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Dodge Charger

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Base Price: $27,995
Price as Tested: $53,170

With seven trim levels and four engines, writing any sort of comprehensive piece on the 2015 Dodge Charger requires more space, time and, quite frankly, energy than I have right here, right now. In essence, this is a family sedan, fully capable of comfortably carting your family safely from place to place, that can also be configured as a 707-horsepower hair-on-fire, full-blown dragster. V6 Chargers can even be outfitted with all-wheel drive. That covers a lot of ground.

Dodge is Chrysler’s performance brand. It provides even the base SE with some entry-level performance creds with its 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and Charger’s eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission turning the rear wheels. A 370-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 powers most R/T trims. At the top of the Charger performance heap is the SRT Hellcat with its 707-horsepower, track-bred 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that can carry the Charger to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in about four seconds.

Slotted into this lineup just short of the SRT Hellcat is the SRT 392, in which I spent 150 miles or so a few months ago. A 6.4-liter2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392 Hemi V8 delivers considerable thrust in the form of a whopping 475 lb-ft of torque and 485 horsepower. No, it isn’t quite the SRT Hellcat, but for $15,000 less it delivers all the propulsion most of us will ever want, need or use.

There is very little daylight between the government fuel-economy estimates for the three Charger V8s. The 5.7L delivers 19 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Stepping up to the 6.4L V8 in my test SRT 392 dropped that number to 18 mpg. It’s 16 mpg in the SRT Hellcat. Only the V6 sneaks over 20-mpg bar, and it’s 21 mpg.

Both the Charger and its two-door Challenger sibling are nods to the muscle cars of the 1970s. This was a time when the factories stuffed big performance V8 engines into cars normally powered by much less aggressive V8s and V6s. The idea was straight-line, missile-like acceleration. It was like strapping a rocket to a roller skate.

You can keep track of exactly how you and your SRT 392 is performing with the Dodge Performance Pages feature included in the price. It will measure and display such information as 0-to-60 time, eighth-mile time and quarter-mile time. It can also measure braking time and g-force.

What is striking about today’s high-performance Chargers is their civility. These are everyday drivers that offer a healthy dose of utility with their scalded-cat acceleration. Ride quality is pretty darn good despite Charger’s acute-handling characteristics. I’ve driven it on the track. Grabbing the asphalt in the corners, it feels securely planted and stable. Not only do these fire breathers go fast in a straight line, they corner like greyhounds. The steering is spot on, too.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (shown in Ruby Red Alcantara suedBecause at its heart it’s a family sedan, Charger is roomy and nicely appointed inside. It’s RWD; so, the middle rear-seat position is a little cramped for legroom. Otherwise, Charger comfortably seats four, or five if at least one is a child. Heavily bolstered, the seats are well contoured and supportive. A roomy trunk has enough cargo-carrying space for the luggage on a family’s week-long vacation.

Neatly arranged, the instrument panel is stylish with large, easy-to-read gauges. Operating the systems and controls is fairly intuitive. Even the Uconnect system with its color touchscreen – five inches in the base trim and 8.4 inches in all other grades – is simple to operate.

The base price is for the SE that comes with power accessories, dual-zone air conditioning, keyless ignition and entry, automatic-on headlights, seven airbags, Bluetooth connectivity, five-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface.

Moving up through four other grades to arrive at the SRT 392 involves accumulating a smorgasbord of standard goodies along2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392 the way. By the time you reach it, standard equipment includes heated front seats, heated outboard mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power driver’s seat, high-performance suspension tuning with three suspension modes, Brembo brakes, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather/faux suede seating and rearview camera.

Additionally, my test SRT 392 had $5,785 in options and packages, including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot and cross-path detection, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio, navigation system and rain-sensing wipers.

If you pull the kids’ school carpool duty, what better to do it with than the Charger SRT 392?