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2008 Dodge Challenger

2008 Dodge Challenger

2008 Dodge Challenger Introduction

Did you miss out on the original 1970-'74 Dodge Challenger? Well, thanks to the Dodge boys who share a similar nostalgic sentiment, you get a second chance with the 2008 Challenger.

Those familiar with the old Challenger know that it was a belated response to Ford's wildly successful Mustang, which was launched some six years earlier. Size-wise, however, the brawny Challenger was closer in size and weight to a 2-ton muscle car than a lithe pony car. Big V8s were the engines of choice, including the legendary 426 Hemi V8. Unfortunately, this model's life was shortened by the era's gas crisis and more stringent emissions regulations.

Despite arriving into an eerily similar climate, there's no need to worry about the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 merely being a poser's visual link to the past -- it sports standard Hemi V8 power, rear-wheel drive and the right sound burbling from its rectangular exhausts. Initially, it will only be available in ultra-high-performance SRT8 form, meaning its 6.1-liter (around 370 cubic inches for you old-school types) V8 makes 425 horsepower. The Challenger is based on Chrysler's LX platform, which is also used for the 300 and Charger sedans. Its wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the Charger, though with an estimated 4,140-pound curb weight, the new model is frighteningly similar to its forbear in sheer bulk. Of course, the '08 Challenger does come with features previous Mopar designers could have hardly dreamed about, such as stability control, side curtain airbags and an available hard-drive-based navigation system that can also store music and video files.

Sadly, also unlike the old Mopar, you can't get a manual transmission. Instead of a pistol-grip Hurst to grab gears with, you get a five-speed automatic with Chrysler's AutoStick mode.

Overall, however, we like how the 2008 Dodge Challenger impressively combines the visceral and visual excitement of the past with modern engineering, safety and convenience features. Shoppers not willing to deal with all that could simply pick up a Ford Mustang GT or GT500.

2008 Dodge Challenger Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Dodge Challenger is a large five-passenger sport coupe available in a singular, high-performance SRT8 trim level. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels wearing 245/45 high-performance tires, a sport suspension, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights, leather and heated front sport seats, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated side mirrors and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Also standard is a 13-speaker premium audio system with six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Options include a sunroof, the MyGIG combination navigation and music server system, and ultra-performance summer tires. Powertrains and Performance

The Challenger SRT8 is powered by a 6.1-liter V8 that sends its prodigious 425 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. The latter features Chrysler's "AutoStick" manual shift capability. Dodge claims that the V8 vaults the Challenger to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and through the quarter-mile in around 13.5 seconds.

Safety

Antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control and front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags are all standard.

2008 Dodge Challenger Interior Design and Special Features

While the exterior is enthusiastically nostalgic, the Challenger's interior is rather narcoleptic. There's a faint echo of the original Challenger present in the 2008 version, but in total, the cabin is somber and dull with only a few metallic trim pieces and orange seat accents to spruce up what is otherwise a sea of gray. There was certainly no effort to answer the Mustang or upcoming Camaro's retro interiors, but the Challenger at least provides good-quality materials. The well-bolstered sport seats covered in leather and faux suede are also better than those found in the cheaper Ford. The rear seat features a fold-down armrest and a split/folding back that opens up to the 16.2-cubic-foot trunk, making for impressive cargo capacity.

2008 Dodge Challenger Driving Impressions

Provided there's sufficient grip, the 2008 Dodge Challenger lunges off the corners and swallows the straights, its sustained thrust complemented by long riffs of resonant mechanical music. However, we'd appreciate a rev-matching feature for the transmission to make downshifts smoother when running along a curvy road. For such a big car, the Challenger handles itself well, with minimal body roll and a surprisingly comfortable ride. Braking is up to the task as well. Large (about 14 inches front and rear) Brembos fitted with four-piston calipers provide powerful stopping power. The brakes also automatically keep their pads closer to the rotors when driving in the wet.