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Don Adair's Seat Time

Posts tagged: muscle car

Dodge Charger: Exuberant, economical muscle

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Retiring types should not become auto writers. We drive too many cars that draw too much attention.

Your basic Camry, Escape and Passat may go unnoticed, but the double-take cars — the ‘Vettes, the Bentleys, the Plasma Purple Mitsubishi Mirages — can drive a shy guy to distraction. 

I should have known the 2014 Dodge Charger would turn heads. Its waspish waist and muscular flanks carry more than a hint of the Viper’s menace. Its powerful and protuberant grill is as blatant as a Mac truck’s.

From behind the wheel, though, my six-cylinder Charger felt less drag-strip queen than roomy full-size sedan. A colorful, 8.4-inch touchscreen, Uconnect telematics and Beats by Dr. Dre audio provided a sophisticated modernity. Responsive and nimble, the big sedan rode with a grace not implied by its exuberant sheet metal. 

Only the snap of many necks reminded me of its audacious looks. 

To be sure, enough throttle will provoke the 300-horsepower, V-6 Charger into a 6.5-second 0-60 romp. Contrasted with the tumultuous, 4.6-second romp of which its 470-hp SRT8 sibling is capable, though, It’s a relatively serene romp, though.

The Charger is available in trims ranging from the 292-horsepower SE ($27,990, including destination) to the $48,380, V-8-powered SRT8.

My SXT ($30,290) carried the new-for-’14, $1,700 Redline package that bumps output from the 3.6-liter Pentastar engine to 300 hp. It also adds sport seats, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, a rear spoils and the 10-speaker, 552-watts Beats system. 

The six is paired in the SXT with an eight-speed transmission that gets steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a sport mode that quickens gear changes and holds revs higher for improved acceleration.

EPA ratings are 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway mpg/23 mpg combined. 

The five-speed is standard on the base SE, with the eight-speed optional.

The two V-8 trims, the SRT8 and the 370-hp R/T ($31,490), are available only with the five-speed automatic. Both engines are torque-rich, so the extra gears wouldn’t necessarily boost acceleration, but would improve efficiency.

All Chargers but the SRT8 are available in rear-drive or all-wheel-drive. 

There’s room inside for four adults, though the jaunty roofline limits rear-seat headroom and the large transmission tunnel renders the center rear position unsuitable for all but small children.

Materials quality is very good and the dashboard design incorporates a broad, horizontal, brushed-aluminum panel that encompasses the gauges and center touchscreen/control panel.

In most trims, the center stack incorporates an 8.4-inch touchscreen. The system is intuitive and user-friendly, but obscures such simple functions as the heated (and cooled) seats which should be accessible via conventional hard buttons.

I had no problem finding a comfortable driving position but the Charger’s beefy haunches and thick C pillar limit rearward vision.

The 2014 Charger proves that a) comfortable and capable full-size sedans needn’t be boring, and b) the muscle-car format is flexible enough to adapt to changing times. 

If only it didn’t attract so darn much attention.

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com.

2014 Dodge Charger SXT Redline
Vehicle base price: $26,995
Trim level base price: $29,295
As tested: $39,390
Optional equipment: Our SXT Redline tester included too many options to list.
EPA ratings: 19 city/31 highway/23 combined
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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