Six years ago, the Dodge Charger re-emerged from its famed muscle car heydays during the 1970s. For 2011, with a redesigned exterior and interior the Charger has now become a borderline oxymoron — a sedan sports car.
The Charger name has been featured on several different Dodge products since its debut as a concept car in 1964. The latest addition is the new 3.6-liter V6. It replaces the outgoing 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V6s. With an increase to 292 horsepower, it’s as if the muscle car returned alright, but in a refined version.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
With its new front grille and Rallye Plus options, the Charger I drove for my weekly test drive was going to be the chariot for four passengers from Sacramento to Monterey Auto Week on the famed Monterey Peninsula.
As it turned out, the Charger took two occupants on the estimated 400-mile trip. Like its predecessor for years ago, the Charger is an ideal open road vehicle. It had a commanding presence on Interstate 5.
Like other powerful sedans, driving the Charger can present a surprise. Its smooth advancement often resulted in cruising speeds in excess of 80 mph, but without a clue I achieved that speed.
The optional equipment list, called the “27J Charger Rallye Plus,” defines the trim that includes more than 20 items — Chrome clad aluminum wheels to leather wrapping and heated parts throughout the vehicle. All told, the features added up to $4,000 — about half of total price of the car’s total option packages.
Navigation system. The screen is the size of small television screen (8.4 inches) and its clarity, including the back-up camera, is unsurpassed.
Heat and cooling center console cupholders. They work nearly immediately and they work well.
Highway driving is smooth and confident. If that moxie is, in part, how the original muscle cars gained their reputation, it’s all good.
Side mirror blind sport and cross traffic indicators. One day, the feature should be standard equipment on all cars.
Comfortable seats, front and back.
Exterior color: Blackberry Pearl. It’s perfectly mysterious, particularly since, depending on the time of day, the color appears to change.
Small trunk. It’s a four-door, four-passenger car, but the trunk can’t hold luggage for four, unless the suitcases are no larger than large purses.
Blind spots. Good thing the above-mentioned side mirror sensor indicators are part of what’s all the “driver’s confidence group.” I had a few close calls.
With 292 horsepower, it’s rather sluggish off the line for a muscle car.
Limited legroom for back-seat passengers.
Fully extended, the opened doors are impossible to grasp without stepping out of the car — unless one is particular closely related to an ape.
Facts & Figures: 2011 Dodge Charger
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 7.2 seconds.
Airbags: Front, front side and side curtain.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city), 27mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Not rated.
Engine: 3.6-liter, V6 cylinder, 292 horsepower.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $25,127.00
Price as tested: $34,955.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000; Powertrain, 5 years/100,000 miles; Hybrid system, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion ?, 7 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance 3 years/36,000 miles; 5 years/100,000 miles.
Manufacturer’s website: www.dodge.com.
What Others Say:
“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.” —- Edmunds.com
“Compared with the 2010 BMW 550i tested in our last issue, not only do the two 4-doors weigh exactly the same, the Charger’s performance numbers are in the same league as the 5 Series, all for $30K less. If you’re looking (Far) East, the Infiniti M56 has performance numbers trumping both of these, but still rings up dollar signs on par with the Bimmer. Taking those financial facts into consideration, this makes the uniquely American Charger a sweet compromise for those of us living with hypotheticals.” —- Road and Track.com
“Even though I think a rear-wheel-drive-based car like the Charger should offer livelier handling, I commend Dodge for sticking with the drivetrain layout and the available V-8, as well as upping the car’s already aggressive styling.” —- Cars.com
What The Wife Says:
“It sure is comfortable on the open road.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“I’ve never been a muscle car enthusiast, and the new Charger has me further confused. It’s beautifully styled and has a lot of confidence on the road. But if a muscle car is going to win me over, shouldn’t it have a little more muscle?”