Full 2011 Dodge Challenger Review
What's New for 2011
Telling your friends you bought a V6-powered 2011 Dodge Challenger is no longer something to be embarrassed about, as an all-new, more powerful and more efficient base V6 engine debuts. The SRT8 model gains a more powerful V8 engine as well. All Challengers benefit from extensive changes made to the suspension, steering and brakes, resulting in a more rewarding car to drive. There is also more standard equipment for 2011, along with reshaped seats and a more comfortable steering wheel.
When the latest Dodge Challenger first debuted for 2008, many people dismissed this reborn nameplate as being too big, too heavy and not a sharp enough handler. But it turned out that there was plenty of appeal hidden underneath that retro-styled sheet metal. With its spacious interior, comfortable seats, compliant suspension and abundant power, the Challenger represented both the rebirth of a classic American muscle car and the classic American coupe. Now, for 2011, the Challenger sees a host of changes that remedy many of the previous faults while firmly keeping its lovable muscle car experience intact.
Benefiting from extensive changes made to its suspension, brakes and steering, the 2011 Dodge Challenger is more capable of keeping up with its rivals when the road takes a turn or two. Even if the road is straight, there's still a lot to like this year. First of all, the base V6 model is no longer a source of automotive shame. The new "Pentastar" 3.6-liter V6 presents a significant improvement in both power (up 55 horsepower to 305 hp) and fuel economy, and is now competitive with its rivals' base engines. Meanwhile, Dodge has added "392" to the top-dog SRT8 model's name to match its 392-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) V8 now rumbling under the car's hood. It cranks out the power to the tune of 470 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque.
If it were us, though, we'd still stick with the midlevel Challenger R/T and its smaller 5.7-liter V8. The SRT8 is pretty darn cool, but it's really just overkill given its price, and a muscle car with a V6 will always seem a little wrong. Having said that, you can't ignore the Challenger's competitors. The Camaro is certainly more of an event car, with the flashiest styling inside and out. The Mustang is still the most well-rounded choice, giving up some of the Challenger's comfort for more of a performance and handling edge. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is also worth considering for those who like the idea of a muscle car in a modern wrapper.
So it definitely comes down to personal taste, but if you're looking for the muscle car that can double as a big, comfy coupe for ferrying kids to school, venturing on a whim to Utah or embarking on a shopping expedition to Target, there has rarely been a more practical way to lay a pair of giant black stripes upon the pavement.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Dodge Challenger is a five-seat coupe available in three trim levels that each correspond to a different engine: SE, R/T and SRT8 392. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, remote ignition (requires the automatic transmission), full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, rear A/C outlets, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, an eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
The optional Connectivity Group adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Rallye package includes those features plus automatic headlamps, foglamps, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a six-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system. The Super Sport Group adds 20-inch chrome-clad wheels and performance-tuned suspension, brakes and steering.
The Challenger R/T gets a V8 engine, automatic headlamps, foglamps, heated mirrors, the SE's Connectivity Group and all of the SE's Super Sport Group equipment minus the wheels. The R/T Plus package adds 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and the Boston Acoustics system. The R/T Classic package adds different 20-inch "heritage-style" wheels, matte-black side stripes, a different grille, hood scoops, xenon headlamps and the rest of the R/T Plus equipment. The Super Track Pak (not a typo) includes higher-performance steering, brakes, shocks, tires and stability control programming.
Optional on both the SE with Rallye package and the R/T is the Sound Group II, which adds a seven-speaker Boston Acoustic sound system with a touchscreen interface and 30GB of digital music storage. Either an integrated Garmin navigation system can be added to that touchscreen unit or an upgraded Chrysler navigation system that includes real-time traffic and weather. The Electronic Convenience Group adds power fold-away mirrors and expanded trip computer information. A sunroof is also optional, along with a variety of special Mopar trim pieces and styling enhancements.
The Challenger SRT8 392 gets all the R/T's basic equipment, but adds xenon headlamps, unique 20-inch wheels, sport seats, an upgraded trip computer with real-time performance data, hydraulic power steering (versus electrohydraulic), upgraded brakes and suspension, and a one-day driver training course at the Richard Petty Racing School. The Track Pak adds a six-speed manual transmission. The SRT Option Group II adds a 13-speaker Kicker surround-sound system with a subwoofer. The regular Challenger's Sound Group II and both navigation systems are also available.
The SRT8 392 Inaugural Edition gets special blue or white paint, full body stripes and other special exterior trim, two-tone white-and-blue leather upholstery and interior trim, and special "392" seat embossment.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SE is powered by a new 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. The Challenger's EPA fuel economy estimates were not available at the time of this writing.
The Challenger R/T gets a 5.7-liter V8 good for 372 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque when connected to the standard five-speed automatic. The six-speed manual transmission available when ordering the Super Track Pak Group increases output to 376 hp and 410 lb-ft. In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped Challenger R/T went from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds; the automatic raises that to 5.8 seconds. For 2011, this engine -- when equipped with the automatic -- includes fuel-saving cylinder-deactivation technology.
The Challenger SRT8 392 gets a 6.4-liter V8 that produces 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard and a six-speed manual is available with the Track Pak. In Edmunds testing, an automatic-equipped SRT8 392 went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Every 2011 Dodge Challenger comes standard with antilock disc brakes (size and power differs based on trim and certain option packages), stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the SRT8 392 came to a stop in an excellent 114 feet.
The Challenger has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) were a perfect five stars for frontal- and side-impact protection for driver and passengers.
Interior Design and Special Features
Unlike the Dodge Challenger's distinctive-looking exterior, the interior is quite bland. A few styling cues, like the large beveled dashboard and distinctive shifter knobs, are reminiscent of Challengers past, but overall the interior experience pales in comparison to its retro-themed rivals. Rearward visibility, because of the car's chunky rear roof pillars, is also poor.
Despite a slightly confusing audio interface, however, the interior is quite functional and its materials are of decent quality, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The new gauges for 2011 ditch the original Timex Indiglo illumination in favor of a more Casio cobalt-blue glow. A more important advancement this year is the new, smaller-diameter steering wheel that's better contoured to fit the driver's hands.
The front seats in most Challengers are wide and flat, which doesn't do much for lateral support, but they're exceptionally comfy for long-distance drives. The SRT8s have better bolstering and are also covered in leather and faux suede. The rear seats are surprisingly roomy for two adults, with good headroom and decent legroom. The backseat also features a 60/40-split-folding back, a fold-down armrest and a middle seat for tiny/good-natured folks. At 16.2 cubic feet, the Challenger's trunk is positively enormous for this segment and is bigger than those of many midsize sedans.
While all 2011 Dodge Challengers are blessed with a ride quality that's comfortable enough to keep your mom happy when picking her up from the airport, the base tuning of the SE is pretty floaty. We highly recommend going for the Super Sport Group's performance-tuned suspension, which brings with it more responsive steering and brakes. Or you could just get the R/T, which comes standard with those upgrades, plus the big V8 that, as expected, will have your mother screaming with anger or delight as you tear away from Arrivals. That goes double for the new SRT8 392. Whichever Challenger you choose, though, you're getting a car that provides keener handling than it did last year -- just not to the same degree as the more agile Mustang or Genesis Coupe.