KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 4/1/2011
The 1960s gave birth to two automotive legends: The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Known as pony cars, the two came to symbolize a new era in automotive lore, which allowed these compact yet powerful performance machines to sell in droves. Not to be sidelined, Chrysler Corporation introduced its own pony car, the Dodge Challenger, in 1970. Unfortunately, the pony car era had seen its heyday and by 1974 declining sales brought an end to the mighty Dodge. Once again in the ring with the Mustang and Camaro, the 2011 Challenger delivers clearly recognizable Challenger DNA, a Hemi engine and a relatively affordable price. Unlike the first Challenger, however, today's car features a modern suspension, traction and stability controls and reliable anti-lock disc brakes that are actually capable of dealing with the car's immense power.
You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you grew up owning one, or regret being born too late for the privilege, lovers of the genre will find the 2011 Dodge Challenger promises the same head-turning good looks and Hemi-powered acceleration as the original.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a light, nimble performance car, the Challenger's large dimensions and somewhat claustrophobic interior may have you moving to perhaps tidier performance-oriented coupes, such as the BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37.
What's Significant About This Car?
For 2011 the Challenger gets a new base V6 of 3.6 liters and 305 horsepower (55 more than the previous 3.5-liter V6) and 268 pound-feet of torque; it is truly a huge improvement and gives even the base SE model a genuine performance feel. New chassis architecture delivers higher cornering levels and there is additional standard equipment. But the big Challenger news for 2011 is the debut of the SRT8 392, powered by a 6.4-liter version of the Hemi engine and making 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. There will be only 1,142 of the Inaugural Edition models (1,100 for the United States and 392 for Canada), and they will be either deep blue with white stripes or white with blue stripes. The "392" moniker refers to 392 cubic inches, in memory of the 392-inch Hemi of 1957 and '58, but the modern version actually measures only 391 cubic inches; somebody needs a new calculator.
The base SE, with the 3.6-liter V6 of 305 horsepower, offers plenty of more-than-reasonable performance. It's also lighter than the previous engine, which helps vehicle balance and handling, and the SE will be available with a Super Sport Group with performance suspension and brakes and 20-inch wheels and tires. But it's the V8-powered models that breathe serious life into the Challenger's body. Unlike many cars in the genre, the Challenger's interior is pleasantly quiet at speed and the ride is controlled without being jarring; this is true even for the R/T trims, although increased tire size and a stiffer suspension somewhat diminish ride comfort. In R/T form, the 5.7-liter V8 has plenty of push for fast off-the-line starts and blindingly quick passing maneuvers. The steering is a bit heavy, but it's precise enough to inspire confidence executing high-speed maneuvers. The Challenger R/T's suspension is sufficiently tight to control excessive body roll but, if all-out handling and gut-punching acceleration take precedence over a comfortable ride and reasonable fuel economy, the SRT8 392 trim is the obvious choice.
6.4-liter Hemi V8
It's the Hemi that brings the Challenger legend to life and with 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the 6.4-liter monster motor in the SRT8 392 ensures only a handful of cars will be able to keep up.
13-speaker Kicker Audio
Available only on the SRT8 392, Dodge calls this 13-speaker, 522-watt sound system the "mother of all audio," and we agree. With this system cranking your favorite tunes, the only notes sweeter than the ones inside the car are found at the end of each exhaust pipe.
When compared to the Challenger's exterior, the lackluster interior design seems to fall flat. The four-spoke steering wheel from the base Charger is definitely out of place, as is the transmission selector (it should be a pistol-grip knock-off similar to the optional manual transmission's knob). Comfortable front bucket seats do a good job of holding the driver and front passenger in place and the Challenger's rear seat can comfortably fit two adults; the same cannot be said for either the Mustang or Camaro. Sub-par plastics don't do much to brighten the interior, but a long list of creature comforts makes spending time inside the Challenger enjoyable nonetheless. A sizeable trunk also gives the Challenger a leg up on its Mustang and Camaro rivals.
The Challenger's exterior is less about retro and more about the logical evolution of the original. This strong connection to the past allows the Challenger to attract both old and young, with bright, over-the-top exterior colors, bold stripes and available accessories such as a hood scoop and spoiler. The narrow side glass helps disguise the Challenger's Charger-based roots; we just wish Dodge could have incorporated the original car's hardtop roll-down rear windows into the design.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SE has Chrysler's new 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 305 horsepower, a five-speed automatic transmission, automatic air conditioning, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, six-way power driver's seat with power lumbar adjustment, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, vehicle information center and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary audio input jack. Depending upon the trim level, additional features include the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, a six-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, fog lamps, security alarm, Sirius Satellite Radio, USB port, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seating, Boston Acoustics speakers, 276-watt amplifier, Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth, heated front seats and a variety of trim and convenience features. The SRT8 392 includes premium leather with accent stripes, 20-inch wheels with performance tires, a functional hood scoop, rear spoiler, performance-tuned steering, Brembo brakes front and rear, specific trim features and the SRT Track Experience, where new owners can go to learn how to better control the car's incredible performance.
Notable Optional Equipment
Available options for the SE include an interior appearance group and Sirius Satellite Radio. The Rallye can be equipped with a power sunroof, 368-watt sound system with Boston Acoustics speakers, leather seating, a variety of color choices, 20-inch alloy wheels and other trim and convenience items. R/T trims can be equipped with the Track Pack that includes 20-inch wheels and performance tires, heavy-duty brakes, performance steering and a track-tuned suspension. There are a variety of options for the SRT8 392 which are appropriate for its very high-performance mission in life.
Under the Hood
The Challenger offers a choice of three engines. Chrysler's modern 3.6-liter V6 makes 305 horsepower and delivers plenty of performance for any reasonable use on the highway or a curving mountain road. The value leader is to be found with the 5.7-liter Hemi; with the five-speed automatic it's rated at 372 horsepower and with the six-speed manual it's at 376 horsepower. At the top end resides the SRT8 392 of 6.4 liters. Producing a whopping 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the only drawback to owning this powerplant is the cost incurred at the pump and possibly the court house.
305 horsepower @ 6350 rpm
268 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/27
5.7-liter Hemi V8
372 horsepower @ 5200 rpm (automatic)
376 horsepower @ 5150 rpm (manual)
400 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm (automatic)
410 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm (manual)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/24 (manual), 16/25 (automatic)
470 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
470 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/22 (automatic); 14/23 (manual)
The 2011 Dodge Challenger SE has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $25,500. The Challenger R/T starts just over $30,000, while a fully loaded SRT8 392 model can top out around $49,000. These prices closely mirror the Challenger's main rivals, the Mustang and Camaro, but undercut European brands like the BMW 3 Series by a wide margin. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Challengers. As for resale, we expect the Challenger to hold excellent five-year residual values, better than the Ford Mustang and on par with the Chevrolet Camaro.