2011 Dodge Charger Road Test Review

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"OK, so we've got this great platform we've inherited from Mercedes that's doing well as the Chrysler 300. We're thinking it'd be good for Dodge to have a large car too. What can you come up with?"

And that was essentially the conversation that led to the development of what ultimately became known as the Dodge Charger. And therein lies the rub. The people working on the car knew they were working on a large sedan for Dodge, but they didn't know it was going to be called a Charger. That decision came after the car was done.

When it came time for the update though, they knew they were doing a Charger-and it shows! The new design bristles with heritage cues from the iconic Chargers produced between 1968 and 1970 both outside and inside the car. Yet, the 2011 Charger also projects a fresh, contemporary appearance. The new Charger's interior is miles ahead of the one it replaces. Still businesslike in every respect, the extreme austerity of the previous edition has been left behind.

Two engines are available at launch, the 292-horsepower 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, and the 370-horsepower 5.7-litre HEMI V8. Both engines are smooth, tractable, and provide more than adequate power. We drove the V6 up the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco and found it to be well mated to its six-speed automatic transmission. While manual shifts could respond with a bit more alacrity, it does still work. We sampled the V8 as well and found everything we liked about it before to still be true. Its mellow burble, exceptional thrust and abundant torque all combine to fulfill the promise of the Charger's new exterior styling. In other words, the 5.7-litre Charger is fast. With that engine, Dodge claims a six second 60 (96.6 km/h).

And it handles too. We kept pushing the Dodge deeper and deeper into turns in an effort to get it unsettled. Eventually, of course we did, but only when we got into a corner way too deep-with way late braking. The Charger then succumbed to a mild plow, but nothing we couldn't immediately correct. Chassis folks-job well done. Overall, the Charger feels like a car half its size, displaying the agility and adhesion we've come to expect from the finest sports sedans.

However, the Charger is still a pretty big car. One quite accomplished tester expressed concerns over the Dodge's size while negotiating the labyrinth of turns that comprise the Pacific Coast Highway. And while we felt very comfortable placing the car on the PCH, we can understand how someone less familiar with the road might have been a bit ill at ease.

Still, Dodge reps claim Charger is a car an enthusiast can be proud of, and yet it does family duty too. We've heard this before; sometimes it works-sometimes it doesn't. In this case, it does. And, after experiencing the new 392 engine Dodge has for its SRT8 applications, we're waiting with baited breath for a chance to dance with Charger 392. (Ya gotta know it's coming…)

2011 Dodge Charger pricing starts at $29,995 not including destination.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Dodge, 2011, Charger, $20,000 - $29,999,

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