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2011 Dodge Charger

The latest incarnation brings much-needed toughness to sedans

When a Charger pulls into your rearview, you know it. There's no mistaking that massive crosshair grille or frowning headlights. It's the look of a highway bully—a car that can't be stopped, even in dense traffic. In redesigning the Charger for 2011, Dodge stuck with what works, then juiced it up a bit—they left its game face intact, but the rest of the vehicle is more sophisticated and driver-friendly. In other words, the Charger isn't rocking a mullet anymore, but the Kenny Powers-style Oakley wraparounds are still in place.

Built on a new second-generation full-size platform, the '11 is reskinned to bring it closer to the Chargers of the muscle-car era. Along the sides, a pronounced shoulder line and scalloped flanks are throwbacks to the Duke boys' ride, the General Lee. Backing up that sheet-metal bravado is the mighty 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, which sends a massive 370 horses to the rear wheels (all-wheel drive is optional). Dodge estimates the V-8 will reach 0 to 60 mph in fewer than six seconds. Considering the Charger's penchant for turning its rear tires to dust, we don't doubt that claim. If you prefer the show but don't need all the go, it also offers a 3.6-liter V-6 with 292 horsepower that should sprint to 60 in just under eight seconds. (The V-6 version lacks the torque needed to pin you into your seat like the V-8, but it won't make you feel like a Kmart shopper either.)

Inside, higher-quality plastics, extra sound-deadening material, reshaped seats, and an excellent infotainment system with a standard 4.3-inch touchscreen (a huge 8.4-inch screen is optional) elevate the Charger out of the rental-car class. Larger windows increase outward visibility, a major shortcoming of many previous models. Dodge left the basic suspension architecture alone, but a thorough returning, improved tires, and a quicker steering rack give the Charger a deft and sporty feel that was missing from the previous version.

Prices start at $25,995 for the Charger SE; the HEMI V-8 equipped Charger R/T starts at $30,995 and climbs rapidly toward $40,000 with options.

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