- What’s New – The Challenger is a blast from the past, all-new for 2009, and now with a full lineup, including V-6 powered SE models, an R/T with a 5.7-liter V-8, and of course the 425-horsepower SRT8 that was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February. With a full lineup, Dodge’s pony car takes on the Ford Mustang at every price and performance level starting this fall.
- Why It Matters – Sure, we love the SRT8, but its $40,000-plus price tag excludes those who want the looks of the Challenger, but don’t need the performance...or who want better gas mileage. For them, Dodge has introduced the Challenger SE, with a V-6 engine. For those looking to split the difference, there’s the R/T, with a less powerful V-8.
2009 Dodge Challenger Preview – 2008 New York Auto Show: We’ve ogled the Dodge Challenger for so long now that it feels like it’s been on sale for a couple of years. In reality, the first units aren’t even on sale yet. Besides, we’ve all be looking at just one model of a complete lineup, the SRT8. Sure, it’s the most exciting version, but there are a lot of people who want the musclecar looks of the Challenger without the performance or price.
To satisfy anybody who wants a Challenger, Dodge is introducing the rest of the lineup at the 2008 New York Auto Show. An SE and R/T model join the lineup, as does a refreshed SRT8 for the ’09 model year. For the first time in any of its Hemi-powered cars, Dodge is offering a six-speed manual transmission option on the R/T and SRT8 models.
2009 Dodge Challenger - Notable Features
Long gone are the days where a musclecar could survive purely on its biceps. These days even the impractical has to have a friendly face, and the Challenger’s comes ni the form of options such as a MyGIG entertainment and navigation system, Bluetooth phone integration, keyless ignition and remote start.
In addition, these days even cars that practically beg juvenile delinquency like the Challenger come with a full array of safety gear, such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, airbags galore, and brake assist.
2009 Dodge Challenger - Under the Hood
The most notable features of the new Challenger reside underhood, specifically, the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the SE, and the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 in the R/T.
Buyers looking for the style of the Challener, but can’t afford or don’t need the hairy-chested V-8 engines can opt for the SE. With 250 horsepower and a four-speed automatic, it won’t be the most exciting model, but it looks a lot like its brawnier stablemates, and will offer better fuel economy as well.
The R/T model follows the usual Dodge model lineup, slotting in above the SE but below the SRT8. With a 370 horsepower V-8 engine mated to a five-speed automatic, the R/T is no slouch; couple it with the optional six-speed manual and you get an extra five horsepower if you let it drink premium fuel. A limited slip differential will also be available. With 398 lb.-ft. of torque (404 with the stick and premium), Dodge predicts 0-60 mph times in less than six seconds.
While there may have been a premium on 2008 Challenger SRT8 models by the gotta-have-it-first crowd, one very good thing came to those who waited: a six-speed manual transmission. While Dodge isn’t claiming higher horsepower for the manually-equipped cars, we’re going to guess that it’ll be a smidge quicker than those with a five-speed automatic.
Suspension on all Challengers is the same, albeit tuned differently in each model. Based on the same platform as the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger, the independent suspension is a known quantity to us, and it gets high marks.
2009 Dodge Challenger - Design
The 2009 Dodge Challenger lineup looks familiar for a couple of reasons. First, it harkens back to the early 70s when the Challenger first appeared on the pony car scene, last but arguably best. The second is because we’ve seen lots of the new Challenger since it first debuted at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show as a concept car. It is remarkably changed from that concept, with a few details around the grille, taillights and side mirrors all that is particularly noteworthy.
The two new models look a lot like the SRT8 production model that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February. Of course, there are differences. The SE gets smaller wheels and tires, no spoiler on the trunk, and simply the words “Challenger” in the grille. RT models lok more aggressive, with beefier wheels and tires, an “R/T” badge in the lower left hand side o the grille, and a ducktail spoiler on the rear. SRT8 versions soldier on with even bigger rubber and SRT8 badges on the grille and inside.
While the Challenger’s exterior looks a lot like the concept’s, the interior is significantly toned down. Still, it’s neatly styled, and differences between the SE, R/T and SRT8 models are few. We particularly like the use of soft-touch materials in much of the cabin, and the fact that the interior echoes retro themes without hitting you over the head with the bad ideas of the past.
2009 Dodge Challenger - Competitors
Right now there is one competitor for the Dodge Challenger: the Ford Mustang. Both are front-engine rear-drive coupes, both offer a variety of engines that include V-6 and V-8 options, and both evoke images of the glory days of muscle cars.
However, come next year the Challenger has a new, uh, challenger in the form of the reborn Chevrolet Camaro. This much-anticipated pony car will complete the performance trifecta, and give fans of domestic muscle something to cheer about. That is, until fuel economy regulations and soaring gas prices kill the ponies once again.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo credit: Dodge