The new Dodge prides itself...
The new Dodge prides itself in banishing the Mercedes-Benz content from the new Charger. Gone is the four-spoke wheel, the Mercedes-Benz-type turn signal/cruise control stalk, and the sea of hard, angular plastic. In their place are more organic curved surfaces, more soft touch points, and all-new one-piece metal instrument panel. Check out the optional 8.4-inch nav/media center screen. Dodge did not show an '11 Charger without the optional screen at the press event we attended.
I gotta say, I fit the profile of the Charger R/T customer to a "T." I'm a 40-something married guy with a higschool-age kid and gasoline in my veins. As much as I want to rule the road daily with my big-block '68 Chevelle, there are times when we gotta pick up friends, go to the store, load up some junk, hold a conversation, carpool to school, go on vacation, and get descent gas mileage. (We're talking maybe 26 mpg instead of 8). It's for this reason the wife and I bought an '07 Dodge Hemi Magnum R/T a few years ago, and the LT1-powered Buick Roadmaster years before that. Could we be trading in the Magnum for the new '11 Charger R/T? We'll have to wait and see. The economy is tough, the R/T's pricing hasn't been firmed, and Chrysler's new '11 300C is just around the corner, but the Dodge is good enough to be our first option.
What Else Is Out There?
Powerful rear-drive domestic sedans like the Hemi Charger are a rare breed. Ford has abdicated the segment (Can you imagine a Crown Vic with the Mustang's new 5-liter?!) and so has GM. (Let's have a moment of silence for the Pontiac G8 GT.) If you buy used, there is the '94-96 Impala SS, the '94-96 Buick Roadmaster, the '03-04 Mercury Marauder, the Pontiac G8 GT, the '05-07 Dodge Magnum R/T, plus used versions of the outgoing Charger R/T and Chrysler 300C. GM will be continuing a Chevy version of the Pontiac G8 as the Caprice PPV (Police Pursuit Vehicle), but it will be for law enforcement only. The alternatives are pretty slim, so the segment is wide open for Dodge, with competition coming mostly from itself in the form of the 300C.
The Good News ...
The first thing you notice...
The first thing you notice is the body side scallop, reminiscent of the '68-70 Charger. Like the original, it is part of the larger double-diamond form that creates a pinched, Coke-bottle shape in the center.
I've never been that big a fan of the looks of the current-generation Dodge Charger, so when Chrysler announced a new version for 2011, I figured it had to be better looking, and boy, is it ever. Here's an interesting revelation told to journalists at the San Francisco press preview: The '06 Dodge Charger was not given a name until a few scant months before production started. Dodge literally needed to start stamping out the badges and said, "uh, what are we gonna call this thing anyway?" The dart landed on Charger, and that's the name we got. Unfortunately, the 2006 looks about as much like a Charger as I look like Tom Selleck. At least the '11 Charger looks kinda like the '68 Charger-inasmuch as the 2011 Tom Selleck looks like the 1980 Tom Selleck.
By taking inspiration from the '68-70 Charger, Dodge has endeared itself to an entire generation of car nuts, including us. (Pause for a second and imagine Buick doing a rear-drive V-8 Skylark that actually looks like a GS Stage I, or Ford doing a '69 Torino that looks like a Talladega. Yeah. Not gonna happen.) In the profile, you can see the side scallops in the doors, and from the top, you can see the twin scallops in the hood-both key styling elements from the original. You can also see the Coke-bottle form-sometimes called a double-diamond shape-that pinches the car in the middle where two tapered wedges converge. There's even a slight tunnel-back shape in the rear glass that was a defining element in the original. Unfortunately, the tunnel-back aerodynamics of the original were so horrendous (NASCAR racers abandoned it in 1969, changing to the flush-window Charger 500 body) that we can never go back to that. Still, they tried as much as they could. The taillight panel is perhaps the crowning jewel of the entire design-164 tiny LEDs rim the circumference of a completely retro lighting valence that looks even better than the '70 Charger it takes its cue from. The taillight panel is a masterpiece of design that will turn heads for many years to come.