The 2021 Dodge Charger recalls the days when most full-size sedans had rear-wheel drive and rumbly V-8 engines. But the big Dodge sedan also caters to modern society with popular options such as all-wheel drive and contemporary technology. The latter consists of extensive driver assists as well as an excellent infotainment system. Of course, the Charger’s broad appeal also stems from its cool appearance packages, alluring performance equipment, and largely affordable pricing. While its interior suffers from some low-quality materials, and models rolling on the largest wheels have a harsher ride, its roomy cabin and large trunk essentially make it a practical muscle car. Sure, there’s nothing too muscular about the standard V-6, but either of the optional Hemi V-8s has the sound and power to tug at our heartstrings.
What’s New for 2021?
For 2021, the Charger lineup receives the smallest of updates. The GT AWD model now comes standard with 20-inch wheels, which are also newly optional on the SXT AWD.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Charger channels its NASCAR roots with big V-8 power and rowdy sounds. However, not every Charger has a mighty Hemi V-8 under the hood—what a pity—but they do all share an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission and standard rear-wheel drive. In contrast, the V-6 is subdued but does add the availability of all-wheel drive. Dodge doesn’t build a Charger with a manual gearbox, but it would be so much cooler if it did. The standard V-6 is no slouch, yet it lacks the giddy-up of front drivers such as the Nissan Maxima. The more powerful versions excel at the strip, where the 485-hp Charger R/T Scat Pack posted an impressive 3.8-second sprint to 60 mph. The 370-hp Charger has enough ponies to outrun most family sedans. The bright (Green Go) Charger we paraded around town had a quiet and composed ride. Its large 20-inch wheels were relaxed on most surfaces, but obstacles such as railroad crossings and potholes disrupted its composure. The big-bodied sedan was remarkably balanced when cornering, too. Although the V-6 version we tested had nearly identical cornering grip, the Daytona’s hefty horsepower advantage amplified the fun. The electrically assisted power steering contributes to the Charger’s purposeful control, but its feedback is too heavy and slow to be engaging. We’ve tested several Chargers for emergency braking, and the best results came from the high-performance models with upgraded brakes and stickier summer performance tires.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Charger is a big, heavy car with an appetite for fuel. Although it has below-average EPA estimates in the city, it has fairly competitive highway ratings. While we haven’t tested the 5.7-liter V-8 on our 75-mph real-world fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, we have tested the V-6 with all-wheel drive and the larger 485-hp V-8. Surprisingly, both engines were within 1 mpg of each other, with the six earning 26 mpg on the highway and the eight earning 25 mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Charger’s interior is highly functional yet the opposite of luxurious, with more rubberized materials than the set. Apart from excellent rear-seat legroom, its passenger space is slightly below average. The cabin’s simplistic design is a classic muscle car, but the options are plentiful. Although its trunk volume is similar to those of most rivals, the Charger was able to fit an extra carry-on box than its rivals. It held 18 total with the rear seat stowed, beating the Maxima and the fastback-hatchback Kia Stinger by three. Its center console features plenty of spots for small items and a slot alongside the shifter that is perfect for storing your smartphone.