Dodge Charger aims AWD, V-6 at snow

The 2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD sedan.  (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Dodge Charger SXT AWD sedan. (Bud Wells photos)

Dodge on and off over the years has built a strong performance image for its Charger.

It’s been based on Hemi V-8s and rear-wheel-drive power.

Let me tell you, though, with 8 to 10 inches of snow in the streets and frigid air hovering around minus-2 – you can forget all about that.

Another side of the 2015 Dodge Charger emerged as I drove it through all that snow last week.

We were in the new Charger SXT all-wheel-drive edition.

The new Charger at The Other Side restaurant in Estes Park.
The new Charger at The Other Side restaurant in Estes Park.

This SXT is the family sedan side of the Charger, with an excellent AWD system, Pentastar V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission. It performed very well for the deep snow and subzero cold we maneuvered through in northern Colorado, with Michelin all-season tires.

The 292-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 moves the Charger about with ease and the 8-speed automatic is controlled electronically, with a large T-grip handle like those of linkage connection of the past. There are no paddle shifters, though manual mode is available with a quick move of the shifter handle.

The AWD system gripped and churned well, with minimal slip or slide. It’s an effective active transfer case which, innovatively, disengages the front axle when all-four grip is not needed – an effort at improved fuel mileage. The system automatically engages in cold weather, when slip is detected or when wipers are on in wet weather.

The AWD model carries an EPA estimate of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway; my overall average slipped to 20.8 due to all the cold, snow and ice.

A new electric power steering system has replaced the old electromechanical power type. It has three driver-selectable steering modes – eco, comfort and sport – contributing to a more nimble response that, on occasion, belies the car’s large size.

This is a car with a 120-inch wheelbase, 198 inches overall and 4,150 pounds. It is 7 inches longer in wheelbase than the Ford Taurus AWD and 9 inches beyond that of the Buick LaCrosse AWD.

The Charger’s exterior has been refreshed for 2015, with crosshair grille, chiseled and scalloped bodysides. A “racetrack” LED taillight spreads across the entire rear width of the body, similar to that which showed up on the Dodge Durango a year ago.

The full-sized four-door boasts a roomy interior, with wide cloth-covered seats (heated in front), lightly bolstered for long-distance comfort. The heated seats are extremely popular; I seldom use them, though, and would have traded them for a heated steering wheel in a minute. Legroom is sufficient in the rear seat and a good-sized trunk measures out to 16 cubic feet.

Adding to the V-6-powered, AWD-equipped Charger SXT’s family appeal is a large 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment system with navigation maps from Garmin. Bluetooth syncing is part of the package. The screen is easily used, as are the redundant dials beneath the screen.

Base price on the SXT AWD is $32,995; the sticker totals $35,485 with the addition of ivory tricoat pearl paint, the navigation, backup camera and SiriusXM travel link. Automatic headlamps, remote start and dual-zone temperature control are among a long list of standard items.

The Charger serves a younger buyer than does its stablemate, the Chrysler 300. They’re identically sized. Buyers of the Charger, with its performance image, are 10 years younger on average than buyers of the luxurious 300.

The Charger was introduced in the fall of 1965 as a ’66 model and continued production through 1977. Its most popular models were the good-looking, coke-bottle shaped 1968, ’69 and ‘70s. The Charger name was used on a Dodge Omni 024 compact from 1982-87, then discontinued until the 2006 model on the chassis of the Chrysler 300.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Dodge Charger SXT AWD:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 120.2 inches
  • Length 198.4 inches
  • Width 75 inches
  • Height 58.2 inches
  • Curb Weight 4,157 pounds
  • Track 63.4 inches front, 63.8 rear
  • Ground Clearance 4.9 inches
  • Turn Circle 38.7 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.6-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 292/260
  • Transmission 8-speed automatic
  • Steering rack/pinion, electric power assist
  • Suspension front high upper A arm, rear multilink, coils all around
  • Fuel mileage estimate 18/27
  • Fuel mileage average 20.8
  • Fuel Tank 18.5 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Tires Michelin Pilot P235/55/R19
  • Cargo Volume 16.1 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/100,000 powertrain

Competitors Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac ATS, Hyundai Genesis, Kia Cadenza

Assembly Plant Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Parts Content U.S./Canadian 67%, Mexico 20%

Base Price of Lowest Model $28,990; Base Price of Review Model $32,995; Destination Charge $995; Sticker Price $35,485.