With the door fully opened,...
With the door fully opened, it is impossible to close the door if your seatbelt is already buckled. We can't ever remember a car that had such a long reach to the door grab handle. This was not an issue with the '10 Charger. Check out the soft armrest padding and the sculpted, padded door recesses.
This time Dodge rented Infineon Raceway-Sears Point to those who haven't drunk the sponsorship Kool-Aid. The first thing I was thankful for is the R/T's really supportive, highly-bolstered seats. Sears Point has some gnarly twisties and the Charger gobbles them up like a Bengal tiger on a rib eye. That is to say, the act isn't very graceful, but if you're the tiger, it sure is fun, and it happens in a flash. Yes, there is some body roll, but no more than a new Camaro SS. The underlying suspension geometry makes the Charger extremely predictable, and the extra negative camber dialed in by the factory gives the marginal-sized tires some decent bite. The crux of the problem is that for a car of the Charger's girth, the tires would need to be impossibly wide and the suspension impossibly stiff to even approach, say, the lap times of a new Mustang 5.0. The '11 Charger can, however, kick the snot out of whatever SUV, FWD jellybean, truck, or minivan you might be driving now.
I'm an eight-tenths driver behind the wheel of someone else's car-and I found the brakes more than adequate for braking deep at the end of a high-speed straight. Riding along with a more experienced driver with a more adventurous attitude showed some weakness in the brakes, but only after three or four really hard laps. (We were on the 1.99-mile NASCAR circuit, and that's pretty big praise for such a heavy car.) For the record, we did drive the '06 Dodge Challenger R/T on Virginia International Raceway's south circuit. Even with four years separating the experiences, we'd have to say both cars behaved too similarly to tell any difference; the improved suspension geometry and stiffness of the new Charger is sufficient to disguise the more than 200 pounds of extra mass, and that practically qualifies as a miracle.
Should You Buy It?
The seats in the Dodge Charger...
The seats in the Dodge Charger R/T are reasonably supportive, and held us in well during our on-track hot laps. The center console is a big upgrade from 2010 and includes (optional) heated/cooled cupholders under a retractable bellows.
Irrespective of the weight issue, I am smitten with the '11 Charger R/T's looks. There's never been a sexier domestic four-door sedan, ever. (Make mine in the new Toxic Orange Pearl Coat with chrome trim, the rear spoiler delete option, and 18-inch rims.) There's also something about pulling for the underdog that I like. The new Chrysler is a relatively lean company, and that hungry, risk-taking environment just produces better cars. The Hemi kicks ass as it always has, the styling is cutting edge yet classic, the interior is top notch, and your wife won't kill you if you trade in the minivan or Suburban for it. If I didn't already have the Magnum R/T, and if the price was right, I'd be signing for one right now. I also think the styling successfully draws the fine line between being too futuristic and being too conservative. The Charger should look good for a long time to come-something to ponder when you're staring at a $600-per-month, five-year bank note.
If you're a family guy and you desire street cred with the muscle to pull off the look, the '11 Dodge Charger R/T might be your car. In the old days, Buick guys called it "going fast with class." Heck, you might even be able to keep the new Camaro SS within sight if we're talking corners and not a straight line. If you're looking for a commuter that doubles as a serious weekend track car, the '11 Mustang GT 5.0 is the only smart way to go-and less expensive, too. There is one other option to consider: If you like the outgoing '10 Charger, now is a great time to pounce on one. Since there is no appreciable improvement in performance for the '11 model, your decision maker will be the looks, and possibly the price-which hasn't been announced on the new model. When we find out, we'll tell you.
Dodge Charger Colors
Billet Silver Metallic Clearcoat, Blackberry Pearl Coat, Bright White Clearcoat, Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat, Redline Pearl Coat, Toxic Orange Pearl Coat, Tungsten Metallic Clearcoat
At Infineon Raceway-aka Sears...
At Infineon Raceway-aka Sears Point-we had the chance to make some serious hot laps with the new Charger. It performed surprisingly well for a sedan weighing more than two tons. In this shot, you can really see the sleek styling, the tighter wheel openings, and the original Charger design cues.
Oops! Sears Point is a no-nonsense...
Oops! Sears Point is a no-nonsense track, and it's very unforgiving to the uninitiated. The Jim Russell Drive School staff used this trashed Dodge Charger fender (from an earlier wave of journalists) as an instructional tool in the driver's meeting.