Driven: 2011 Dodge Charger R/T

A polished performer
All of the above changes and improvement allow you to focus on the driving experience, which is might not be worlds better but is a lot easier to appreciate. Although the new Pentastar V-6 blows away any of the previously available sixes, the Charger is still a V-8 kind of car. With 370 hp, the Hemi is virtually unchanged from before; it has a nice rumble when provoked but has the manners to keep its mouth shut most of the time. Acceleration is good but not blistering fast (for that, you need the 465-hp SRT8, apparently). The five-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but there's no hiding the fact that it's down on ratios; an eight-speed automatic (available with the V-6 for 2012) would lessen the gaps between ratios and provide a welcome improvement in fuel economy.

As it is, the rear-wheel-drive Hemi is rated at 16/25 mpg, while the all-wheel-drive version gets 15/23 mpg, according to the Feds. I got an indicated 16 mpg in mostly around-town driving, in my AWD test car. All-wheel drive, however, might not be the way to go here. Besides the fuel economy penalty, there's the $2150 extra cost. Also, I did not find this to be a particularly fast-acting system. For instance, when you jump on the gas to pull out into traffic and the ramp angle of the pavement causes the rear wheels to lose traction, there's a good bit of wheelspin and tire squeal before torque finally shifts to the front wheels.

Otherwise, though, the chassis is very impressive. One might expect a heavy, burly American sports sedan to ride stiffly, with plenty of side-to-side body motions from its fat antiroll bars, and some tramlining due to the wide tires. But, continuing the theme of muscle with manners, the Charger exhibits none of those bad behaviors. Instead, it stoically sops up bad pavement, and steers precisely, with proper effort levels. Interestingly, the rear-wheel-drive R/T has a firmer suspension setup than my AWD test car. That firmer suspension also is optional on the base SE but not on the AWD R/T; still, I can't say that I missed it, as the base tuning is very responsive. The car's structure feels solid. The car is also fairly quiet.

Yes, this is a better-mannered machine, but any polish it had before went unnoticed, so hard was it to see past the car's design and interior. Now, however, the Charger stands tall as the classic-style American sedan it always should have been, but that it was hard to imagine it could be.


2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD

Base price: $33,370
Price as tested: $38,385

Standard equipment:
5.7-liter V-8 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
All-wheel drive
Power windows/locks/mirrors
Stability control and traction control
Dual-zone air-conditioning
Remote start
Keyless entry/ignition
Tilt/telescoping steering column
12-way power driver seat w/4-way lumbar
HID headlamps
Heated front seats
UConnect Touch 8.4 touchscreen LED display w/SD card reader, and voice command
Satellite radio
Bluetooth connectivity
Bluetooth

Options on this vehicle:
R/T Plus package
- Security alarm
- Nappa leather seats
- Heated rear seats
- 12-way power driver and passenger seats w/ 4-way lumbar
- Heated and cooled cup holders
- LED interior lighting
- heavy-duty alternator

Driver confidence group
- Backup camera
- Blind-spot warning system
- Rear cross-path detection system
- Rear audible parking aid
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Smartbeam headlamps
- Auto-adjust in reverse exterior mirrors
- Approach lamps
- Auto-dimming drivers exterior mirror

Driver convenience group
- Power-adjustable pedals w/memory
- Memory for power seat/mirrors/radio
- Power tilt/telescope steering column
- Heated steering wheel

Navigation/Rear back-up camera group
- UConnect touch 8.4N
- Garmin navigation system

Redline 3-coast pearl paint

Key options not on vehicle:
R/T Max package
Sunroof
Adaptive cruise control
Alpine premium audio system

Fuel economy: 15/23 mpg (city/highway)

Engine:
5.7L V-8
Horsepower: 370 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 395 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm

Drive:
All-wheel

Transmission:
5-speed automatic

Curb weight: 4450 lbs

Wheels/tires:
19 x 8 in wheels
Michelin MXM4 235/55 R19 tires

Competitors: Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus SHO, Hyundai Genesis

2 of 2
samtodez
We have a 2010 Charger V8 and even though I really want to, there is hardly anything to like about the car. As a matter of fact, we can barely wait for its lease to be over.I'm really hoping that 2012 model gets the improvement is deserves.
bcwells09
When will car manufactuers get away from using that awful "pepple-grain" stuff on their car interiors? Awful stuff ... otherwise great improvement.

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