The 2011 Dodge Challenger follows its own road, unlike its Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang competitors. The Challenger is, arguably, the most powerful styling statement of the three in its ability to remind you of the first golden age of muscle cars. What's more, the Challenger is the most faithful of those classic cars: big, bold, powerful, and best driven in a straight line. Helping to make the 2011 Challenger more worthy of your attention is the arrival of new engine options.
No longer must Challenger V-6 drivers feel ashamed to drive the least powerful version of the coupe. A new 3.6-liter V-6 engine produces 305 horsepower at 6350 rpm and 268 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. The V-6 Challenger is only mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. If you want a manual transmission Challenger, try the R/T model and its 5.7-liter V-8. The engine is good for 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet with the five-speed automatic or 376 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque with the six-speed manual transmission. Chrysler recommends 87 octane for the V-6 and says 89 octane is recommended but not required for the 5.7-liter V-8.
The SRT model in the Challenger has newfound oomph for the 2011 model year. Called the Challenger SRT8 392, the Dodge is rated for 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmission are available. Fuel economy on all automatic transmission models should improve in the 2012 or 2013 model year, when Chrysler replaces the five-speed automatic with a more advanced eight-speed automatic transmission. Until that happens, however, fuel economy ranges from 18/27 mpg city/highway to 14/22 mpg on the SRT8 392 model with an automatic transmission. Gas guzzler taxes apply to the SRT8 model with both transmissions.
As for prices, base MSRPs range from about $25,500 for an SE V-6 to the mid-$40,000s if you spring for an SRT8 392 model. The new engine options aren't the only changes Dodge made to the 2011 Challenger. The car also benefitted from a retuned chassis, leading to a claimed maximum grip of 0.90 g on the skid pad -- not bad for a vehicle this large. A new steering system is said to provide increased levels of feel. Another dynamic improvement is with Challenger R/T models using the manual transmission. The six-speed has been refined to deliver smoother shifts. Perhaps just as important, the 5.7-liter V-8 models have dual exhaust and under-floor mufflers with low-restriction bottle resonators. Translation? This car sounds awesome. A redone interior is a significant update and there's new standard equipment, as well. For the 2011 model year, you can't get a Dodge Challenger without wheels at least 18 inches in size, Keyless Enter-N Go, automatic climate control, and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags.
The result is a muscle car that's less of a compromise, but one that's still more fit to drive on highways than on winding roads or even strip mall parking lots. Consider Motor Trend magazine's impressions in a comparison test involving V-6 powered versions of the Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Hyundai Genesis coupe.
"The suspension changes pay the biggest dividends," Motor Trend said about the 2011 Challenger. "Despite its chrome-clad 20-inch wheels, the Challenger rides the smoothest of the group, isolating the cabin from the realities of the harshest roads. A new electric power steering unit and a smaller, leather-wrapped wheel provide a stronger sense of control. It's a perfect mix for long hauls across state lines."
If you do choose to take a long roadtrip in a 2011 Challenger, the car's 16.2 cubic-foot trunk - which is bigger than some midsize sedans - will likely be appreciated. Should something happen while you're on the road, the Challenger will keep you safe, judging by crash test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In tests conducted before the 2011 model year, the Challenger received five stars (out of a possible five stars) for the front driver, front passenger, side driver, and side passenger test. The rollover rating was four stars.
Where the Challenger earns five stars is curb appeal. If you're the type of person to go for a more emotional option over the practical one, the 2011 Challenger is worth a series look.