Ever since the late '80s, rear-wheel-drive V-8 passenger cars have taken a dive in popularity with all but the most fervent enthusiasts. In spite of that, we give big props to Detroit for keeping the candle lit over the years with products like the '94-96 Impala SS, '04-06 GTO, Mercury Marauder, Pontiac G8 GT, and a whole bunch of Mopars starting with the '05 Hemi 300C and Magnum R/T. They are true enthusiast products, but the segment just hasn't caught fire with the mainstream. (Note that we're not talking about the LCBD segment-Last Car Before Death-which currently includes the Ford Crown Vic and Mercury Marquis.)
The 5.7L Hemi in the '11 Dodge...
The 5.7L Hemi in the '11 Dodge Charger R/T is pretty much a carryover from 2010, and makes 370 hp versus 368 hp in the '11 Charger R/T. Dodge says the Charger's Hemi has best-in-class horsepower.
Folks seem to be happy with their SUVs, minivans, crossovers, and front-drive jellybeans. For 99 percent of drivers, it just doesn't matter-they just want the right sized box for them, their kids, and their stuff. The shape and performance envelope of the box doesn't matter, and the quality of time spent inside it is equally unimportant. In the end, anybody who doesn't enjoy driving a rear-drive V-8 likely doesn't deserve one, and they sure as heck don't deserve the new '11 Dodge Charger R/T.
What Is It?
In case you've been under a rock the past two months-we'll explain. The rear-wwheel drive Charger gets a complete redesign for 2011. The last car was a product of the old DaimlerChrysler merger, and had a lot of Mercedes-Benz mechanicals or derivations thereof. We had no problem with that, mostly because Mercedes-Benz products are built to kick ass and take punishment. Nevertheless, the push is on at the new Fiat Chrysler to banish the German influence, and we're told this Dodge has none of the German stuff. Whatever. The main thing is that the 5.7L Hemi is still underhood with 370 hp. Gone are both of the stupid 2.7 and 3.5L V-6s making 178 and 250 hp, respectively. The only V-6 you can get is the new 292hp 3.6L and that's reason enough to celebrate. An SRT8 version is in the works with the updated 475hp 6.4L Hemi. We'd love to talk about fuel economy on the R/T model, but Dodge is still cooking the numbers. Regardless, look for mid 20s on the highway for the 5.7L Hemi.
Our first face-to-face meeting...
Our first face-to-face meeting with the '11 Charger R/T was at a Dodge press presentation held in San Francisco. It was an incredible sight to see all those Chargers lined up! Note the difference in the grille/trim color-you can get the Charger's grille in either chrome, or black-out trim. Note how the car in the foreground is indeed a Hemi, but with no R/T badge on the grille; there is a Hemi badge on the front fender though.
The 2011 is pretty much the same in layout to the '10 Charger-killer Hemi, rear-drive, independent rear suspension-but there's a ton of tweaks everywhere. We'd love to say all these tweaks are materially better than the outgoing car, but Dodge's PR materials don't really make direct comparisons to the earlier car, so it's a moot point. One bullet point from the Dodge PR guide that does bear repeating is the new electro-hydraulic steering, which feels really good on the street and at the racetrack. It's go t a faster ratio, it's got a better on-center feel, and it helps fuel consumption. The added negative camber (-1 degree front, -1.75 degree rear) was also a big help on the track. As for the other stuff, I honestly can't feel the difference, but maybe some princess at another mag can feign discerning the pea under that pile of mattresses.
Who Is It For?
If the '11 Dodge Charger R/T isn't for the masses, then who is it for? It's for power-hungry guys who need to have their cake and eat it too. He's a family guy, with hot rod aspirations. He might have a hot rod or muscle car in the garage that he can't (or shouldn't) drive every day. He may also be a frustrated hot rodder who can't justify having a toy languishing in the garage. Either way, he wants the Hemi's 370 hp to thrust him in the back every day when he stomps on the loud pedal. That's it in a nutshell-although the extra agility is a big bonus. The thing that makes the '11 Charger R/T a "go" in family circles is the concession to four doors, and an option sheet chock full of stuff the kids and wife will love-for a price, of course.