Just in: 2011 Dodge Charger

Consumer Reports News: May 06, 2011 02:38 PM

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While Chrysler has a glut of updated product for 2011, different models received different levels of changes. Some, like the Jeep Compass/Patriot, were lightly updated, while the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango were ground-up redesigns. The Dodge Charger fits somewhere in between those bookends. While falling short of a complete redesign, the Charger (and its platform-mate, the Chrysler 300) got extensive updates.

That’s a good thing because the Chargers we tested in 2006 left a lot of room for improvement. The 3.5-liter V6 was uninspired and the steering was light and vague. Driver visibility was lousy, requiring you to crane your head to look under the low windshield header at stop-lights.

All of these issues--and more--were addressed in the 2011 update. The Charger’s new base engine is Chrysler’s smooth-and-powerful 3.6-liter V6. The base engine is now good enough that many buyers won’t feel the need for the optional Hemi V8. While our car has a five-speed automatic, the Charger V6 will get an eight-speed unit sooner than later. (We’ll test that powertrain when it goes on sale, as well as a Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C.)

While a lot of recently-designed cars have reduced driver visibility, it’s now actually easier to see out of the new Charger. The interior is simply a much more pleasant place to be. Chrysler’s Uconnect controls use a big touch screen with large, clear on-screen “buttons.” Coupled with redundant hard keys for common functions, it is a much easier interface to use than cross-town rival Ford’s MyFord Touch system.

Our Charger Rallye Plus version is pretty well equipped. Options included the aforementioned Uconnect Touch system, heated leather seats (both rows!), 18-inch chrome wheels, and a sunroof. There’s even a heated and cooled cup holder. Our Rallye stickers for $30,945, which seems like a decent price for such a big car.

Early impressions are that the transformed Charger is now a thoroughly competitive sedan. We’ll see how it does when we finish testing

Tom Mutchler

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