2011 Challenger New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Challenger brings muscle car performance and styling to everyday driving. The Challenger harkens back to 1970 and the current generation, launched as a 2008 model, amuses and delights us. For 2011, there are significant changes to engines and suspensions as well as changes to the interior.
The 2011 Challenger SE boasts substantially more power than last year's model yet significantly better fuel economy at the same time thanks to an all-new 3.6-liter V6 engine. The new Pentastar V6 produces 305 horsepower, 55 more than the engine it replaces, and 268 foot-pounds of torque. It comes with a 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift capability, an improvement over last year's 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy has improved and the 2011 Challenger SE now gets an EPA-rated 18/27 mpg City/Highway.
The 2011 Challenger R/T benefits from a new cold-air induction system for its 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The V8 is rated at 372 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque with the 5-speed automatic, or 376 hp and 410 pound-feet of torque with the optional 6-speed manual. The Hemi uses a multiple displacement feature that switches off cylinders to save fuel, but EPA ratings are 16/25 mpg with the automatic and 15/24 mpg with the manual. We think the Challenger R/T is the sweet spot in the lineup. It can be used as a daily driver with a more compliant suspension than that of the SRT8 yet it's sportier and more fun than the SE. Challenger R/T competes with the Mustang GT and Camaro SS.
2011 Challenger SE and R/T models benefit from new suspension geometry and tuning, electro-hydraulic power steering, a new front air dam, larger wheels, revised gauges, a new steering wheel, improved seats, new Rallye and Super Sport packages, and more standard equipment.
The 2011 Challenger SRT8 392, as the SRT8 is now called, is named after its Hemi V8 in reference to its 392 cubic-inch displacement and that of the legendary Hemi engine of the late 1950s. The 2011 Challenger SRT8 392 comes with a new 470-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that includes cylinder deactivation technology. The 6.4-liter engine replaces last year's 6.1-liter and power increases from 425 to 470 hp and torque is up from 420 to 470 pound-feet. EPA ratings are 14/23 mpg with the 6-speed manual and 14/22 mpg with the 5-speed automatic. The 2011 Challenger SRT8 392 also gets revised front end styling, new gauge graphics, quicker steering, and revised suspension tuning. The SRT8 comes with big Brembo brakes, the firmest suspension and a limited-slip rear differential. We found the SRT8 392 fast and stable. It's ready to go to the track yet we think it's compliant and controlled just enough that it won't beat you up during daily chores or weekend cruises.
The Challenger is an enjoyable muscle car. Driving it brings a smile to our face and it seems to light up others as well, in spite of any gasoline crises. Everyone seems to like the Challenger. We've driven all the models and like all of them. They all have their own merits but there are distinctions.
The cabin is mundane. Like muscle cars of the past, the Challenger is based on a sedan and the interior borrows heavily from existing materials. A new steering wheel is an improvement and the new 392 sport seats hold you in place in corners and are designed to accommodate large drivers. Climbing into the back seat is a struggle and legroom is tight but there's plenty of headroom, so it's fine for children and teens.
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SE ($24,670) comes with a 3.6-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, 6-way power adjustable driver's seat, four-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, automatic climate control, interior air filter, power windows and locks, power mirrors, keyless access and starting, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 6-speaker stereo, auxiliary input jack, trip computer, theft-deterrent system, and P235/55R18 tires on aluminum wheels.
Option packages include the Super Sport Group ($1,500) with P245/45R20 tires on chromed alloy wheels, 3.06 rear axle ratio, performance disc brakes, performance steering and performance suspension; Electronics Convenience Group ($695) with body color exterior mirrors, power fold-away heated mirrors, remote engine starting, alarm, outside temperature display and compass, tire-pressure monitor display and a universal garage door opener; the Mopar Interior Appearance Group ($945) with Mopar-branded bright door sill guards, bright pedals, car cover, floor mats with logo and T-grip shifter; and a Rallye Group ($2,000) with fog lamps, leather upholstery, heated front seats, Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription, Boston Acoustics sound system with 276-watt amplifier, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth streaming audio, USB port, auto-dimming rearview mirror and Uconnect phone hands-free cell phone link. Also offered are Sirius satellite radio ($195), Uconnect phone ($395), sunroof ($950), Media Center 430N ($790) with Sirius satellite radio, Garmin navigation system, Sirius travel link, 6.5-inch touchscreen, and 30-gigabyte hard drive; and Sound Group II ($1,565) with 368-watt amplifier; seven Boston Acoustics speakers with subwoofer, 6.5-inch touchscreen, and 30-gigabyte hard drive.
Challenger R/T ($29,670) features a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with a 6-speed manual transmission or 5-speed automatic ($995). R/T adds automatic headlights, Sirius satellite radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated outside mirrors, body-colored rear spoiler and mirrors, metal fuel filler door, dual chromed rectangular exhaust pipes, fog lamps, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, and a USB port. Mechanical upgrades to accompany the added power include bigger brakes, firmer suspension, quicker steering, and a hill-holder clutch when equipped with the manual transmission. Options include the Super Track Pack ($495) with P245/45ZR20 Goodyear performance tires, heavy duty brakes, sports suspension, and performance steering with variable displacement; and the R/T Classic Package ($3,300) with 276-watt amplifier, 3.92 rear axle ratio, Boston Acoustics speakers, heated front seats, leather upholstery, P245/45R20 tires, functional hood scoop, R/T side stripes, bi-xenon headlights and the Electronics Convenience Group.
Challenger SRT8 392 ($42,555) has a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and a choice of 6-speed manual transmission or 5-speed automatic ($995). Other mechanical upgrades include Brembo brakes, a performance suspension, a limited-slip differential, and P245/45R20 front and P255/45R20 rear tires on polished aluminum wheels. Standard are leather upholstery, heated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps, trip/data computer with performance pages, and keyless access and starting. The SRT8 rear spoiler is flat black, the front spoiler deeper and ducted for brake cooling, hood scoops are functional, and the fuel filler is polished aluminum. The SRT8 392 also adds a gas-guzzler tax that runs $1030 with the manual transmission and $1339 with the automatic. Options include the 522-watt 13-speaker Kicker audio system ($695), high-performance staggered-size tires ($100), and Green with Envy paint with wheels with black-painted pockets ($1,495).
The first 1492 of the 2011 SRT8 392 models off the line get the Inaugural Edition Package ($1,995), which includes a body-color front grille surround; quad chrome exhaust tips; special embroidery on the front seatbacks; exclusive Bright White Clear Coat or Deep Water Blue Pearl Coat white or blue paint with full body stripes; unique wheels with black-painted pockets; accents on the door panels, steering wheel, seats, center console and center stack; and a serialized plaque. (All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices and do not include destination charge.)
Safety features on all Challengers include dual frontal airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, tire-pressure monitor, active front head restraints, stability control and traction control.