Behind The Wheel

2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Plus Review: Good power, Widebody package makes it a nonstarter

The Charger Widebody adds exterior width to a model that's already wide.

Photo courtesy. of FCA US LLC

The Dodge Charger brand name is nearing its 60th birthday. While the current generation isn't quite that old, the handling and ride quality of the car are helping it show its age. Still, there's plenty to like about the 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Plus.

The Charger hasn't massively changed in appearance since its 2011 generational debut. It's been tweaked here and there, as well as the interior, to help it keep up with modern equipment and appearances. As delivered, the car had the Widebody format, adding a variety of equipment and width to the model.

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody Scat Pack models get unique bee badging.Photo courtesy. of FCA US LLC

The tester came with a Go Mango orange paint job - a bold color matching the boldness of the car's engine.

The Charger Scat Pack, the model the tested Charger is built on, comes with a V8 engine under its hood. The 6.4-liter HEMI gets 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The power output is robust and throttle response is proper. The engine is the best part of the car.

Dodge has given the Charger Widebody six-piston Brembo brakes, body color fender flares, a performance shift indicator, leather flat-bottom steering wheel, and the Widebody Competition Suspension with active damping, and unique wheels and tires for an additional $6,000 on top of the base price.

However, the car's handling can't keep up with the power. Dodge has given the sedan a beefy steering wheel, which feels appropriate for the model, but keeping the car steering safely on the road is a chore and borderline dangerous for the average driver when they give the V8 the go ahead with a full push on the throttle.

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody The Charger hasn't changed too much inn the last decade.Photo courtesy. of FCA US LLC

It would be one thing if the car delivered a connected drive with responsive steering. It is quite another with a model that has numb steering, body roll, and a suspension that lets allows the car to do more gliding over the road than showing off its stick-to-itiveness.

The steering isn't any better when it comes to parking. After a week behind the wheel, the car was no easier to park on center than it was the first day of driving. There are no forward-facing cameras to aid in the process. Also, the car's wide 305/35ZR20 front and rear tires, sitting on 20-inch x 11-inch Devil's Rim aluminum wheels greatly limited the angle the car was able to turn when pulling into a backing out of a parking spot.

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody The car's seats are comfortable and provide good support.Photo courtesy. of FCA US LLC

Setting aside the drive, the ride is actually quite decent with comfortable seats, enough space for four adults, and a relatively high-riding seat position that feels chair-like when adjusted for someone who doesn't mind what grandmothers across the country would stress is proper posture.

The Uconnect infotainment system is easy to use and works as advertised. The available 8.4-inch screen feels right-sized for the spacious interior. Though the cabin's styling doesn't impress, nor feel like it's worthy of the over $50,000 price tag that was on the tester, it's straight from the Dodge DNA and that's respectable enough.

Though the car lacks the boatload of safety tech that comes on lesser priced models from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, the lack of them gives the car a sort of sportiness that harkens back to what could be called "the good old days."

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody The Charger's cabin is spacious.Photo courtesy. of FCA US LLC

The 2020 Dodge Charger starts at $29,895. As tested, the model came in at $50,180. For that price, I'd rather own a mid-grade used Porsche Panamera with its connected drive and potent engine, and put the extra $10,000 in a rainy day fund for when tires, an oil change, and mechanical improvements are needed.

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Biden will target 50 percent of all vehicle sales for EVs by 2030.

Ford

In the last several months, we've seen automakers from all corners of the globe commit to some degree of electrification by the end of the decade and beyond. That includes the American Big Three: Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Stellantis (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, others). Today, President Joe Biden plans to throw his weight behind these efforts by signing an executive order that sets a goal of pushing the sales of zero-emissions vehicles to half of all vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030.

Biden's target is not legally binding, but the industry is already jumping on board. In a joint statement, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis confirmed that they aim to hit an EV sales volume of 40-50 percent annually. It's worth noting that the President's 50 percent goal and the automakers' sales targets also include plug-in hybrid vehicles, which still use a traditional gasoline engine.


Jeep PHEV The target also includes plug-in hybrid vehicles, which still use gas engines.Jeep


Auto unions and dealers are not opposed to the ambitious roadmaps laid out by the Big Three, but both have differing views on what is essential and how things will ultimately play out. While aware of the goals, the UAW is focused on wage growth and the preservation of jobs and benefits. It feels that an increase in EV production volume must happen here in the U.S. to include good-paying American union jobs.

Dealers, to a degree, are supportive of the goals but skeptical of their ultimate success. Some feel that electric vehicles do not present the earth-shattering shift in functionality and usability that other new products, such as smartphones, did in different industries. Regardless of concerns and skepticism, it appears that automakers are going all-in on the shift to electrification, so we're bound to see a wealth of new battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the next few years.


GM battery facility rendering Automakers are pledging billions to increase EV and PHEV production volume.GM

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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