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2009 Dodge Challenger

2009 Dodge Challenger

After a hiatus of more than 30 years the Dodge Challenger returned in 2008. For 2009, the Challenger lineup is expanded to three models: the new SE, the new R/T, and the high-performance SRT8. The Challenger is a big car, with big presence, and big power. SE comes with a 250-hp 3.5-liter V6 and four-speed automatic EPA-rated 18/25. The R/T can be used as a daily driver, at least for shorter distances and fuel consumption, and will compete with the Mustang GT, over which it has both advantages and disadvantages. Challenger R/T runs a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 rated at 370 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque with the standard five-speed automatic. The SRT8 is fast, stable and ready to go to any track, Dodge's fastest car this side of the twice-the-price Viper. Challenger SRT8 comes with a 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi (EPA 13/19 mpg), the same transmission options as the R/T, big Brembo brakes, the firmest suspension; and a limited-slip rear differential.

2009 Dodge Challenger Models and Options

The SE model is economy-oriented, the R/T is more sporting, and the SRT8 tops all performance. Challenger SE comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, 60/40 split-folding rear bench, tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control, remote keyless entry,AM/FM/CD/MP3 four-speaker stereo, visor vanity mirrors, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Challenger R/T adds heated outside mirrors, body-colored rear spoiler and mirrors, metal fuel filler door, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, illuminated visor mirrors, dual chromed rectangular exhaust pipes, and fog lamps. Mechanical upgrades to accompany the added power include 18-inch aluminum wheels and wider tires, stability control, bigger antilock brakes, and firmer suspension. The SRT8 features Brembo brakes, a special suspension, and a limited-slip differential. Many bits optional on the R/T are standard on the SRT8, including a better audio system, bi-xenon headlamps, trip/data computer, leather, keyless go, and Sirius satellite radio. The SRT8 rear spoiler is flat black, the front spoiler deeper and ducted for brake cooling, hood scoops are functional, the fuel filler is polished aluminum, and 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and heated sport seats are standard. Options for all include leather upholstery, eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, moonroof, disc changer and navigation with real-time traffic, 276-watt Boston Acoustics audio system, 18-inch aluminum wheels, compact spare tire, ABS and electronic stability control and traction control.

2009 Dodge Challenger Handling and Engine

The Challenger is a big, rear-wheel-drive car and feels like it. Yet the further up the power an performance scale you go, the lighter it seems to feel. The Challenger SE drives a lot like the Charger because the Challenger is based on the Charger with just four inches taken out between the front and rear wheels. The Challenger SE comes only with a four-speed automatic. As much as the engine and weight, the automatic is one reason the SE rates only 2-3 mpg better on the EPA City cycle than the R/T models with 50 percent more power. The R/T features a Hemi V8 producing 371 to 376 horsepower, along with a firmer suspension, bigger brakes and tires, and a choice of a hefty-shifting six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Dodge quotes a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds with the new six-speed manual. Stacked up against a Mustang GT500 with a six-speed manual, the SRT8 with its automatic transmission is just slightly slower, although you can't call 0-60 in the high 4s and a 13-second quarter-mile 'slow' in production $40,000 cars. Traction control does a very good job of turning controlled wheelspin into thrust and is easier than launching most high-performance manual transmissions; there's a solid feel to quick upshifts. When cruising, the Challenger is civilized. The Challenger is too big and heavy to merit any consideration as a sports car and isn't ideal for tossing around on tight racetracks or mountain roads. Body roll is considerable, but grip from the optional Goodyear F1 Supercar tires is substantial and the car is surprisingly well balanced in turns. On a fuel economy basis the SE is the only one you'd want to use for a commuter car. The others are better suited to local romps, weekends or special occasion drives. With aerodynamics ever-more-frequently dictating shape and wind patterns, the Challenger can comfortably be driven windows down without buffeting the occupants or thundering their ears.

2009 Dodge Challenger Interior

With the 2009 Dodge Challenger, the cabin is functional and well put together, yet has the least emotional impact of any aspect of the car. Everything on the interior is dark. On the SRT8 the monotony is broken with chrome highlights on door handles, control knobs and gauge bezels, light-faced instruments, semi-glossy carbon-fiber-look center panel trim, a big chrome band around the shifter and a colorful stripe on the seatbacks. Unlike many so-called sport seats the Challenger's do not feel overly firm or confining. Although the pillars are on the wide side, you sit far enough away from the windshield to avoid forward blind spots. With the seat positioned low to the glass line, you can see most of the hood. The view to the rear is fairly good, too, because the side glass goes well back and the rear windows are as big as the mirror view. Gauges include fuel on the left, which descends progressively more quickly as the tank is consumed, tachometer, speedometer (140, 160, 180 mph on SE, R/T, SRT8 respectively) and numbered coolant temperature. A manual tilt/telescope steering column allows plenty of adjustment and a view of the instruments but its overly generous diameter is more appropriate for a small power yacht than a sporty car.

2009 Dodge Challenger Exterior

Part of the Challenger's appeal comes from its commanding presence and its powerful look. Unlike most new cars, the maximum width is carried well out to the ends resulting in a broad, menacing car. The very wide, horizontal grille, spoilers and tail lamps accentuate the width, as does a turret-like roof and window treatment, and the haunches over the rear wheels where the roof fairs into the trunk and the character line kicks up. The four round headlamps and deeply inset grille of the original are still there, though now the inside lights are turn signals and the outer pair the headlamps. Where signals rode below the bumper on the '70 the new one has fog lamps, and careful sculpting has maintained the classic look without destroying aerodynamic efficiency.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger carries a distinctive look that attracts a lot of attention. The V6-powered Challenger SE comes with a moderate price, while the V8-powered R/T is a good performance value. The SRT8 is the ultimate Challenger. Regardless, the Challenger avoids the compromised rear seat and trunk of most coupes because of its size, and carries its bulk well on the road.