2015-Dodge-Charger-SRT

THE STYLING: No getting around it: This Dodge Charger is a dramatic departure from the last two iterations. Rather than continuing to rely on front-end styling cues from the 1970s, the latest Charger comes fully into the 21st century- Joe Dehner, Dodge and Ram exterior design director, was involved with the 2010 model and is lead designer for this generation. He talked about the new styling.

“If you look at the face of [today’s] car, the central grill is high, kind of a truck thing, and it was a bit borrowed from the first car. We didn’t want to lose the angry eyes, that menacing look. We still wanted the front end to lean forward, which I call the ‘superhero stance.’ Pulling the headlight graphics around the fender and pushing the hood down just got a lot of visual mass out of the front end, made it look a lot lower. We also lopped off the corners and pulled the chin forward. It gives it a little bit of implied menace instead of being so overt.” The fog lights are changed as well, from classic round to a series of LEDs with highlyengineered lenses tucked up under the bumper away from road debris but adding to the sleek front styling.

DODGE CHARGER 2015-style

Interestingly, the shape of the combined headlight and grille opening is not unprecedented in Dodge history. A 1960s concept sports car called the Storm Z-250 featured a nearly identical grille opening. The shape itself is mimicked again as the grille’s mesh pattern, an Easter egg for anyone paying close attention.

The changes don’t end there, not by a wide margin. In reality, the only carry-over parts are the rear-door skins and the roof panel. Everything else is new. A more-traditional double power dome replaces the scalloped hood, a move carefully chosen for upcoming option implications. “I don’t want to say anything about future products,” said Dehner, “but this hood is stripe-friendly, where the last one wasn’t. That was one of my goals; I wanted it to look muscular but also better for customization.”

A front-door scallop change happened late in the program, not planned for originally. When the otherwise complete design was finished, styling chief Ralph Gilles was unhappy with the look. “The door makes it look locked in the past. We have to get new ones,” he said. So additional budget was allocated, and the scallops were dramatically softened. The end result is a less upright, more modern look in keeping with the car’s overall styling.

Down the side, you’ll see the С-pillar has been stretched, and the rear bumper’s cover seam is different. “If you look at the sail panel at the back, we’ve got about another inch off the back window,” said Dehner. When looking at the rear window, it’s more than a little easy to see small flying buttresses, an homage to the original Dodge Charger.

The rear end sees a dramatic change, as well. The racetrack taillight remains but has been made less robotic, more flowing. “There was a lot of homework that went into the new racetrack tail-light. I was really happy with how this turned out; you can spot ’em a mile away,” noted Dehner. “Pulling the taillight graphics around the rear corner and cutting some of the steel away makes the rear overhang look much shorter even if it’s the same dimension.” The exhaust tips are also fully in the fascia now, visually planting the car’s back end and adding to the carefully finished appearance. A three-piece flush-mounted spoiler, positioned on the trunk lid and fenders, replaces the traditional, trunklid-mounted stanchion spoiler. This required a lot of work at the factory for the quality fit Rahm demanded. “It takes several robotic vision systems measuring the trunk lid and fender positions before we even drill the holes.” The completed rear looks tidy and much leaner than the outgoing car.

Summing up his team’s work, Dehner noted, “If we can make the car look longer, lower, wider and take 300 to 400 visual pounds off the car, we’re doing our job.”

THE INTERIOR: As much as we like staring at car exteriors, the interior is where everyone spends their time. “The step we had to make this time was really about refining,” noted Rahm, “not a major overhaul like the last time.”

2015-charger-interior

Indeed, a look around the new interior would have today’s owners feeling right at home, with some crucial and noteworthy upgrades. “We focused on two areas,” noted lead interior designer Ryan Nagode. “Technology the car needs to bring to not just compete but lead the market, and materials.” First and foremost is a new gauge cluster. It still features the prominent deep-set dual analog gauges (themselves slicker than the outgoing ones) but nestled between them is a large 7-inch LCD display acting as a driver-information center. It shows navigation directions, tire-pressure data and performance details, as well as speedometer, fuel and temp gauges, to mention just a few. The display is customizable, arranged any way the driver likes. Uconnect is upgraded, along with voice controls for navigation and entertainment apps like iHeartRadio and Pandora.

Immediately in front of the cluster is a new steering wheel, leather-wrapped, bringing styling from the outside to the inside with details pulled from the rear taillights and grille. More importantly, it houses controls for infotainment, cruise control and cast-zinc paddle shifters if so optioned. SRT Performance models get a flat-bottomed wheel for that added performance feel.

A new shifter mechanism has been engineered to address customer feedback regarding the old one. “People didn’t like the way it felt, so we’ve designed a mechanical-feeling shifter that still electronically controls the transmission,” said Rahm. Also new is a manual-control kickout in the shift pattern. Moving the stick to the “M” gate controls the transmission manually by bumping the shifter up or down, or with the paddles.

Many other changes center around improved ergonomics, upgraded materials or new and interesting textures. Door inserts receive a handsome stitching pattern, and seats are upgraded with added support in the bottom and the sides, as well as new materials and contrasting stitching.