Wednesday, August 17, 2016



One of the last reviews I wrote for 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 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 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.

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