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2011 Dodge Charger Performance

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While the V-8 engines in the R/T and SRT8 remain the most desired models, much of the 2011 Dodge Charger model line is V-6-powered. This year, the Charger gets an all-new Pentastar 3.6-liter with 292 horsepower that replaces both the old 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V-6, outpacing them both in output by either 63 or 16 percent, respectively.

Those V-6 models are respectable performers, but the V-8s are the stars of the lineup. Not many sensory perceptions can equal the throb of a massive V-8 in full mating call, and the HEMI V-8 is the equal of Ford's Mustang V-8 for its lascivious racket. Play around the 2000-rpm to 3000-rpm range and the HEMI connects with your inner lothario. The 5.7-liter belts out 370 horsepower with the thrilling force of great gospel music—and you won't be shocked if the 0-60 mph numbers flying around put this R/T in the 5.5-second range.

The transmission's a letdown on paper, still a five-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode, but it pairs well with the hugely torquey HEMI. Chrysler's working on integrating eight-speed automatics into all its larger vehicles; we hope they slap a set of paddles for shifting on the steering wheel, too, because the lever-controlled manual mode encourages one-hand driving.

The 2011 Dodge Charger isn't a stellar performer in most respects; but get it with one of the V-8s and it's a charmer.

The Charger's big-car feel isn't ponderous until you opt for Dodge's all-wheel drive system, which makes the steering more reluctant to unwind and gives the car a bulkier (in a bad way) driving feel.

With updated steering—it's now a hydraulic pump spun by electric motors—the Charger's ride and handling stays true to character with a slightly beefy touch to the controls. Upgraded shocks, control arms and bushings don't seem to release any road feel while touching up the Charger's ride quality lightly. This is a big sedan, mind you, and while you can't overcome the laws of physics, the Charger R/T can fudge around those laws with a nudge on the gas, and a little heart-healthy rear steer.

The R/T, by the way, rolls on 18-inch tires unless you pick up the optional 20-inchers, available on "Enforcer" or "Rallye" or "Rallye Plus" packages as well. A "Road and Track" package re-tweaks everything with bigger roll bars, Goodyear sport tires, stiffer monotube shocks and tougher brake linings, as well as an "off" mode for stability control.

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