower trims and standard on higher-spec models. Although nothing matches the Charger in terms of four-door muscle, it competes with other full-size sedans including the Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon, and Nissan Maxima.
The Charger is the only full-size sedan of its kind. While Toyota, Nissan, and Chrysler try to attract buyers with near-luxury appointments at an affordable price point, the Charger is all about sporty swagger. Driving a Hellcat Widebody, we wrote about the Charger as "in your face, unapologetic, and, yeah, a little offensive." This is not your grandparents' Avalon.
Dodge offers more V-8 options under the hood of the Charger than some automakers do in their entire lineups. Dropping a little extra cash for eight cylinders will indulge buyers with tire smoke on demand and an unmistakable burble with any twitch of the right foot. Performance is best exercised in a straight line, though, even with the Widebody cars' upgraded suspension and tires. These cars aren't awful around corners, but their specialty is full-throttle highway pulls.
Although the Charger doesn't impress with standard active safety content or great crashworthiness ratings, this is a relatively practical car. There's plenty of passenger and cargo space and the Uconnect infotainment suite is as intuitive as these systems get. The Avalon is our top-ranked full-size sedan because it's a more well-rounded vehicle, but for those who want a four-door muscle machine that'll make you feel like a hero, the Charger is the obvious choice.
There are few vehicles that offer as many engine options as the Dodge Charger. In addition to the long-established Pentastar V-6, there are four different V-8 options, including the ludicrously powerful supercharged unit under the hood of the Charger Hellcat Redeye. All variants pair their engines with eight-speed automatic transmissions. Most Chargers route power through the rear wheels, but six-cylinder models offer optional AWD.
*2021 EPA figures
Safety testing performance is not the Charger's strong suit. In testing by the IIHS, it earns a Marginal rating in the driver's side small overlap front crash test but a Good rating in the other four crashworthiness tests. Worse, it receives the lowest possible headlight rating of Poor. For what it's worth, though, the Charger gets a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA with a four-star frontal crash score.
Although there aren't any standard active safety features, most trims can be ordered with all the driver-assist tech you'd expect in a modern vehicle. All variants other than the Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye offer a Technology Group package that adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Hellcat models include the blind-spot and cross-traffic features as standard.
The Charger is about as big as sedans get, and that size pays off with a generously proportioned interior. Compared to the segment-leading Toyota Avalon, the Charger has a bit more trunk space.
Legroom (first/second rows):
Although the base Charger SXT works with a 7.0-inch screen, every other Charger features an 8.4-inch center touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Entry-level variants feature six-speaker audio while nine- and 19-speaker setups are optional.
Dodge introduced its 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V-8 under the hoods of the Challenger and Charger in 2015 and its products haven't been the same since. In the years since, not only has Dodge unleashed the Demon drag-strip special and near-800-hp Redeye variants, the Hellcat V-8 has also made its way into some less obvious vehicles. Mainly, we're talking about the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and Ram 1500 TRX—our 2021 Truck of the Year—but it has also showed up in wacky concepts like the Jeep Wrangler-based Trailcat.
A top-spec Charger Hellcat Redeye will cost more than double what you'd pay for a base Charger SXT (around $83,000 compared to about $32,000) so which variant makes the most sense largely depends on your budget. For our cash, we'd go for the Scat Pack Widebody which will run buyers around $50,000.
For that money you still get a thundering, pavement-punishing V-8 and the broad-shouldered wheel arches, plus in the Hellcats you hear more supercharger than engine. Not to mention, the Scat Pack is the most powerful Charger you can buy with modern driver assist aids.