The Truth About Cars » road and track http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:00:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » road and track http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Road and Track Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-dodge-charger-rt-road-track-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-dodge-charger-rt-road-track-review-video/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 11:18:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071058 The first car I bought new was a 2000 Chrysler LHS. (I single handedly lowered the model’s average age demographic.) It was the very pinnacle of Chrysler’s Iacocca turn-around. It was large, competitive and made from Chrysler’s universal parts bin. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” product development with their luxury brand. The […]

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21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior

The first car I bought new was a 2000 Chrysler LHS. (I single handedly lowered the model’s average age demographic.) It was the very pinnacle of Chrysler’s Iacocca turn-around. It was large, competitive and made from Chrysler’s universal parts bin. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” product development with their luxury brand. The plan had a promising start with the 300 HEMI C concept, but the production reality was a big sedan with a plastacular interior and Mercedes hand-me-down parts.

Now that Mercedes and Chrysler have divorced, we’re starting to see what a real German-American synergy looks like. For 2015, the Dodge Charger has gone under the knife to look leaner and meaner with a new German transmission. Like my 2000 LHS, this may just be the pinnacle of the Marchionne turn around. It’s big, it’s bold and it’ll make you forget why you stopped to look at that Toyota Avalon last week.

Identify the Competition
The Charger is a segment oddity because it’ll be the only four-door muscle car after the Chevrolet SS drives into the sunset. No, the Hyundai Genesis doesn’t really count – that’s a luxury entry and it’s American cross-shop would be the Chrysler 300. That leaves the Charger to battle the Avalon, Taurus, Impala, Cadenza, Maxima and Azera. (Or, if you buy the Hellcat, a ballistic missile.) Sure, you can compare anything to anything, but the Charger is tough to categorize, so I’ll just focus on this main segment.

Exterior
As the only RWD entry in this segment, the Charger has very different proportions than the rest of the crowd with its ever-so-long hood. Since 2015 is a refresh rather than a redesign, the hard points remain the same as before but the style has been significantly altered and essentially every panel has been changed. I’m not entirely sure that the “Daddy Dart” look up front is the style I would have chosen, but it looks far more grown up than the 2014 model. Out back we get better integrated exhaust tips and a refinement of the Dodge “race track” light strip.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Interior-003

Interior
While the engineers touched every panel on the outside, interior changes are minor. The same 8.4-inch uConnect touchscreen is still nestled in the dash (SE models get a 5-inch screen) and the style is still decidedly retro. On the driver’s side we get a new 7-inch color LCD between the speedometer and tachometer in all models. There are still some hard plastics to be found and the dashboard is a little rubbery, but that places the Charger on equal footing with the Impala while the Avalon and Cadenza have slightly nicer interiors.

FCA reps said that no changes were made to the seat cushion design for 2015, but our tester lacked the pronounced hump found in the 2012 model we last tested, an issue that make me feel like I was sitting on a very large gumdrop.

In a car this big, you’d expect a big booty, but the smallish trunk lid foreshadows the decidedly mid-size trunk at 15.4 cu-ft, 7 percent smaller than a Ford Fusion’s cargo spot and only 15 percent bigger than that of the compact Ford Focus. In general, the full-size car label no longer guarantees large luggage capacity. So, on paper, the Charger’s smallish trunk is fairly competitive with the likes of the Toyota Avalon (14.4) but the Taurus’ ginormous booty will schlep 25 percent more warehouse store bagels. The rear seats fold down to reveal a large pass-thru and the wide and fairly flat rear seats make three baby seats across a tight but entirely doable adventure.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Engine

Drivetrain
SE and SXT models use the familiar 3.6L Pentastar V6 tuned to 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Adding the $1,495 Rallye Group on the SXT adds eight ponies and four lb-ft. This puts the Dodge right in line with the front wheel drive competition in terms of power.

Unlike the competition, the Charger offers some more powerful engines to choose from. Scroll down the spec sheet and you find not one, not two, but three different V8s on offer. R/T and R/T Road and Track trims get the popular 5.7L V8 good for 370 hp / 395 lb-ft, R/T Scat Pack and SRT 392 models make do with a 485 hp / 475 lb-ft 6.4L V8, and if you want to throw caution to the wind there’s a 6.2L supercharged V8 making a whopping 707 horsepower.

8HP

Last year most models had the old Mercedes 5-speed automatic with just some trims getting the new ZF-sourced 8-speed. This year every Charger gets the 8-speed and the difference is eye-opening.

For those of you unfamiliar with the transmission world, ZF is a German company that makes transmissions and licenses transmission designs for a wide variety of performance and luxury cars. You’ll find ZF transmissions lurking under the hoods of twin-turbo V12 Rolls Royces, inline-6 BMWs and AWD Audis, so the Charger is rubbing elbows with some classy company.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track uConnect 8.4.CR2-001

Performance
Not only does the new 8-speed have a lower first gear for improved acceleration, it also has a taller top gear for improved highway economy. If you ever wondered how much difference a transmission alone can make, the Charger is a perfect test case. Last year, the V6 with the 5-speed needed 8.5 seconds to run to 60, this year it’s 7.0 flat, making the V6 Charger competitive with the pack. The 5.7L V8 model was about as fast as the last Maxima at 6.1 seconds. This year, the same engine will do it in 5.0 seconds with the Road and Track rear axle ratio and 5.1 seconds without it. That means the Taurus SHO competitor is no longer the 6.4L V8 but the 5.7L model we’re testing.

Let’s tally this up so we keep this in perspective. The V6 is now competitive with the competition and the 5.7L V8 is now a hair faster than the SHO. What makes the Charger crazy is  we still have two engines left. Add the Scat Pack to the R/T, or choose the SRT 392 and acceleration drops to 4.2-4.3 seconds as long as the tires can find grip. The Hellcat, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is the fastest production sedan with a blistering 2.9 seconds to 60 if you are willing to wear racing slicks and put your life on the line.

An interesting note of trivia is that Charger Pursuit police cars still get ye olde 5-speed with both the 3.6L and 5.7L engines. The reason likely has more to do with the 5-speed automatic’s column mounted shifter in Pursuit guise than any durability benefit.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior-001

Drive
In many of the trims the Charger comes across as “under-tired.” Before you get your flamethrowers out, allow me to explain. The Charger SE is a 4,000lb vehicle riding on low rolling resistance 215/65R17 tires; handling isn’t its forte. The SXT gets 235/55R18 all-season performance tires with a 245-width option. Handling is easily equal to the Avalon despite weighing 500lbs more due to the Charger’s near perfect weight balance. The R/T gets 245/45R20 rubber, which honestly feels a little skinny for 370 hp, especially if you get the Road and Track. On the flip side, it’s easy to smoke your tires if you’re into that. The Scat Pack feels as under-tired as the SE because it adds 115 horsepower, some curb weight and changes essentially nothing else. If you like a car that has a very lively rear end, this is your car. The SRT 392 significantly upgrades the brakes, tires (275/40R20), and suspension and I found it to be well balanced in terms of power vs grip. Then the Hellcat comes along with 222 extra horses and no extra grip. You get the picture.

Under-tired doesn’t translate to less fun – quite the opposite in my book. In fact, the Charger reminded me of the base Mustang and FR-S. Confused? Toyota’s mission with the FR-S was supposed to be a car to explore RWD dynamics without breaking the bank. Know what? That’s actually the Charger. Starting at $27,995, it’s only $1,000 more than an automatic FR-S and $2,000 more than a V6 Mustang with the auto. Unlike the FR-S, you get a power seat, dual-zone climate control, the 7-inch LCD in the gauge cluster, a much snazzier radio, three extra gears in your transmission and usable back seats. Will it dance around an autocross track like an FR-S? No, but you have almost as much fun and still use the car on the school run. Our R/T Road and Track tester was the same sort of thing taken to the next level.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior-003

All versions of the Charger deliver a civilized ride thanks to the well designed suspension and a long wheelbase as much as the size and weight of the vehicle. As with all modern cars, electric power steering sucks some of the fun out of the RWD platform, but the boost is adjustable. And because the front wheels are only responsible for steering, you get considerably more feedback than in the FWD or AWD competition. Despite the heft, braking fade was well controlled, although distances are a little longer than I’d like due mostly to the tire sizes involved.

Compared to the SHO, the Charger has a more polished ride. The SHO has an enormous trunk and a more accommodating back seat. The SHO is all-wheel-drive which gives you better traction, but the Charger has better weight balance and more accurate feel on the road. Compared to the FWD competition, the Charger feels more substantial out on the road, more precise and certainly handles the corners with less drama. There’s no torque steer and surprisingly neutral handling even in the heavier 6.4L models.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior.CR2-005

At $42,265, our model as tested managed to be $1,000 less than a comparable Avalon Limited, $2,000 less than a Cadenza Limited and, although it was slightly more expensive than the Taurus SHO, it had about $1,800 more equipment. The Charger’s discount price tag honestly surprised me. I had expected our tester to be a few grand more than the SHO.

What should you buy?
I’m glad you asked. Skip the V6. What’s the point of going RWD if you’re going to get the V6? I wouldn’t get the 5.7L V8 either. If you like the 5.7, buy the Chrysler 300. It has a nicer interior, a few extra available features and I think the front end is more attractive. I wouldn’t buy the Hellcat either, because I know I’d be “that guy” who wrapped it around a tree 5 minutes after driving it off the dealer lot. I am, however, eternally grateful the engineers created the bat-shit-crazy 6.2L engine because it makes the 485 hp 6.4L HEMI seem like a rational and practical engine choice. When driven very gently on level highway at 65 mph, the 6.4L V8 can deliver 28 mpg thanks to cylinder deactivation. My fuel economy in the 6.4L engine hovered around 18, just 2 mpg shy of the last Avalon I tested (the 5.7L scored 19.5 over almost 700 miles). When driven like you stole it, massive wheel spin, effortless donuts and 4.1 second runs to 60 with one of the best soundtracks money can buy are the order of the day. When your maiden aunt asks why you needed nearly 500 horsepower, you can safely say you didn’t get the most powerful one. With logic like that, how can you go wrong?

FCA provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of fuel for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.05 Seconds

0-60: 5.0 Seconds

1/4 mile: 13.3 @ 114

Average fuel economy: 19.5 MPH over 678 miles

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Housekeeping: Do You Want The “Director’s Cut”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/housekeeping-do-you-want-the-directors-cut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/housekeeping-do-you-want-the-directors-cut/#comments Sat, 22 Feb 2014 18:57:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752209 At TTAC, I take it for granted that most of the B&B have more real-life experience and a better grasp on industry matters than I do. Sometimes, it can be detrimental.   When Road & Track asked me to do a guest post on the slow sales of the Scion FR-S and how it might impact the […]

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At TTAC, I take it for granted that most of the B&B have more real-life experience and a better grasp on industry matters than I do. Sometimes, it can be detrimental.

 

When Road & Track asked me to do a guest post on the slow sales of the Scion FR-S and how it might impact the future course of upgrades for the car, I wrote a 700 word piece going in-depth and explaining many of the granular details behind the economics of the auto industry. My TTAC piece, though well received, was much shorter and skimmed over many of the broader topics.

What I want is for you, the readers, to let me know what course of action you prefer. Should I keep giving you a brief rundown of the topic at hand, assuming that you can fill in the blanks yourselves? Or would you prefer a more fleshed-out “director’s cut” version, even if it’s a topic that is already familiar to you?

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The First-Ever Road&Track Performance Car Of The Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-first-ever-roadtrack-performance-car-of-the-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-first-ever-roadtrack-performance-car-of-the-year/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:18:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=651458 Thirteen cars, from the Ford Fiesta ST to the Ferrari F12berlinetta, met in Michigan two months ago for Road & Track‘s first “Performance Car Of The Year” shootout. Seven were eliminated around the “Motown Mile” concrete airport road course, one died an ignominious death in the hills of Ohio, three made it to the finals, […]

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Thirteen cars, from the Ford Fiesta ST to the Ferrari F12berlinetta, met in Michigan two months ago for Road & Track‘s first “Performance Car Of The Year” shootout. Seven were eliminated around the “Motown Mile” concrete airport road course, one died an ignominious death in the hills of Ohio, three made it to the finals, one was crowned the 2013 #pcoty.

In a nod to the “new media”, the magazine permitted a pair of online-writer controversialists to participate in the event. Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski spent the day at the track with us before jetting off to a Bentley event where the journalists were being allowed to hunt some of Joseph Kony’s child warriors in open-topped Continental GTCs while being force-fed foie gras in a test of meta-irony. (That’s not even remotely close to being true; I think he went home to bathe his golden retriever or something.) You can read his coverage here.

Your humble E-I-C was permitted to attend the whole thing, annoy the other writers, perform a couple of double-yellow passes that will haunt the nightmares of the magazine’s editorial staff for years to come… and, oh yeah, I wrote the story that made the young girls cry. You can read it online if you like, but I’d really prefer that you buy the magazine on the 19th and read it there. Not because I need the money, although I do. It’s more for the fact that this 3,200-word barbaric yawp is meant to be held in your hands and read old-school. There’s very little concession to short attention spans or quick paragraphs. I wanted you to be right there with us as we drove the cars. So buy the magazine, okay?

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Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/four-legs-good-two-legs-better/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/four-legs-good-two-legs-better/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 15:31:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479148 I haven’t seen it yet — my only current magazine subscriptions are The Economist, Vintage Guitar, and Juggs — but I am reliably told that your humble author has two, count ’em, two articles in the newest issue of that well-beloved and august publication, Road&Track. TTAC readers are already comparing me to the Emperor Napoleon […]

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I haven’t seen it yet — my only current magazine subscriptions are The Economist, Vintage Guitar, and Juggs — but I am reliably told that your humble author has two, count ’em, two articles in the newest issue of that well-beloved and august publication, Road&Track. TTAC readers are already comparing me to the Emperor Napoleon as I triumphantly return to color magazines the way Napoleon returned from Elba.

Yes, I said return.

Twenty-two years ago, I began writing for Bicycles Today magazine. In a monthly column entitled “One Racer’s Perspective”, I railed against the excesses of the industry, provided advice for new racers, and exposed the too-cozy relationship between the manufacturers and the color mags. I even wrote a little fiction. Sounds thoroughly familiar, right? Most of all, I campaigned for riders to be given a voice in the sport of bicycle motocross, which at that point was run by an unholy coalition of parents and sunshine-state scam artists.

When BMX Action! became GO! magazine and a fellow pro racer named Chris Moeller took control as editor, he invited me to contribute and I did so… only to see the rag fold before my first column could be printed. Oh well. The first experiment in letting the inmates run the asylum was a failure.

A decade after that unhappy ending, I wrote an angry letter to Car and Driver objecting to their praise of a certain South African kit-car manufacturer. C/D printed the letter and a major online car forum of the era made said letter a subject of discussion. My decision to join that discussion started a chain of events that landed me right here nine years later.

Road&Track is not the first major car magazine to ask me to contribute. I declined for a variety of reasons in the past and when Sam Smith contacted me in August my first impulse was to decline again. Over the course of a couple discussions, however, I became convinced by the three-inch-thick stack of Benjamins Hearst Publications offered me clarity and integrity of Sam’s vision for the mag.

To bring me on as an occasional contributor, Sam not only had to convince me, he had to deal with a firestorm of objections, criticism, and negative reactions from automakers and fellow journalists who have been on the receiving end of my cordovan MacNeils since 2007 or thereabouts. To his credit, he did that and his boss, Larry Webster, stood behind him. They’re still hearing that they’ve made the wrong decision — from people in the business, from the yes-men in the PR cliques, from the whispering cowards at the press events.

If you pick up the April issue of Road&Track, you’ll see that my editorial voice and personal commitment to truth were allowed to shine through without modification or mollification. The comparison test I wrote, which pits the 911 Carrera S PDK against the Lotus Evora S IPS on the back roads of South Carolina, may shock the mag’s regular readers but it won’t shock you.

I will continue to do the majority of my writing right here at TTAC, but I am pleased to note that for the foreseeable future, you’ll also be able to read me at Road&Track. I’m also asking you, the reader, to hold me accountable for what I write here and there. I’m not doing this for the money or the perks; I’ve owned the kind of cars most autojournos have to sign two waivers just to touch and when I want to fly somewhere nice I just take out my wallet. I’m in this business because I believe in truth and I remain deeply passionate about cars. That won’t change.

This experiment that Hearst is trying — that of stacking a color magazine with actual club racers and letting them run wild — may fare no better than Wizard Publications’ decision to let Chris Moeller run BMX Action! I’m hoping that’s not the case. This time, the good guys deserve a win, and I expect to be standing right next to them when it goes up on the scoreboard.

Be seeing you.

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Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Tesla Model S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/never-mind-the-bollocks-heres-the-tesla-model-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/never-mind-the-bollocks-heres-the-tesla-model-s/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:27:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479076 If Elon Musk is still smarting about how much damage the New York Times has done to Tesla, the fledgling automaker can take comfort in the fact that the positive reviews are still pouring in. For example, take a look at this glowing write-up on the Model S from Road & Track’s Jason Cammisa. Although the Tesla’s […]

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If Elon Musk is still smarting about how much damage the New York Times has done to Tesla, the fledgling automaker can take comfort in the fact that the positive reviews are still pouring in.

For example, take a look at this glowing write-up on the Model S from Road & Track’s Jason Cammisa. Although the Tesla’s door handles receive a vigorous and thorough critical assessment, its other flaws are glossed over or simply omitted from consideration. After praising the Model S for  its remarkable driving dynamics, amazing powertrain and homegrown pedigree, Cammisa gets to the real meat of the EV issue – and promptly sidesteps it all.

Set aside the discussion as to whether EVs are actually feasible 
given our overtaxed power grid, and whether our electricity-generating power plants are any more environmentally friendly than a really efficient gasoline engine. Ignore, for a moment, that we don’t know how the Model S will age or how reliable it will be a decade on. Time will answer all of these, as well as the question of whether Tesla itself can stay solvent long enough to survive into maturity. We set them aside with the knowledge that the Tesla S means these discussions will finally be worth having. The Model S is the car that proves that the EV isn’t just viable, but truly desirable.

In my opinion, the above paragraph represents a pulled punch with respect to the real issues surrounding Tesla and EVs. It’s fine to evaluate the performance, aesthetics and build quality of the Model S as one would with any other car, especially in a road test. But 0-60 times and lateral g’s are a small part of the picture here. If EVs do not contribute to a net reduction in carbon emissions, why bother with a powertrain that offers significant compromises over an ICE equivalent? If Tesla cannot keep itself afloat, or if the car will turn into a 4000-lb paperweight in a decade, is buying a Model S a prudent decision? Despite leaving these critical questions unanswered, Cammisa somehow asserts that EVs are in fact “viable” and that these discussions are “…will finally be worth having”.

My question is, why aren’t we having them already, in influential publications like Road & Track? Despite what Cammisa says, we don’t have to wait for time to pass before we know the answers. A bit of intellectual labor can give us a picture of how things will play out. Furthermore a publication like R&T has both the budget and freedom from the daily grind of the blogosphere news cycle to delve into these matters.

Sure, there are a number of agenda-driven entities that propagate bad information and do little to enhance the discourse, but isn’t journalism all about sifting through bad information to find the truth? I’ve been down this road before; when the “scandal” regarding the Tesla Roadster and “bricked” batteries came out early in 2012, TTAC was among the first to call bullshit on the claims of the plaintiffs. The exercise illuminated why doing the “hard work” was so important. This is an era where hearsay can quickly become fact – a dangerous prospect given how much bad information is already floating around out there. The onus is on us as journalists to, well, do our jobs and find out the truth – whether it’s getting to the bottom of a malicious smear campaign against a fledgling startup, or determining the viability of pure EVs outside of the normal “car guy” parameters of going fast and looking cool.

 

 

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