First Charger reviews are in
Car and Driver First Drive
Insideline First Drive
Car and Driver First Drive
To make customers happy, all versions of the Charger get dual exhaust tips and the option of up to 20-inch wheels (17-inch aluminum wheels are standard). Choose the right options, and the V-6 Charger can look just like the Hemi V-8 version, spoiler and all. For those who can’t resist the lure of the Hemi engine, the 5.7-liter V-8 carries over from last year with an expected 370 horsepower. That engine has no trouble fulfilling the Charger’s muscle-car contract. But the V-6 isn’t the rental-fleet special any more. The corporate 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and the 178-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 are dead, replaced by a new 3.6-liter V-6 that will make an estimated 292 horsepower. Both the V-6 and V-8 use a carry-over five-speed automatic; more gears are rumored for the future. While the six lacks the deep rumble and torque of the V-8, it can accelerate the Charger with plenty of thrust (we estimate 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds). Despite the added V-6 power, the new engine should achieve fuel economy in the neighborhood of 18 city and 26 highway, numbers that would match the far less powerful 2.7-liter V-6, thanks to the five-speed transmission (up from four) and the new, more slippery body.
Larger side glass, the small sail windows in front of the C-pillars, and the slightly lower beltline increase the glazed area by 15 percent and remove the previous car’s high-waisted, tank-like cabin ambience, especially in the back seat.
Dodge also addressed our primary gripe with the previous *Charger: its Chinese-car interior quality. Dashboard plastics now have leathery graining, seat fabrics have moved out of the econobox realm, and all the pillars are now covered in headliner fabric instead of plastic. Plus, there’s real aluminum trim on the dashboard, and soft surfaces welcome resting elbows. A 4.3-inch touch screen is standard and controls the radio, climate, and vehicle settings. Opt for navigation, and the display grows to 8.6 inches of big-screen glory. There’s noise-absorbing laminated glass in the windshield, and the front side windows are double-paned to further quiet the cabin. The last hints that Daimler once owned Dodge—the Mercedes turn-signal, wiper, and cruise-control stalks—are all gone, replaced by Dodge’s own parts. A new smaller-diameter steering wheel, wrapped in soft leather, hosts buttons for radio tuning, volume, cruise control, and the trip computer.
Dodge left the brakes, the chassis layout, and the 120-inch wheelbase alone, which is fine by us. The multilink front and rear suspensions remain, but the Charger has been retuned to feel smaller, more agile, and sportier despite its full size and expected weight increase.
A big part of the Charger’s sportier feel is a new, quicker steering rack (2.5 turns lock-to-lock versus 2.8 turns in the old car) that now features electrohydraulic assistance to save fuel. Effort remains on the light side, but the prompt steering makes the Charger feel more manageable and smaller than it used to. Turn-in is more immediate, and the wheel loads up slightly in response to cornering loads. Pointed straight, the precision of the new steering makes the previous car feel as if it had a vintage, recirculating-ball system. All-wheel drive remains available, but the feature is now a stand-alone option. Previously, all-wheel drive meant a raised ride height that would elicit the question, “Where’s the flood?” For 2011, Dodge has lowered the AWD model’s suspension by one inch, bringing its stance nearly in line with that of other Chargers.
A careful mining of Dodge’s past gives the new car enough retro touches to tie it to the Chargers of yore. But Dodge didn’t throw out what so many people loved about the previous generation. Though they’ve been tweaked a bit, the forward-canted crosshair grille, the glaring headlights, and the fighting-bull stance remain. Yes, the Charger’s still a bad-ass, but it’s now a better car to live with. In other words, it is managing its anger quite well.
Insideline First Drive
Most obvious is the new sheet metal, which is more faithful to the revered 1968-'70 Dodge Chargers without making the car look too old to cop an attitude. Indeed, the new front fascia is just as scary as Giants' closer Brian Wilson's beard.
Dig deeper into the 2011 Dodge Charger and you'll note that the carmaker has bulldozed the 2010 car's plasticky interior, retuned the suspension and swapped out the wheezy, old V6 engines for a new 3.6-liter Pentastar motor.
While the engineers were busy, the accountants found room to cut the price. You can have a Pentastar V6-equipped 2011 Dodge Charger SE for $25,995 — $200 less than a 2010 Charger with the 3.5-liter V6. Better yet, Dodge has lopped a full $2 grand off the base price of the V8-equipped Charger R/T ($30,995).
The least aggressive Touring suspension is also standard if you order all-wheel drive ($2,150) on your 2011 Dodge Charger R/T, and our test car has it — in combination with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires. The big sedan feels a little soft through the tight turns on Highway 1, but there's a grace and fluidity to it that the previous Charger never had. This improvement takes on more significance when you note that the new car is heavier — mostly because Dodge had to reinforce the unit body to improve crash performance.
In an effort to prove just how much better the revised car handles, Dodge lets us loose at Infineon Raceway for some hot laps.
It's trustworthy for a big lug and it gets sideways in a predictable and endearing fashion.
Dodge hasn't made any changes to the drivetrain on R/T models, but the fact that there's a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with an estimated 370 horsepower available at all for the 2011 model year should make you happy.
On the other end of the spectrum, getting a V6 Charger is now a viable option, as the new Pentastar V6 engine is expected to make just over 290 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. You're not stuck with a four-speed automatic anymore, either, as the five-speed auto is standard with the V6, too. Look for an 18 city/26 highway mpg rating on the V6 Charger.
Maybe the most shocking thing about our 2011 Dodge Charger R/T test car is how modern and ergonomic the interior feels. There's an 8.4-inch touchscreen (optional on all trim levels) in the center of the soft-touch dash, and it's neatly integrated into the same bezel as the attractive gauge pack. The new steering wheel is a bit heavy on the buttons, but comfortable to grip at 9 and 3. Finding a good driving position is easy, and we'd have no qualms about sticking with our tester's standard cloth upholstery.
The navigation system uses Garmin software, and though the street labeling isn't as consistent as it could be, there's no arguing with the colorful display and simple destination entry. If you've ever used a Garmin Nuvi, you can use this nav system without ever cracking the manual.
Keyless access, a USB jack, a driver knee airbag and laminated windshield and side-window glass are standard on all 2011 Chargers. Dodge is making a point of offering all the upscale extras with either engine. So even if you choose the base V6, you can still option your Charger up with adaptive cruise control (bundled with a collision warning system) and the Driver Confidence package, which includes blind-spot monitoring, a back-up camera and rear cross-traffic detection.
there's little doubt that the 2011 Charger is supposed to make you feel uneasy. It's the last rear-drive family sedan standing, and unlike the Pontiac G8 (RIP), it's not meant to be a BMW 5 Series on the cheap. It's a baddie.
It has a more refined ride than its predecessor, and its handling is honest and secure. Its cabin has finally made the leap from the 1990s and offers both quality materials and the modern technology you expect in this price range.