Friday, September 23, 2016


BMW OFFERS A PLUG-IN VERSION

OF ITS X5 SUV FOR 2016


BMW has another entry in the plug-in parade with the 2016 X5 xDrive40e midsize SUV, or Sports Activity Vehicle, as BMW prefers.

Frankly, I’m not sure why, but it has naught to do with this particular vehicle. I’m just not a big fan of the craze for plug-in versions of hybrid vehicles. Too much bother for, in many cases, little benefit.

Yes, I understand why some people like them. They’re on the cutting edge of new technology driving around on electric power, which the X5 xDrive40e allows you to do. (For short distances, any way. I’ll get to that later.)

And I get it that if you’re going to have all-electric vehicles, you’ve got to have someway to charge them up.

But overall, I find the plug-ins a big pain.

That has something to do with my garage, which is more of a storeroom than a garage and the power outlet is about as far away from the front garage door as you can get. So when it comes to plugging in an electric car, I have to leave the garage door open and ease the nose of the vehicle as far as I can into the garage (which isn’t very far) so that I can get it as close as possible to the electric outlet.

But more then that, it takes forever to get maximum juice into the battery on regular household outlets.

Which means that if you have a plug-in, you probably should get one of the charging kits that speed up the charging process or at least hope that your place of work has charging stations and they’re not all occupied during the day.


And with the X5 xDrive40e, you’re going through all that to get 14 miles of driving on electric power only. Yes. That is one-four miles on electric power only. Or maybe a couple of miles more or less, depending on how much you’re pushing it. Top speed in electric mode is 75 mph, btw.


The good news with the X5 xDrive40e is that you don’t even have to fool around with plugging it in to enjoy the benefits of the hybrid setup, and you can have fun doing it. With 308 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque from the combination of the 2.0 twin-turbo four-cylinder gas engine and the electric motor going to all four wheels via an eight-speed transmission, the zero-to-60 mph time is 6.5 seconds, according to the company.

That’s quite a performance from a vehicle in this class.

Individually, horsepower and torque from the electric motor, which gets the X5 xDrive40e moving even when you’re not in all-electric mode, is 111 hp and 184 lb.ft., which certainly is a nice kick in the butt when you’re getting out of an intersection. The turbo four gas engine alone is rated at 240 hp and 260 lb.-ft.


As for fuel mileage, in electric mode, the X5 xDrive40e is rated at 56 MPGe, but the gasoline only number is 24 mpg combined city/highway.

As one would expect of a vehicle coming from a company that boasts it builds the “ultimate driving machines,” the X5 xDrive40e is very nimble for a vehicle its size (just over 16 feet long with a curb weight of 5,220 pounds). It is firm through corners yet comfortable when cruising. And quiet.

There’s no question BMW knows how to handle luxury and performance in a good-looking package. Unlike the somewhat bulky, unattractive rear end on its larger sibling, the X6, the X5 xDrive40e looks good from any angle.

But when it comes to operation of the wealth of techno features the company incorporates into its infotainment system, the Teutonic influence on the German mind seems to come into play.

It just seems like in an effort to get where you want to go as far as the navigation, audio, and other systems, you have to make a couple of extra turns of the control knob on the center console to get there, not to mention deciphering what all those symbols on the screen mean and making sure you’ve dialed into the correct one. Apparently, there is no word for “user-friendly” in German. On the plus side, though, the high-resolution screen for the standard navigation system is a generous 10.2 inches.

Pricing for the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e starts at $63,095 including the $995 destination and delivery charge. Among standard equipment are Xenon adaptive headlights, 14-way adjustable heated front seats with four-way lumbar support, panoramic moonroof, power rear liftgate, and the navigation system.


Extras like a cold weather package (heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and retractable headlight washers), a Premium package (BMW’s “comfort” keyless entry, four-zone climate control, and a year’s subscription to satellite radio), and other items (including the rear-view camera which added $400) ran the total for my test vehicle to $71,695.

What I liked about the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e: The performance was more power than you would expect from a hybrid. It’s also a very quiet ride, though I did hear a complaint about the comfort of the passenger seat.

What I didn’t like about the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e: The infotainment system is a bitch to operate and can be very distracting. And there was no AM band on the radio! Yes, I’m the guy who often listens to AM. I like it for sports and news. Some of it is available on the SXM band, of course, but not all the local talk shows are there.

Would I buy the 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e? No. I find the plug-in system too much trouble to bother with for what little you get. Where I live, you reach the 14-mile range pretty quickly. Operation of the infotainment systems also is a deal killer for me. Hey, BMW! Remember benutzerfreundlich! (Darned if there isn’t a word in German for user-friendly.)




Thursday, September 15, 2016




2016 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT

A PLAYER IN THE MIDSIZE SEDAN FIELD


According to a recent story from the Automotive News website, sales of midsize sedans (i.e, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord) are on the wane and could be taken over by compact crossovers (i.e., Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V) by the end of this year.

In fact, the trend is so strong that midsize sedans could actually drop to fourth behind the crossovers, full-size pickups and compact cars by the time all the numbers are in for 2016. Already, RAV4 knocked off the Camry as Toyota’s No. 1 seller for August with 33,171 RAV4s sold to 32,864 for Camry.

The Camry still leads in year-to-date sales 266,746, but the RAV4 is not far behind at 230,942.

(You can check all this out by clicking here for the Automotive News story (subscription required) or here for all the sales figures through August.)

I bring this up now because there is a touch of irony here. As the overall numbers go down, this is probably the deepest field of midsize sedans in quite some time, maybe ever. Many approach entry-level luxury sedans when it comes to styling, quality, and technology while rivaling smaller cars in terms of handling and fuel economy.

The options are myriad, and I’m not talking exclusively traditional segment leaders Camry and Accord here. The Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, and Subaru Legacy are worthy of being on your shopping list as well.


So, too, is the sedan I had last week, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat.

When it showed up in my driveway, I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel because my wife has driven a Passat wagon for several years now and we both like it very much. I was curious to see if the 2016 VW Passat sedan lived up to my expectations, and I’m glad to say it did.

Oh, it’s not perfect (I’ll get into that with my comments on what I liked and didn’t like about it) but I’ll stack it up pretty much against any of its competitors.

As with most German cars, the interior has a luxurious feel to it, not necessarily nicer but bolder than what you find on the models from the other side of the world. At the risk of being labeled a sexist, I’d say the emphasis on the darker interior colors gives off a more masculine ambiance, especially with leather seats that are standard on the top-of-the-line Passat SEL and SEL Premium models.



Built in VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Passat is offered in five trims (S, R-Line, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium), all front-wheel drive with either a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6 under the hood. The 1.8-liter is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and the V6 to a six-speed automated manual (DSG) shiftable with steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The four-banger is rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with estimated fuel economy of 25 miles-per-gallon city, 38 highway, and 29 combined, which the company notes is an improvement of 2 mpg over the 2015 model. Numbers for the VR6, available only on the SEC Premium models, are 280 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque drinking premium fuel at the rate of 20/33/28. Fear not. The company says you can also use regular fuel with the VR6.

The SEL-Premium model I had featured the four-banger, but it certainly didn’t lag when it came to performance. Edmunds.com clocked the 1.8 SEL’s zero-to-60 mp time at 7.7 seconds. Not surprisingly, the VR6 made the trip in over a second quaicker at 6.4.

Pricing for the 2016 VW Passat starts at $23,260 (including the $820 destination and delivery charge) for the 1.8T S models and tops out with an MSRP of $36,835 for the V6 SEL Premium.

The 1.8T SEL Premium I had, which included such standard features as keyless entry with push-button start, navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED automatic headlights, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats with lumbar support, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and lane departure warning systems, Bluetooth communications, and a rear-vision monitor, came in at $35,090.

What I liked about the 2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium: There is a near luxury feel to this car. It handles well, and the ride is comfortable and quiet. You can adjust the radio and A/C blower and temps with knobs on the center stack! Whoopee!

What I didn’t like about the 2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium: The screen for the navigation system is on the small side and it’s not easy to read what’s there at a glance. Responses to the voice commands can be erratic (or maybe that’s just me). Phone calls came in through the system without ringing a couple of times, which I found strange.


Would I buy this car? Yes, and I’d go for the SEL Premium if it was in my budget. If it wasn’t, I would look over one of the lower trims. In any case, forget what you may have heard/read about VW’s fudging on diesel emissions testing. That has nothing to do with the 2016 (or 2017) Passat. 


Thursday, September 8, 2016


YES, ANOTHER AUTO REVIEW, 

BUT THE INFINITI QX50S DEMANDS IT


When I decided to revive this blog, I really didn’t plan to make it always about car reviews, but recently, that seems to be the current trend. Of the 14 blogs before this one, eight were car reviews, and this one will be the fourth in a row.

A couple of reasons for that.

One is that college football season is upon us and writing reports for the Sports Xchange (yes, there “E” at the start is dropped) has impinged on my time. But I expected that and built that factor into my decision to resume the blog in the first place. So that’s no excuse.

Of more import is that recently I really have had the privilege of driving some pretty fine vehicles that have seen significant updates, like the 2016 Infiniti Q50S I had last week. It’s better when you have something new to write about than starting a review with “The Hupmobile is basically unchanged this year from 2015.”

That happens from time to time, of course.

In fact, it happened to the Q50 for 2015. After being introduced as a new model in 2014, essentially taking over the G Series with the company’s new nomenclature (Q for passenger cars, QX for crossovers and SUVs), it was basically unchanged for last year.

For 2016, however, it gets some subtle and some not-so subtle changes. One of the former not obvious to the naked eye is an updated version of the Direct Adaptive Steering system that works out some of the kinks of the previous system and available adjustable suspension dampers. (If you want to know more about DAS, go to www.http://bit.ly/1exOvaN.)


Among the latter are three new turbocharged engines and a new Red Sport 400 model that takes performance to a higher level. It gets the more powerful version of the two 3.0 turbo V6s, upping horsepower to 400 and torque to 350 pound-feet over the 300/295 of the 3.0T and 3.0T Premium trims. The base engine in the 2.0T and 2.0T Premium  is a 2.0-liter turbo four rated at 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive also available on each trim.

There is a hybrid drivetrain available as well. 

All the engines are mated to a seven-speed shiftable automatic transmission. Sport models get extra long paddle shifters mounted on the steering column rather than the steering wheel so they don’t move with the wheel when you turn. Frankly, I’m sure I see a big advantage over having them mounted on the wheel itself, but it’s not a major issue. I have to wonder how many drivers actually use them in normal street conditions. I suspect not many.

My version for the week was the Q50S Red Sport 3.0T 400. With the most horsepower and torque available, driving it was a great experience even when the transmission was set in standard mode. Setting to Dynamic and Dynamic-Plus further enhances the throttle response. For the fuel conscious, there’s also an Eco mode and also a “Personal” mode to suit your style.

Speaking of fuel conscious, EPA mileage numbers for the Q50S are 19 city, 28 highway, 23 combined drinking premium fuel.

Infiniti designers have given the Q50’s cabin an elegant, clean look with lots of gee-whiz technology offered either as standard or in the optional Premium Plus package. The center stack features two screens with the upper one devoted mostly to navigation functions, which also can be adjusted by turning the knob on the center console.


The lower screen is used for some settings for navigation, such as entering a destination, and for other systems such as phone and audio. Hard buttons control climate, making it easier.

I have seen some critics who pan the two-screen approach, but I like it. Too often when everything works off one screen you have to switch from the navigation map to audio to change the radio station. So far, though, I have seen this setup only on Acura and now Infiniti models

Reviewers also picked at the comfort of the seats in the Q50, but the Q50 Red Sport gets eight-way adjustable, leather sport seats with manual thigh extensions and power lumbar and side bolsters, so comfort was not an issue at all with them.


Pricing for the Q50 starts at only $34,855 for the base 2.0T model, but the top-of-line Red Sports starts at $48,855 for RWD models and adds another $2,000 for AWD.

Option packages that add such features as blind spot warning, predictive forward collision warning, front and rear parking sensors, surround view camera (rearview is standard) or Infiniti In-Touch with navigation can add another couple of thousand dollars or so.

What I liked about the 2016 Infiniti Q50S Red Sport 400: I liked that it is big enough to be comfortable while agile and responsive enough to make for a fun driving experience.


What I didn’t like about the 2016 Infiniti Q50S Red Sport 400: The voice command system allows you to push the button again to skip the introductory message and go directly to your command, which is good, but a couple of times it took a second and even third try to get to the correct radio station. At 13.5 cubic feet, the trunk is kind of small.

Would I buy this car? Sure. It’s a nice package of practicality and fun driving experience.





Friday, September 2, 2016


CHEVROLET MALIBU HYBRID TAKES

GENRE UP A COUPLE OF LEVELS


I’ve never been a big fan of hybrids. the gas-electric powered cars that first came to the U.S. from Japan around the turn of this century.

Oh, it’s not like I don’t believe in saving gas, because I do, and it’s not like I’m against technological progress when it comes to automotive drivetrains, because I’m not.

It’s just that I think they have been overhyped and are really just a preliminary step on our way to fully electric vehicles while some Hollywood types seem to think they are the answer to all our fuel issues.

Overhyped because when it comes to fuel saving, newer conventional cars powered by either diesel or gasoline engines are getting mileage figures approaching those of the hybrids, and you have to drive a lot of miles to make up for the premium you have to pay in the hybrid’s higher MSRP. I figured it up several years ago that you would have to drive it at least for five years for it to pay you back.

Frankly, I don’t remember what the fuel prices were back then, but I’m assuming that time period probably has varied over the years and may have been a better deal a few years ago when fuel prices were so high. But now that prices are a bit more reasonable, at least by today’s standards, the savings in fuel costs probably are not as great.

But, someone once pointed out, I’m not buying a hybrid just to save money on gas. I also want to protect the environment because greenhouse gas emissions are much lower with a hybrid than with a conventional sedan.

Yes, but that advantage is somewhat mitigated by the pollution generated in the manufacturing process of hybrids compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. I say “somewhat” because a recent study (see www.howstuffworks.com) shows that if you drive both a hybrid car and a conventional car for 160,000 miles, the conventional car requires more energy and emits more pollutants over its lifetime than the hybrid.

I’m sure you drive your car at least 160,000 miles, right?

I’m not sure how the disposal of the battery pack of the hybrid might figure into this equation, but I really didn’t intend to spend this much time making this point. What I really want to get into here is this:

One of the biggest reasons for my reluctance to jump on the hybrid bandwagon was how funky the first hybrid vehicles to hit the market, i.e. the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius, looked. The Insight looked like something from an old Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serial (check it out at Netflix). The Prius? Let’s just say that once I approached one from behind as I was walking up a slight rise (we don’t have hills in South Florida, unless you count Mt. Trashmores) and was struck by the similarity between the back end of a Prius and the rear of a Pontiac Aztec.

That is not a compliment.

But the good news is that manufacturers have expanded their hybrid portfolios to include real cars, and thus you can buy something like the Chevrolet Malibu with a hybrid drivetrain and not look like a dork behind the wheel.

The Malibu Hybrid was completely redesigned for 2016 and features the same powertrain and technology found on the electric Chevy Volt. No, you won’t drive 40 miles on electric power only, but you will get 47 miles per gallon of fuel in town, 46 on the highway and 46 combined, according to EPA ratings, which is among the leaders for hybrids.


The combination of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors for the Malibu produces 182 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, so it’s not like you’re dealing with a slug when it comes to performance.

The website www.zeroto60times.com lists a clocking of 7.4 seconds for the 2016 Malibu Hybrid. That is actually a tad quicker than the Malibu LT1.5T, which is essentially the Malibu model the Hybrid is based on, and pretty quick for hybrid models in general. They caught the 2016 Prius in a pedestrian 9.6 seconds, which, TV ads to the contrary, I think detracts from its use as a getaway car from a bank robbery.

That alone would likely set the Malibu Hybrid apart from some if its hybrid rivals, but the Chevy has taken the Malibu Hybrid to new heights with its classy interior and sleek exterior profile. Chevy always did have a bold exterior, but the interiors always seemed to spartan.

Not any more.

The Malibu Hybrid’s cabin may fall a bit short of luxury class, but not by much. The new dash gives the impression it was designed with some thought with the 8-inch touchscreen included in the optional convenience and technology package integrated nicely into top of the center stack instead of sticking up in the middle of the dash like an afterthought.

Included in the base MSRP of $27,770 are such standard features as keyless start/stop, 17-inch alloy wheels, Chevrolet’s MyLink system for hands-free operation, rearview camera, dual zone A/C, steering wheel controls for audio, cruise control, and Bluetooth, Apple and Android capability, satellite radio (subscription service), OnStar, and 4G WiFi hotspot.

My test vehicle included several optional packages that added such features as the 8-inch touch screen over standard 7-inch, front and rear parking assist, forward collision alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert with blind spot warning, and wireless device charging, among many other features.


With $875 destination and delivery charge and $745 discount on the leather package, that ran the total MSRP to $32,625.

What I liked about the 2016 Chevy Malibu Hybrid: I was aware I wasn’t behind the wheel of a sports sedan, but never did I feel I was being cheated when it came to performance. The cabin is really nice, and the ride is smooth and quiet. The backseat is pretty roomy for a midsize sedan.

What I didn’t like about the 2016 Chevy Malibu: The trunk capacity is reduced to 11.6 cubic feet because of the battery pack for the hybrid setup. Storage capacity is 15.8 cubic feet for the other trims (L, LS, 1LT, and Premier 1LZ).

Would I buy this car?: If I were in the market for a hybrid, I would give it a long look. But I’m not, so I probably wouldn’t. If I were looking for a family car, I especially would have to think it over because of the reduced trunk size. Thinking of family vacations here with the kids and all their stuff.


Thursday, August 25, 2016




JAGUAR JUMPS INTO LUXURY

SPORTS SEDAN SEGMENT WITH 2017 XE


I’ve always tended to look with favor on new Jaguars, even when they didn’t deserve such recognition.

You don’t have to go all that far back to come to a time when their technology (i.e., navigation and audio systems and the operation thereof) was at least a half-step, if not a full pace, behind that of their competitors, and they were late coming to market with convertibles with tops that automatically folded neatly into an enclosed compartment instead of requiring you to get out and snap in place a tonneau cover.

And then there were the issues like about how Aunt Jane once had a Jaguar and it was always in the shop.



But since Tata Motors bought the famed Brit brand from Ford in 2008, Jaguar seems to have undergone a product revitalization, an example of which is the F-Type coupe and convertible introduced in 2014 and featured in current television ads.

The droptop is unquestionably my favorite Jaguar and one of my favorite luxury cars period.

But Tata didn’t stop there.

With the 2017 Jaguar XE, the company dives into the thick of the compact luxury sedan segment by taking on the traditional leader of the class, BMW’s 3 Series, along with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, and others. If you’re tired of browsing in Teutonic showrooms, the XE gives you a good reason to shop around.

The XE comes in four trim levels (Base, Premium, Prestige, and R-Sport) and with three different engines offered for each, starting with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (240 horsepower, 251pound-feet of torque) and including a 2.0-liter turbodiesel (180 hp, 318 lb.-ft).



The XE Prestige 35t model I had for the past week came with a 3.5-liter supercharged V6 that is shared with the F-Type and tops the power range at 340 hp and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. It scoots from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, according to company clockers, and I have no reasons to doubt their numbers. With optional all-wheel drive, it’s a tenth of a second quicker. (Times for the smaller-engine 25t model is 6.5 seconds and for the diesel 7.8.)

All the engines are mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddles or put in Sport mode for some extra punch.

Fuel efficiency for the four-banger is listed as 21 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 24 combined. For the 35t, it’s the same with RWD models and 20/29/23 with AWD. Jaguar hasn’t released numbers for the diesel and they aren’t available at www.fueleconomy.gov, but they’re expected to be better than those for the gasoline models.

I’ve always liked the exterior styling of Jaguars. They have a very distinctive look about them that sets them apart from their competitors. You never have to check out the badging to confirm it’s a Jaguar.

That’s certainly true with the 2017 XE. Though it doesn’t have traditional Jaguar cat leaping from the hood — the company opted instead to go with its other signature logo, the Growler, in the front grille, the all-new XE isn’t going to be confused with any other make from any other manufacturer.

Inside, the Jaguar XE has a distinctive look as well, thanks in part to the rotary dial gear selector that rises from the center console when the start/stop button is pushed. The cabin is uncluttered, which is both good and bad. It takes a bit of time to get used to how the various infotainment features are operated, and the navigation map kept asked me to log in to my account, which I didn’t have. Response to voice commands was about average. Overall, though, the systems aren’t overly complicated to operate, and they’re a big improvement over what Jaguar offered a decade or so ago.



The ambiance of the interior is very classy, and the front seat is rather cozy. The backseat? Well, three passengers supposedly fit back there, but I’d hate to be the person in the middle. Truck space is on the generous side with a capacity of 15.9 cubic feet.

Pricing for the XE 25t (2.0 turbo) starts at $34,900. MSRP for the diesel version is $36,400. The 35t (3.0 supercharged) starts at $41,700.

The 35t Prestige model I had included optional Vision (HID headlights, headlight power wash, high beat assist, front and rear park assist, blind spot detection and reverse traffic detection) and Technology (10.2-inch touchscreen, navigation, surround sound, and Wi-Fi) packages with a base price of $45,600. Add the destination and delivery and total charges were $46,595.



What I liked about the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t Prestige: It’s beautiful on the outside and comfortable on the inside. Especially when set in Dynamic and Sport mode, its responses are quick and deliver a true sports sedan performance.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t Prestige: The infotainment system could be simpler to operate. A dial to flip through radio stations, for instance, would be a good addition. Somehow, I hit something that turned off the radio, and it took a while to figure out how to get it back on. Kind of reminded me of the time several years back and I accidentally turned off the audio on a BMW and I ended up pulling over and stopping the car and turning off the engine to start all over to get it back on.

Would I buy this car: Yes. It’s at least worth a look, especially if you are looking for something distinct from the usual BMW-Mercedes-Audi mold.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016



DODGE CHARGE R/T MATCHED 

WITH DODGE CHARGER HELLCAT


One of the last reviews I wrote for examiner.com this summer was on the Dodge Charger Hellcat. This is the vehicle that dropped a virtual nuclear bomb in the horsepower wars a couple of years ago by putting a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 under the Charger’s hood. At 707 horsepower, it became the most powerful sedan in the world.

With 650 pound-feet of available torque, the Hellcat zips from zero-to-60 mph in well under four seconds, and the website torquenews.com has reported a time actually quicker than that —  just 2.9 seconds.

Of course, there was more to the review than horsepower numbers and I really would like to give you a link to it. When they pulled the plug on examiner.com recently, however, they really pulled the plug and it’s not available any more. Maybe the Russians can find it.

The Charger Hellcat is well-equipped with lots of extras thrown in and roomy as well. One thing I noted in my review was that even with all those power, the Hellcat with its five-passenger capacity still could serve as a “family car,” though one not particularly fuel efficient.

But it also carries a base price tag of nearly $66,000 which, let’s face it, is a lot of money for a Dodge no matter how refined and fast it may be.

But you don’t have to spend that much to get the Charger’s Muscle Car looks and performance that lives up to the image.

Take the Charger R/T Blacktop I had this past week.



It’s equipped with a 5.7-liter naturally aspirated HEMI V8 that is rated at 370 horsepower and 395 lb.-ft. of torque that will scoot you from zero-to-60 in the neighborhood of five seconds, which is a sports-car like number in a full-size sedan. It carries a base MSRP of $34,890 (including destination and delivery), which is roughly half of what the Hellcat will set you back. (OK. A little more than half.)

(For the record, a couple of other Charger trims come with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that produces 485 horsepower with 475 lb.-ft. of torque going to the rear wheels, and the base SE and SXT trims come with a standard 3.6-liter V6 with ratings of 292 hp and 260 lb.-ft. — 300 and 264, respectively, with the Rallye Group package included.)

Fuel consumption for the 5.7-liter HEMI is rated at 16 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, and 19 combined, which according to the car’s computer is right at the numbers I was getting for my week. Mid-grade fuel is recommended, but Dodge says that regular is acceptable. Numbers for the Hellcat are 13/22 and premium fuel is recommended, so you come out a little ahead there as well.

All the engines, by the way, are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection capable via steering wheel-mounted paddles.

The R/T comes with a pretty wide variety of standard features, like anti-lock disc performance brakes, sport suspension, electronic stability and traction control, hill start assist, automatic headlamps, keyless Go system with push-button start, Dodge’s UConnect system with an 8.4-inch screen to operate telematic funcions, voice commands, and dual zone A/C.

My test vehicle had some option packages that added such features as a Beats Premium sound system, leather seats, HID projector headlamps, ventilated front seats and heated second-row seats, rear backup camera, park-assist system, and the Blacktop appearance package that features 20-inch polished and black painted aluminum wheels, black trim touches inside and out, navigation, and a leather-wrapped performance steering wheel.

Oh. And a black painted roof.

That ran the total MSRP to $41,070, which is still quite a bit less than what the Hellcat will set you back. Can you accept getting to 60 mph a couple of seconds slower? I can for that.

What I liked about the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Blacktop: The looks are outstanding, and the performance is among the best, and not just in power. Handling is very nimble, and the quiet ride is firm but not overly stiff. The interior has been seriously upgraded with the cheap plastics of past cabins long gone. Backseat passengers can get 40.1 inches of legroom, only 1.7 inches less than those in the front. Trunk capacity is 16.5 cubic feet, which matches what you find in most others in the segment, including the Chrysler 300. Navigation, audio, etc. are very easy to operate.


What I didn’t like about the 2016 Dodger Charger RT Blacktop: Visibility is somewhat restricted by the large rear pillars and small rear windows. Seats could provide more support. A little more in the way of fuel economy would be nice, but if you want that performance, you’ve got to sacrifice something.


Would I buy this car: Yes. The R/T is as fun to drive as the Hellcat (more economical, too) and leaves you a lot more money to spend on extras.