• Nov 15, 2010
The Duke Boys Would Approve

2011 Dodge Charger - Click above for high-res image gallery

Bo and Luke have matured a bit since The Dukes of Hazzard went off the air in 1985. The pair drove, crashed and flew plenty of Rebel-flagged Chargers in their day. Having matured past these antics, both men would likely appreciate the 2011 Dodge Charger. Certainly, the sedan's styling more closely matches the second-generation Mopar they're known for hotfooting, and the significantly improved interior would also likely satisfy their more refined backsides.

We knew what to expect when we saw the new Charger earlier this month. We were part of a small group of journalists granted a sneak peak at an early styling study of the rear-wheel drive sedan way back in December of 2008. But at the time – given Chrysler's dire condition and the tanking economy – we had our doubts if the lights would remain on in Auburn Hills long enough for the new Charger make it to market.

The good news is that Chrysler is alive and at least somewhat well, and that the new Charger eclipses the outgoing model in major ways. Could the 2011 Charger be enough to stoke the fire for a Dukes of Hazzard reunion? Find out after the... jump.

Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

Frankly, we're glad Dodge didn't hold its Charger press introduction in Hazzard County. The roads outside San Francisco are better, there aren't any creeks we'd have to cross without a bridge, and the police are scarcer than Boss Hogg. This gave us a fine opportunity get a good first experience with the 2011 Dodge Charger.

First things first: There will always be Mopar fanatics (this author included) who still cringe that the 2006-10 Charger has four doors. To our great satisfaction, an after-hours conversation with an unnamed Chrysler official at the new Charger's launch yielded this insight: "It was a car we designed first and named later. It was never meant to be called a Charger, but that's how it ended up." Damn the marketing people. They screw up everything.

But we'll let bygones be bygones, and snag another bone to pick with the Dodge Boys: The automaker refers to the 2011 model as all-new. It's not. The basic chassis architecture is carried over, as is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. What's different? Everything else.

2011 Dodge Charger side view2011 Dodge Charger front view2011 Dodge Charger rear view

Park a 2010 Charger next to a 2011 model and the transformation is clear. All the body panels are new and pay homage to 1968-70 Chargers with their strong character lines and 3D scallops. The new model looks sportier with a more steeply raked windshield and an extended fastback roofline, much of it glass. The car takes a good stance, thanks in part to the roofline being inset from the perimeter of the undulating 'Coke bottle' fenders.

The look is particularly striking from the rear thanks to an outline of 164 LEDs. At night, you can ID a Charger from a block away. One can only imagine how those might look disappearing from Sheriff Coltrane's view. Overall, the new exterior is eight-percent more aerodynamically efficient and has a Cd of 0.29.

2011 Dodge Charger headlight2011 Dodge Charger hood2011 Dodge Charger wheel detail2011 Dodge Charger taillight

Across the board for 2011, Chrysler has improved its interiors more than anywhere else. They needed it. For those familiar with the second- and third-generation Chargers, the scooped shape of the dash is a modern twist on the old style. Twin gauge pods flank a center LCD readout, the three-spoke wheel is new and the center stack can be optionally equipped with a bright, crisp 8.4-inch LCD. (We didn't get a chance to sample a base Charger SE with the standard 4.3-inch LCD.)

The big LCD works as a clearinghouse for the Uconnect infotainment system. From this central location you can operate the navigation, audio system and your Bluetooth-equipped phone. The graphics are razor sharp and the human/machine interface proved intuitive. For example, when GPS route guidance is active but you want to seek through satellite radio stations, the map shrinks into an area within the larger audio screen.

2011 Dodge Charger interior2011 Dodge Charger front seats2011 Dodge Charger gauges2011 Dodge Charger navigation system

Chrysler designers stressed the use of high-quality soft-touch materials throughout the new interior. The dash panel was seamless and panel gaps were tight. Looking out from the driver's seat, the new greenhouse also offers improved visibility. Since the Charger is classified as a full-size sedan, this less encumbered view is especially helpful.

Seating in back provides ample room for sub-six footers. Headroom, however, is compromised compared to sedans with squarer profiles, and rear seat riders will find their skulls directly under the back glass. On the plus side, there's enough width for three-across seating.

Outside and in, the reality that the Charger SE and R/T can look nearly identical is purely intentional. Dodge made sure that SE V6 drivers could enjoy the same street presence and comfort as R/T Hemi pilots.

The fact that the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine produces 292 horsepower is behind this last point. Amplified by 260 pound-feet of torque, Chrysler's new corporate six-cylinder produces the horsepower of a V8 from just a few years ago. Compared to the 2010 Charger SE's 3.5-liter V6, the new engine produces 42 more hp and 33 more lb-ft. Even in a car that weighs two tons, you can feel the difference.

2011 Dodge Charger engine

Power runs through a transmission we'd hoped would have been left at the curb with last year's 3.5-liter engine; a five-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures have yet to be finalized, but based on the performance of the 3.6-liter in other Chrysler and Dodge models, look for an improvement over the 3.5-liter's 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. Perhaps the numbers will even eclipse 2010's 2.7-liter V6's 18 mpg city, 26 mph highway.

A modern six-speed, seven-speed (eight-speed?) or dual-clutch transmission is badly needed here. A new gearbox would be the next logical powertrain improvement for the Charger (and other RWD Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs). Let's hope the company's profitable quarters continue and that some of those profits are directed toward a major transmission program.

The feature that distinguishes the Charger R/T from the SE is its 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The motor makes 370 hp at a relaxed 5,250 rpm and a hefty 395 lb-ft torque at 4,200 rpm. The Hemi runs through the same five-speed as the V6, which one Chrysler engineers described as "Incredibly stout." Incidentally, this gearbox is essentially the same as the unit used in the new 470-hp Challenger SRT8 392. All-wheel drive is also an option for the R/T, with the unit delivering a variable torque split that starts at 50/50 and goes from there.

2011 Dodge Charger engine

All of the 2011 Charger's hardware rides on Chrysler LLC's second-generation E-segment chassis and suspension. The unibody features added structure that improves torsional stiffness in an effort to hit ride and handling targets. What target? The previous-generation BMW 5 Series. Not a bad goal. But did they hit it?

Dodge claims maximum lateral acceleration of 0.90 g. Aggressive front and rear camber settings of -1.0 and -1.75 degrees give the car a fighting chance to stay planted. The front suspension is a short/long-arm configuration while the independent rear suspension is a five-link/coil spring arrangement originally sourced from a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

A rack-and-pinion power steering gear directs the front wheels. What's unusual about the system is that instead of a conventional hydraulic pump driven off the crankshaft, the Charger's steering uses an electric pump. The electric pump increases fuel economy by 0.3 percent and adds three horsepower to the bottom line.

2011 Dodge Charger steering wheel2011 Dodge Charger shifter2011 Dodge Charger dash badge2011 Dodge Charger door panel

We had two chances to experience the 2011 Charger, and the experiences couldn't have been more different.

Our time in the R/T was at Infineon Raceway, known by the old guys as Sears Point. Three five-lap sessions gave us time to figure out how the R/T performed when fitted with three-season high-performance 20-inch tires.

Taking it slow, the first few laps gave us a chance to feel out the R/T. Turn-in is crisp and the steering is alive with feedback. With the electronic stability control fully functional, the Charger tracked true. In most cases, the ESP intervened transparently, keeping the car in line. Running hard going uphill through Turn 2 was the only time we felt the ESP seriously dial back the power.

During these easy laps, body roll wasn't pronounced. Once we toggled the ESP into Track mode and the Charger was cornering harder, body roll increased considerably. In Track mode, the ESP only cut into the fun when we really hung out the rear-end in adolescent power slides that would make Uncle Jesse proud.

2011 Dodge Charger front 3/4 driving view2011 Dodge Charger rear 3/4 driving view

As with any production car, we were mindful of the brakes. The four-wheel discs weren't up to track duty. However, this fact isn't particularly relevant because only a handful of drivers will track their Charger. As we would quickly find out, the brakes worked just fine on the street.

Overall, the Hemi-powered Charger R/T was comfortable at Infineon, especially for such a large car. Hauling through the high-speed esses (corners 7, 8 and 8A), the car showed what it was made of, handling transient movements deftly.

These track manners made themselves clear on the twisty roads south of Half Moon Bay. For this duty, we had a Charger SE equipped with the Rallye Package, Rallye Appearance Package, and the Rallye Plus Package. These packages of packages made the SE look like an R/T – complete with leather seats, 20-inch wheels, dual exhausts and rear spoiler – minus the Hemi fender badges.

2011 Dodge Charger grille badge2011 Dodge Charger Hemi badge2011 Dodge Charger badge2011 Dodge Charger badge

The narrow roads should have made the Charger SE feel big, but the Dodge shrunk with every corner. The direct steering that we enjoyed at Sears Point worked just as well on public roads. The new Pentastar V6 was also a pleasant surprise. Its 292 horsepower felt strong and gave the Charger everything it needed to hustle from corner to corner. On the street, body roll wasn't an issue, and the car felt flat as the suspension managed every combination of roads we could find.

On the freeway stretch back to San Francisco, the efforts engineers explained regarding improving noise, vibration and harshness snapped into focus. The heavier traffic gave us the opportunity to listen to the Charger's enhanced quietness and appreciate the car's smoother ride. While we didn't have a previous-gen. BMW 5 to do a back-to-back comparison, our kinesthetic memory believes the Dodge Boys have come awfully close to hitting their bogey.

2011 Dodge Charger rear 3/4 view

Considering the present automotive landscape, the 2011 Charger is something of a stand-alone offering (Chrysler's own 300 not withstanding). With the demise of the Pontiac G8, there are no direct domestic competitors for the money. Practically, buyers are likely to cross shop the Ford Taurus even though it's front-wheel drive and doesn't offer a V8. Due to the cost premium, imports aren't likely candidates given the MSRPs of the 2011 Charger; $25,170 for the SE, $30,170 for the R/T, and $32,320 for the R/T AWD.

This reality demonstrates the uniqueness of the Charger. Even with four doors, it remains a singularly American automotive manifestation. If Bo and Luke were looking to do another series, the 2011 Charger is definitely a car they'd do well to consider. Yee-haw.

Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      car auctions Every month across the United States, thousands of vehicles are seized by different Government agencies (IRS, DEA, FBI) and Police departments and auctioned off to the public at incredible deals. Due to certain laws these vehicles are listed and sold at up to 95% OFF their original value. Many auctions start as low as $100. Government pre-owned/surplus vehicles are well maintained and are usually only 2-3 yrs old. We provide you with immediate access to 4,000+ updated auctions nationwide, NOT searchable elsewhere on the Internet and with guaranteed listings in every state. If you are looking for quality cheap cars and trucks then check out US government auctions today. http://www.gov-auctions.org
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've got a 3.7 Charger V6, and it is nothing to cruise on the Pa. turnpike at 140 mph. I'm going to probably lose my driving privalages when I do get caught. But I'm going to enjoy it while I can.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This thing just looks manly. In a good way.

      Even though I like the cartoonish lay out of the camaro, id much prefer this considering the price.

      • 4 Years Ago
      2 Tons!!! What year did they design/build this car in. 1984??? No car like that should be over 3500 pounds in this day and age.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What an improvement.Kudos Dodge.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have to disagree with liking this design. The rear looks cool but the problem is that the plastic always fades and looks like garbage pretty quickly. Think Intrepid!!!

      The front center has to large of a snout, it makes it look like a truck and the rest of the design language makes the Charger lose its ballsy identity and moves it towards the Avenger design language. One could argue that the Avenger is a "mini charger" in look but I have to say no to that to. The Avenger is a smaller car that has a couple of bulky styling queues that are borrowed from the 06 - 10 Charger.

      The interior looks nice! The rest of it is to close to comfortable for me.

      And the worst part is that the hips are gone! The profile screams "Malibu" if you block the very front and very rear of the car. The only thing that makes this actually look like a Charger is the cross-bar and the headlights! Other than that it's way off!

      The thing that sucks is that I have a Charger R/T and was hoping for a nice replacement. But this seems to be a step towards boring!

      Pros: Nice interior, nice upgraded suspension (thank God), headlights.
      Cons: Snout of a grill, rear hips are gone, tail lights will fade to UV and look like crap in under 2 years, rear side windows no longer have any unique style, profile of car way closer to mainstream, an overall 90% loss of charger identity other than the headlights and crossbar on grill.

      That's my take!

      Oh and if you look at only the snout from the side, it looks like a Volvo!
        • 4 Years Ago
        ROFL: I drive a Dodger Charger R/T - How's that for being a hater!

        Here's more of a resume for you! I've been a professional detailer which was my very first business actually, a professional body shop finisher, auto painter, a mechanic's apprentice, track car builder and a hobby racer.

        Oh and I pumped gas at 3 gas stations and was a tire changer at Sears too! And semi-related, I worked the Drive-Thru at Burger King! So DAMN IT I KNOW WHAT FUMES SMELL LIKE!

        • 4 Years Ago
        First, what car looks like new 2 years from now (other than cars in a whole other price bracket)? If cars looked like new 2 years later without user intervention you wouldn't have a job, nor would people who wash and wax their cars care.

        Second you're highlighting a problem that exists from ALL plastics. It wouldn't matter if it was a Lexas, Nissan, GM, or Ford they would all suffer the same fate eventually, as you correctly pointed out earlier. So what's the point in highlighting an issue that 's universal?

        • 4 Years Ago
        UV light is 40% at fault for the fading of automotive plastics. Followed by heat which is 25% to blame. Followed by natural visible light rays and ending with dirt, exhaust and pollutiom which then cause the use of cleaners which end up putting small scratches on the plastic and creating more hook-on points for other dirt and debris which is remedied by a 3 stage sanding and buffing of the plastic lenses.

        UV protectant can protect against the half of it, but they will still be effected by the other stuff!

        So yeah. I do know how they'll hold up!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Again...2 years? Gimme a break, I've owned cars from Ford, GM and Chrysler that haven't had lenses that have faded. You both obviously don't like anything that Chrysler that puts out, and this excuse that the tail-lights will fade is stupid at best.

        Crawl back under a rock, the both of you.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ dakota

        Yes. They all fade/haze, it is inevitable.

        The UV inhibitor in the plastic doesn't last forever.
        • 4 Years Ago

        "Chemical Engineer" no. A person that's detailed and restored 1000 finishes yes. I didn't say they'd be at their worst possible condition in 2 years. I said they'd look like sh%t which to me, means not brand new!

        Case and point, if I park my 2006 Charger next to a 2010 charger with the same exact paint condition and rubber parts condition, the 1 and only way you'd be able to tell the difference is the fade on the tail lamps and headlamps.

        Interestingly, the next thing and even more noticeable is the rubber parts and black plastics. They all get the same UV deterioration!

        If your disagreement with this is that it's a 2 year span, make it 4 for dramatic purposes. In the end UV wins. lol

        Hey, come to think of it..... Know why they don't make plastic windshields? Cuz they fade to quickly and you can't see through them! It would be a hell of a lot cheaper to make plastic windows on car than glass ones.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So you know how the tail-lights will handle UV light? On a brand new model with brand new lenses?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Looks really good, the interior improvement is substantial enough to win me over on it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow looks great Chrysler is really stepping up the line now

      So the dual transmission does that allow full manual with clutch and full automatic as well???

      Sorry someone please explain ?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Most designers in the the industry yearn to create good designs. They don't want their creations to be viewed as ugly or cheap and they work hard to keep that from happening. Which really brings me to wonder what the designer morale has been like at Chrysler these past few years.

      It's good to see things getting back to some sort of normalcy at Chrysler. I'm just going to chalk up the dark ages to incompetent management, inadequate time, and rampant cost cutting. It should stand as a testament to the faultiness of the notion that you can cost cut a car into profitability. You have to spend money to make money. And I'm sure the designers there at Chyrsler are happy to have vehicles on the road they can be proud of instead of ones they don't want to take credit for.

      I like this car. The area around the greenhouse is a little unrefined but I like the look of the front and rear and the interior is a vast improvement. It's the last remaining RWD American sedan and I'm praying it gets some competition soon so the breed doesn't die out entirely.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jim, you sound like someone who knows what he's talking about, as well as someone familiar with the way the corporate automotive world works some(most)times:) Here's hoping things get better.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "I'm just going to chalk up the dark ages to incompetent management - " by Daimler and Cerberus. The old Chrysler management from the 90's would never have allowed things to get so bad.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Maybe they all got mad at their employer so they all jumped ship to Honda. And hence the current line up of ugly Hondas.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Which really brings me to wonder what the designer morale has been like at Chrysler these past few years."

        it was pretty bad in engineering, so I can't imagine it was any better in the design studio.

        "It's good to see things getting back to some sort of normalcy at Chrysler. I'm just going to chalk up the dark ages to incompetent management, inadequate time,"

        If you define "incompetent" as "dumping Chrysler's entire small- and midsize-car team in favor of merging Mitsubishi Motors into that role, only to have Deutsche Bank put a stop to your mergers and acquisitions before that could happen, thereby leaving you with a skeleton crew and no money to develop products for your highest-volume segment, thereby slapping together something, *anything,* just to have an offering in that segment..." (inhale) "leading to such limp offerings like the Sebring, Avenger, and Caliber," then yep, they were incompetent ;)

        and yeah, it's one heck of a morale-buster to have to grind away working on a product you know is going to be a failure, and management doesn't want to hear any of it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice Work Dodge Boys! The 2011 Chrysler products are looking great.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The design of this car is so ugly compared to the Challenger, Camaro and Mustang. Dodge needs to get better talent to redesign this classic.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The outside is just OK--just a "re-skin" but the interior is one of the worst I have seen in 30 years. The dash must have been designed by Fiat. They still don't know what Americans want.
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