Featured Muscle Cars


2009 Dodge Challenger

by Malcolm Gunn

Amidst the current economic gloom and helter-skelter financial turmoil, there's genuine four-wheeled fun to be had from Dodge's Challenger lineup. If these cars won't lift your spirits, put a skip in your stride and paste a toothy smile on your kisser, nothing will.

The Challenger is Chrysler's revivalist answer to the Ford Mustang and up-coming Chevrolet Camaro that's due to arrive in early 2009. All three will battle for supremacy just as they did nearly 40 years ago during the so-called "ponycar wars".

The Challenger actually returned earlier this year, but only in premium SRT8 form and sporting a near-$40,000 pricetag.

Now the base Challenger SE and mid-grade R/T have arrived to spread enough goodness and cheer for all.

These two-door, five-passenger rear-wheel-drivers are built at the same Brampton, Canada, plant that spawned the full-size Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300. In fact, they all share the same basic platform, however four inches have been removed between the front and rear wheels of the Challenger. The combination of full-size width and coupe-sized length means the Challenger is a nimble handler when the pavement begins to curl while at the same time delivering generous rear-seat and trunk space so the whole gang can share the experience.

On the outside, the Challenger remains fairly true to the original's (circa 1970) long-hood, short deck styling. The headlights are round, the full-width taillamp is retro-cool and the body is a virtual chrome-free zone that gives off a mildly modified "Kustom Kar" vibe.

The base SE is the most fiscally painless Challenger, but it's in no way devoid of features. Its 3.5-liter V6 delivers 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque and is connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Among the standard features are air conditioning, eight-way power driver's seat, cruise control, keyless remote entry, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, basic audio system and 17-inch wheels. All of the above will set you back around $22 grand.

Beg, borrow or scrounge anther $8,000 for the R/T and you'll get a 5.7-liter version of the "Hemi" V8. The engine has come in for some significant refreshment for 2009 and, in its Challenger application, puts down 372 horsepower and 402 pound-feet of torque when connected to a five-speed automatic transmission, or 376 horses and 410 pound-feet of torque with an optional six-speed manual. It also features a more efficient cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down half of its cylinders when idling, coasting or running under light loads. Yet, when the whip is cracked, the R/T's Hemi will push the car to 60 mph in less than six seconds. In addition to the SE gear, you get quicker steering, limited-slip differential (manual transmission), fog lamps, body-colored rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels. The R/T package also gets you anti-lock brakes plus traction and stability control to help prevent a skid or spin.

You'll need to shake more than $41,000 worth of loose change from your pants pockets to snag an SRT8, but bragging rights don't come cheap. And there's certainly nothing cheap or cheesy about this car's already legendary 425-horsepower 6.1-liter "Hemi" that's capable of breaking the five second barrier to 60 mph. This speedy steed also packs a lowered suspension, Brembo-brand front disc brakes, quick-ratio steering, 20-inch wheels and the gruffest song ever to emanate from a dual-exhaust system. The SRT's luxuries include an electronic driver information center, leather-trimmed seats (heated sport buckets in front), keyless start and a 276-watt up-level sound system.

There's a lengthy options list that will considerably inflate the Challenger family's base prices, but there appears to be no shortage of basic equipment built into the entire range, regardless of how thick your wallet might be.

courtesy of Wheelbase Communications


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