2020 Dodge Charger

By April 24, 2020

Not many cars have lasted as long as the brazenly American Dodge Charger sedan, which debuted as a 2005 model. Even more notable, that feat has been accomplished with a significant redesign. Regular updates to the list of engine choices are one big reason for its longevity and its continued relevance.

The 2020 Dodge Charger adds a Widebody variant for the Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat models. In fact, the Hellcat is only available in Widebody form now. Like similar offerings on the two-door Challenger, the Widebody versions are 3.5 inches wider, with exaggerated fenders to accommodate bigger tires, which also improves roadholding. At the rear, sculpted aerodynamic bumper elements make the wide fenders flow into the basic body design.

The Hellcat is also available in a limited Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition. This model gains 10 horsepower and incorporates 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, “Daytona” and “392” decals, and Daytona-logo leather/Alcantara seat upholstery. Only 501 will be produced.

Engine choices start with a workhorse V-6 and continue with three distinct V-8s. For the genuine Charger experience, V-8 power is almost a necessity.

In the rear-wheel-drive Charger SXT and GT models, buyers will find the proven 3.6-liter V-6 with 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. With all-wheel drive, the V-6 in GT models yields 300 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. The V-6 mates with an 8-speed automatic transmission, known to be responsive and efficient.

Standard in the R/T, the 5.7-liter V-8 produces 370 hp and 395 lb-ft. The 8-speed automatic is the sole transmission, and all-wheel drive is unavailable. Stepping up to the R/T Scat Pack brings a 6.4-liter V-8 that generates 485 hp and 475 lb-ft.

For the no-holds-barred Charger experience, the SRT Hellcat unfurls a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that whips up 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. So powerful it is, the Hellcat includes a dual-key ignition system. Using the “black key” limits output to a mere 500 hp, in an attempt to constrict the adventurous nature of valets or young drivers.

Gas mileage varies widely by engine, from reasonable with the V-6 to awful with the SRT Hellcat’s V-8. With rear-wheel drive, the EPA rates the V-6 Charger at 19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined. All-wheel drive reduces those estimates to 18/27/21 mpg.

The Charger earns 16/25/19 mpg with the 5.7-liter V-8 or 15/24/18 mpg with the 6.4-liter V-8. Thirstiest of the lot is the SRT Hellcat, at 12/21/15 mpg. Premium gasoline is required with the 6.4-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines.

Largely because of age, the Charger’s fundamental crash structure falls short, resulting in troubling safety ratings. Testing of the 2020 Charger by the NHTSA is incomplete, but the federal agency gave the 2019 model a five-star overall safety rating. It failed to earn an award with the IIHS, receiving a “Marginal” score for the small overlap front test on the driver’s seat and a “Poor” rating for its headlights.

Standard safety technology is minimal. All models get rear parking sensors, while only SRT Hellcats get blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warnings cost extra.

Model Lineup

The Dodge Charger comes in five trim levels: SXT, GT, R/T, Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat Widebody.

The base SXT model starts from $31,390 and comes with the 3.6-liter V-6. It also gets cloth upholstery, remote start, push-button start, keyless entry, an eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The $33,390 GT version brings an 8.4-inch touchscreen, houndstooth cloth upholstery, a performance suspension, a performance-inspired hood, paddle shifters, sculpted side sills, and 20-inch wheels.

The R/T sedan costs $37,890 and moves up to the 5.7-liter V-8. It also includes black forged 20-inch wheels ,a flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an electronically controlled active exhaust system.

The $41,490 Scat Pack gets the 6.4-liter V-8, a high-performance suspension, four-piston Brembo front brakes, launch control, a heated steering wheel, and heated front seats. Widebody versions substitute an adaptive suspension.

The range-topping SRT Hellcat Widebody costs $73,240 and includes the supercharged V-8, six-piston Brembo front brakes, adaptive suspension, performance-tuned steering, all-season performance tires, blind-spot monitors, heated rear seats, and a leather-wrapped and flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Exterior

Unchanged since its 2005 debut, the modern-day Charger silhouette was inspired by the “Coke-bottle” profile adopted by the 1960s model. The basic, undeniably American design seems to draw opposing reactions. Some folks adore it, others, not so much.

Base SXT models look rather ordinary, but upper trim levels add such flashy extras as hood scoops, chiseled rocker panel accents, and sundry spoilers. Heritage-inspired body colors and bounty of optional graphics packages can give the Charger quite a choice of forceful personalities, stretching from mild to outrageous.

Long, wide, and decidedly retro, the 2020 Dodge Charger looks like a large car – which it is. Big fenders enclose sizable alloy wheels. Thick body pillars reach up to a gently-raked roof. All grilles are black, but each trim level has its own design. An LED halo around the trunk and bumper gives the rear end a unique lighting configuration.

Interior

Cabins present a few retro-inspired details, but are otherwise fairly modern. Base-model interior trim is somewhat drab and sparse, using lower-grade materials. Top models welcome riders with comfortable leather and metallic trim.

For a full-size sedan, the Charger isn’t quite as spacious as expected. Still, front occupants can expect abundant room. The sedan’s wide track translates to ample space for larger riders. Head clearance is fine, even with an optional moonroof installed. Sport seats in high-performance models also are spacious and comfortable, but not overly bolstered.

Three passengers in the rear also get plentiful shoulder and elbow room, but back-seat space isn’t that great for a big sedan. Knee and head clearance are on the snug side.

Dashboards are covered in soft materials. Upper trim levels get an intuitive, user-friendly infotainment system with an 8.4-inch screen. The standard system uses a 7.0-inch screen.

With 16.5 cubic feet of space, the trunk can easily be called cavernous.

Driving Impressions

Like its ancestors, the Charger performs best as a cruiser, rather than a pavement gymnast. Even so, V-8 models are competent in curves and corners, helped by stiffer springs and sharper damping.

The V-6 engine is reasonably powerful, the Charger seems to crave V-8 vigor. Driven gently, it’s quite a docile sedan, but the V-8 stands ready to deliver blasts of energy when the pedal is pushed harder. One drawback is Dodge’s strange electronic gear selector, which isn’t always intuitive.

As its name suggests, the Hellcat delivers brutal acceleration and sticks to the pavement quite well.

Models with smaller wheels ride comfortably for long-distance cruising. If installed, an adaptive suspension improves reactions to trouble spots. Still, ride comfort can decline due to the Scat Pack’s stiffer suspension and bigger wheels.

Cabin noise is well-muffled, except for models with bigger wheels and low-profile tires. The
R/T emits deep rumbles from its exhaust, but an active exhaust system in the larger V-8 models tones down the sounds.

Final Word

Despite its age, the 2020 Dodge Charger continues to exude considerable charm, not unlike its two-door Challenger counterpart. Each version serves as a sedate highway cruiser, until the gas pedal hits the floor. The few-frills SXT provides respectable value, but the best bet in that area is the Scat Pack. With its 6.4-liter V-8, the Scat Pack performs at a level approaching the SRT Hellcat, for far fewer dollars.

 

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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