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2016 Dodge Challenger SXT review


It’s not fair to let the motor dominate the conversation about this 2016 Dodge Challenger. It’s a fine car without the Hemi, carrying its retro lines with enough confidence to offset its substantial visual bulk, and the new running lights/front fascia design and wide range of color/decal packages don’t hurt, either. FCA’s new interior refinements have, by this point, replaced nearly all of the unpleasant, crappy old plastics with better materials. The big-screened Uconnect entertainment system remains fast, functional and fairly intuitive (even if it would be nice to have a few buttons for features like seat warmers).

Even the LX platform, which is probably getting high enough up there in its years to be referred to as venerable, is as predictable and as fun as ever. Once you find a corner, it’s like swinging a sledge hammer: let the tool do the work. At its best, this a muscle machine that, unlike the newest pony cars from Ford and Chevrolet, doesn’t even pretend to look too far forward. I’m okay with that.

2015 Dodge Durango R/T review notes

Interior luxury for three (rows)


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Why is this a Dodge and not a Ram or a Jeep? Even this R/T Durango doesn't make a ton of sense in the niche muscle car Dodge lineup these days, and it may help explain why FCA only moved about 5,500 of them last month -- a month when Ford sold almost 25,000 of the similarly sized and priced Explorer. Stick a seven-slot grille on it and some round headlights, call it a Jeep Gladiator or something and watch sales triple. Jeep gets its three-row SUV, and Dodge gets … well, Dodge gets the Hellcat, and maybe that's enough.

In its current iteration, the Durango gets aggressive Ram 1500 styling, and I think that may be part of its mediocre sales numbers. It's a … burly design, more flannel shirt and Carhartt than the assertive three-piece suit look of the latest Tahoe; I'd like to see Dodge's male/female sales ratio on these things. One note on the exterior: Our Durango tester had some of the worst factory paint I've ever seen with visible ripples in the side panels and rocker-panel grade orange peel on the driver's side door.

Production of the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR begins in the third quarter.

2016 Dodge Viper ACR first drive


What is it?

The 2016 Dodge Viper ACR is the pinnacle of the Viper line, differentiating itself from lesser snakes with a new 10-way, double-adjustable suspension setup, 15.4-inch carbon ceramic brakes, Kuhmo extreme-performance tires (that are somehow stickier than those on the last ACR) and a rear spoiler big enough to land a spaceship on. Dodge lovingly calls that carbon fiber spoiler the X-Wing. It goes well with the cheeky nod to Princess Leia in the dash.

ACR stands for American Club Racer in Dodge parlance, and it could easily be seen in stock form on a racetrack near you. It’s not a street car that works on the track; it a legitimate race car that’s barely legal on the road. In fact, we stuck to the track when testing, with Dodge promising that “it’s totally livable,” to and from your nearest track.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat review notes

Hashtag Winning!


ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: The lame part of me is not quite sure why Dodge keeps sending us Hellcats -- what more can we possibly say about these visceral-but-tractable monsters? Are they just daring us to find something wrong with them? Do they want us to get in trouble with the law?

The non-lame part of me quickly tells the other part to shut up, and soon enough I’m enjoying one of the most improbably well-executed marketing gimmicks in Detroit’s history.

I’ve been exceptionally lucky when it comes to lining up Hellcats for special occasions, too. Last year, I snagged a supercharged Challenger just in time to sit in the gridlock that is the Woodward Dream Cruise. This year, I celebrated the Fourth of July behind the wheel of the most ’Merican vehicle to ever come out of Brampton, Ontario. Then I went and shot off some Chinese fireworks. It was a star-spangled weekend.

The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat engine that produces 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat review notes

Monster in the garage


ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: It’s been a few months since I’ve been in a Hellcat. Yep, it’s still fast. Not much of a surprise there. What is frankly kind of a miracle is that, after a couple of turns behind the wheels of these supercharged Challengers and Chargers, I’m still alive and with no points on my driver’s license.

Part of that is my somewhat spotty ability to resist the urge to put pedal to floor and do something really, really stupid, but a bigger part is that Dodge has managed to make 707 stated hp (apparently, it’s a bit higher) feel downright tractable.

Oh, it’s never boring. From the delightful supercharger whine to the feeling of thrust when you get even a little bit into the throttle, Hellcat driving is a thrilling multisensory experience. Sometimes you forget to take your foot off the brake pedal before you step on the gas and the tires turn into smoke! It’s all very exciting.

The Dodge brand recognizes that the heroic men and women who protect us must be equipped with the best vehicle.

A test of willpower

2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I don't know why they do it, but every time Dodge updates the Charger, they throw a police pursuit model into the Detroit press fleet, complete with working lights, siren, spots, PA system and black-and-white paint job. It's not like the cops are reading consumer reviews to determine their next fleet purchase -- they have their own rigorous (and, we suspect, highly entertaining) test procedure for police cars.

So what's a Charger Pursuit doing here? Don't care: these cars never fail to entertain…and not just for the obvious reasons. They're extraordinarily good full-size American sedans, full of traditional muscle-car cues.

Rubber floor mat in lieu of carpet? Check. Column shifter? Check. Steelies with dog-dish hubcaps? Oh hell yes. If it wasn't for AWD you could use the nearly 400 lb-ft of torque to roast those fat Goodyear Eagles all afternoon. There's just enough infotainment technology to make the Charger Pursuit an acceptable modern daily driver and nothing else.

Scat Pack Fever

2015 Dodge Charger R/T


 What best sums up the new Dodge Charger Scat Pack?

“No other vehicle, no other muscle car, offers more horsepower for under 40 grand,” says Bob Broderdorf, Dodge’s car brand boss.

Exactly how much horsepower do you get for your under-40 grand?

The 2015 6.4-liter Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack offers 485 hp and 475 lb-ft for $39,995. Broderdorf adds, in case it wasn’t obvious, “That is an incredible value proposition.” (Actually, adding delivery brings the sticker to $40,990, but don’t pop his bubble.)

Either way, he has a point: This is good power-to-dollar ratio. As far as pure muscle cars go, the Chevrolet Camaro SS offers 426 hp for around $35K, and the Ford Mustang GT gives you 435 hp for even less than that. For sedans, the mighty Chevrolet SS is really the only close competitor with 415 hp and 415 lb-ft but has a sticker of more than 45 large. Ford’s Taurus lags behind in power and torque at 365 hp and 350 lb-ft but is priced right near the Charger at $41,045. When you start looking at 400-hp European and Japanese sedans for under 40K, you’ll find … nada.

The 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus is the antithesis of cutting-edge car design, yet at the same time the finest example of the traditional full-size, rear-drive American sedan available short of its Hemi-powered bigger brother.

2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus Rallye review notes


DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: We’ve had a lot of hybrids, EVs and tiny turbo three-cylinders come through the office lately, then along comes this brash white 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Plus; it’s the antithesis of cutting-edge car design, yet at the same time the finest example of the traditional full-size, rear-drive American sedan available short of its Hemi-powered bigger brother.

Yes, the Charger is old-fashioned, but it’s far from outdated. With a DOHC V6, eight-speed automatic transmission and the excellent UConnect infotainment system, our SXT Plus packed as much tech as any conventional (read: nonhybrid) car on the market today, and it all worked better than most. Take convenience features, for example. The Charger’s remote start transmitted even through a concrete stairwell, then fired up the heated steering wheel and seats without me having to program it to do so. There are big rubber-coated knobs for radio volume and tuning. Rear seat passengers get heated seats and dual USB ports. Big steering-wheel-mounted buttons make it easy to operate Bluetooth controls and vehicle menus without having to take your eyes off the road. There’s no one single feature that makes the Charger endearing -- it’s the combination of well-thought-out, easy-to-navigate interior controls and options that make the car instantly comfortable.

The 2015 Dodge Charger gets the Hellcat treatment.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat first drive


If Dodge had its way, there’d be a 2015 Charger in every garage. The fresh-out-of-college kid commuting to his first big job would drive the 31-mpg, $28,990 Charger SE. His 38-year-old brother, with a little more cash in his bank account, also a fan of American sedans, would drive the $48,375, 485-hp SRT 392. And the crazy uncle, who owned a ‘72 Charger R/T would be behind the wheel of the $64,985 Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest, most powerful sedan the world has ever seen.

The number of different grille options alone is enough to put this car in the something-for-everyone category. We discovered as much when we entered a hangar at Reagan National Airport in Virginia and saw about 30 examples of the redesigned 2015 model before Dodge execs gave us the details on the new car. Four, by the way -- there are four different grille choices on the new Charger.

At the SE trim level, Dodge offers what it calls its best-equipped entry-level Charger ever. It comes with a 292-hp, 260-lb-ft 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and a now-standard eight-speed automatic transmission. The SE also comes with a 5-inch UConnect touchscreen and a new 7-inch driver information display behind the steering wheel. LED “racetrack” taillights and bi-xenon headlights are also included, as are two USB outlets, steering wheel controls and electric power steering with comfort, normal and sport modes. The SXT model gets the same engine and adds UConnect Access with WiFi and personal apps, 18-inch wheels and LED fog lights, as well as a few other features. All-wheel drive is optional on the V6s, not available on the V8s.

2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker review notes


EDITOR WES RAYNAL: This seems to be the Challenger lineup’s performance + value car. It’s a completely different driving experience from the Hellcat I drove the night before, and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 I drove earlier this week (and costs thousands less). That’s not a complaint about the R/T, there’s plenty to like here.

It’s not just that this R/T Shaker has less than half the Hellcat’s horsepower -- the R/T is plenty fast. No, it’s not nearly as explosive off the line as the Hellcat, but the power is impressive nonetheless. The R/T’s V8 sounds different, but is still plenty throaty and hot-rodish. Body control and ride comfort are both quite nice. I liked the steering, and these brakes mean business as well. The way the car drove around town was a pleasant surprise -- enjoyable, comfortable and under control with a lot oomph when you want it.

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