The Truth About Cars » SXT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:27:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » SXT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Review — Four-Door Pony Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-dodge-charger-v6-awd-review-four-door-pony-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-dodge-charger-v6-awd-review-four-door-pony-car/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1110169 Looking at all the full-size sedans available in America is certainly a case of “one of these things is not like the other.” Dodge’s latest iteration of the LX-platformed, rear-wheel drive sedan sticks out like a sore thumb covered in beer and barbecue sauce. The freshly facelifted, second-generation new Charger (it’s the seventh generation overall to use […]

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13)

Looking at all the full-size sedans available in America is certainly a case of “one of these things is not like the other.” Dodge’s latest iteration of the LX-platformed, rear-wheel drive sedan sticks out like a sore thumb covered in beer and barbecue sauce.

The freshly facelifted, second-generation new Charger (it’s the seventh generation overall to use the nameplate) is exactly what I want in a pony car with four doors: mean looks, lots of power and a suspension more tuned for going in a straight line than around corners.

But, I am not going to say its better than the new Maxima — another full-size(-ish) sedan that makes a sporty claim. Actually, it’s definitely not as good as the Maxima.

And I couldn’t care less.


The Tester

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD SXT w/ Rallye Pack

Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6, direct injection (292/300 [Rallye Group] horsepower @ 6,350 rpm, 260/264 [Rallye Group] lbs-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 18 city/27 highway/21 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 21 mpg, approx. 75 percent highway

Options: RALLYE Group, AWD Premium Group, Technology Group, Navigation/Rear Back­-Up Camera Group, Redline Tri­Coat Pearl exterior paint, Black Painted Roof.

As Tested (U.S.): $45,570 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $48,975 (sheet)


While the 2015 Charger is considered by most to be a facelift and not another notch on the generational headboard, the latest iteration brings with it enough change to completely ignore the 2014 model year should you find one of that particular vintage new (or used with 10 miles on the clock) hanging around a local Dodge dealer. Even with a steep discount, I’d be hard-pressed to spring for the previous model.

In addition to the wildly different front-end design, all Chargers now get an 8-speed, ZF-sourced automatic transmission as standard no matter the driveline or engine choice. From SE to Hellcat, everyone gets an 8-speed transmission — unless you’re a cop. Inside, materials are improved along with upgrades to the three-spoke steering wheel and 7-inch, IP-mounted display.

This is as close as you can get to a whole new generation. The only thing missing is a new platform. That isn’t due to arrive until 2018.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

Exterior
Ditching the mildly dumpy headlights of the pre-facelift models, the Charger now sports some sharp eyeliner in the form of LED strips following the edge of the housing. The new lights, along with an updated grille and surrounding sheet metal, finally give the Charger a refined front fascia.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (7 of 13)

The rear offers up Dodge’s signature racetrack lighting — which would still be cool if designers at FCA didn’t stick the same element on the lowly Dart (I can forgive them for the Durango). A tail end that tapers inward the lower you look doesn’t give the Charger the most menacing look from behind, at least in this tester’s AWD configuration. Also, if you look closely at the picture above, you can plainly see some panel misalignment going on. I’d love to say the Charger is a quality product — because it feels it and looks it almost everywhere else — but misaligned panels are something that should have been eliminated eons ago with robots and lasers. This is just sloppy work. Damn Canadians.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (10 of 13)

However, those aren’t the worst parts of the Charger’s design. When you get to the side profile, you are greeted by what looks like a Chinese-knock-off Nike swoosh molded into the sheet metal. I think the Charger would look a lot better with a simple body line — or, better yet, nothing at all — to eliminate distraction from a silhouette that easily casts the meanest shadow in the segment.

Another thing you will notice as you stare at its side: the wheels and fender-to-wheel offset. On all-wheel drive models, the Charger is shod with 19-inch wheels instead of the 20 inchers seen equipped with many other trims. Sadly, 19s almost look too small on the Charger, and the fender gap and body offset at the rear looks … weird.

Even with all its foibles, it somehow works together — but only just. It’s like a collection of Lego pieces from different sets being used to build something with a modicum of imagination. And it looks angry — as it should for a car that’s available with a 707-hp supercharged V8.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (12 of 13)

Interior
At first glance, our tester’s interior is downright garish. The leather seat and door inserts are colored a faded red that doesn’t match in the slightest with the shade of red worn by the car’s exterior panels. The leather itself, while it might be high quality, looks downright cheap due to the color. Thankfully, this particular interior is a Rallye Group option and can be replaced with simple black.

However, what’s not so good is a sense of cheapness exacerbated by certain leather panels that fit a bit looser than they should. I’ve seen this particular issue with leather in modern Chrysler products before — specifically the much-improved Chrysler 200 — and it makes the seats look like they’re wearing clothes one size too big.

Beyond the leather, the seats themselves offer significant support at this trim level, providing comfort for short city jaunts and long, cross-country drives. As I plodded my way down the highway on a late-night drive I took last week (which you will learn about a little later today), there wasn’t a single moment where I thought to pull over and take a break to stretch. Even the sole stop on the drive was of the drive-thru variety (you better believe it was Tim Hortons) and not a park-get-out-and-walk stop.

Aside from the seat and door leather, the look and the touch of the materials are high quality and there didn’t seem to be any fitment issues. My only complaint — if you can even call it that — is whatever material and pattern used for the dash topper seems to attract and holds on to dust like it’s a precious mineral. Wiping the dash with a microfiber cloth makes the issue worse as the soft-touch plastic grips to the cloth and holds onto its fibers.

Controls are well laid out thanks to large knobs and buttons for primary HVAC and audio controls, such as temperature, fan speed and stereo volume. It even has a tuning knob like the good ol’ days of 13-channel television sets.

The rear of the Charger offers just enough room to be borderline comfortable for full-sized adults. With myself plunked in the driver seat and my similarly-tall roommate sitting just aft of me, we had not an inch to spare between us, but I didn’t have to sacrifice my driving position either.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (11 of 13)

Infotainment
I like almost everything about uConnect — except for the name. Chrysler’s infotainment system, with its large navigational icons placed at the bottom of an 8-inch touchscreen, is one of the best in the business and easily beats those found in the new Maxima, non-Classic Impala and beige-a-tron Avalon.

The Charger also features another high-resolution display sitting between the speedometer and tachometer, offering up vital information for fuel economy, audio, navigation and a multitude of other pages you aren’t likely to spend much time using. The controls for navigating the pages displayed on the IP screen are mounted on the steering wheel and are dead simple to operate — just four arrow buttons and an OK button in the middle.

The tester also came equipped with the optional Beats by Dr. Dre 10-speaker audio system. When you are listening to audio from SiriusXM or your iPod over USB or Bluetooth, you aren’t going to hear much difference between this and other “premium” branded systems from competitors, but if the audio system is the deciding point of buying or not buying a Charger, you’re doing it wrong. That said, my untrained ear didn’t complain about the quality of tunes emanating from the system’s speakers.

Drivetrain
Considering the Charger can be had with the iron sledgehammer that is the 6.2-liter Hellcat V8, choosing a V6 to power your Charger seems like it might not be quite enough to motivate the large sedan. However, at least with our up-rated Rallye Group model, the 300-hp V6 was quite capable of throwing me back in my seat. While the Maxima might have more power thanks to its 3.5L V6, the Charger V6 sends its power to the back — or front and back, in this case — of the car through a real transmission with actual gears.

That transmission — the eight-speed ZF automatic — is great for fuel economy, but it isn’t the best when it comes to drivability. If you want a truly smooth transmission in your next large sedan, get an Impala. If you want a little kick in the backside as you hold mid-throttle going down the highway, stay with the Charger.

You’d think because the Maxima’s V6 is attached to a CVT that it would be the worse sounding option. Yet, thanks to the jesters at Bose, the Maxima pipes a nice engine note into the cabin. The Charger relies on a good, old-fashioned exhaust note to deliver the noise through all its sheet metal. With the Pentastar V6, the audible theater is somewhat underwhelming when at full trot. The engine itself even sounds a little tiny and rattly. I’m sure that can be easily remedied with two extra cylinders, though.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (4 of 13)

Drive
Since the re-emergence of the Charger during the days of Daimler’s rein, Dodge’s go-to for easy fleet sales has slowly improved to become a valid contender for your hard-earned retail dollars.

To make sense of it, you really need to put it up against the Maxima — even if Nissan doesn’t think they are head-to-head competitors.

For one, the Nissan is the more sporting offering, at least when you are pitting apples-to-apples with available V6 models. While the Maxima will hug a turn and is not likely to get upset by road imperfections during your apex, the Charger still delivers a significant amount of rear suspension judder when passing over expansion joints and the like. You can easily feel the rear of the car come around in those events, albeit slightly, and it is only unsettling until you get used to it and know nothing will happen to you.

Also, Nissan brings all the Maxima’s handling prowess to the table thanks to some well-programmed computers monitoring your every input so it can make active adjustments to brakes and other control systems. The Charger: a sport button that changes the shift mapping and some other simple things easily handled by the ECU. There’s absolutely nothing fancy going on here, and it shows in the handling.

If you are looking for a driver-oriented cockpit, the Maxima wins this round as well, with an interior feeling very similar to the CTS Vsport in the way it encapsulates you. The Charger is much more open up front and lets you put your hand on the leg of the lady next to you.

But, there is no final nail in the coffin in this Charger vs. Maxima debate. The ride in the Charger is much more plush, though that might be down to the high-sidewalled tires of our tester. Also, infotainment and other controls are much more easily learned and utilized in the Charger. It’s certainly a get-in-and-go kind of car as every control is exactly where you think it should be … except the truck-style footwell emergency brake.

The final verdict: if you want a “four-door sports car”, get the Maxima. If you want a “four-door pony car” with a comfortable ride and minus all the technological gimmickry, go with the Charger.

I know I will.

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Review: 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT [Updated Interior] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-2010-dodge-caliber-sxt-updated-interior/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-2010-dodge-caliber-sxt-updated-interior/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 16:42:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350204 For a moment, turn away from the uncertain prospects of Chrysler’s Fiat-directed future and consider the subject of this review as nothing other than one entry in the popular five-door hatchback segment of the North American compact car market. That’s what I had to do, anyway, in order to rationalize driving and writing about a […]

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For a moment, turn away from the uncertain prospects of Chrysler’s Fiat-directed future and consider the subject of this review as nothing other than one entry in the popular five-door hatchback segment of the North American compact car market.

That’s what I had to do, anyway, in order to rationalize driving and writing about a vehicle that a lot of folks would justifiably consider to be a loser car from a loser car company. The question is, is it really?

Regardless of whether or not the 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT is a loser, one thing’s for sure: it’s a goner, as a Fiat-sourced replacement will be phased in somewhere within Chrysler’s multi-brand lineup over the next five years. That doesn’t matter to the compact hatchback customer who’s looking for cheap-but-new (and ostensibly dependable) wheels today, though. Fortunately, the Italian corporate shot-callers decided to make Dodge’s current contender in this market a little more tolerable by giving it a new interior for 2010, something the dealer source I spoke with said was the result of a $500 per car endowment from Fiat that tasked Chrysler with improving the vehicle without raising its price.

Alleged interior improvements notwithstanding, the exterior remains the visual equivalent of what a Star Trek-type transporter might yield if it malfunctioned and disastrously reassembled the molecules of a car, a truck, and a small crossover in one, horrible mutant of glass, steel, and plastic. The Ram-tough grille treatment looks just as out of place on a frugal compact as it did when the Caliber first appeared, and the panel seams where the sides of the car meet the roof are still covered with cheap, gray (“pre-faded black”?) plastic strips that look just as contrived as the over-sized comic-book-looking head- and taillight elements.

Happily, things improve inside, as Fiat’s stop-gap money appears very well spent. Borrowing most – if not every – premium interior cliché from the last ten years, Chrysler engineers have thankfully imbued the cabin with niceties such as chrome-ringed gauges, a decent steering wheel, and better upholstery throughout. Soft-enough-touch materials abound, and the new console houses a touch-screen entertainment center with decent ergonomics and features that are at least class-competitive. (My favorite: one touch rippage of all songs from a CD onto the internal 30-gig hard drive.) There’s also a (parked-mode only) DVD player. All this audio-hippery would be cooler if audio phasing was better, but overall, the system doesn’t sound bad.

The “not bad” theme continues as you contemplate the interior’s functionality. Given the comparative popularity of small sedans in the compact market today, it’s a fair bet that most hatchback buyers are looking for enhanced utility. Here the Caliber really delivers, with a fold-down (and reclining) rear seat that reaches near-flat status, a plastic-backed flip-forward front passenger’s seat, and headroom that’s every bit as ample as Jessica Simpson’s [insert favorite body part here]. Far and away, though, the Caliber’s most noticeable bit of interior redemption is it’s rear cargo area. Flash-covered plastic panels that looked like shipping-duty refugees have given way to much better looking, thicker equivalents, and the flimsy floor panel covering the temporary spare has been ditched in favor of a substanital mouse-fir-covered, multi-piece unit that, according to the manufacturer, can hold up to 250 pounds.

But don’t put 250 pounds back there (or much more than that, anyway), because an already-taxed 158-horsepower 2.0-liter four banger will only seem less impressive as you urge it forward. Even though throttle response is pretty good, you’ll quickly realize that there’s just not much there, other than maybe a disturbing resemblance to early Saturn fours in the (lack-of) smoothness department. If not for a very capable CVT that dutifly keeps this thrashy sewing machine within easy driving distance of its torque peak, the engine’s NVH alone would be a good reason not to buy this car. At one point, I lifted the hood while the engine was running. Closing my eyes, I was instantly transported to a 1970’s office building where I was surrounded by a typing pool filled with fast-fingered secretaries pounding away at their IBM Selectrics. Somewhere (probably at a race track) there are louder fuel injectors, but I’ve haven’t heard them.

What I have heard are comments from lots of regular Caliber rental customers involving driving dynamics that don’t do diddly to dissuade derrogatory discourse. And I see why. Ever serve on a team or work group that couldn’t agree on anything? Just pretend that Congress was responsible for the Caliber’s chassis setup and you’ll fully comprehend the way the car rides and drives.

Let’s start with the least-offensive part: The steering – though a little light – seemed decently responsive but had a real “artificial” feel that I would associate with some of the lesser-quality electric power steering systems I’ve encountered. Except that the Caliber’s system is hydraulic. Oh well, at least the ratio seemed well-chosen.

But the really horrible part of the Caliber’s driving dynamics involves the complete disharmony between the springs/dampers (extraordinarily mushy) and the 17-inch tires (bone-jarringly stiff). The rock-ribbed construction and hard, brittle compound of the ill-chosen rubber neither gripped nor glided, yet I was able to count no less than three Town Car-worthy up-and-down motions after a hitting a medium-sized pothole at 45 MPH thanks (or no thanks) to the big-car-from-the-Sixties suspension tune.

At this point, I turned on the radio (to drown out the road noise produced by the awful tires). But even the shrill tones of Lady Gaga were no match for the sound I made when I nearly rear-ended a Bimmer in traffic after expecting that the Caliber’s brakes might actually perform like those fitted to other modern automobiles. The vague ineffectiveness of this car’s binders is simply inexcusable. Ever driven a vehicle equipped with high-performance, high-heat range brake pads early in the morning when they’re cold and require excessive pedal effort and increased stopping distance? If so, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this mass-market, garden-variety little Dodge hatchback on a daily basis. In other words,the Caliber’s brakes are bad…almost scary bad.

But is the whole car bad?

I remember Dan Rather once saying, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that he didn’t believe Bill Clinton was a liar, because, “I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”

Debate that statement all you want, but I can’t help but apply similar logic to the Caliber: I believe a car can have a number of serious flaws but still be a decent car. Sure, the cons outweigh the pros by a ton here, and yes, the Caliber is a dying model from a seemingly dying brand built by a company with a still-uncertain future. But for the right customer – one who only has $17,320 (as my moon-roofed tester stickered for after three grand worth of incentives)…and who needs a dependable, new hatchback – I think the Caliber might be…certainly not the best choice…but at least a decent one.

One thing’s certain, though: Chrysler derived the maximum bang for their meager upgrade buck by investing in a nicer interior for this wayward little hatchback. If gradual product improvements as effective as this one become consistent year after year throughout the company’s entire product line, maybe Chrysler’s future won’t look so bleak after all.

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