New Car Review: 2011 Dodge Charger

Red 2011 Dodge Charger
The 2011 Dodge Charger.

I'll admit it. I was among those who thought naming a four-door sedan "Charger" was an act of sacrilege and doomed to failure. After all, the real Dodge Charger was a two-door.

Well, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "foolish consistency sucks" (or something like that). Fact is, Dodge has built a very good sedan and calling it "Coronet" (the four-door the original Charger was based on) would have been a far worse idea.

And, Dodge has dialed up the menace factor for the 2011 Charger. Look at the picture above. That's a six-cylinder family sedan. Pretty cool.

It helps enormously that under the new sheetmetal is a new six...the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with variable valve timing. Not only is it smooth and refined...it packs 292 horsepower. That's close to 100 horses more than the previous base engine...and only 58 fewer than the Hemi option used to bring. Suffice it to say, it gets up and runs. It's mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission and gets a very respectable 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway, according to the EPA.

Rear 3/4 view of red 2011 Dodge Charger
The 2011 Dodge Charger rear view.

Our tester was a Charger Rallye Plus. It started as just a base Charger SE ($25,170), which comes with a full complement of airbags, reactive head restraints, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control, all-speed traction control, hill start assist, rain brake support and ready alert braking.

Next comes the "27J Charger Rallye Plus" package. $4,000 that buys you an 8.4-inch touch-screen display, Uconnect Touch, voice command with Bluetooth, Bluetooth streaming audio (just because you have it for hands-free phone doesn't mean you can play music too...but here you can), Sirius satellite radio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, a remote USB port, an audio jack, a 276-watt amplifier and six premium speakers. There's also a remote start system, security alarm, dual-zone automatic climate control, humdity sensor, universal garage door opener, Nappa leather seats (heated in the front and rear...and 8-way power controlled with 4-way lumbar adjustment for the driver and front passenger), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, a heated and cooled front console cupholder, a compass, front overhead LED lighting, front and rear LED map pockets, driver and passenger lower LED lamps and an upgrade to 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels.

Stopping right there would give you a remarkably well equipped car for $29,170...even the destination charge of $825 wouldn't send you past $30K.

Two-tone (red and black interior) of the 2011 Dodge Charger
The 2011 Dodge Charger interior.

But Dodge wanted us to sample all the goodies, so the press fleet crew packed this one with:

  • The Driver Confidence Group ($1,495 for blind spot and cross path detection, rear parking assist, a backup camera, low-beam HID headlamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, SmartBeam headlamps, outside mirrors that automatically adjust when you put the car in reverse, and a driver's side automatically-dimming outside mirror).
  • The Driver Convenience Group ($575 for power adjustable pedals with memory, memory for radio, seat and mirrors, and a power tilt/telescoping steering column).
  • The Adaptive Cruise Control Group ($925 that goes to adaptive speed control, forward collision warning and a heated steering wheel).
  • The Navigation/Rear Backup Camera Group ($450, integrating a Garmin navigation system with the already-there backup camera and 8.4-inch color touchscreen).
  • The Rallye Appearance Group ($1,195 for an upgrade to a 506-watt amplifier, 9 amplified speakers with subwoofer, a further jump up to 20-inch chrome-clad aliuminum wheels, 245/R20 all-season performance tires, a rear body-color spoiler and performance suspension).
  • A power sunroof ($950).
And that, folks, is that. Total price: $35,585. Yeah, there are some things I could quibble about (like how a 506-watt amplifier and speakers wound up in an "appearance" group), but the fact is, this car was a complete joy to drive. It looked great, it drove well, the new interior is just wonderful, it had every imaginable convenience. Yes, you could make do with less for a daily 20-mile commute. But this car whispered things like "Hey, let's go to Denver for lunch."  And Denver's 821 miles from TireKicker World HQ.  Plus, it can blow the doors off any other domestic family sedan that isn't packing a Hemi.

"Charger" was the right pick, after all.

2011 Dodge Charger Rallye Plus

Base price: $25,170

As tested: $35,585

Likes: Styling, power, handling, attitude and a great new interior.

Dislikes: Some silly option packaging on the part of Dodge's marketing guys.

EPA estimate: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway.