Mine’s got more power than yours. Isn’t that what the posturing of masculinity is all about (and has always been)? When it comes to American muscle cars, if you can’t put down massive horsepower numbers, there’s the sense that you shouldn’t bother to show up. But a great American muscle car doesn’t need to have over 500 horsepower to be recognized. Sometimes just 370 horsepower is good enough.
MORE MUSCULAR MOTORS: The Ford Mustang | The Charger SRT Hellcat | The Chevrolet SS
On the power spectrum, the 2015 Dodge R/T Hemi ($32,995) settles at a more-than-respectable third place against its more tyrannic brothers, the Charger 392 and the SRT Hellcat. Sure, the 392 manages a tsunamic 485 horsepower and the Hellcat gets 707 horses courtesy of Hades itself. But the R/T, with 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque from its 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, is no wallflower. You don’t have to mash the pedal to know that it’ll destroy most four-wheeled objects out there. I goosed the throttle and the throaty roar of the Hemi was answered by the angry chirp of the rear all-season performance tires. 0-60 arrives in 5.1 seconds. Those are impressive numbers for a 4,381-pound American beast.
As mad as the Charger Hellcat is, the R/T Hemi is far more of an everyday driver than its nuclear brother. I won’t dare to call it tame, but the power is manageable.
As mad as the Charger Hellcat is, the R/T Hemi is far more of an everyday driver than its nuclear brother. I won’t dare to call it tame, but the power is manageable. Thanks to the rigid unibody setup, driving the R/T hard is more pleasurable and far less frightening than the Hellcat. The electric power steering is surprisingly precise for a car this big, and pushing in and out of corners proved to inspire confidence — as opposed to being squirrelly. It also helped the entertainment factor that my test car was outfitted with the Super Track Pak sport suspension, bigger brakes, wheels and tires, performance-oriented throttle mapping and traction control, and the all-important Performance Pages software, which logs vital performance data so you can show off your acceleration times to your buddies.
Under the Hood
Engine: 5.7-liter V8 HEMI MDS VVT
Transmission: TorqueFlite eight-Speed Automatic
Horsepower: 370 horsepower @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 395 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
EPA: 16 city/ 25 highway
Thanks to the thorough and more upscale refresh of the eighth-generation Charger, the R/T sports one of the best bodies on a modern American sedan. It’s in good company with the sophisticated, Aston Martin-esque Ford Fusion and the svelte Caddy CTS, but the Charger looks angrier and more poised to pounce on the unwitting, slower victims of the road. The deeply scalloped sides from the seventh-generation car are now complemented by a leaner fascia with with LED driving lights and plenty of black grille and lower trim.
Dodge also spent time on the interior, and though it’s still a very American aesthetic — everything’s bigger than a Tomahawk steak — the cabin is comfortable, attractive and befitting of a powerful American sedan. The optional black-and-red Nappa leather seats have a good balance of cushion and firmness, but could look less square in the shoulder. The big analog gauges that flank the information screen are easy to read and handsomely done, and the fighter-plane shift knob for the eight-speed automatic looks like it was pulled right out of an Audi A8. Optional navigation, heated steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals and heated side mirrors make the R/T more than just a performance-minded sedan with brute strength — they add the right amount of creature comforts while still keeping the price under $40K. It’s good to know that you can have an American-branded four-door muscle car that’ll still roast cars twice its price.
There’s no question that absolute power corrupts, and the R/T never gets you to that level. What it does more than adequately, however, is deliver great performance numbers without providing you with a surplus of “compensation” power. There’s no mistaking that the DNA of American muscle lives and breathes in the R/T but, unlike the Hellcat, it has the quiet confidence to not have to scream it from the rooftops.