If we had to pick the quintessential full-size American sedan, we’d likely look no further than the 2013 Dodge Charger. Like the sedans that roamed the American landscape for decades, it remains true to the front-engine, rear-drive layout that defined Detroit’s products for most of the 20th century (though the current Charger can be had in all-wheel drive, too). It also looks good, thanks in part to a recent styling update, and Dodge has graced the Charger with some significant content improvements in recent years.
The Charger gives buyers a fair number of models to choose from, ranging from the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6-equipped SE base model (which is a big step up from the Charger’s previous point of entry) to the range-topping, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8-equipped SRT8, which delivers 475 horsepower worth of smoky burnout potential. In between are the SXT and R/T trim levels, which come with a 3.6-liter V-6 and a 5.7-liter V-8 engine, respectively. Both can be ordered with all-wheel drive, broadening the car’s appeal to those living in snow-belt states.
Which to choose depends on your needs, budget and expectations. Previously, the entry level Charger felt more like a rental car than one you’d actually commit to owning, but that’s no longer the case with the current SE version. The Pentastar V-6 (which is also used in the SXT trim level) puts out a respectable 292 horsepower and comes mated to a smooth-shifting ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox (standard on SXT trim, a recommended option on SE trim). The combination delivers up to 31 mpg on the highway, which is even more impressive given the Charger’s size.
If you believe that full-size American sedans need a V-8 under the hood, chances are the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 Charger R/T is the car you want. It makes a healthy 370 horsepower, though comes only mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. As a result, fuel economy in the R/T drops to 25 mpg on the highway, but the trade-off is a 0-60 mph time of under 5.5 seconds.
The muscle sedan of the family, however, is the SRT8. Its 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 is good for 475 horsepower, which propels it from 0-60 mph in a mere 4.6 seconds. Like the R/T, the sole transmission is a five-speed automatic, and fuel economy drops to 23 mpg on the highway. On the plus side, the Charger SRT8 isn’t just a one-trick pony; sure, it’s impressively fast in a straight line, but it’s also ready, willing and able to tackle twisty roads with remarkable composure. Set the adjustable-damping suspension on its firmest setting, and the Charger SRT8 will surprise even the most jaded sport-sedan aficionados with its unexpected prowess, and the SRT engineers deserve recognition for their work here.
The cabin is a big improvement across the board, too. Previous Chargers were likely purchased in spite of their interiors, but with the recent refresh we expect many will be sold because of the interior. It’s tastefully executed, with higher-grade materials used throughout and a higher level of build quality readily apparent. There’s ample headroom and reasonable leg room for all passengers, and seats are wide and supportive.
The Charger is a safe car, too, earning five stars in NHTSA crash tests and a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Available safety features also include a rearview monitor, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection.
For a complete look at the 2013 Dodge Charger, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection