- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

Dodge brings back a famous rear-wheel drive coupe to challenge some of the fastest cars on the road. It’s the return of the muscle car - Challenger.

The original Challenger debuted almost 40 years ago. Today there’s a vast difference between the original car and the all-new 2009 coupe. There are three trims: the Challenger SE ($21,995), Challenger R/T ($29,995) and the Challenger SRT8 ($39,995).

The Challenger model I spent most of my test-drive time in was the R/T, powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine that produces 376 horsepower mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. It’s so enjoyable shifting through the gears and I much preferred it to the five-speed automatic transmission, which returns 4 less horsepower at 372 hp.

The 250-horsepower SE comes with an automatic transmission only. The SRT8 generates 425 horsepower when mated to either an automatic or six-speed transmission. The thrill of that power is worth the additional $10,000 over the R/T model.

The EPA mileage ratings vary on the Challenger lineup with the SE getting 17 city and 25 highway. The R/T is rated 16 city and 25 highway for both the automatic and manual, and the SRT8 is rated 13 city 19 highway in the automatic and 14 city 22 highway for the manual.

The all-new Challenger has dramatic retro styling with front-end design cuts reminiscent of the original Challenger. From the side profile a line carries the eye from the front to the tail. In the rear are dual stainless steel exhaust pipes. Even the fuel tank door is made of stainless steel. Challenger sits on 18-inch wheels with 20 inchers on the SRT8.

The interior has best-in-class head- and legroom in the backseat and the trunk is surprisingly large, boasting 15.2 cubic feet.

Coupe buyers seek quality and pay close attention to styling, image and driving attributes. In these areas the Challenger is a winner. On my drive, I experienced great acceleration and the handling was enjoyable whether I was in traffic or zooming around a racetrack. Yes, I had the opportunity to take laps around a closed course.

Giving the Challenger its tuned handling character is a short- and long-arm front suspension system. The Dodge guys explained it’s tuned for a dramatic reduction in road noise. Regardless of the road surface, the interior noise level was very low.

Part of the R/T enjoyment is revving up through from first to second to third gears and finally shifting into sixth gear. The engine speed is electronically limited to 5,800 rpms. And although this muscle car had a nice sound system, it was the loud brumm-brumm sound as I shifted through each gear that was music to my ears.

I was told Challenger comes with standard supplemental side curtain airbags, side-impact plus multi-stage front airbags. The 2009 coupe also has an electronic stability program, all-speed traction control and brake assist. And of course, the five-passenger, two-door coupe has crumple zones and an energy absorbing steering column.

On the Dodge introductory event the racecourse was filled with only Challengers. The race I’d like to see would be between the Ford Mustang, the upcoming 2010 Camaro and the Challenger SRT8.

And if there were a betting window, I put my money on the SRT8.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide