2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD
2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Dodge Charger

Like the current Mustang, Camaro and Challenger, the 2011 Dodge Charger has returned to its muscle-car roots for styling inspiration. The Chargers of the late 1960s and early ‘70s are favourites with classic car enthusiasts, having been immortalized in the TV series, “The Dukes of Hazzard” and in one of Hollywood’s most famous car chases in the movie “Bullitt”.

Some of the ‘60s era styling features appearing on the restyled 2011 Charger include a rear tail light assembly that stretches across the entire width of the car, similar to the original 1966 Charger fastback; twin fake air vents in the hood and an inset rear window with “flying buttresses” that recall the second generation 1968 Charger; and sweeping bodyside indentations that are a throwback to the 1970 model.

It’s too bad Chrysler didn’t throw in the 1969 Charger’s wide split grille with hideaway headlights, but I guess Dodge is committed to its corporate “cross-hair” grille design that pervades all Dodge cars at the moment.

2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD
2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

For 2011, that grille protrudes further forward than the headlights which are now recessed, giving the Charger a more aggressive look. Combined with a rear deck spoiler, standard 19-inch tires and alloy wheels, dual chrome tailpipes, and “Toxic Orange Pearl Coat” paint, this week’s test Charger R/T AWD is a very sporty looking full-size sedan.

If the producers of the Dukes of Hazzard ever decide to do a remake, the next generation “General Lee” is ready to fly!

There have been changes under the hood, too. For 2011, a new 3.6-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 engine replaces both the 2.7-litre V6 and 3.5-litre V6 that were offered in 2010. The 3.6 puts out more horsepower and torque than either of those engines: 292 horsepower at 6,350 r.p.m. and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 r.p.m., and is standard in the Charger SE ($29,995), SXT ($31,995), and SXT Plus ($33,995). The V6 is mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission.

The top-of-the-line Charger R/T includes the famous 5.7-litre Hemi overhead valve V8 engine that, in this case, pumps out 370 horsepower at 5,350 r.p.m. and 395 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 r.p.m. – and includes Chrysler’s MDS cylinder deactivation system that automatically deactivates four of the eight cylinders under light load to help save fuel. The R/T comes with a standard five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, 19-inch tires, performance suspension, and HID head lights. The Charger R/T model starts at $37,995.

2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD
2011 Dodge Charger R/T AWD. Click image to enlarge

A meaner-looking R/T “Road and Track” model, $38,995, adds 20-inch tires and chrome alloys, a satin black grille and surrounding trim, performance exhaust, high-speed engine controller, and 3.06 rear axle ratio.

But the subject of this review is the R/T AWD, $39,995, which comes with everything in the regular R/T model plus a full-time all-wheel drive system that is rear-biased, meaning that it’s a rear-wheel drive car that transfers torque to the front wheels automatically via a centre differential when needed. Under ideal conditions, it can completely disconnect from the front wheels to help save fuel.

Our test car came with $3,375 worth of options, including a premium 506-watt, nine-speaker sound system, power tilt/telescoping heated steering wheel, power pedals, navigation system, UConnect Touch, rear parking sensors and rear-view camera, blind spot and cross-path detection, and adaptive cruise control with collision warning. With a $1,400 Freight charge and $100 a/c tax, the as-tested price came to $44,870.

By the way, the high-performance Charger SRT8 with the 6.1-litre Hemi V8 was discontinued this year but is expected to return for 2012.

Driving impressions

While a full-size sedan based on a rear-drive chassis might seem out of step with the times, most large luxury cars still use rear-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive system based on a rear-drive chassis. The reason is that a rear-drive chassis is generally better balanced because of its even distribution of vehicle weight front to rear, which improves ride, handling and braking stability.

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