HENRY PAYNE

Payne: Stormtrooper Charger assault ship

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

How do Stormtroopers take their rugrats (rugtroopers?) to school? In a 392-cubic-inch, 485-horsepower Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack, of course.

Adding to its reputation for making the coolest family sedans in the galaxy, Dodge has wrapped some of its vehicles in “Star Wars” Stormtrooper garb and unleashed them on the public in TV ads, movie premieres, Uber rides and press fleets. I got my hands on one and explored my dark side.

My chicks have flown the nest, but I found no shortage of First Order wannabes in the neighborhood who jumped at a quick, hyperspace ride to the nearest empty school parking lot to do donuts on a chilly December day. The Charger’s Continental supplier-sourced traction control system can be a lifesaver on the way to the lot (see my guardrail-defying experience in the Charger Hellcat last November in similar wet conditions), but once there I turned the system off and the big V-8’s 475 pound-feet of torque spun the big sled like a top.

Donuts never tasted so good. Didn’t moms and dads disapprove? Are you kidding?

Imagine rolling up to school to pick up the kiddies in a Stormtrooper Charger, revving the 6.4-liter hemi like a chainsaw. You’d be the coolest soccer mom on the planet. One matron wanted to know where she could buy one. Dodge says it has no plans to sell the few they dressed up. Are they nuts? These tastefully designed Stormtroopers would sell like “Star Wars” Pez dispensers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobile, you may have heard, is the official carmaker of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” While not appearing in the actual movie, all of FCA’s brands (save Alfa) made ads featuring their vehicles in a “Star Wars” theme. My favorite is Dodge’s “we’re gonna need more valets” spot made by Metro Detroit’s own Doner ad agency.

But when toymaker Mattel announced on “Force Friday” (Sept. 4, when “Star Wars” launched its merchandise blitz) they were coordinating rides with Uber, Dodge’s mad genius CEO Tim Kuniskis decided to take things to another level.

Mattel’s wrapping of eight Chargers as Stormtroopers for Uber was a hit. So Kuniskis wrapped more hot rods and set them loose for fans to ogle. A Kylo Ren Viper ACR and Stormtrooper Challenger SRT Hellcat and Charger SRT Hellcat haunted Los Angeles for the movie premiere. A Stormtrooper Fiat 500e turned heads at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

But it’s the Charger that best represents the Stormtrooper helmet. From its notched helmet roofline to red Brembo brake calipers to the thin grille mouth line, the black-and-white car oozes menace.

The black (natch) interior has all the performance tricks of a Millennium Falcon. And gas consumption to match: 15.9 donut-filled mpg in my case. Punch the starter button and the 4,400-pound ship lights with the growl of a poked Chewbacca. T-shaped shifter, Wi-Fi hotspot, zero-60 timer, 180-mph speedo, launch control ... the cockpit glows with tech, but the cabin is built for comfort. The roomy backseats can easily accommodate a pair of Wookies and the console is nicely outfitted with smartphone storage, cupholders and the best damn infotainment touchscreen system around.

Stripped of its war paint, the Charger is the same ferocious R/T Scat Pack I tested last June. Its smooth, 485-horsepower hemi (Cough. Thirty more horses than a Corvette C7) and eight-speed tranny make effortless power. But nestled under the blistered hood of a two ton-plus sedan, it can be a handful. The Charger (and sister Challenger) is a brute in an era of new, diet-conscious Camaro and Mustang muscle cars. The Charger-Challenger V-8s weigh 800 pounds more than the Camaro. That’s a lot of trips to the buffet line.

The weight shows, and the Charger is not nearly as nimble as big sedans like the BMW 5-series. But it’s also half the price (my fully accessorized Trooper just $41k) packing acres of grins. Drift into a turn and the rear end will happily wiggle with slight throttle application. Stomp the gas out of a stoplight and the kids will squeal as the giant, 20 inch-rimmed tires squirm for grip. The combination can be a handful on snowy roads, however – even with all-season tires.

No matter. When the asphalt dries, the Charger is four-doors o’ fun. When’s the last time you did doughnuts in a sedan? I hope Dodge keeps the Force with us. The Stormtrooper family sedan for her. The Kylo Ren Viper ACR for him.

That Viper should be in the press fleet soon, right, Dodge?

Henry Payne is auto critic for The News. Email him at hpayne@ detroitnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HenryEPayne.

’15 Stormtrooper Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, 5-passenger sedan

Price: $41,685

Power plant: 6.4-liter Hemi V-8

Power: 485 horsepower, 475 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.1 seconds (Car & Driver)

Weight: 4,400 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 15 mpg city/25 mpg highway/18 mpg combined

Report card

Highs: Rear seat fit for Wookies; explosive firepower

Lows: Appetite of a Wookie; handles like a Star Destroyer

Overall: ★★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★

Good ★★★

Fair ★★

Poor ★