I still clearly remember the day in December 2008 that I first saw the vehicle that would be the 2011 Dodge Charger. Chrysler was on the verge of closing its doors for good and invited a small group of journalists and analysts to take a highly look at what products would be coming to market if the company survived. The next Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, and a heavy-duty Ram pickup were shown and met with quiet approval from the group. But the Charger caused people to stop and drool. We say that Chrysler not only could differentiate the Charger from the 300 (also shown that day), but also could put together a class-leading interior. Thankfully the production car lives up to the images that were burned into my mind that day in 2008.
Driving the Charger home over some seriously degraded two-lane roads revealed a well-tuned suspension that inspired lots of confidence. I felt the multiple imperfections, but the impacts were never harsh and I always felt in control of the vehicle. The Charger still feels big from behind the wheel, but there's something that just feels right about hustling a big American sedan with a big V-8 down some empty country roads. Although the five-speed automatic transmission is about to be replaced by an eight-speed unit, its calibration is much better than what I've experienced in other new Chrysler products this year. Hopefully the new eight-speed comes to market with even better calibration and also improves fuel economy by a few mpg.
The Dodge Charger's interior is now class-leading. There's a touch-screen infotainment system supplemented with just enough physical knobs and buttons to make it easy to use without taking your eyes off the road. Imagine that, real knobs for volume and tuning functions and buttons that easily adjust the temperature! All of this can also be accomplished by interacting with the touch-screen, but you're never forced to use new technology to address vital functions like volume or temperature unlike the MyFord Touch system that Ford is pushing on consumers these days.
Thankfully the plug wasn't pulled on Chrysler in 2008 and I sincerely hope all of the people who were working on this car before Fiat took control of Chrysler are being congratulated right now because they've created the best American sedan on the market.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor