"The gas mileage was very impressive."
We added more than 3000 miles to our Charger's odometer in July, recording the busiest month for the Dodge since it arrived in January. A bulk of those miles can be credited to photographer A.J. Mueller who enlisted our Charger to scout a photo shoot in Nashville, Tennessee. During the long trek down I-75, Mueller noted that the Charger is blessed with "amazing, big, beefy seats that let you ride in serious comfort." He also came away impressed by the Dodge's frugality over 1400 miles. "The gas mileage was very impressive and the tank never seemed to get down to E." In fact, the Charger's fuel log shows multiple fill-ups of just about half a tank; Mueller and his crew couldn't outlast the massive 19.1-gallon tank. Averaging 26 mpg -- well above the Charger's 23-mpg EPA city/highway combined rating -- they could have covered as much as 500 miles on a single tank.
The other 1600 miles were accumulated in and around Ann Arbor, where our editors couldn't help themselves from commenting on that contentious eight-speed automatic transmission. Senior web editor Phil Floraday kicked it off, writing, "I really wish the gear ratios and shift timing were better optimized for the power delivery from the Pentastar engine." Floraday is talking about our Charger's 3.6-liter V-6. It produces a formidable 292 hp, but it also feels weaker than that number suggests up until 3500 rpm, when it really wakes up. At part-throttle acceleration, the engine can't take advantage of the high-end power. "The Charger seems to upshift just as the engine starts to produce power, then you're back into the sluggish lower end in an absurd effort to save fuel," Floraday complained. "It's perfectly fine to have the transmission upshift early to save fuel, but it's not acceptable for that to happen if the engine only makes power in the upper end of the rev range. I'd be a lot happier with this car if the engine delivered more torque down low."
Assistant editor David Zenlea has joined Floraday in using the Charger's transmission sport mode as his default choice. "More and more I'm noticing that, in new cars, drive is really eco, forcing you to go down to sport if you want downshifts when you expect them," he wrote. Pulling the gear selector into sport mode also better aligns the powertrain to the Charger's cornering demeanor. The Dodge is in a class of one compared to the indifferent-handling competitors in the full-size sedan segment. "I still appreciate how well the Charger steers and handles," Zenlea wrote. "I got into the Charger after a week in a 2010 Mustang GT and didn't feel like I was suffering from handling withdrawal. It's refreshing to drive a big, rear-wheel-drive sedan that doesn't snap at you, CTS-V-style, should you get on the throttle a little early in corners."
On the service front, we paid another unexpected visit to our dealer in July to address an airbag warning light that popped up in the instrument cluster. If this sounds familiar, it's because we dealt with this same issue just last month. In June, the dealer discovered a loose connector in a wiring harness under the driver's seat, cleaned some corrosion off the pins, and sent us on our way. On this latest visit, the technician diagnosed an intermittent open circuit in the same harness that had just been cleaned. This time around, the connector was replaced under warranty. We're hoping this fix lasts longer.