Better Hemi Performance And a Bolder New Look Revamp This Full-Size Car

What changes will make it different?

The styling inside and out, an eight-speed automatic transmission for V-8 models, and new safety features. A complete redesign isn’t likely until model-year 2017 but this large-class sedan will get a 2015 update that goes beyond the usual midcycle freshening. It includes extensive sheetmetal revisions and a renovated cabin with a dashboard featuring a customizable digital gauge cluster and a central control stack with a 5-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen.

Should I wait for the 2016 model?

Only if you have a huge performance appetite and want to be certain the ultimate version of this full-size four-door is on sale. The ’15 lineup returns V-6 models in SE and SXT form with up to 300 horsepower and the R/T and R/T Road & Track editions with the 370-horse 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Yet to come is the new SRT edition, which will shelve its 6.4-liter Hemi with a mere 470 horsepower for Chrysler’s new Hellcat V-8, a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that debuted in the 2015 Challenger SRT with 707 horsepower. It was uncertain at the time of this report whether the Charger SRT would be added during model-year ‘15 or ’16.

Should I buy the current 2015 instead?

Other than the cat from Hades – whenever it arrives – the only notable addition for ’16 might be restoration of available all-wheel drive (AWD) for the R/T models. Otherwise, the ‘15s styling, features, and powertrains will carry this car through to its next full redesign. So if you like what you see, buy one and avoid the inevitable yearly price hike.

Will the styling be different?

Yes. Undisturbed are the expansive dimensions that put this auto in league with the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and its underskin design cousin, the Chrysler 300, as a throwback to the full-size American sedan. But the body gets a makeover that is less beautiful than dramatic. The hood and front fenders are reshaped. There’s a new version of the brand’s crosshair grille. LED turn signals and LED daytime running lamps become standard and on SXT and R/T, so do LED fog lamps. Xenon headlamps are available for the first time. The bodyside scallops remain, but the rear roofline is extended for a more fastback profile. The “racetrack” taillamps that encircle the rump take on the same continuous glow as on the carmaker’s Durango SUV. And all models get new wheels; there are 10 different designs ranging in diameter from 17-20 inches, including forged-alloy 20s in a matte-black finish. Added soft-touch materials will complement the cabin and some plastic panels will get a billeted finish. Instruments will project on a 7-inch thin-film transistor digital display and the central control stack is reshaped around the new touchscreens. Dodge introduced some of these themes on its Dart compact car.

Any mechanical changes?

Migration of the eight-speed automatic transmission from just the six-cylinder to the R/T version is the big change — so far. More gears ought to translate into more accessible V-8 performance and better fuel economy, though final specifications hadn’t been released in time for this report. Included are steering-wheel paddle shifters and a driver-selectable Sport setting that tightens the steering and throttle response and nearly doubles the speed of gear changes. The 3.6-liter V-6 is from the corporation’s Pentastar engine family and will be rated again at 292 horsepower, or 300 with the optional Rallye Appearance Group. (The SE, by the way, now comes with the eight-speed automatic as standard instead of optional; the five-speed is ash-canned.) Output of the 5.7-liter Hemi is unaltered and it retains the gas-saving ability to automatically idle four cylinders in easy cruising. For quicker acceleration, the Road & Track version gets its own powertrain calibrations, including a numerically higher rear-axle ratio. Rear-wheel drive will remain standard with the added traction of all-wheel drive returning as an option on the SXT and for the first time on the SE. The ’15 R/T models will launch with rear-drive only with the return of AWD a future possibility. Electric power steering will debut and provide driver-selectable Normal, Comfort, and Sport modes. All models have a fully independent suspension, with “touring” tuning on the SE and SXT, “performance” on the R/T and optional on the SXT, and “sport” on the R/T Road and Track. A hybrid or pure-electric model isn’t in keeping with Charger’s muscle-car positioning, so don’t hold your breath.

Will fuel economy improve?

For the V-8, yes, thanks to the three additional gear ratios, the top two of which are overdrive. Final EPA ratings were unavailable for this review, but expect a welcome jump from the 15/25/18 mpg city/highway/combined registered by the previous R/T with the five-speed automatic. No changes expected with the V-6: look for 19/31/23 mpg with rear-drive and 18/27/21 with AWD. The automaker recommends 89-octane gas for the Hemi.

Will it have new features?

Yes, mostly related to the high-tech new dashboard. Leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Bluetooth phone connectivity will again be available. So will Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment suite with roadside assistance, theft-alarm notification, voice texting, and the ability to make the vehicle a Wi-Fi hot spot. For ’15, Uconnect enables owners to stream content through their mobile-device data plans and adds four popular Internet radio apps: Aha by Harman, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Slacker. The navigation system will be updated with 3-D-like graphics and a Beats Audio-brand sound system will return. A phone app enables owners to remotely start their car and lock or unlock doors. Keyless entry and pushbutton ignition is standard and the antitheft system gains an ultrasonic anti-tilt alarm triggered by car being towed or raised on a jack. New available features include Full-speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus, which can automatically slow or stop the car if sensors detect an imminent frontal impact. That full-stop ability is also part of the updated rear-park-assist system. Also newly available will be lane-departure warning with Lane Keep Assist that steers you back should you inadvertently wander. On the R/T Road & Track model, the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen provides access to the new Dodge Performance Pages, which includes launch control, and performance timers and gauges, such as G-force indicators.

How will 2015 prices be different?

They’ll increase. Estimated base prices here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which should run around $995. Expect the SE to start around $27,900 and the SXT around $30,900. To these add around $2,500 for AWD. Estimated base price is $34,500 for the R/T and about $36,000 for the Road & Track version. If the SRT returns during the model year, figure a base price upstream of $55,000.

When will it come out?

Autumn 2014.

Best competitors:

Impala, Buick LaCrosse, Taurus and among large front-drive import-brand sedans with a non-sporting bent, the Hyundai Azera, Kia Cadenza, and Toyota Avalon

What’s a cool feature?

The AWD system boasts a segment-exclusive active transfer case and front-axle disconnect claimed to improve fuel economy up to 5 percent. When AWD is not required, the system automatically disconnects the front axle to maximize gas mileage while preserving the handling balance inherent with rear-wheel drive. AWD automatically engages when tire slip is detected, but in anticipation of traction-compromised roads, it also hooks up in cold weather or with the windshield wipers on in snowy or rainy conditions.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]