2011 Dodge Charger Review

2011 Dodge Charger - Pleasantly roadable performance sedan a blast to drive fast.


PLUSES: Pleasant combination of ride and handling without having to accept the "no pain, no gain" philosophy common in some performance cars.

MINUSES: Mileage, even though 4 cylinders will shut off when not needed to conserve fuel. 

Pull the seat belts a bit tighter and grip the steering wheel a little harder as you prepare to take off in the Dodge Charger SRT8 with its 6.4 liter HEMI V-8 that promises to plant butt and back into the bucket seat.

You'll have to be patient, however, the high performance version of the 2012 model Charger sedan won't be available until this fall. Until then, you have to make do with the next generation 2011 model of Charger in V-6 SE and HEMI V-8 R/T version.

Charger has been redone for 2011 since the Chrysler 300 platform from which it is derived has been redone as well.

Charger offers an SE version with the new 3.6 liter, 292 h.p. V-6 replacing the previous 3.5 and 2.7 liter V-6s, and a road and track or R/T version with 5.7 liter, 370 h.p. HEMI V-8. Both V-6 and V-8 are mater to a 5-speed automatic.

The R/T offers either rear or all wheel drive versions. The AWD system engages automatically in cold weather or when the windshield wipers are on in rainy or snowy conditions to guard against slipping.

We tested the R/T with AWD, the version of the sports sedan that ensures the best road manners and sure footed grip whether the pavement is wet or dry. The R/T AWD comes with 19 inch all season performance radials and a touring suspension while the R/T with RWD comes with 18 inch all season performance radials and a stiffer performance tuned suspension.

That means the AWD R/T emphasizes smooth ride and pleasant cruising over razor sharp handling while the RWD R/T sacrifices some ride smoothness to get more precise handling and better maneuvering along twisty paths.

The AWD R/T philosophy was minimum harshness to enjoy maximum ride without lots of bumps and bounces. The transformation of the 1997 Chevy Corvette proved that no pain, no gain, made no sense and getting tossed about the cabin in order to go fast was simply a reaction by motorists to engineers who didn't know any better.

A little exhaust rumble sound effects adds to the R/T experience. The HEMI is alive and alert, though keep the checkered flags in the drawer until the SRT8 arrives in the fall, when the high performance SRT8 arrives complete with its potent 6.4 liter, HEMI V-8 expected to deliver at least 465 h.p., a considerable added punch from the 370 h.p. from the 5.7 liter HEMI in the 2011 R/T. The SRT8 will lean toward optimum handling over cushy ride.

The Charger SE with V-6 is rated at 18 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway, the RWD R/T at 16/25, the AWD R/T at a modest if not paltry 15/23. And that rating comes despite the fact the HEMI has automatic cylinder deactivation so 4 cylinders shut off and you run in only 4 cylinder mode when cruising or coasting to conserve fuel.

The Charger sedan features the long hood, short deck sports car design formula adopted from muscle car days. The honeycomb grille with Dodge cross hair design is sporty and the sloping roof design is in keeping with giving the 4-door sedan a 2-door coupe profile that also provides better aerodynamics as well as wind noise.

The offset is that the roof leans down low over the opening to the rear seats. The wide open rear doors make for easily slipping into the seats, but keep the melon bent low on the exit to avoid contact with the roof.

The back seat, by the way, offers generous head, leg, foot and arm room. It would help if the leather seats had softer and thicker padding in the backs and bottoms (up front, too). Rear seats have a 60/40 split and fold to add even more space to the very generous room in the trunk. The opening between trunk and cabin when seat backs are lowered flat isn't wide open, however, and is one of those abbreviated tunnels between trunk and cabin.

Front or rear, it's possible there were more 12 volt power plugs than there were cup and bottle holders. How many passengers need to work on a computer at the same time? For listening pleasure there are iPod and auxiliary ports.

One feature that stood out were the cupholders in the center con sole, with each of the pair having a button to activate heating or cooling so that driver could keep coffee warm while passenger kept the waster bottle cool at the same time.

The cupholders were one item in the $5,000 R/T Max option package that includes such goodies as heated steering wheel, which only took seconds to reach a temperature high enough to warm hands or coffee, heated front and rear seats, power pedals, navi system, power passenger seat, backup camera, rear park assist warning, adaptive speed control to keep a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead, forward collision warning should that space be violated, and blind spot/cross path warning to alert you when a vehicle is in your blind spot or passing across your path behind when backing up. The cross warning is a true blessing in parking lots.

The 2011 Charger AWD R/T starts at $32,320, which in addition to the typical power goodies, adds remote start as standard. But most options are in packages so that while you can stay in your warm home while starting your cold Charger sitting in the driveway in the winter, you have to shell out $5,080 on the option package to keep the coffee in the cupholders hot during the winter and the pop cold during the summer.

2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD

Wheelbase: 120.2 inches


199.9 inches


Engine: 5.7 liter, 370 h.p., HEMI V-8.


Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual mode.


Mileage: 15 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway.


Base price:


Price as equipped:
Add $5,000 R/T Max package with adaptive speed
control, forward collision warning, blind spot and cross path warning,
rear park assist, backup camera, Garmin navi system, power pedals,
heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled
cupholders, $950 power sunroof, and $825 freight.

Jim Mateja

Jim Mateja enjoyed a 42 year career with the Chicago Tribune before retiring in 2007 as the newspaper's automotive columnist. He received numerous awards for his reporting and writing, including the National Automotive Journalism Association's "Moto" award for best regularly published column and automotive feature writing, and a Best in Show award for his test ride of a horse in conjunction with the Tribune's 150th anniversary. He also earned the Detroit Press Club Foundation's Gold Wheel Award for best car reviews, and a Tribune Professional Performance Award for his column and regular reporting. He still writes occasional car reviews for the Tribune, is one of the nation's 50 automotive journalists who serve as members of the North American Car of the Year judging panel, and is a panel member who helps select Best Buys for "Consumers Digest" magazine. Mateja also is the founding President of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.