A couple months back I was invited to book the 2019 Dodge Charger SXT from Montreal's press fleet. The all-wheel-drive option with this trim is apparently a new offering from Dodge, though I'm sure I've seen this combination available on previous model years. Either way I was ready to strap in for an action-packed week with Mopar's full-size performance sedan.
With recent vehicles we've driven from FCA we've found that most, if not all the goodies are available to option on even this entry-level trim, and sure enough they were. In fact the $50,865.00 (CAD) MSRP for this Charger bring it seriously close in price to the Scat Pack 392 SRT, without the 485 horsepower, 475 lb-ft of torque V8 engine. The SXT might come well equipped for this price with most of the major packages selected, including the Technology Package, Plus Group, and more (totalling $8,620 in options), but its AWD is apparently the strong selling point for it.
Powered by Chrysler's tried-and-true 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine, outputting 300 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque, this Charger is about as fast as the 2018 Chevrolet Impala we featured and the outgoing Ford Taurus. The 8 Speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission is a nice plus, helping with fuel economy considering the mass this engine has to push around. We achieved 7.8L per 100km on our 100km test loop, and 10.2L/100km during our 671km week with the Charger. Not bad numbers mind you, however we developed our test loop after featuring the Impala, so we have no other vehicles to base our results against.
But here's the thing about the Charger and what it represents for FCA. Full-size sedans are going by the wayside in favour of larger crossovers and SUVs. Manufacturers like Ford and GM and ending production in North America for their models, while other manufacturers like Toyota are trying to re-position vehicles like the Avalon for new buyers. The Charger hasn't evolved, and it shows. Aside from being more expensive than both Ford and Chevrolet's offerings (although AWD is unique for the Charger), the driving dynamics for this vehicle left a lot to be desired.
In fact I'd go as far as to say that the Charger is one of the least inspired drives I've had since we featured the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. The overall handling of the Charger was sloppy, giving me very little confidence to take it around corners at any real speed. I hope the heavy duty suspension used on the Charger Pursuit has a tighter feel to it, as I find it hard to believe our nation's police forces actually enjoy using these cars while on duty.
Luckily the performance wasn't too bad with the V6 AWD option on this SXT. With Dodge's Performance Pages through the Super Track Pack we could accurately report the 6.9 seconds this Charger took to get from 0 to 100km using the launch control system. You're able to set the launch rpms up to 2,300 (which is recommended by us) and live life a quarter mile at a time, as long as you don't mind waiting a while over the SRT variants. 6.9 seconds isn't bad for a vehicle this size with a V6 engine, but that brings me to my second major dislike about this vehicle, it's raison-d’être.
I understood the 2018 Dodge Challenger GT AWD we featured early last year, coming in around $43,000 Canadian you got the looks and styling of the iconic muscle car, with the performance and peace-of-mind from an all-wheel-drive system. Since you can't find much else in the market that offers what the Challenger does, it made sense. But there are so many excellent vehicles available at the $50,000 price point that makes me question why the Charger still exists as a 'average car-buyer's' vehicle.
The Kia Stinger comes to mind right away when I think of a great way to spend $50k. Most crossovers will also fit the bill for car buyers looking at the space and power the Charger SXT has to offer. The interior space on the Charger wasn't all the great considering it's a full-size sedan, with plenty of headroom and shoulder room to fit the bill, but rear seat legroom felt smaller than something like the 2018 Volkswagen Passat.
But the Charger isn't all bad. FCA's dynamic packaging and options allow buyers to get the exact vehicle they want, optioning things like a sunroof on it's own for those who really don't want one. The Uconnect infotainment system is still one of our favourite systems available in the consumer segment, providing much better functionality and processing speed over the system we used in the 2017 Grand Cherokee. The design of this generation Charger is also seriously good, especially with the facelift.
But I couldn't find enough reasons to like this car based on the price and overall power, not to mention the lackluster handling and ride. Personally I'd spend the extra $2,000 and get the Scat Pack 392 SRT, at least putting some power and handling behind the solid looks of the Charger, at the expense of all the premium bells and whistles like ventilated front seats and adaptive cruise control. Furthermore I'd recommend looking at a used Charger Pursuit if you absolutely need AWD in a Charger with a V8 HEMI. Prices for newer Pursuits are very affordable in the used market, and would also be my suggestion over this.
Either Chrysler needs to revisit the chassis and underpinnings of the Charger, finally building something new from the ground up that isn't based on a 90s Mercedes E-Class, or drop the price to attract buyers away from crossovers. I'd be a lot more content with this Charger if our as-tested MSRP was closer to that of the Challenger. I'd also have been a lot happier with the original MSRP if the vehicle handled as well as it looked, but the driving dynamics just weren't there. It felt a lot more like my 1983 Ford LTD Crown Victoria than anything made post 2010.
We're hoping to revisit the Charger later this year in SRT format to see if more power and better handling can help us understand this car, but for now we're going to be passing on Dodge's full-size sedan in favour of almost anything else on the market.
You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2019 Dodge Charger SXT AWD here: