I was expecting to walk away from the six-cylinder Charger believing this muscle machine — which finally looks as muscular as its name suggests — is best experienced with the rootin, tootin’ Hemi stuffed under the hood. But after driving it, I’m whistling a completely different tune.
Granted, the 3.6-liter V-6 that is quickly being ushered into almost every Chrysler product doesn’t produce the same sexy burble or spine-snapping torque as the company’s 5.7-liter V-8. But for once, the six-cylinder offering isn’t horribly devoid of power. On paper, the so-called Pentastar V-6 produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque; in the real world, it’s surprisingly adept at hustling the 3961-pound Charger, even though it’s mated to an aging five-speed automatic.
Smoky burnouts and stoplight drag races aren’t this engine’s forte, but fuel economy certainly is. At 18/27 mpg (city/highway), it bests the eight-cylinder version by two mpg all around and is on par with a base front-wheel-drive Ford Taurus.
What I’m most impressed with, however, is that buyers no longer need to sacrifice content, comfort, or style when opting for the six-cylinder engine. Apart from two fewer cylinders, this V-6 car is virtually identical to the eight-cylinder R/T we had here last week — same outstanding styling, same sharp 20-inch chrome wheels, and the same impeccable interior. Add an R/T badge in the right places, and it’d be easy to fool almost anyone into thinking that thing does, in fact, have a Hemi.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The new Dodge Charger is significantly improved over the 2010 model in many ways, and the base V-6 engine is one of them. Whereas the car was previously available with a 2.7-liter V-6 and a 3.5-liter V-6, both very old designs, the car now boasts Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. The new engine produces an extra 42 hp compared with the previous 3.5-liter and is rated at 1 more mpg in the city and 2 more on the freeway. During my test drive, it was clear to me that this powertrain has ample power for the average consumer and should please the vast majority of potential buyers.
As a fan of Mopar muscle, it’d be worth the extra $2750 and 2-mpg sacrifice to get that Hemi power, sound, and performance to go along with this car’s great looks, newly excellent interior, and long heritage.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I’m a sucker for the Dodge Charger. I first saw this sedan several years ago at a Chrysler corporate preview event that was, not coincidentally, staged at the same time the CEO was asking the government for funding to keep the company’s doors open. No matter what you think of the bailout, you can’t deny that this is a spectacular sedan.
With the death of Ford’s Panther platform, Chrysler and Dodge are the only domestic brands left with big, comfortable, rear-wheel-drive sedans. In a strange twist of fate, this most American of executions comes courtesy of an old partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which contributed the rear suspension from a previous E-class platform. No matter the origins of the underpinnings, the Charger team has given this car a distinctly American style and attitude. The aggressive front end, bold treatment of the taillights, and big chrome wheels certainly set the Charger apart from the likes of the Ford Taurus or the Buick LaCrosse. The other large American sedans are also front-wheel drive, and are a lot less fun to hustle along your favorite stretch of road.
For 2011 Dodge not only gave the Charger a new look and a new interior, but also a highly credible V-6 engine. The timing couldn’t have been better as we’re seeing the price of gas rising again. Perhaps the Charger’s 18/27 mpg city/highway ratings sound low with all the 40+ mpg compact-car fuel economy figures we’ve been hearing about lately, but the Charger easily offers enough room for passengers and luggage to replace an SUV or crossover. If all-wheel-drive is a requirement, there’s a Charger for you, too, although it requires stepping up to the Hemi V-8 and stepping down a few mpg. But I imagine a big percentage of the people who like the idea of an AWD Charger won’t mind trading a few mpg for the extra oomph of the Hemi.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
I hope that America can recognize how much has changed with the new Dodge Charger. While the exterior facelift was extensive, the Charger’s in-you-face look is still evolutionary. Those who look inside and under the hood will find a very new, very impressive car. The materials inside are top-notch and the ergonomics, while not perfect, are wonderful compared to the distraction devices coming out of Ford and GM these days. The car’s ride is shockingly smooth for a vehicle with 20-inch wheels, and the steering is superb for the class. The new 3.6-liter V-6 offers refined but punchy power that’s perfectly fitting for this sporty sedan. The Charger’s Achilles heel is the five-speed automatic. It’s slow to respond to the throttle and uncertain of itself when shifting. That eight-speed automatic can’t come soon enough.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I’ll agree with everyone that the new Pentastar V-6 is perfectly sufficient, and I’m also aware that it’s very likely faster than many of the V-8 Chargers produced in the late ’60s. And yet, I still walk away with the feeling that a Charger needs a Hemi. This V-6, though competent and efficient, leaves the Charger about on par with many other six-cylinder sedans. Really refined, nice interior, great navigation system, blah, blah, blah. It’s the terrific wallop of acceleration and angry chorus of a pushrod V-8 that makes this car truly exceptional and American.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2011 Dodge Charger Rallye Plus
Base price (with destination): $29,995
Price as tested: $35,880
3.6-liter V-6 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
Electronic stability control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Hill start assist
Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen display
Bluetooth audio streaming
Sirius satellite radio
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Remote USB port
Audio jack input
Remote start system
Air conditioning with dual-zone climate control
Nappa leather seating
Heated front/rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Driver confidence group — $1495
Blind spot and cross-path detection
ParkSense rear park assist system
ParkView rear backup camera
Rallye appearance group — $1195
9 amplified speakers with subwoofer
20-inch chrome wheels
Power sunroof — $950
Adaptive cruise control — $925
Heated steering wheel
Forward collision warning
Driver convenience group — $575
Power adjustable pedals
Power tilt/telescoping steering column
Navigation/rear backup camera group — $450
Garmin navigation system
Toxic orange pearl exterior paint — $295
Key options not on vehicle:
18 / 27 / 21 mpg
Horsepower: 292 hp @ 6350 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Curb weight: 3961 lb
Wheels/tires: 20 x 8.0-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels
245/45R20 all-season tires
What’s new? Redesigned for 2011