2017 Dodge Charger SXT AWD Review

The big orange beast gets some civility through traction


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Serious presence, ample interior space, great infotainment system, burly engine note, great inclement weather traction.
Negatives: Engine strains to accelerate at higher speeds, heft is felt in the turns, spongy seats could use better feel and deeper contouring.
Bottom Line: The big American sedan is unique with its all-wheel drive setup and big open spaces, coupled with a muscle car-like exterior design. Buyers who don't care care about Euro refinement inside will still be pleased with great user-friendly tech and easy-to-use controls. The fact that the Charger SXT AWD accelerates, handles and rides so well despite its heft are all good reasons to take a closer look at it for your next sedan purchase.
 View Our 2017 Dodge Charger Overview
The Charger is an interesting vehicle. It's not a typical family sedan. In base trim, it's not a true muscle car. It's not a refined sedan, and it certainly won't get cross-shopping eyes from those who are also interested in more humble Japanese or Korean sedans. Hell, even those who want to buy American are more inclined to go with a Chevy Impala or a Ford Taurus. The Charger is for those who want some attitude and grunt. It was updated a couple of years ago with revised front and rear fascias and some much-needed upgraded tech.

Now, with available all-wheel drive, the Charger has much more practical appeal with the addition of two driven wheels. It opens up the car to more customers who might not otherwise consider a big rear-wheel drive sedan. We took hold of it for our review at the perfect time, a Chicago winter. For more details, read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

8

 

In SXT trim, the Charger is a bit of a contradiction. There's no sinewy V8 under the hood, and though the V6 will move the car pretty quickly, it just doesn't feel properly quick, especially at highway speeds. But it's also better than it should be in the turns. The Charger does a pretty respectable job of managing the weight, despite the fact that you can feel it when you take turns.

Ride Quality: Quite comfortable for all occupants with a good balance of shock absorption and road feel.

Acceleration: The V6 will launch the car to 60 mph in about 6 seconds, which is good for something over two tons. Throttle response and shifting are quick to respond.

Braking: Good, progressive brakes but about average stopping distances.

Steering: The steering was good, providing decent feel and heft for an electrically assisted system.

Handling: Kind of a weird experience, to be honest. The sport suspension tuning provides agility in the turns, but you feel the weight of the car. It could use better tires.

Technology

8.5

 

Our Charger had our favorite UI system on any FCA car over the past year. The system is legible, easy to use, and the rest of the car's controls are crisp and well-placed. There's nothing overly complicated about the Uconnect 8.4 system, and that's a very good thing. Chrysler put some thought into how things should work while you're driving, and they got it right in the Charger. Good job.

Infotainment System: Uconnect 8.4 is easily the best FCA system we've used. With greater ease of use and improved color and graphics, we found it a pleasure.

Controls: Though the controls feel a little plasticky, they work very well. The large size and placement of audio and climate controls make driving easier. Why other manufacturers have to make knobs so small is beyond us.

Bluetooth Pairing: No issues with pairing or re-pairing upon entry. We had trouble in other FCA cars, but the Charger ws seamless.

Voice Call Quality: Crystal clear with great volume on both sides of numerous phone calls.

Styling

7.9

 

There's no mistaking the Charger (especially in orange) for a foreign car. It's big, bold and very domestic. We think it's one of the best looking American sedans on the market, and it's come a long way from a decade ago without losing its muscle-car flavor. We'd go with a more muted color because the sheer physicality and sound of the thing is more than enough to get looks.

Front: We love the Charger fascia more than any other FCA vehicle since it's gotten more sophisticated without losing that American aggression. The blackened grille is a very nice touch.

Rear: One of the best taillight designs because it's unique, clean and very bright. The black spoiler, however, could be a bit smaller.

Profile: Well-proportioned with the right amount of muscularity make the Charger look fantastic from the side. The car looks thick in a very good way. We love the rising beltline.

Cabin: Though the Charger's interior has come a long way over the years, it's still a bit clunky looking and very dark.

Comfort

7.6

 

There's no lack of room in the big Charger, and buyers won't be disappointed when they use it as a family sedan. Large, roomy seats provide space for tall adults, and the cabin is plentiful

Front Seats: Big and wide, they have good bolstering, but the cushioning felt odd to us. It could use more firmness in the seat cushion and deeper contouring.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are pretty good and very accommodating for larger passengers. Good leg, head and shoulder room, too.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Other than the noisy effort of the V6 when accelerating at higher speeds, the Charger feels solid and quiet.

Visibility: Good visibility out the front and sides, but the higher rear shelf makes rear visibility less than ideal.

Climate: Cooled and heated seats in one of the lower trims are a huge plus. The heating and cooling also worked very well.

Safety

7.5

 

The Charger is a pretty safe care despite just missing top scores from the IIHS. It also has a solid set of standard safety features. The size of the car is also helpful, providing ample protection for all occupants.

IIHS Rating: Just missing the Top Safety Pick award, the Charger attained top marks in every test except the "marginal" in the small front overlap test. With optional tech, it scores "superior" in front crash prevention.

Standard Tech: The Charger gets a host of features like Advanced multistage front airbags, supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags, ABS performance brakes, Rain Brake Support, Ready Alert Braking, electronic stability control, All-Speed Traction Control, tire pressure monitor, and automatic headlamps

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The Charger isn't wanting for space, and the cubbies and storage space , though not at the top of the heap in terms of room, are plentiful for the average family.

Storage Space: The spaces used are practical for the every day, including a good armrest compartment, deep door pockets and both a center console tray and center stack compartment for smaller gear items.

Cargo Room: The trunk isn't massive, but the 16.5 cubic feet of space does have great entry and shape, giving driver's good cargo utility.

Fuel Economy

7.3

 

It's hard to believe a car this huge and heavy gets an EPA 31 highway rating. We didn't see numbers that high, but our tester was loaded with kids and gear, and we hit a fair amount of highway traffic.

Observed: 20.6 mpg combined.

Driving Factors: We drove the Charger for a week with about 20% local suburban driving and about 80% highway driving. We had it Sport mode the entire time. We know more conservative drivers would easily attain better numbers that are closer to the EPA estimates.

Audio

8

 

The 6-speaker system with amplifier was pretty good. The sound was crisp and clear with plenty of volume. For a stock system, we were impressed. No need to upgrade to the Beats Audio system in the nearly $6,000 AWD Premium Group package (unless you want the Adaptive Cruise Control, which we did on our long trim to Michigan).



For almost $40 grand, the Charger SXT AWD isn't cheap, but you do get a lot for your money. Room, power, handling, good technology and a bit of American attitude make the Charger an attractive big sedan. There's not much out there that's a direct competitor at this price point, especially with all-wheel drive and ample seating room. We like the presence and attitude of the Charger, and the fact that it can still turn heads and intimidate others are big pluses. We just hope FCA will refine the interior more when the car is due for a total overhaul, which should be within the next 2 to 3 years.
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