Let’s be real: even though everyone drools over the idea of driving a Dodge Charger with the Hellcat engine, having that engine under the hood is overkill for most drivers. The truth is that most people looking at a car like a Charger want something fun to drive but probably don’t want to break the bank. As a result, a lot of folks who buy a 2021 Dodge Charger are likely to go with the R/T trim, which offers a lot of features, power, and comfort that will make almost any car lover happy to drive every day. And even at what is considered a mid-level trim, the Charger R/T is well-balanced and satisfying, to the point one could call it silky, like butter. In a word, the 2021 Dodge Charger R/T is a delicious car to drive.
If there’s one thing Dodge does right, it’s providing an experience. The moment you set eyes on a Charger R/T, you can tell it’s made for speed. From the low stance and performance tires to the shapely, muscular body, the R/T is a thing of beauty. A slow walk around the Charger reveals its front end has plenty of intakes for airflow through the dark maw of the grille, and the slender nostrils of the hood vents feed oxygen to the lungs of the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Though some might argue that four doors don’t look cool on a sports car, the extra handles don’t really affect the performance in ways most people will notice, and they sure are convenient for passengers.
Large 20-inch aluminum wheels unique to the R/T and fitted with Goodyear performance tires tell anyone with a keen eye that this vehicle is prepared for the pavement. The lip spoiler could be given a little extra love if it were matched by fender flares, but that really isn’t a deal-breaker. Overall, the exterior of the R/T is handsome and well designed. Opening the trunk with the button on the fob reveals a copious amount of cargo space with a wide opening to toss in luggage, groceries, or golf bags, and under-floor storage is hidden beneath the carpet to keep a few tools or valuables out of sight. Being able to fold down the rear seats with a light tug on a strap is a nice plus when you need to place longer items in the trunk.
Coming around to the driver’s door, the hardware in the Charger R/T is a pleasure to use, with a solid-sounding release pulling the handle and a gratifying closure to the door. No cheap noises here. Enter the welcoming cocoon of the driver’s domain, where the black interior suits the sporty intentions of this vehicle. Well-bolstered front seats hug your body in place, and soft-touch materials are in all the right places for resting your elbows while you hold the wheel. The houndstooth inserts for the seats give the 2021 R/T a classy look that subtly reminds me of track flags and racing without being ostentatious. Again, Dodge knows how to deliver an experience that encompasses your senses entirely. Everything about the 2021 Charger leans into its purpose as a sports vehicle.
Even the rear seats are bolstered slightly to keep your passengers from floating around when you take corners, and the legroom is enough for adults to be comfortable unless the front seat is all the way back. Rear seat passengers also have a center armrest that folds down with cup holders, rear vents for climate, and charging ports on the back of the center console for all the comforts they need. The interior can be ordered with caramel inserts for the seats, but seeing the houndstooth has me sold on the stylish look of that classic pattern. Exterior paint colors have seven options, and Dodge just seems to have fun with everything they do because paint color names like “Hellraisin” for purple and “Frostbite” for blue are going to make you grin while you choose the color for your Charger.
Once you hit the ignition button, the lights of the digital displays recall past muscle cars in the design of the instrument cluster behind the three-spoke sport steering wheel. Paddle shifters are placed on either side of the wheel, and looking to the center stack where the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen is located allows the driver to set up the use of the paddle shifters, electronically-controlled exhaust, and other driving options to personalize the performance of the R/T. The infotainment is run by the Uconnect 4C system, which is fairly user-friendly, even if you may need a little time to get familiar with the options on each screen.
Every sports car deserves a great stereo, and Dodge took this seriously with the inclusion of a Harmon Kardon sound system that is easily heard over the purring of the V8. Even at its lowest volume settings, the stereo is balanced perfectly against any sound from the exterior. Knobs to control the volume or power off the sound system are easy to locate and use while driving, which is a welcome option over fumbling with the touchscreen on the road. Climate controls are similarly operated by using physical buttons in the center stack for ease of use.
Locating the performance pages in the infotainment system allows the driver to set up tracking for speed, RPMs, lap times, and more for analysis of your Charger’s capability while you drive, a fun standard feature to keep your inner teen alive. With settings toggled, adjust your seat with powered lumbar control, melt the ice off your exterior mirrors if you have to contend with wintery weather, and rev your engine just for the thrill of hearing the Hemi clear its throat before you put it in drive. Even though the interior of the 2021 Charger R/T is well insulated against the intrusion of exterior noise, Dodge cleverly ensures you’ll hear that engine from the cockpit just enough to make you happy. Time for a drive.
As soon as I hit the onramp, the engine responds with rumbling acceleration, and a smile spreads across my face. Long before reaching the merge lane, the 2021 Dodge Charger R/T achieves highway speed and easily coasts over the uneven pavement. Instead of a whiplash-inducing launch toward 60 miles per hour, a gorgeously poised sensation of power and control sends the Charger forward as if floating over the road. And this isn’t anywhere near the most powerful engine Dodge offers. Handling is a dream with the well-sorted suspension, and the steering responds instantly to any adjustment without feeling too touchy. Perhaps the one danger with such a comfortable sensation behind the wheel is that the Charger R/T could readily exceed speed limits without your being aware.
Brakes are the right balance for stopping power and gently easing down speed. There is no halting sense of grabbing when you hit the pedal unless you really stomp it, though having the ability to stop quickly can put your mind at ease so you can enjoy the drive. Whether taking off from a stop sign or increasing speed to pass a car on the highway, the 5.7-liter Hemi delivers power with no sense of strain, though there can be a noticeable lag in acceleration when first hitting the gas from a standstill. This momentary lag is minimal, and the satisfying grace of the engine’s response more than makes up for it with the available 370 horsepower at hand.
Taking corners is equally thrilling with the low profile and performance tires making child’s play of curves that can be cut at high speeds without any hint of squealing. Hitting the gas and launching into a turn may cause some squealing if you aren’t experienced enough with the car’s desire to eat asphalt, but a little practice will curb any concern about spinning tires. The tight turn radius makes quick work of getting out of tight spaces, and once again, the superb build of the chassis allows the R/T to glide over the pavement no matter how far you crank the wheel. You won’t feel the road inside the cabin while you drive over uneven breaks in the pavement, either, which isn’t always the case with a stiff sport suspension.
Dodge proudly claims that the 2021 Charger is the “most powerful fastest mass-produced sedan in the world.” Those are big shoes to fill, but Dodge seems to be wearing them quite comfortably. And while the top-of-the-line SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody is priced accordingly for its performance, you can enjoy the Charger for much less. Pricing for the R/T trim starts at $38,125, which is an excellent price for such a quality vehicle with a comfortable interior that wraps you in modern convenience inspired by classic muscle.