TTAC reader and contributor Rich Murdocco sends us his review of his brand new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T
In the middle of the harsh winter of 2013, the lease on my beloved Ford Mustang was coming to an end. That car had a special place in my heart – The 305 horsepower power plant whisked me to my first “big boy job”, my first date with a new girlfriend, the birth of my niece and was right there as I got down on one knee and proposed to that aforementioned girlfriend. I was faced with the difficult decision every leasee faces: Do I stick around, or see what else was out there?
I had my heart set on another Mustang. Myself, uncle and cousin walked into the Ford Dealer, priced out a GT (if it wasn’t an upgrade, what’s the point?) and left satisfied. The car I had in my head – a 2014 Ford Mustang GT in dark silver, complete with the beating 5.0 Coyote heart and sense of condescension towards Camaros. As we were driving home, my uncle casually suggested we look at the Dodge dealer down the road. I’ve always been intrigued by Dodge’s offerings, and was impressed by the then-freshly redesigned Journey’s build quality when my Uncle had one on loaner. Halfheartedly we pulled in and strolled around the lot. “There is nothing you want here, is there?” I shook my head no, and that’s when my cousin called me over to come see something he found – a Charger R/T
Sitting in the car, it didn’t feel like a Dodge. The panels fit well together. There wasn’t a rattle. What felt like metal, was in fact, metal. The chunky steering wheel’s leather was soft, flanked by paddle shifters that allow your index finger to comfortable slip between them. I pressed the push-button ignition and with the soft burble of the exhaust, I was sold. It was black, brash and just plain mean looking – in a way, it reminded me of a Buick GNX.
Before I knew it, I was handed a surprisingly quality key fob to my new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T with the new Blacktop package. The RWD (as God intended) car is powered by the 5.7 liter HEMI, has the 8.4 inch touchscreen with navigation and a 3:06 gear ratio setup.
The supportive yet comfortable seats are cloth, the HID headlights are automatic, and the sunroof is large. In fact, everything in this vehicle is large. It’s built for a supersize generation, of which my five foot seven inch height appreciates. My fiancée, who is a tiny little lady, disappears into the passenger seat, but when she drove it the power driver’s seat and adjustable steering wheel accommodated her just fine. The car’s dimensions are substantial.
At work, I’ve parked next to a BMW 5-series and dwarfed it. The Charger’s lines in the recent redesign added character to the slab-like sheet metal of the first new generation, with the most distinctive addition being the racetrack LED lights on the read end. Now, the Charger looks like well…a Charger (the odd looking 1980’s model notwithstanding). This isn’t a car for blending into the commuter pool. Even in the V6 guise, this car looks aggressive. It looks like it wants to kick puppies and wear fingerless gloves while smoke cigarettes like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.
Recently, when picking up my college roommate from the train, he said he found me by walking towards the “most obnoxiously angry looking car in the lot.” The attitude exerted by the sheet metal is only matched by its presence on the street. On Long Island, police of different stripes use the Charger Pursuit paired with their fleet of SHO’s. With the Blacktop package, you’re getting black 20’’ wheels that make many other drivers think you’re a cop. This is both awesome (when others let you pass) and annoying (people slam on their brakes to go the speed limit frequently). In my Mustang, few people ever wanted to rev their engines at me. In this, BMW’s especially, always want to start something – there are worse problems to have.
Coming from a Mustang, pretty much anything would look spacious, but the Charger’s trunk truly eats whatever you put in it. I recently bought a rather large A/C unit and the trunk swallowed it up. I bet if I tried, I can fit my Marshall half-stack in the car, with a guitar, with no problems. The back seat is roomy, with three of my friends in the back sitting comfortably on the two-hour trek to New Jersey when I first got it. My buddy’s girlfriend is five foot nine, and had room to spare. The nav is simple, while the radio, “powered by Beats Audio”, is pretty punchy, with more than enough bang for an automotive system. To be honest, I don’t use the audio to its full potential, because I prefer the sound of the HEMI. The voice recognition isn’t as intuitive as my Mustang’s SYNC, but it gets the job done. If the Chrysler UConnect system and SYNC had a baby, it would be the perfect infotainment unit. One quirk that my Charger has is the placement of Sport mode. It’s accessed via the UConnect system on the same screen as the front and passenger heated seats. “Hold on Camaro… We shall duel our automobiles shortly. Please wait while I activate Sport mode!” The difference in the transmission is marked when sport mode is activated, with the aggressive upshifts quickly snapping into the next gear.
Smooth. That’s the word passengers I’ve had thus far have used to describe the ride. The Mercedes sourced 5-speed gets complaints from automotive journalists, but the transmission feels pretty rock solid. It seems that the German’s leftovers have worked wonders for the brand. With decently aggressive driving, I average 16.7 miles to the gallon of mid-grade fuel, and it costs roughly $55-60 per fill up here on Long Island. The transmission would benefit from an extra gear or two, but in 2015 Chrysler is putting in their popular 8-speed which should soothe the naysayers. In manumatic mode, the paddle shifters or console shifter allows for some spirited red-line hitting runs, but the electrical nannies prevent any significant overrevving and overly aggressive downshifting. One of my newfound joys is cruising in 5th, drop it to 3rd to pass. The whole experience is very gratifying.
The HEMI provides more than enough get up and go, but acceleration is never violent like it is in my cousin’s 2013 Mustang GT. It’s a smooth crescendo mostly. Passengers will be taken by surprise, and sometimes, during a boring morning’s drive, it’s fun to plant your foot to wake up both yourself, and the car. It’s powerful, and the engine, which is typically library quiet at cruising, comes to life under hard acceleration. One complaint is that it may be too quiet. For its brash looks, you’d hope it will shoot flames from the twin exhaust. In reality, the acceleration is more than entertaining enough, but isn’t as brutal as you think it would be given the specs. It does however turn heads if you drive by a group of people at full blast. It sounds proper, especially in a tunnel, and allows for acceleration to 60 in the low to mid-fives. My brother, who passed the love of cars into his younger brother, was impressed at the Charger’s throttle response and handling as he took a sweeping turn at unmentionable speeds for taking such a turn. For a heavy sedan whose trunk can eat a 12,000 BTU AC unit while seating two in the back, it’s impressive. The car feels planted at 30 mph, 60 mph and beyond 100 mph. With the Blacktop package you get a “high speed engine controller” up to 149 mph, but good luck safely and legally hitting anywhere close to those speeds on Long Island.
One of the many surprises of the car I found was that it doesn’t handle like you expect it to. During my first test drive, I was picturing similarities to my grandma’s old Grand Marquis, but it drives very similarly to my Mustang. It’s eager on turn in, and handles the curves without too much drama. The turning radius is a bit wider, but not by as much as you’d think. My fiancée’s 2010 Accord is like turning the Queen Elizabeth compared to the Charger.
This car is unapologetically American (despite the fact that shhh…it’s made in Canada). It’s big, rear-wheel driven, and powered by a big ol’ V8 up front. The interior is made of quality materials with fit and finish that was unheard of even five years ago. The street presence is ample. The fuel economy isn’t as bad as you’d think it would be given the power and weight stats. The Dodge Charger may have four doors, but it has the soul of the old Charger, and thanks to the HEMI, the heart of one as well. So far, I do not regret my decision to jump ship from Ford to MOPAR. In the future I may return, but as of right now, I’m more than content with the Charger.
On the web I’ve read comments such as the following: “it’s a pig…”, “it’s too fat”, “UGH A FAMILY CAR! It NEEDs TWO DOORS”, “It needs a manual transmission.” I’d answer these naysayers, but I’m too busy doing burnouts in the angriest looking family sedan on the road. Long live the four-door, American muscle car.