2009 Dodge Challenger
Date Posted: December 21, 2011
By Zack Spencer
The Pony wars are on and Dodge has a very special car with the meaty looking Challenger
In the late sixties and early seventies the domestic manufacturers battled it out for top honours with vehicles like the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger. These were given the name ''pony'' cars with the Mustang the only model to stay in continuous production until now. 2009 is an exciting year because the Camaro and Challenger have been resurrected with full retro styling. Is it 2009 or 1969?It's hard to tell.
The whole point of this car it to makes the driver feel important in a market where far to many cars don't ignite any passion at all. It's amazing how Dodge was able to make this modern Challenger look so authentic even in an era of crash proven bumpers. Gone are the chrome bumpers in favour of clean flowing lines that trick the eye into forgetting what the original looked like, it's only when you see this new car back to back with a 1970 Challenger that you realize, this is really a very modern car. I love the recessed headlights and the forward slanting nose. The SRT8 model gets a bulging hood with vents, along with two stripes down the middle. The roof and the way the doors and glass are so smoothly integrated gives this car a sculpted feel. Base models get 17-inch wheels and the SRT8 vets 20-inch forged wheels.
Inside is a bit more retro than I'd like to see in this statement car. The interior is a bit of a letdown with bland trim, lack of contrast and minimalist detail. The Mustang, in comparison has a much better interior. To their credit Dodge has done a better job of including soft touch materials instead of the hard plastics use in most of their cars, it's just that they don't look like soft touch materials. One thing Dodge did get absolutely right are the comfortable and highly bolstered seats in the SRT8. Modern features include a great stereo with MP3 or optional iPod interface and Sat radio. Navigation is available as is voice-activated hands free calling. The trunk is large for a coupe and the back seats fold for more cargo capacity.
A massive 6.1L Hemi V8 powers the SRT8, with 425hp and 420 ft-pounds of torque. There is another smaller 5.7L Hemi in the R/T model, then a 3.5L V6 on the SE and SXT versions. The V6 versions get a 4-speed automatic and the V8's a 5-speed automatic and both can be shifted manually. It is nice to see that a manual transmission is available and it works well, with little clutch effort and short throws. The best way to get the power down quickly is to ham-fist the car, not to finesse the clutch, just grab a gear and let it go. Not the smoothest shifts but it gets the job done. The Challenger is built in Canada along side the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 and it is based on the same platform, which is held over from the Mercedes merger. It is quite sophisticated and provides a comfortable ride but on the Challenger the suspension is tuned for more fun and the big 20-inch wheels don't hurt either. Not surprisingly, since the chassis is Mercedes inspired, it is most comfortable on the highway.
The Challenger will have a hard time sustaining sales after the initial rush of baby boomers wanting to recapture their youth run out and buy one as a weekend toy. That's a limited market. You see, there are sedans that have just as much power, better handling, a more refined interior wrapped in a much more practical design for every day driving. Dodge has done a great job of taking a classic and molding a new classic but I fear we will be looking back on this car the way we look at the Dodge Prowler and Ford Thunderbird-as a memory.
The Good, The Bad
The Challenger has heart stopping good looks that blends the best of yesterday with modern touches and production techniques. The stance on the wheels is killer. The sound from the large 6.1L Hemi is just as intoxicating as the styling.
The interior is okay but compared to the Mustang the Challenger looks like a halfhearted effort. Even though the SRT8 sounds like it is going fast it doesn't feel like it is going fast due to the large dimensions of the car.
Power: 3.5L V6 with 250hp up to the 6.1L V8 with 425hp
Fill-up: Don't ask!
Sticker price: $25,995-$46,295