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2011 Dodge Charger R/T HEMI Review

MPG-o-Matic 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Review Summary:
Just when you thought we were at end of the era of the big V8-powered American sedan, the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T shows up as if to say, “hey, we saved the best for last!” The HEMI Charger delivers good old American performance, plenty of interior room and in-cabin technology, along with a surprising level of fuel efficiency when driven with a light foot. In all-wheel-drive (AWD) trim, the Charger R/T is an unlikely alternative for many folks that might otherwise think they need a SUV.



The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is equipped with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine producing 370 horsepower (HP) and 395 foot pounds of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Forget about the notion of V8s as gas hogs. This HEMI uses Fuel Saver Technology to drop into four-cylinder mode under light-throttle conditions. While a manual transmission is not available the five-speed automatic includes AutoStick for control over gear changes. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 292 HP and 260 foot-pounds of torque is standard issue in the less-expensive Charger SE and Charger Rallye versions.

The official fuel economy estimates for the HEMI-equipped AWD 2011 Dodge Charger R/T are 15 city / 23 highway MPG. The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Charger R/T is rated at 16 city / 25 highway, while the V6-equipped Chargers are rated at 18 city / 27 highway.


We found those numbers to be quite conservative – over the course of a week and 500 miles in our AWD Redline Pearl Charger R/T Plus review unit – as we demolished the official mileage estimates, with an average of 31.7 MPG on the Interstate highway and 22.7 MPG combined in mild autumn weather, with temperatures ranging from the low-sixties through the mid-eighties. Interstate highway testing temperatures were in the low-to-mid-seventies. Our test unit was delivered with approximately 6600 miles on the odometer.

The 2011 /AWD Charger R/T is equipped with with 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels and P235/55R19 Michelin MXM4 all-season performance tires. The Charger SE rides on 17-inch wheels and P215/65R17 Michelin Energy Saver tires, while the Charger Rallye is equipped with 18-inch wheels and P235/55R18 Michelin MXM4 tires.

Interstate Mileage Testing:

  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 30.6 MPG
  • Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 32.9 MPG

Though it weighs in at over 4400 pounds (with a 4450 lbs. curb weight), the AWD Charger R/T is no slouch off the line. Turn off Traction Control and it just hooks up.

There’s no mistaking Dodge’s full-size sedan for a lightweight. The 2011 RWD Charger R/T tips the scales at 4253 lbs., and the V6 Charger a mere 3961 lbs.

The Charger’s 19.1 gallon fuel tank delivers a respectable amount of highway driving range when driven conservatively. Put your foot in it and those numbers will drop quickly. All Chargers are design to run on 87-octane regular unleaded gasoline, although 89-octane mid-grade unleaded is recommended for the HEMI. The V6 Charger is a FlexFuel vehicle and can run ethanol blends up to E85.

The four-wheel ABS brakes are standard in all 2011 Chargers with 13.6-inch front and 12.6-inch rear vented discs on the R/T.

The crisp and concise Vehicle Information Center provides a wealth of data, including oil pressure, engine temperature, individual tire pressures, and an excellent real-time fuel economy display (with an Eco indicator). Driving with the Charger’s instant MPG display active is the first step towards achieving the best gas mileage.

The AWD Charger is no EVO, but it rides and handles with assurance. In addition to the HEMI’s Fuel Saver Technology, the AWD Charger uses an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect system to improve fuel economy by as much as five percent. The AWD system automatically transitions between rear-wheel drive and AWD without requiring any driver intervention by disconnecting the front axle to maximize fuel economy when AWD is not required.

And those swoopy new lines? They’re not all about style. The drag coefficient has been significantly improved over the 2010 Charger, with the 2011 Charger R/T’s 0.297 Cd easily edging past the 2010 at 0.345 Cd.

The Charger R/T’s interior has taken a big step up.

Our test unit was equipped with the R/T Plus, Driver Confidence, Driver Convenience, and Navigation option packages:

  • The Plus package includes Nappa leather, eight-way power front bucket seats with four-way lumbar, a heated and cooled cupholder and two-way heated rear seats.
  • The Driver Confidence Group includes blind spot mirrors, cross-path detection, reverse auto-adjust side mirrors, and back-up camera.
  • The Driver’s Convenience Group includes power adjustable pedals, driver seat memory (with mirrors), and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
  • The Garmin navigation system includes Sirius services to find everything from the lowest gas prices to the weather and latest sports scores.

There are 12-volt outlets at the base of the dash, at the rear of the center console, and inside the center console, where you’ll also find the USB and audio input jacks. iPod support is up to snuff and hands-free Bluetooth is standard. Phonebooks can be automatically downloaded.

The second row seats allow 36.6 inches of headroom and 40.1 inches of leg room. Headroom is a bit compromised by the roofline.

The Charger’s trunk provides 15.4 cubic feet of storage with the 60/40 rear seat up, and ample room with the seat folded down.

All-in-all, the HEMI Charger rewards its owner with good old American performance, plenty of technology, a well-outfitted interior, and a surprising level of fuel efficiency. Just when you thought we were at end of the era of the big V8-powered American sedan, the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T shows up as if to say, “hey, we saved the best for last!”

Parts Content Information
US/Canadian Parts Content: 70%
Final Assembly Point: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Country of Origin:
Engine – Mexico
Transmission – United States

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10 comments ↓

#1 Mopar Fan on 11.16.11 at 7:32 am

I drive a Hemi daily, and don’t get anywhere near that number. I’ll believe it when I experience it first hand.

#2 mpg-o-editor on 11.16.11 at 9:07 am

@Mopar Fan – I completely understand your skepticism! What year is your Hemi?

There are three key factors in play: 1) tires, 2) coefficient of drag, and 3) driver’s technique.

The 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is clad with low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires. LRR tires have been proven to increase highway fuel economy. The 2011 Charger’s redesign lowered the coefficient of drag significantly. The lower the drag, the higher the highway MPG. Driver’s technique is all-important. If you take advantage of the tools at your disposal (cylinder deactivation and the Instant MPG gauge) you can squeak more out of every gallon. The 2011 Charger R/T is rewarding to drive with your foot in it … and out of it … if you keep highway speed down and minimize lane changes, you can get outstanding results.

#3 SeanBoy on 12.04.11 at 2:53 pm

Hey Dan,

Awesome work by the way, I really love your reviews. I was just wondering what type of fuel you were running the Charger? I know it calls for mid-grade, but it would be good to know what you used. If I can replicate these highway results, Dodge might have another sale under its belt by next year.

Cheers

#4 mpg-o-editor on 12.04.11 at 5:21 pm

@SeanBoy – Thanks for the kind words of support! I’d have to find the receipt to say for sure on the type of fuel, but I’d reckon it was mid-grade. I try to test with what’s recommended but never know what’s in the tank when I get a car. I usually aim for 68 MPH with the cruise control and 60-72 without … the more you use inertia, with your foot off the accelerator pedal, the better the results. I’m slated to test a 2012 Charger with the Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic in a couple of weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how that stacks up.

#5 SeanBoy on 12.05.11 at 1:01 am

Thanks for the response! I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the Pentastar/8-speed review. Looking forward to see what you can do with it.

#6 NewHemi on 01.05.12 at 8:01 pm

Hi Dan – I just got a ’12 AWD Charger R/T, and haven’t had much luck coming close to your great MPG results. It’s cold here, so it is in AWD all the time, and, granted that I drive only 5 miles to work with a lot of stopping and starting, I’d hoped to be a bit better than where I’m at now. Any tips for how to maximize this beast?

#7 mpg-o-editor on 01.05.12 at 8:32 pm

@NewHemi – Congrats on the new Hemi R/T! Unfortunately, Winter Weather/Temperature + a Short Commute + lots of Stop & Go is a triple-whammy when it comes to gas mileage for any vehicle. The Hemi does extremely well at moderate cruising speeds on the highway, but under your current conditions it’s tough.

When the engine is cold it’s less efficient. Letting the engine oil warm up (a wee bit) will lower MPGs, but is kinder on the internals. A garage or block heater can help. Some general ideas: 1) Try to time the traffic lights, 2) leave more space between your car and the car in front of you, 3) maximize inertia/minimize braking, and 4) drive with your foot off the accelerator pedal when practical.

Look for alternate routes with less stop & go, if possible … even if they’re a little longer in distance. Those acceleration cycles add up.

Spring isn’t that far away!

#8 NewHemi on 01.05.12 at 9:08 pm

Thanks for the tips! The fuel economy screen in the gauge cluster is interesting to glance at. I’ve been experimenting with techniques to lift off the accelerator to engage the full benefit of the cylinder shut off feature, but there’s only so much I can do with the conditions noted above and the 5 speed.

I didn’t get the Hemi for gas mileage of course, but I hope for better results when the weather is warmer and I’m in full-time in AWD. With the (so far) snow-free winter, I wish Dodge hand included an override where I could manually switch out of AWD when not needed, regardless of temperature. I’m sure they’ll include that in years to come.

#9 mpg-o-editor on 01.05.12 at 9:21 pm

@NewHemi – Watch the little triangle indicator on the fuel economy display. Try to keep the MPG/thermometer level to the right of the triangle whenever possible.

Check the manual … From what I recall, the drivetrain stays in RWD mode until it feels slip and automatically switches over to AWD.

#10 NewHemi on 01.06.12 at 11:43 pm

For the ’12, it automatically engages AWD when the temp is below 40 degrees. With it being above that today, it did. I’m starting to find the sweetspots in keeping an even speed but getting the fuel save tech to really kick in. It seems easier to do when it is in RWD. Thanks for the tips!

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