2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Dodge Charger 2011 Dodge Charger
First Drive Review From the December 2010 Issue of Car and Driver

Is there an angrier car on the road than the Dodge Charger?

No other car’s styling says, “Don’t f*&! with me” with such eloquence. There’s menace in the scowling headlights, the shield-like crosshair grille, and the shoebox-sized side windows. Those traits, and its fulsome dimensions, mean the Charger works perfectly as a police cruiser. Cops love the Charger because the car’s mere presence has drivers pulling over immediately, even if the lights aren’t flashing. Civilians love it for those exact same reasons.

But for all of its stylized rage, the outgoing Charger never really looked like a Charger. “It could have been an Intrepid, or even a Gran Fury, but we went with ‘Charger’ as it had the best name ­recognition,” president and Dodge-car brand CEO and senior vice-president of product design Ralph Gilles tells us.

The 2011 Charger is designed to be a Charger this time, but not just any one. “Forget the Chargers of the Eighties,” says Gilles. Dodge looked to the ­second-generation Charger (1968–’70) for the new body’s defining characteristics. “We went a little nostalgic in the look,” Gilles tells us. The most obvious throwbacks are the scooped-out hood and doors that recall the Gen-2 model. But those flourishes run deeper into the metal and are exaggerated here. Along the doors, the top of the punched-in crease becomes the shoulder line that broadens outward like a Coke bottle and defines the rear fender, another late-’60s Charger trait. The taillights, made up of 162 glowing LEDs, are a modern tip of the hat to the ’70 Charger. But aside from these design cues, the overall look avoids slavishly copying the past. If you want retro, buy a ­Challenger. The new car wears just enough vintage armor to satisfy the Charger gods, even if it still has two extra doors.

To make customers happy, all versions of the Charger get dual exhaust tips and the option of up to 20-inch wheels (17-inch aluminum wheels are standard). Choose the right options, and the V-6 Charger can look just like the Hemi V-8 version, spoiler and all. For those who can’t resist the lure of the Hemi engine, the 5.7-liter V-8 carries over from last year with an expected 370 horsepower. That engine has no trouble fulfilling the Charger’s muscle-car contract. But the V-6 isn’t the rental-fleet special any more. The corporate 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and the 178-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 are dead, replaced by a new 3.6-liter V-6 that will make an estimated 292 horsepower. Both the V-6 and V-8 use a carry-over five-speed automatic; more gears are rumored for the future. While the six lacks the deep rumble and torque of the V-8, it can accelerate the Charger with plenty of thrust (we estimate 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds). Despite the added V-6 power, the new engine should achieve fuel economy in the neighborhood of 18 city and 26 highway, numbers that would match the far less powerful 2.7-liter V-6, thanks to the five-speed transmission (up from four) and the new, more slippery body.

Via aerodynamic tweaks, Dodge has attempted to address the No. 1 reason buyers reject the Charger: fuel economy. A lower nose, a deeper chin spoiler, wheels pushed out toward the fenders, hidden wipers, restyled exterior mirrors, and a raked-back windshield all contribute to a reduced drag coefficient. The V-8 Charger probably won’t enjoy improved fuel economy, but the drag reduction should allow it to maintain the previous ratings of 16 city and 25 highway, despite a slightly heavier curb weight. (Its compliance with stricter crash regulations should increase mass by at least 100 pounds, to about 4250.) The new windshield angle also helped resolve the second-most-common complaint: outward visibility. With glass now closer to the driver’s head, pilots no longer have to peep like a Tom to see hanging stoplights. Larger side glass, the small sail windows in front of the C-pillars, and the slightly lower beltline increase the glazed area by 15 percent and remove the previous car’s high-waisted, tank-like cabin ambience, especially in the back seat.