2011 Dodge Charger

SAN FRANCISCO -— Proving you “can go home again,” the 2011 version of the new-generation Dodge Charger enhances its position as the flagship of the Dodge brand. Although only available as a four-door sedan it has all the proportions of a fastback coupe.

There will always be visions of the legendary General Lee of The Dukes of Hazard television series.

The 2011 version has more than 4,100 customer-defined requirements and met or exceeded benchmark performance targets the brand set by segment leaders – including handling, steering response, smooth comfort-tuned ride and noise, vibration and harshness (BMW 5-Series); and craftsmanship and appearance of the Lexus LS 460.

For 2011, the seventh-generation Charger offers two powerplants that both live up to its historic reputation as a performance car. The first is an all-new 3.6L Pentastar V-6 that delivers 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It replaces two V-6s that were offered for last year’s Charger and is so far advanced from either that the 2.L and 3.5L will forever “rest in peace.” Driving the new V-6 is more like driving a V-8 and we’re not talking tomato juice.

The other powerplant is a 5.7-liter Hemi engine that pumps out 370 horsepower and can hit 0-60 in less than 6 seconds. Both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with Auto Stick. Driving a rear-wheel-drive like Charger harkens back to a time when driving a vehicle also required some skills, because let’s face it, if rear-wheel-drive were the great panacea there wouldn’t have been a need for front-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive (even though it’s possible to order a Charger that includes AWD). Most performance vehicles are RWD.

Dodge has reworked an already impressive suspension and handling package for the 2011 model, making the all-new Charger even more road-friendly. It also tightened up body tolerances and practically ended wind and road noise. Gauges are driver-friendly — large and well-positioned. Lighting is easy on the eyes.

The 2011 Charger is available in three models – Dodge Charger SE, Dodge Charger R/T and Dodge Charger R/T AWD. Even the entry-level Dodge Charger SE comes standard with more equipment than its direct standard full-size segment competitors. With any of the three models there are a host of available packages that allow the purchaser to practically order a custom-made vehicle. Pricing for the 2011 Dodge Charger SE begins at $26,000.

— Al Vinikour