2011 Dodge Challenger Performance

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Performance
For 2011, the Challenger is newly available with a higher-output, 305-horsepower version of the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. That's 55 hp higher than the 3.5-liter engine it replaces, with higher fuel economy, too. To go with the new V-6, which is quite a bit lighter, the SE model's so-called touring suspension has been redesigned, including wider 18-inch wheels and tires. Brake pedal feel has been retuned, too. Also newly available for 2011 is a Challenger Rallye with Super Sport Group, bringing a 20-inch wheel upgrade with performance tires and more of an R/T look.

Altogether, there are three main models: V-6 Challenger SE, V-8 Challenger R/T, and the especially high-performance V-8 Challenger SRT8. Challenger R/T models remain powered by a 372-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, with a choice of a five-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual, while SRT8 models get an even bigger 6.4-liter (badged 392 cubic inches) for 2011, producing an exotic-like 470 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque. V-6 models come only with the automatic, though it includes AutoStick manual control.

Although we haven't yet driven the Challenger V-6, it remains the option for those who don't put the priority on performance but want this muscle-coupe's street style at a more affordable price. The rest who value performance will want to go with one of the HEMI V-8-powered models, the R/T or SRT8. Hemi-powered R/T models feel strong and quick, with plenty of torque off the line and plenty left for high-speed passes. But it's the top SRT8 that's hot and blustery, with an old high-powered muscle-car feel and the right sounds to go with it. In any of these versions, you can't go wrong with the automatic transmission, which deals well with the torquey engines, but manual is a great pick for anyone who wants to do the shifting; it's surprisingly light and precise.

The 2011 Dodge Challenger offers strong acceleration now no matter which engine is under the hood, but it's not the best pick for hustling on mountain backroads.

As soon as the road turns curvy, the Challenger reveals its greater mass and feels neither as lean and nimble as the Mustang nor as overtly athletic as the Camaro. What's mostly to blame is the steering, which feels overly light and imprecise. 

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