$9,376 - $12,599

2011 Dodge Charger Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Dodge Charger was new.


Performance: 7.8

Reworked suspension and steering components make the 2011 Dodge Charger a more competent handler, while a new V6 engine provides improved power in the Charger SE. This makes the SE competitive with other V6-powered muscle cars. Reviewers like the new base engine, but say that the five-speed transmission that comes with all Charger models is outdated and needs to be replaced. SE models put power to the rear wheels. V8-powered R/T models can be equipped with all-wheel drive for about $2,200.

  • "The 3.6-liter V-6 delivers a 42-hp increase over the 3.5-liter, making 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s a much-needed modernization of Chrysler’s six-cylinder, with a refined demeanor, competitive output, and slight fuel economy gains." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "It should come as no surprise that the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is great fun to drive thanks to its 5.7-liter V8. This big V8 gives the R/T impressive acceleration for such a big car. What's unexpected, however, is that the new 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood of the SE has enough guts to make it a fine alternative." -- Edmunds 
  • "While the 370-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8 offers heart-pounding performance, the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 will both amaze and delight those budget-conscious consumers who opt for the SE model." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "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)." -- Autoblog 

Acceleration and Power

The base engine of older Chargers used to make it tough for this Dodge to live up to its muscle car name. Fortunately, Dodge’s new 3.6-liter V6 is under the hood of the base 2011 Charger. The new engine puts out 292 horsepower – a significant increase over the 2010 model. Charger R/T models continue to carry a 5.7-liter V8 that puts out 370 horsepower for 2011, up 2 hp from last year.

Reviewers have always liked the V8-equipped Charger, but they now agree that the new V6 provides enough oomph to please most drivers. Despite the new engine choices, the Charger’s five-speed automatic transmission is generally disliked by the automotive press. They say it doesn’t make good use of the engine’s power and that shifts are sluggish, especially in manual mode.

According to the EPA, the Charger SE gets 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, while the rear-wheel driver Charger R/T gets slightly worse 16/25 mpg city/highway fuel economy. These numbers are a bit low within the muscle car class, but they’re still competitive. Fuel economy is the least impressive in all-wheel driver Charger R/Ts, which get 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

  • "Both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, and it’s undoubtedly the Charger’s weakest asset. It is slow, abrupt on aggressive downshifts, and sometimes unpredictable in how it responds to throttle inputs. In manual mode, it’s often unresponsive, not to mention that the tap-left-to-downshift, tap-right-to-upshift layout is both unintuitive and uninviting." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "With 292 horsepower on tap -- an increase of 114 hp and 42 hp respectively over the previous V6 engines -- this new powertrain becomes a fine alternative to the Charger R/T's carryover 5.7-liter V8." -- Edmunds 
  • "The engine is silky smooth at idle and purrs seductively at full throttle. Gear selection is handled by a five-speed Auto Stick transmission, which does a good job of finding and holding the right gears when climbing hills or navigating stop-and-go traffic. We were not impressed by the Auto Stick's manual mode, however, finding gear selection to be somewhat sluggish." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The V-6 teams with a five-speed automatic transmission, and it's a smooth-shifting unit. Just as important, it kicks down quickly when you need to extract more power from the V-6 for passing." -- Cars.com 
  • "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." -- Autoblog 

Handling and Braking

Changes to the suspension and steering were a part of the 2011 Dodge Charger redesign. Reviewers are generally pleased with the improvements, saying that the Charger handles better than before while still managing a comfortable ride. However, not all reviewers are in love with the Charger’s steering. Some say that it’s light and has too much power assist, while another reviewer mentions that it lacks feel.

  • "With new spring and damper rates and new bushings throughout the suspension, the Charger’s ride has settled down while the handling benefits from changes like adding negative camber front and rear. The net effect is that Dodge engineers have made meaningful handling improvements without compromising passenger comfort." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "A big part of the Charger’s sportier feel is a new, quicker steering rack (2.5 turns lock-to-lock versus 2.8 turns in the old car) that now features electrohydraulic assistance to save fuel. Effort remains on the light side, but the prompt steering makes the Charger feel more manageable and smaller than it used to." -- Car and Driver 
  • "The other pleasant surprise is that the Charger's recalibrated suspension manages to deliver a good balance between ride comfort and entertaining handling. While the car's steering feel leaves something to be desired, the fact that hard-core enthusiasts can upgrade to stouter brakes, suspension components and rear-axle ratios arguably makes the Charger the most fun-to-drive family car you can buy." -- Edmunds
  • "Surprising is how solid the Charger feels on a canyon road. You would think it would drive like a boat and inhibit any carving of asphalt. But pushing the Dodge into a series of esses, the independent front and 5-link rear suspension work well together." -- Road and Track 
  • "The Charger's steering response has always been among the best in its class, and improvements to the suspension and steering gear only serve to make a good system better. Still, the Charger is a big, heavy car and you'll feel it dip and sway when pushed hard into tight turns. We also felt the suspension might be a bit too firm for some." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The Charger feels like a big car, and it's more at home cruising than carving corners. The steering tuning reinforces this, as there's plenty of power assistance so it only takes light effort to turn the wheel, which provides some feedback." -- Cars.com 
  • "As we would quickly find out, the brakes worked just fine on the street." -- Autoblog 

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