Today’s Dodge Charger has all of the power, panache and style of its late-1960s predecessor, but it also has a few noteworthy qualities the original Charger didn’t have: a smooth, quiet ride and exceptional refinement. Equipped with the optional eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s fuel-efficient, too.

Dodge retired the Charger nameplate after 1987, after it had been worn with little distinction by a series of nondescript subcompacts, and gave the motoring public nearly two decades to forget this model had ever darkened the American road. When the Charger nameplate returned for the 2006 model year, the car had a new personality, blending the best of the brand’s big near-luxury sedans and its performance-oriented midsize cars. The transformation has been successful. As of Nov. 1, sales of the Charger have increased 19 percent over the previous model year. Chargers are turning up in police fleets, as departments seek suitable replacements for the discontinued Ford Crown Victoria.

As the 2014 Charger has a markedly different personality from its 1980s forebears, it accommodates several different personalities within its current incarnation. Our test car, a base Charger SE used by rental fleets, was equipped with a 3.6-liter, 292-horsepower V-6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. The car was fast and responsive, and it handled crisply for so large a vehicle. At this price point — $27,940 – the Charger had some molded plastics that felt cheap, especially around the map pockets, and the car was not equipped with a rear-view camera. This feature, optional at the SE trim level, is all but essential in a model whose aggressive styling interferes with the driver’s view when backing up.

The base Charger comes with AM/FM radio and CD player, with audio controls on the steering hub; power driver’s seat; cruise control; dual-zone automatic climate control; remote keyless entry; and push-button starter. The interior is thoughtfully designed with plenty of cubbyholes and compartments for small items and loose change. Very tall drivers and passengers getting into the car need to duck under the low-slung roof, and rear-seat knee room ought to be a little more spacious in a sedan this size. But tall passengers can ride comfortably in back if the front-seat occupants are willing to slide their seats forward an inch or so.

For those who fondly remember the Chargers that were burning up the nation’s streets and race tracks in the 1960s and early ’70s, Dodge provides a range of V-8 power, beginning with the 370-horsepower R/T and concluding with the 470-horsepower SRT8. Optional in SE trim, and standard at higher levels, is an eight-speed automatic transmission, which boosts highway fuel economy from 27 to 31 mpg in the V-6-powered SE and SXT.

Rear-wheel drive is standard in all models, but all-wheel drive is available as an option in SXT trim.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2013 Charger a Top Safety Pick.

Major competitors we’ve driven, and rated highly, include the newly redesigned Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera.

 

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $27,940

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 292 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: rear-wheel

Suspension: Short and long arm front, multi-link rear, 4-wheel independent

Seating capacity: 5

Curb weight: 3,961 lb.

Wheels: 17×7 in. painted alloy

Tires: P215/65R17 all-season

Cargo capacity: 16.5 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 19.1 gal.

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 27 highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded gasoline