Words & Pictures: Kevin C. Limjoco
Whether it is politically incorrect or not, I am so very happy that American muscle cars are flourishing at a time when the thrust of the industry is to go GREEN. Please do not misunderstand me, the environment is extremely important to me, heck I am a bona fide tree hugger and planter myself. However, before we start killing off these mechanical guilty pleasures of ours may I first recommend that every able person on the planet plant a single tree? That may sound ridiculous at first until you realize that if even a quarter of the current world population of almost 7 billion would plant a tree and take care of it properly we would have almost 2 billion new trees! If we all did that every year, we would certainly turn the tide against critical climate change and steadily reduce pollution in the process!
Now back to the fantastic new 2011 Dodge Charger R/T! Allow me to indulge in the glory of the renewed V8 rumble, tire smoke, and huge laughs! The previous Charger, except in SRT8 form, was a dud for enthusiasts like me. Even if the Charger had shared practically 70% of its well-being with the more luxurious Chrysler 300C it did not spark the rabid excitement that it should have principally because it was rather dull both inside and out. Instead of being the sporty and more aggressive four-door sedan alternative to the 300C it was more accurately perceived as the cheaper entry-level offering. Moreover I saw more Dodge Chargers as rent-a-cars, taxis, and other commercial duty vehicles with the scary exception of the random Police car rather than being privately owned. On another tangent, for loyal readers of C! who remember the epic test story that James Deakin and I did from California to Arizona in the 555bhp BMW X6 M, the car model we saw most broken down on the side of the road toward the Grand Canyon were the previous model Dodge Chargers! In fairness they were all V6 rent-a-car variants!
The new Dodge Charger is the complete opposite. It looks absolutely fantastic with its new sheet metal boasting enough aggressive curves and angles to excite even the most passive strolling pedestrian. This is the Dodge car with soul; I actually prefer it to the 2-door Challenger! You see the Challenger, though fun and characterful, is simply much too big a two-door muscle car; both the Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang ultimately best it dynamically.
At first glance, the new 2011 Dodge Charger seems to continue the growth theme as an evolutionary step from the previous model. I was hoping that Dodge would have tried to work on the shorter wheelbase platform of the Challenger, but instead they actually extended the length of the wheelbase a tad by .2” but shortened the overall length of the body by .2”. The body width increased by .5” along with the wider front/rear tracks, 0.4” and 0.7 in”, front and rear, respectively. Combined with the box-shaped scallops on the doors and aluminum hood, the menacing front end, and unique rear light assembly treatment that uses 162 glowing LEDs as a nostalgic albeit modern tip of the hat to the ‘70 Charger, the new Charger looks and drives like it wants to kick the living hell out of any car near it! Sadly, the updates also increased the already substantial weight by almost 300 more whopping pounds though, which is a pity until you realize that the updated 370 bhp HEMI engine combined with the retuned suspension and quicker steering more than compensate for the extra ballast.
The dramatic physical presence was obvious and expected but I did not expect the interior to be so exponentially better than any Dodge car design ever. The materials, which include real aluminum trim, maybe simple but the execution and quality were finally at par with cars costing significantly more. I was very impressed. Here is yet another positive result from extreme competition in the segment. The new instruments and switchgear are very high quality and should even appeal to the most aloof gearheads. Our R/T test car had the Road & Track special packaging so it also had the larger 8.6” LCD center control infotainment display (instead of the standard 4.3”) managing the 506-watt 9-speaker audio system.
The Charger also employs new noise-absorbing laminated glass in the windshield, and the front side windows are double paned to further silence the capacious cabin. And you really notice the difference too. Dodge employed so much effort in making the new cabin classy and quiet that you barely hear the bellow of the wonderful V8 even at full throttle.
All the switchgear are now proprietary Dodge instead of Mercedes and better for it. The new smaller diameter steering wheel also helps sensationalize the driving experience. A lot of metal underneath all this goodness is carried over but it certainly does not feel or drive like it. Familiar, yes, vastly better, absolutely.
On the open road where the Charger can release its potent muscle, I immediately felt the much improved handling, steering and braking. The basic brake system is a carryover but they now have more aggressive pads combined with water dispersion and quicker response time features similar to the systems employed by Porsche and BMW. The results are instant, the brakes felt like they were larger rotors pinched by 4-piston Brembo’s. The thrust and outright straight-line speed is only marginally better than before, but the Charger is no longer a one trick showboat. It can handle now. The handling was another happy surprise, miraculously even with all the added weight, the Charger R/T felt very light-footed and agile despite yet again employing the same basic suspension as the outgoing model but with better tuning. As part of the Super Track Pak option in our test car, the package also includes a 3.06 rear axle, and a 3-mode electronic stability control system that allows a full defeat mode. You can really have serious fun with the car; you will just have a frequent and very expensive tire replacement bill.
There is a cheaper 3.6 liter variant but I would strongly advise against it. If you are going for an American muscle car, go all the way and get a HEMI, or get a whole different car. At this price you will be very hard pressed to find a better full-size sedan with such a long list of equipment that include Blind Spot and Cross Path detection, SMART Beam HID’s, Adaptive cruise control and so much more. The new Charger R/T is fairly fuel-efficient despite having a high compression 5.7 liter V8. It is very comfortable, looks great, fun to drive, and is not a lifeless econobox. The new Dodge Charger is a soulful car with very little compromises. And the best news is they are already on their way to our shores! CHARGE!!!!
Specification – 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track Edition
Engine: V8, 5654 cc, ohv 16V, Dual VVT, HEMI, 5-Speed AT
Max power: 370 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Max torque: 395 lb ft @ 4200 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 5.4 sec.
Top Speed: 232 km/h (145 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 16 mpg City & 25 mpg Highway
Price as tested: US$ 38,835.00
+Now a proper bearer of the name, totally revamped, totally fantastic
-Unfortunately still a porker and speed governed
C! RATING 9.5/10