Strong performance; agreeable ride/handling balance; nice interior; many high-end features available.
No playlist option for iPod interface; exposed rearview camera lens; rear-seat headroom tight for taller passengers.
By now most of us have gotten over the fact that the modern-era Dodge Charger is a four-door sedan. Yes, if it were true to the past, this car would be a two-door coupe, but the resurrected Challenger does just fine holding that position in the Dodge family. Still, the redesigned 2011 Dodge Charger makes us think that some of the protests made five years ago were heard, given some of the new Charger's retro styling cues. But there's a lot more to the latest Charger than hood recesses and a Coke bottle silhouette.
The Dodge boys evidently believe that most of us who might consider a 2011 Charger R/T aren't 20-year-old gearheads with perpetually scraped knuckles, but rather somewhat older guys who would like an affordable, high-performance sedan with a refined ride, comfortable seats and an interior that doesn't look as if it were sourced from Fisher-Price. They also want the sucker to roar with delicious V8 sounds and pin them to the seat when the gas pedal is mashed to the floor. After living with the 2011 Charger R/T, we can say as quickly as its throttle response that it effectively covers all the bases.
With the Pontiac G8 GT recently relegated to the automotive history books, there's really nothing in the way of an affordable V8-powered rear-wheel-drive sedan to serve as direct competition for the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T. Yes, some may argue that there is the Ford Taurus SHO, though that all-wheel-drive sedan with its turbocharged V6 is about $8,000 more. At a base price of about $31,000, the Charger R/T not only provides performance that will shame most any old muscle car, but also gives you luxuries such as keyless entry/ignition, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and an iPod-compatible audio system with satellite radio. To get this kind of performance, passenger space and well-equipped luxury in another car, you'd be looking at something that would be priced about $20 grand higher and wearing a premium badge.
The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T spins its rear tires via a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. With 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, this engine has no problem pushing the pudgy (4,315 pounds) Charger quickly up to speed. Yes, it works through an automatic with only five gears, which might seem a shortfall in a world where six- and seven-speed units are becoming the norm. But really, with all that torque the 5.7 could probably get by easily with an old three-speed Torqueflite.
At the track the R/T rips off the dash to 60 mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds and dispenses with the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 102.8 mph. (This is about what a 1970 Charger packing a 426-cubic-inch Hemi V8 would run.) Impressive, but the numbers still don't convey the visceral thrill to be had. For us, the Charger R/T is a little too subdued vocally most of the time. But rolling down the windows and leaning on the gas pedal treats your ears to a guttural bass track that inspires guys like us to post YouTube videos of such events. Regularly engaging in such heavy-footed shenanigans will cost you; we averaged 14.5 mpg against EPA estimates of 16 city, 25 highway and 19 combined.
Thankfully, the brakes don't remind us of an old Charger. These beefy binders bring the R/T to a halt from 60 mph in just 114 feet. The firm, progressive brake pedal and the car's unwavering stability under hard braking add to the confidence the brakes inspire.
Our Charger R/T came equipped with the R/T Road and Track option, which gets you bigger 245/45R20 tires on 20-inch wheels rather than 235/55R18s on 18-inch wheels, a blacked-out grille and a number of additional luxury features. Fitted with bigger rubber and already blessed with a well-sorted suspension, the R/T does a good job of managing its weight, as the steering responds crisply and body roll is minimal while hustling along a twisty two-laner.
As before, the R/T's front bucket seats are well-shaped and amply bolstered, providing decent lateral support during spirited driving as well as day-long comfort on an interstate slog. With power adjustment for the driver seat, pedals and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, anybody but Shrek should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. Our staff, ranging in size from 5-foot-5 to 6-foot-3, couldn't complain.
Backseat passengers are also well taken care of. The outboard seats are heated, the bench is high enough for ample leg support and there's a large fold-down armrest with deep cupholders. There's enough room for sub-6-footers, though taller folks might be shortchanged on headroom due to the sloping rear window.
Faced with streets that look as if they belong on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie, the 2011 Dodge Charger does itself proud. Los Angeles' bombed-out broken pavement didn't upset the car's poise or its passengers, as it soaks up the potholes and ruts in stride. The big Dodge feels as solid as a freight train running down the freeway at extra-legal speeds, while the cabin remains free of wind, engine and road noise.
Despite being loaded up (active cruise control and heated/cooled cupholders, anyone?), our Charger R/T's cockpit doesn't resemble the flight deck of the space shuttle. The gauges, displays and controls are large and button clutter is kept to a minimum. The large navigation display/multipurpose touchscreen likewise has big virtual buttons and icons, and its operation is intuitive. Even customizing the various settings to your liking doesn't require you to flip open the manual. And the standard Bluetooth connectivity includes the convenience of automatic phonebook downloading.
There are a few demerits, however. The iPod interface doesn't show your playlists. The system allows you to choose other parameters such as artists or albums, but negative on your playlists. The rearview camera's lens is exposed to the elements (there's no little hood to shield it), which makes the image on the screen resemble an impressionist painting when it's raining. Lastly, the navigation system doesn't mute the audio system enough when it gives voice prompts, though you can alleviate that by turning the prompt volume up to drown out the radio.
At 15.4 cubic feet, the Charger's trunk is on the small side for a large sedan. But its boxy shape, concealed hinges, low liftover height and wide opening make the most of the space. Two golf bags and a large travel case fit with ease. It's also nicely finished, as even the lid is carpeted. Should you need more space, the 60/40-split rear seatback folds down. Installing a rear-facing child seat is fairly easy, though choosing that orientation requires the passenger sitting in front to be about 5-foot-8 or less.
Design/Fit and Finish
As mentioned earlier, the redesigned 2011 Dodge Charger takes a few pencil strokes from 1969, and the result is an aesthetically pleasing form. We could do without the rear wing spoiler, which looks too Pep Boys for us (and can be deleted for a $100 credit). But we dig the aggressive nose, sleek greenhouse and stylish taillight panel.
Fully up to date is the cabin. In features and build quality, this interior is light-years ahead of the previous Charger. Materials and controls are luxury grade, with handsome stitching and soft-touch surfaces all around as well as switches and buttons that are pleasing to the touch.
Who should consider this vehicle
Anyone who likes the rumble and performance of an old V8-powered muscle car but needs the practicality and comfort of a roomy four-door sedan would be well served by the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T. Those who like the style and personality of the Charger but don't quite need all that thrust should consider the Charger SE with its all-new V6 that still puts nearly 300 hp under the hood.