By Mary Ellen Ash
- Sleek, sexy exterior
- Uconnect infotainment system
- Good driver visibility
- Revamped suspension and drivetrain
- Better than expected fuel economy
- Sluggish acceleration
- Outdated 5-speed automatic transmission
The original Dodge Charger was a two-door muscle car that debuted in the 1960s and hits its peak popularity in the early 1970s. While the Charger’s appeal faded into the early eighties, the latest models have been revitalized and modernized for more diverse consumer tastes while still retaining aggressive styling from the Charger’s old glory days.
The transformation has updated the 2011 Charger into a modern-day sedan while keeping its menacing exterior and powerful engine. The new Charger is ready to tear up the open road.
With an American blood-line inspired by NASCAR, you’d expect the Charger to be a big, brawny beefcake with little substance. While the Charger has the big beefcake thing going on, it’s got brains behind its brawn.
The chassis of the 2011 Charger was engineered and tuned to deliver a level of quality, capability and refinement that rivals the very best European, Asian and North American sedans. The suspension has a new geometry making for a nimble, balanced chassis. It’s ready to impress on the road.
Walking up to the 2011 Charger, my first impression was a car with, menacing presence. It’s like taking home an elephant that can actually move and respond like a cheetah. This titan made for some fun driving.
The 2011 Charger receives improvements to its powertrain with a new V6 engine. The 2011 Charger SE, Rallye, and Rallye Plus models are outfitted with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine rated at 292hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque — a big jump over the 2010 model with the 3.5L V6 rated at 250hp and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. For those who want more horsepower, check out the V8 R/T and SRT8 Charger models.
The Charger outfitted with the V6 engine is a heavy beast with a curb weight of 3,961 pounds. Even at full throttle, the acceleration is sluggish. The 5-speed automatic transmission needs an extra gear or two and a heavy dose of Red Bull to wake it up. Despite its sloth-like, off-the-line response, the 2011 model is refined than its predecessors.
The suspension has also been updated and is stiffer and provides a more aggressive stance compared to past models. Thankfully that equates to quick and sharp handling without being too harsh. Breaking the American stereotype of boring driving and noodly steering response, the steering was quick and precise without being twitchy. These upgrades increased driver confidence and connects the driver to the road. Combine that with the rear-wheel drive setup and the fun-factor was raised tremendously.
My test car came with the Blackberry Pearl coat, 292hp V6 Pentastar engine and a nicely tuned sports suspension. Although not the quickest off the line, once under way there's plenty of power available. Driving in traffic or around town was pleasantly easy. The EPA estimates the V6 at 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. We were able to squeeze 29 mpg on the highway (cruising 75 mph or less) and recorded 23 mpg with combined city and highway driving.
Inside, I found the interior equally big in design and ergonomics — there was a generous amount of space for both front and back seat passengers. I appreciated the refinements in the cabin design like the thinner A-pillars and more sloping windshield. It made the car feel more spacious while also increasing driver visibility.
The blind-spot and tight-turn visibility were very manageable — no more neck cranking like in older models. I also liked the soft interior lighting especially during night-time which made manoeuvring through the center console and stacks that much easier.
Along with the exterior, the interior has also been updated for 2011. Like much of the Chrysler and Dodge product line-up, the Charger now has a one-piece soft-touch dash, with chrome/faux-carbon trim with the low-quality plastics removed for a more appealing and refined look.
I loved the interior styling with sharp-looking Nappa leather wrapped seats featuring power adjustability and power lumbar support. And with the power height adjustable brake and gas pedals, all drivers can be fitted for this vehicle.
Dodge engineers did a good job designing the layout of the center console and central stack areas. All buttons and knobs provide good user feedback and with an easy to remember layout. A definite highlight was how well the Uconnect infotainment system was tied together. I was grateful the touch system was so easy to use and fast responding.
Dodge was serious about revitalizing the Charger line and its evidenced in the 2011 model makeover. The styling now includes several of the accents that made the car so popular in the late 60s and 70s with lots of throwbacks to the iconic Charger heritage.
The re-engineered 2011 Dodge Charger has a new “split crosshair” grille, a new, sculpted body, and better aerodynamics as a result of wind tunnel testing. Aerodynamic changes include a lower hood line, faster windshield, raked headlights, tighter wheel openings, lower sill, and flat underbody. Defining the fastback’s wide stance is a new taillamp design that incorporates 164 illuminating LEDs to form its signature “racetrack” graphic and gives the new Charger its unmistakable menacing character from blocks away.
The 2011 Dodge Charger model lineup (prices include destination; for 2012, SE is replaced by SXT)… Dodge Charger SE, standard 292 horsepower V6, starting at $25,995 Dodge Charger SE Rallye and Rallye Plus. Rallye adds 18 inch polished wheels, 8.4 inch stereo/Uconnect, 8-way powered driver's seat, heated front seats, remote start, fog lamps; Plus adds leather, power passenger seat, heated rear seats, and more. (These might be called SXT in Canada). Ralley is $28,245; Rallye Plus is $29,995.
Charger R/T and R/T Road & Track add 5.7 Hemi (372 hp, HID headlights, rear spoiler; Road & Track adds unique grille, 20-inch wheels, spoiler, badging, performance exhaust, and more). R/T is $30,995 RWD. The R/T Plus adds $2,000, AWD adds $2,150, Road and Track adds $3,000, and Max Package adds $5,000.
Dodge Charger R/T AWD includes all R/T equipment plus 19 inch twin-spoke wheels, lowered suspension vs 2010 AWD model, and active transfer case with front axle disconnect for better gas mileage
Our Charger Rallye Plus package included an 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen display (4.3-inch screen in the base model), Bluetooth, SIRIUS satellite radio, USB port, heated/cooled cup holders, adaptive cruise control, Garmin GPS navigation and a sunroof. The Driver Confidence Group package ($1495) added some more nifty features like Blind Spot Detection and Rear Back-up Cameras & Parking Assistance. And finally, the Rallye Appearance Group package ($1195) added the Alpine Stereo system with 506-watt amplifiers, 9-speakers with subwoofer, along with 20-inch Chrome-clad aluminium rims, and performance suspension.
The Charger Rallye Plus testeed, with upgrades and technology options, comes in at an MSRP of $34,955 with destination and delivery. Taking away all the luxuries brings the price down to 25,170 while still retaining the aggressive good looks.
With the status of the American car industry, the sticker price may be less with many of the available dealer incentives. The 2011 model is still waiting for government ratings for frontal crash, side impact or rollover risk assessment.
Even without that information, the Charger comes with a long list of safety features: electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, standard set of airbags plus driver knee airbags, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Dodge has a 5-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
The 2011 Dodger Charger is difficult to place in any vehicle category. It's less a luxury sedan and more a muscle sedan for the modern era. It’s geared for an enthusiast driver with a family.
For drivers who want something other than a Nissan Maxima, VW Passat, Ford Taurus, or other reasonably priced V6 powered sedan, take a look at the not-so-boring and unabashedly American 2011 Dodge Charger. With its style, comfort, and dare I say practicality, it surprisingly sheds a lot of the bad American stereotypes.
With this review, Mary Ellen Ash, a former contributor to CarReview.com, becomes a contributing columnist to TheWeekyDriver.com. A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Ash grew up in a family of car enthusiasts. She once owned a 1968 Dodge Charger and hopes to one day own a 1953 MG red convertible. Her current cars are a 2004 Subaru Outbeck Impreza Sport and a 1998 Toyota Tacoma.