2011 Dodge Charger Review and Prices
The 2011 Dodge Charger is the best car for you if you want the all-new edition of the only American-brand rear-wheel-drive full-size sedan.
The 2011 Dodge Charger is the extensively re-engineered follow-up to the successful 2006-2010 model that resurrected a hallowed performance-car name from Dodge’s past. The 2011 Charger retains a rear- and all-wheel-drive sedan formula but with bolder new styling that more closely reflects the spirit of the 1968-1970 Dodge Charger. There’s significantly more muscle underhood, too, thanks in large measure to a new base V-6 with 63-percent more horsepower than the V-6 it replaces. And, yes, the performance-tuned 2011 Charger R/T’s got a Hemi.
Should you buy a 2011 Dodge Charger or wait for the 2012 Dodge Charger? If all-new styling, a redesigned and upgraded interior, and the choice of a 295-horsepower V-6 or a 370-horse Hemi V-8 are enough for you, buy a 2011 Charger. Those attributes won’t change for model-year 2012. But if you pant at the prospect of piloting a 465-horsepower booster rocket, wait for the 2012 Charger. It’ll feature the return of the SRT8 model.
2011 Dodge Charger Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Dodge Charger repeats as a four-door sedan but with all-new styling inside and out. Dodge touts the shape as a return to the “coke-bottle” contours and broad-shouldered stance of classic Chargers. Heritage cues include scalloped body sides and hood. The taillamp design incorporates 164 illuminating LEDs and is shaped in homage to the “racetrack” graphic of the 1969 and ’70 Chargers. The 2011 Charger has a sleeker new roofline Dodge pitches as a “fastback-coupe” design. The brand’s trademark crossbar-grille nose remains but in a stronger form that loses the outgoing model’s retreating chin.
The 2011 Charger’s underskin structure is a thorough rework of the 2006-2010 generation’s, itself developed with engineering from Mercedes-Benz during a period in which Chrysler was controlled by the German automaker. Interior and exterior dimensions change only fractionally, though the 2011 model’s trunk volume shrinks slightly, to 15.4 cubic feet from 16.2. The 2011 Charger is some 200 pounds heavier, too. Its wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – is virtually unchanged at 120.2 inches and remains among the longest of any car’s. That’s one clue to this Dodge’s generous cabin room. The new interior, though, is sportier and more upscale, with additional soft-touch surfaces and genuine aluminum trim in place of the previous coated plastic.
The 2011 Dodge Charger base model is again called the SE. The sportiest version is the 2011 Charger R/T (for Road and Track). Gone at least for model-year 2011 is the midlevel SXT trim line. The 2011 Charger continues to share its basic engineering with the similarly re-engineered and restyled 2011 Chrysler 300 sedan. A shorter-wheelbase adaptation of this platform is also used for the 2011 Dodge Challenger coupe. It’s possible this structure will eventually be used for cars from Alfa Romeo and Lancia. Those European marques, along with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram truck brands, are controlled by Fiat. The Italian automaker took over bankrupt Chrysler during 2009.
Mechanical: The 2011 Dodge Charger continues with V-6 and V-8 power and is again based on a traditional rear-wheel-drive chassis. This rear-drive foundation continues to set Charger apart: no other full-size sedan – foreign or domestic -- in its price class has it. Rear-wheel drive is revered by handling purists because it spreads the weight of the powertrain over the length of the car. And unlike front-wheel drive, it doesn’t compel the front tires to propel the car as well as steer it, a demand that can corrupt both traction and directional control.
The 2011 Charger again offers all-wheel drive (AWD) to enhance snowy-weather traction. Among its close rivals, only the 2011 Ford Taurus offers AWD. For model-year 2011, the R/T model is the only Charger available with AWD; it had previously been an SXT option, as well. Charger’s 2011 AWD system again automatically reapportions power to the front wheels if the rears slip, but it includes new technology that saves gas by fully disengaging the front axle when AWD isn’t needed.
The 2011 Charger SE again uses a six-cylinder engine but this one is Chrysler’s new-generation V-6 that provides more power and better fuel economy than the previous V-6. Code-named Pentastar, the new engine is a 3.6-liter rated at 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It replaces a 3.5-liter V-6 that had 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a car moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it rolling. The 2010 Charger also was available with a milquetoast 2.7-liter V-6 that had just 178 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque). The Pentastar V-6 gives the 2011 Charger SE the highest horsepower and torque of any base model in its competitive set.
Similarly, the sporty 2011 Charger R/T model is the most powerful sedan in it price class. It returns with Chrysler’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, now rated at 370 horsepower, 2 more than the 2011 version; torque remains 395 pound-feet. The Hemi retains a deactivation system that saves gas by shutting down four cylinders in light-throttle cruising or while the car is stopped. All 2011 Chargers have a five-speed automatic as their sole transmission; previously, rear-drive V-6 Chargers were saddled with a four-speed automatic. The five-speed automatic provides manual-type gear control via a separate gate for its shift lever.
Among mechanical advances, the 2011 Charger trades fully hydraulic power steering for an electro-hydraulic setup. Dodge says the wire-connected steering allows for greater precision, less noise, and reduced fuel consumption. The 2011 Charger R/T again comes with more aggressive suspension settings and beefier brakes than the SE model. Standard wheels are 17-inch painted alloys on the SE. The rear-drive R/T gets 18-inch chrome-finished alloys and the AWD R/T gets 19s. The 18-inch alloys are optional on the SE and 20-inch alloys are optional on the SE and the rear-drive R/T.
Features: The 2011 Dodge Charger returns with an array of standard features competitive with any in its price range, plus a host of extras new to the lineup. The latter includes standard remote keyless unlocking with pushbutton ignition; the keyfob also enables remote lowering of the standard power windows. Newly available is adaptive cruise control that automatically maintains a set distance from traffic ahead and audibly alerts of an impending frontal collision. Also new are blind-spot monitors that warn of unseen traffic in adjacent lanes and rear cross-path detection to warn of vehicles approaching from the sides when backing from a parking space.
Standard equipment on every 2011 Charger includes cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, and power windows, mirrors, and locks. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and a leather-wrapped rim is standard on R/Ts and optional on SEs. All models are available with a heated power tilt/telescope steering wheel. SEs come with a six-way power driver’s seat. Heated front seats and a 12-way power driver’s seat are standard on the R/T and optional on the SE. Heated rear seats and power adjustable pedals are optional on both models.
The 2011 Charger uses Chrysler’s Uconnect dashboard touchscreen interface for some audio, climate, and accessory functions. SE models come with a 4.3-inch touchscreen; optional on the SE and standard on R/T is Uconnect 8.4 with an 8.4-inch screen. Optional on all models is Uconnect 8.4 combined with a voice-activated navigation system and rearview camera. Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity is standard on R/T and optional on SE.
The 2011 Charger’s standard audio system includes both an auxiliary jack and USB iPod interface. Both models come with six speakers, though the R/T’s standard audio unit is upgraded to 276 watts. That system is optional on SE and both models can be ordered with a nine-speaker, 506-watt 7.1-Matrix surround-sound Alpine system. Among other features, standard on the R/T and optional on the SE are xenon headlamps, heated mirrors, automatic dual-zone climate control, and remote engine start. Leather upholstery and a power sunroof are optional on all 2011 Chargers.
Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, traction and antiskid control, a driver’s knee airbag, torso-protecting front side airbags, and head-protecting curtain side airbags for all outboard seating positions.
2011 Dodge Charger Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2011 Dodge Charger is $25,995-$30,995. That places the 2011 Charger SE some $200 below the starting price of a 3.5-liter V-6 2010 Charger and starts the 2011 Charger R/T almost $1,600 under a 2010 R/T. It’s evidence that Dodge recognizes pressure to keep the 2011 Charger attainable to a broad field of buyers. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2011 Charger is $825.)
Base price for the 2011 Dodge Charger SE is $25,995. Among key upgrades, 2011 Charger SE equipped with the Rallye Package is priced at $28,245. The Rallye package includes the Uconnect Touch 8.4, Bluetooth, automatic dual-zone climate control, the 276-watt audio system, heated front seats, and the 18-inch alloy wheels. A 2011 Charger SE ordered with the Rallye Plus Package is priced at $29,995; the main additions with this package are leather upholstery and heated and cooled cupholders.
The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is priced from $30,995 with rear-wheel drive and from $33,145 with AWD. Among key options, the R/T Plus Package includes leather upholstery, a 12-way power front passenger seat, heated and cooled cup holders, and ambient LED cabin illumination. Adding the R/T Plus Package boosts the price of a rear-drive 2011 R/T to $32,995 and an AWD R/T to $35,145.
Increasing the price of a rear-drive 2011 Charger R/T to $33,995 is the R/T Road & Track Package. It includes all the R/T Plus Package features and adds a black honeycomb grille with matte-black surround, sport-bolstered front seats with suede inserts, and performance-boosting engine and transmission calibrations. It also replaces the 2.65:1 final drive ratio with the acceleration-enhancing 3.06:1 ratio that’s standard on AWD R/Ts.
Available on both the rear- and all-wheel-drive 2011 Charger R/T models is the R/T Max Package. Among other features, it includes the R/T Plus Package and adds the navigation system, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and rear cross-path monitoring, the premium Alpine audio, power tilt/telescope heating steering wheel with memory, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. With the R/T Max Package, a rear-drive 2011 Charger R/T is priced at $35,995 and an AWD 2011 Charger R/T lists for $38,145.
2011 Dodge Charger Fuel Economy back to top
Having more power than its 2010 counterpart doesn’t mean the 2011 Dodge Charger is less fuel-efficient. In fact, EPA mileage ratings improve for virtually every iteration of the 2011 Charger compared with its predecessor.
The 2011 Dodge Charger SE with the new Pentastar V-6 is rated at 18/27 mpg city/highway. That’s a marked improvement over the rear-drive 2010 Charger with the 3.5-liter V-6, which had 42 fewer horsepower and rated 17/24 mpg. Part of the credit for the 2011 Charger SE’s better showing goes to the five-speed automatic transmission; its 2010 counterpart had a less efficient four-speed automatic. All versions of the 2011 Charger are more aerodynamic than their predecessors, too.
The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is rated 16/25 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 15/23 with AWD. By comparison, the 2010 Charger R/T with essentially the same power output was rated at 16/25 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 15/23 with AWD.
Dodge recommends midgrade 87-octane gas for the Pentastar V-6; it had recommended more expensive 89 octane for best performance with the 3.5-liter V-6. It continues to recommend that 2011 Charger R/T owners use 89 octane for best performance with the Hemi V-8, but says 87 octane is acceptable.
2011 Dodge Charger Release Date back to top
The 2011 Dodge Charger went on sale in late 2010.
What's next for the 2011 Dodge Charger back to top
The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 is waiting in the wings. This is the model that puts Charger in the upper tier of performance sedans and the 2012 Charger SRT8 should be notably more capable than the outgoing version. First of all, it’ll have a bigger Hemi with more power. The 2012 Charger SRT8 will use a 6.4-liter V-8 that Dodge estimates at 465 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. The outgoing Charger SRT8 had a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 rated at 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Besides additional muscle, the 2012 SRT8’s Hemi, will for the first time employ the 5.7-liter Hemi’s fuel-conserving cylinder-shutoff technology.
The 2012 Charger SRT8 will remain rear-wheel drive only, but handling and roadholding should benefit from additional suspension, brake, steering, and tire development. It’ll also have unique exterior scoop/spoiler/wheel work to signal its rude intentions. And it’ll get special front bucket seats designed to hug occupants in place during fast cornering,
As for mainstream Chargers, reports say Chrysler is preparing an eight-speed automatic transmission and may make it available on model-year 2012 versions of this full-size sedan. The five-speed automatic puts the 2011 Charger a step behind top rivals, which use a six-speed automatic. An eight-speed would help Charger leapfrog key competitors. With transmissions, the greater the number of gears the greater the opportunity for efficient power transfer and the best fuel economy.
In the longer term, don’t rule out turbocharging for a performance version of the Pentastar V-6, but more likely are measures intended to make the new engine more fuel efficient. These could include introduction of cylinder deactivation. Very probable is application of Fiat’s Multiair technology, which improves engine breathing and broadens the power band to boost output and reduce exhaust emissions.
Fiat seems keen to use the Pentastar in some of its European models and to employ its Multiair four-cylinder engines in new cars for the U.S., either as Fiat products or perhaps as Dodge-badged adaptations. The Charger isn’t apt to go four-cylinder. But its basic structure is quite likely to underpin a future Alfa Romeo sedan that could come to America and a Lancia flagship that probably would not. A Dodge in Alfa clothing -- that’ll be interesting.
2011 Dodge Charger Competition back to top
2011 Ford Taurus: Easily Charger’s closest rival for sport-minded fans of big American sedans. Taurus was heavily revamped for 2010 with aggressive new styling inside and out. It offers front- and all-wheel drive and a choice of a 263-horsepower V-6 or Ford’s hot twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. The latter defines the Taurus SHO, a Charger R/T-fighter with 365 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque, a sport suspension, and AWD. It’s a techie approach to muscle. The Taurus is slightly larger than the Charger, but has an 8-inch-shorter wheelbase, which dictates a rear seat notably less spacious than the Dodge’s. Base prices for mainstream Taurus models start at $25,995 with front-wheel drive and at $30,045 with AWD. Fuel economy is 18/28 mpg with front-drive, 17/25 with AWD. The 2011 Taurus SHO starts at $38,295 and rates 17/25 mpg.
2011 Acura TL: Now that the rear- and all-wheel-drive V-6 and V-8 Pontiac G8 sedan sleeps with the fishes, Charger’s field of rivals narrows quickly. But we’ll submit for your consideration this midsize sedan from Honda’s upscale division. The TL comes only with V-6 power and is smaller than the Charger. But it has extroverted styling and aims for an enthusiast sedan buyer. Base TL models have front-wheel drive, 280 horsepower, 254 pound-feet of torque, and rate 18/26 mpg. They come only with a five-speed automatic and start around $36,000. The top-line SH-AWD model has all-wheel drive, 305 horsepower, 273 pound-feet, and comes with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic; fuel economy is 17/25 mpg with either transmission. The 2011 TL SH-AWD starts around $43,000. Both 2012 TL models get freshened styling, more features, and replace the five-speed automatic with a six-speed automatic.
2011 Nissan Maxima: Facing a landscape virtually devoid of rear-wheel-drive sedans with Charger’s flavor, we’ll again go fishin’ and suggest this front-drive four-door because it has an attitude not dissimilar to that of the big Dodge’s. Like the Acura TL, Maxima is smaller inside than the Charger but holds four adults with no problem. It’s solidly build, aggressively styled, and emphasizes sporty performance. There’s really no swaggering Charger R/T counterpart, but Maxima feels spirited enough with its sole engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive prevents it from replicating Charger’s specific road manners, and so does the efficient but sometimes-odd behavior of its only gearbox, a continuously variable transmission. Fuel economy is a pleasing 19/26 mpg and prices start at $31,440 for the base Maxima 3.5S model and $34,160 for the uplevel 3.5SV. Maxima’s next major changes are due for model-year 2014.