This past weekend saw a whirlwind of activity, between my company’s annual retreat and the marriage of two good friends. I had planned to add about 450 miles to the odometer of my F150, but decided to burn up some credit card points and see if I could get something either more interesting or better on fuel for the weekend of driving. I have automatic Avis Preferred membership through my employer, so I booked with Avis and reserved a “Chevrolet Malibu or similar.”
[Dodge wanted me to drive this Charger R/T so badly that they sold it to Avis as a rental car and allowed me to rent it using credit card points that I earned a few years ago and promptly forgot about.]
The Avis app let me check in early on Friday, and offered three cars to choose from – a Kia Sportage, VW Passat, or Infiniti QX60. None of those seemed supremely interesting, so I avoided checking in and headed straight for the Avis Preferred counter when I arrived at Reagan Airport to pick up my ride. The rep was easy to chat with, and he offered up the same Sportage, or the Malibu I had actually booked. I glanced over at the silver Malibu and asked about the white Charger parked next to it. “Oh those are fun with all that power,” he said. I hadn’t noticed the black “HEMI” badge on the fender until he said that, and figured it was a V6. “The Charger isn’t in your price class, normally, but it is for this weekend.”
As it turned out, the white Charger was missing its keyfob and couldn’t be started. But, the Avis rep found a red Charger R/T a few aisles over and put me in that instead. Score! I put my bag in the trunk, set the driver’s seat position, and hit the Start button. The car was backed up against a concrete wall, and the Hemi’s idle was loud and snorty while I got my iPhone paired to the UConnect system. I finally put it in Drive and made my way out to the George Washington Parkway, headed for Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania.
The 2.5 hour drive passed easily, with very little traffic. The Charger was happy on the highway and pretty comfortable cruising along in 8th gear at 75 mph. Dodge offers an upgraded “Beats” audio system, but I found the more standard (for an R/T) Alpine system to sound good enough, with tight, punchy bass and good mids/highs. I found a comfortable seating position pretty quickly, and the seat proved supportive for the whole weekend of driving.
I enjoyed a fun Friday night with my colleagues at the Omni, and hit the road again midday Saturday, headed to Chantilly, Virginia for the wedding of my friends Matt and Jess. Again, the Charger was a great highway companion. For how raucous it can sound at idle with the windows down, it was also pretty composed and quiet on the highway, with windows up and climate control set to “Auto.”
Amidst the fun of the weekend, I managed to sample another Charger R/T (that definitely did not belong to Avis) and its’ more performance-oriented qualities. The 370-horsepower, 5.7L Hemi, 8-speed, and shouty exhaust were a fun combo when the time came to “see what she’ll do” in a straight line or in more of a repeated, circular fashion.
While the Charger was fun, in R/T trim it wasn’t something I’d want to own. Dodge clearly focused their efforts on the drivetrain and infotainment, and aside from the (very nice) thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel, the interior was a letdown, with chintzy-looking plastics and some odd, squishy rubber armrests on the doors. Additionally, the suspension was seemingly soft up front and very firm in the rear, and the Charger understeered heavily when pushed through tighter turns. With a more balanced suspension setup and a few more frills inside, my opinion may change for the better. A Scat Pack or 392 Daytona variant may be worth sampling at some point.
My 2018 Charger R/T had no options beyond what comes standard on the R/T trim (SXT and GT are below it on the scale, but there are a few trim levels above it as well) and had an MSRP of about $36,000. If horsepower, rear-wheel-drive, and good, burbly V8 noises are at the top of your list, it’ll fill those needs with ease.