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2011 Dodge Charger
A little more nostalgia . . . even though it still has four doors

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Dodge ChargerThe new 2011 Charger isn't so much brand new as it is restyled, refined and ready to strut its stuff with its upgraded powertrain lineup.

The big-dog Dodge has been around in its current format since the 2006 model year, one year following the launch of its platform-shared Chrysler 300 relation. Since then it has become the go-to choice for buyers seeking a traditional rear-wheel-drive sedan with pedal-to-the-metal performance in a practical wrapper.

Given that Chrysler has been undergoing a corporate overhaul since Fiat took over, several of the 2011 offerings have been delayed past the usual fall window. Honestly, six months ago, there was no guarantee that there would even be a Dodge Charger, so enthusiasts will be happy to know that a revamped 2011 model will arrive early in the new year.

It's hardly a carryover year, either, as the Charger sports a number of upgrades to tempt those whose long for those bygone musclecar days, tempered with the practicalities of 21st-century family life. That has actually been the Charger's strong suit all along.

2011 Dodge ChargerThe car's new nosepiece includes an aggressive and more prominent (think snout) cross-hair grille. In addition, a new aluminum hood has twin "scallops" that hint at the available power lurking beneath.

The altered roofline has a more steeply raked windshield as part of a 15-per cent increase in glass area that helps lessen the car's bottom-heavy appearance. In back, a full-width taillamp (an homage to the second-generation 1970 Charger) is encircled by 164 tiny light-emitting-diode (LED) mini-lamps that call attention to the entire panel.

The Charger now sits slightly closer to the ground, which also reduces the gap between the tires and the fender lips.

The more planted appearance is backed up by a thoroughly revised suspension that Dodge says improves the car's road-holding and high-speed cornering agility, while enhancing ride quality.

Interior upgrades were also a top priority and on that issue Dodge's design team had its work cut out for it. The upgraded seat coverings and redesigned dashboard that's now covered in premium "soft-touch" material shows improved attention to detail. As well, Dodge claims that added sound-deadening materials and improved door seals place the Charger on an equal footing with the BMW 5-series in terms of cabin quietness.

2011 Dodge ChargerBeyond reducing intrusive noises, Dodge has also cut back on the Charger's engine selection, but dramatically improved the base V6 in the process. For 2011, both the 178-horsepower 2.7-litre V6 and mid-grade 250-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 have been replaced with an all-new 292-horsepower 3.6-litre unit.

The 3.6 is the exclusive domain of the base SE trim level, while the R/T gets the 370-horsepower 5.7-litre "Hemi" V8 that carries over virtually unaltered from the 2010 model year. It includes a fuel-saving system that shuts down four of the eight cylinders under light- or zero-load conditions, then instantly fires them up again when needed. Dodge claims that the 5.7 pushes the Charger to 60 mph (96 km-h) in less than six seconds.

For the time being, both engines are connected to five-speed automatic transmissions, but a plan is afoot to connect the Hemi to an eight-speed automatic in the interests of reducing fuel consumption.

Conspicuously absent this time around is the high-performance Charger SRT8 (425-horsepower 6.1-litre V8), even though the Dodge Challenger coupe, by contrast, ramps up with a new 470-horsepower SRT model.

Ordering the Hemi allows the purchaser to select the available on-demand all-wheel-drive system that comes with a fuel-saving front-axle disconnect that hooks up only when needed, improving fuel efficiency by a claimed five per cent in the process.

Final content details have yet to be released, but there will be several specific option groupings for both the SE, and R/T models. That should be plenty to please a wide range of buyers who enjoy the look and feel of a sporting sedan with the capacity to move you in more ways than one.

What you should know: 2011 Dodge Charger

Type: Four-door full-size rear- /all-wheel-drive sedan
Engines (hp): 3.6-litre DOHC V6 (292); 5.7-litre OHV V8 (370)
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Market position: The Charger's size and class-leading V8 option make it one of the leading choices in the large-sedan group. The Charger name also evokes a certain degree of nostalgia, but it's really nothing like the Chargers of old.
Points: Restyled body integrates more nostalgia without botching the overall effect; New base V6 produces impressive power and promises better fuel economy;  No word yet as to SRT8 replacement, if any; AWD Hemi makes ideal four-season performance sedan; Suspension upgrades, quicker steering ratio should impress Charger fans.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.0/8.0 (3.6, est.)
Base price (incl. destination): $30,000 (est.)

By comparison:     

Chevrolet Impala
Base price: $29,000
Full-size sedan in need of updating. Modest power, but great fuel economy.

Hyundai Genesis Sedan
Base price: $39,500
Loaded premium sedan offers V6 and V8 power, but no AWD option.

Ford Taurus
Base price: $31,000
Roomy four-door with base 263-hp V6 or 365-hp twin-turbo V6 in SHO.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted March 8, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM


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