Crosstown rival Chevrolet may have reclaimed the value full-size sedan segment with its latest Impala, but Dodge will not take that sitting down. The 2015 Dodge Charger that makes its debut at the New York International Auto Show gets a thorough refresh, known in the industry as a “major minor” update. Boosting Fiat-Chrysler’s faith in the rear-wheel-drive sedan’s future is Dodge’s claim to the youngest buyers in the segment.
The only unchanged sheetmetal on the 2015 Dodge Charger consist of the roof and the rear door panels. Such a thorough facelift means the inner panels of the front and rear fenders have been changed as well as those outer panels. Dodge design chief Joe Dehner’s team drew in the bodywork at the four corners of the car and lowered the hood, ditching the truckworthy grille profile in favor of a grille that draws on the Dodge Dart’s for inspiration and proportions. Don’t worry, it works. Dehner is proud of the way the Charger looks like it’s eight to ten inches shorter than the current Charger, even though it remains about 199.9 inches long, on a 120.2-inch wheelbase.
“We chainsawed off the corners of the car,” Dehner says.
His team has minimized chrome on the new car, with black window moldings and an optional black grille. Even on the standard grille, Dehner says, the chrome is kept to a minimum. A “subtle satin bead” grille will be available, and the grille’s shape is repeated in the punch-out openings of the grille itself. The headlamps, lower front foglights and full-width “racetrack” taillamps are all-LEDs. Washer nozzles have been moved from the top of the hood to behind the hood at the windshield, which makes it easier to apply stripe options.
The Charger’s new sheetmetal alters the proportions between the lower body and the daylight opening. It no longer looks like a low-roofline, high-beltline sedan, a style the car has been sporting since its debut as a 2006 model. In back, a low-profile lip spoiler attached directly to the trunklid and rear fenders replaces the stanchion spoiler of the current car.
When the 2015 Dodge Charger goes on sale this fall, it will come with the eight-speed automatic transmission only. The eight-speed currently comes with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which is rated 31-mpg highway, and now will be the transmission coupled to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 option. All-wheel-drive versions will come with the de-coupling feature already in AWD versions of the new Chrysler 200 and of the Jeep Cherokee. The base Pentastar V-6 makes 280 horsepower, and a performance package upgrade increases that to 300 horsepower. Hemi-equipped Chargers will have 20-inch wheels as standard equipment. Electric power assisted steering will be tuned specifically to the various wheel/tire combos offered.
Inside, the changes include “less retro” gauge faces, a new seven-inch thin film transistor (or TFT – liquid crystal display) cluster, a new wheel design, new color and material selections, and new aluminum bezels and brushed metal finishes. Of course, the lastest Uconnect in-car connectivity system will come with the Charger.
All this work indicates Fiat-Chrysler put considerable additional cost into the Dodge Charger, even as an all-new model expected on a new, flexible rear-wheel-drive platform being developed primarily for Alfa Romeo is expected in three model years. The Charger is not a niche car, Dodge says, with sales of 98,336 last year, beating everything in its segment but the Chevy Impala.
Dodge says it has the youngest buyers in the segment, and for the first quarter of 2014, sales are down fewer than a thousand units, to 24,956, still ahead of Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon and Nissan Maxima. Dodge won’t say how many of these Chargers are the Charger Pursuits, which get the same updates for 2015, though the Charger is said to be the second-bestselling police car in the U.S., behind the Ford Explorer-based model, but ahead of the Taurus-based Police Interceptor.