2011 Dodge Charger: First Drive

The Dodge Charger is the eccentric uncle among large family sedans. It's a rear-wheel-drive muscle car with an available Hemi V-8 engine, and the changes it gets for 2011 don't change that. In some ways, they accentuate its personality. The 2011 Charger hits dealerships in December.
I've always thought the Charger was an aggressive-looking car, but the redesigned 2011 model raises the sedan's meanness factor. It starts up front with a restyled grille that has a lot more tension in its design — Dodge designer Mark Trostle described it as "Superman's chest" — and contributes to the furrowed look of the headlights. Much of the sheet metal is new as well, with hood and door scallops that are more visually striking.

Perhaps the biggest change is to the rear, which gets full-width illumination when the headlights are on. It helps make the Charger as distinctive from the rear as it is from the front.
Although a 370-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 and all-wheel drive remain options, the base engine is Chrysler's new 292-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, and that's the engine I tested in an SE Rallye Plus trim level. Gas mileage estimates for either engine have not been released as of this writing.
One of the things I've noticed while driving different Chrysler models with this V-6 is that it feels like the engine makes most of its power higher in the rpm range. It takes a little while for the power to build. Once you rev it, though, it pulls pretty well — even in a big car like the Charger. Our test car's curb weight was nearly 4,000 pounds.

The V-6 teams with a five-speed automatic transmission, and it's a smooth-shifting unit. Just as important, it kicks down quickly when you need to extract more power from the V-6 for passing.
Three suspensions are offered: Touring, Performance and Super Track Pak. Our SE Rallye Plus model had the midlevel Performance setup, and it was fairly sensitive to road imperfections.

Despite the Charger's rear-wheel-drive layout, it has never felt as dynamic and tossable as the dearly departed Pontiac G8. The Charger feels like a big car, and it's more at home cruising than carving corners. The steering tuning reinforces this, as there's plenty of power assistance so it only takes light effort to turn the wheel, which provides some feedback.

The Charger has had one of Dodge's better interiors of recent memory, and the changes for 2011 are still welcome. From the tall dashboard to the steering wheel to the newly available 8.4-inch touch-screen, much has been updated. One welcome change is that the leading edge of the roof has been shifted rearward a little, making it easier to see stoplights when you're first in line. While I wouldn't say the Charger's new interior surpasses the Ford Taurus' cabin, which is pretty good, it definitely matches it.
The Charger's front bucket seats, which were finished in leather in our test car, are quite soft. They're a little too spongy for my tastes, and they didn't do much to keep me in place when cornering quickly; I easily slid over the limp side bolsters.

Like before, the Charger has a relatively large backseat to accommodate adult passengers. The rear seat has the same soft cushioning as the front buckets. Dodge says the new quarter windows improve visibility for rear passengers, but the fast roofline means taller passengers' views out the side windows are still limited.

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.

More Dodge Charger News





By Mike Hanley | November 10, 2010 | Comments (18)


Jonathan Brown

Great photos and a great writeup. I like the new Dodge Charger srt/8 and RT.


Front reminds me a German Nazi tank with a cross.
Really muscular appearance everywhere but a weak tail. Looks like a body builder with underdeveloped legs. This car probably would benefit from Ferrari-style round taillights.

The problem with this car is that I am not sure, into which category it falls? Looks like it is made for appearance and performance, may be. But little practicality for the family. Then, again, Chrysler has no car to fight Camry, Accord, Altima, Sonata, Fusion, Malibu. Ok, 200 is like Malibu if any of these. Looks like in this age where practicality counts Chrysler [Dodge] again created a vehicle which is not going to break sales charts.


Great looking car! I have a 2008 RT and love it and it has been a great car but I will never buy another Chrysler again.


If only they would make it as a two door!!


5 speed automatic?
You can get a 6 speed automatic in a $15,000 Kia Forte.


They do make it as a 2-door, it's called the Challenger.


George, what is the difference, 5 speed, 6 speed.
Corolla has 4 speed and still more frugal then Civic 5 speed , same engine size.


I loved the last one, but dodge has outdone themselves here!


Lest we forget, it's still based on the late 90s E-Class...


Tony: It has a huge trunk, big four doors and plenty of room front and back, what does the family need?

George: The 8 speed automatic is coming soon.

ADSC: That is a myth, what is your point?



Quit spreading lies. Your comment is far from true. The platform shares more with the Chrysler LH series cars and the AMC - Renault Premeire platform than it does with the E-class.

There are no components that can be directly swapped from an E-class nor are they dimensionally the same.


It's the exact same color as the '69 roadrunner I was comparing it to. It actually looks more like the classic than the 2010. The humped shoulder on the '10 is not on the '69. I think smoother shoulder line helps make it different from the Challenger. They're both great looking cars.


Are those rear climate controls on the back of the center console? Is that common in full size sedans?

Master Mechanic

Beautiful Charger !!!

Starting to really like that color !!

I have many cusomers with 06 and newer Charger's (routine maint,oil,tires,brakes ect.....they all love them and are more reliable than the import cars of the same year...

This current Charger really improved from the rear end styling...looks great !!

That furrowed headlight look is very nice. You are right to call it mean. I also like the interiors a lot. It's understated and functional. But I'm worried about the problem you say the seats have where you tend to slide around during corners.

that is one hell of a muscle car....


Unlike the high performance V8s, this particular version of the Charger is likely to be the most commonly produced and purchased.

I know it is not a powerful G8, the V8 Chargers are more the answer that request.

My question is whether this mainstream models will prove satisfactory for the majority of drivers? Is it too underpowered ? I would hope not and it doesn't sound as if it is. So as an everyday family full-size driver is it or is it not a suitable mix with the v6 and the five speed automatic?

NOT HAPPY!!!!!!!!

Wow nice job for taking my comments of praise of the new charger off of your website. Thought the purpose was to post comments for dialogue between car fans. Nice to know you have enough time to screen comments but not enough time to post great car reviews. Don't worry I only search here when I'm done reading all my other car sites for news. Word of advice focus more time on your job to make this a better website with original reviews. And get a better photographer!!!

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