2009 Dodge Challenger
The car community is on fire with news of Dodge’s resurrection of the fabled Challenger
. One of the most storied muscle cars of the sixties and seventies, the Mopar was the epitome of all there was to love about big V-8 power. The cars dished out their fair share of defeats to Detroit rivals like the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, and it would seem those times are bound to repeat themselves. The 2009 Dodge Challenger
brings a heaping helping of retro cool to the table, along with all the power Dodge faithful have come to expect out of the mark through three different engine options. While the power hungry out there are head over heels for the 5.7 and 6.1-liter Hemi V-8s, the car is available with a very capable, incredibly powerful 3.5-liter V-6 that may be better suited for everyday use. If you’re looking for all the style of the newly envisioned Challenger without the gas-guzzling tendencies of the big-power eight cylinders, the V-6 model may just be the beast for you.
What's to Like
This car is a head turner. No matter where you go, all eyes are on this impressive piece of sheet metal. The styling is a perfect interpretation of a classic design that pays tribute to the legions of Challenger loyal out there while luring in a new generation. There’s a surprising amount of power on tap for the three engine options.
What's Not to Like
The Challenger is a huge car. In a world where performance has grown to mean lightweight and lithe, Dodge’s definition has remained big car, big engine. The result is a portly ride that could use some serious suspension help. Losing a couple of hundred pounds here or there would vastly improve the car’s pickup, too.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
The hood on the Challenger seems to protrude a good mile in front of the vehicle, making for nervous parking situations. While the high output 3.5-liter V-6 does a remarkable job of motivating the car’s near two-ton curb weight, a little more power would be nice. The smooth shifting four-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox for the car, and it does a great job of using all 250 horsepower. Purists will undoubtedly bemoan the absence of a manual, but odds are those true to the Mopar throne wouldn’t reach for the V-6 anyway. The SE's smooth riding suspension is a pleasure and a surprise in a performance car, and while it does little to help the car’s track times, it does much to make it a comfortable daily driver. For those speed demons, there are the R/T and SRT options. Both have differently tuned suspensions and offer firmer rides and more power, both on and off the track.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Dodge Challenger SE is powered by the company’s high-output 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The six-cylinder produces an impressive 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and is coupled to an automatic four-speed transmission. If you want and need more power, the R/T with the 5.7-liter V-8 is equipped with 370 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque in automatic guise and 375 and 404 respectively in manual. The king of the hill SRT comes with even more gusto and has a 6.1-liter V-8 with 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Yes, they both are Hemis and, of course, come in Orange. Keeping with the muscle car past, the Challenger is a rear-wheel drive car. While that may be conducive to tire-smoking giggles, it isn’t the greatest for slippery conditions.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The Challenger does a remarkable job of blending the legend of the muscle car with new influences. Inside and out, keen-eyed observers can see bits that pay homage to the car’s past, from the horizontal bar leather seats to the slab dash and pistol-grip shifter, this Dodge is banking on its past. Still, the interior is also treated with all of the tech goodies that we’ve come to expect from a modern car, like a navigation system and a full array of airbags.
Key Technology Evaluation
Despite this car being a representation of an era that was all bare bones muscle, the Challenger manages to quietly and subtly weave plenty of fun tech into the cabin. The car is available with Dodge’s MyGIG Entertainment System, which will house up to 4,500 songs. The system also offers navigation and command of the optional SIRIUS satellite radio via a sizable touch screen display. Hands-free calling is also a nice feature.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
This vehicle was not designed with anything green in mind. The combination of an incredibly heavy car and a four-speed automatic transmission makes for mileage that’s dismal at best. The Challenger SE manages 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway and while that’s a significant improvement over the bruisers of days gone by, we’re going to need something better out of a V-6. We think a five or six speed automatic and cylinder deactivation would go a long way. The 5.7L manual and automatic are both rated at 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The SRT is rated at 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway for the automatic and 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for the manual.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Inside of the Challenger, big-bolstered driver and passenger seats make for a comfortable and secure ride, and the retro-inspired backlit gauges provide crisp and clear information. The navigation touch screen is well-located for either passenger or driver to operate. The only true downside is the back seat, which is big enough for a small child at best. Good luck getting a car seat back there.
If you were a fan of the original early 70s Challenger’s gorgeous styling, you will love the modern interpretation. The strong rear haunches are pure muscle car and the wide grille and hood bump scream "Race Me!" While Chevrolet fans out there may project their wishful thinking on the car and ask if it’s the newest Camaro, true Mopar faithful could mistake this car for nothing but a genuine Challenger.
Market Segment and Pricing
Back in the 70s, this car had much less competition. The Challenger SE starts at $21,995, the R/T bumps the price to $29,995 and the SRT comes in at $41,695. Quite a spread, which we feel will cover everyone from the daily driver to the weekend warrior. The Challenger's long-time rival, the Ford Mustang
starts at $19,735. New competitors on the block like the Nissan 350Z
starts $28,510, the BMW 128i
at $28,600 and the Volkswagen GTI
What We Think
Dodge has stayed true to the Challenger formula, almost to a fault, as the car is a near perfect evolution of the model. While there will be those who remember and pine for their lost Mopars, the rest of the people looking for powerful, fun to drive coupes will likely be pleasantly surprised. Is the Challenger fun to cruise around in? Absolutely. Would we drive one on a daily basis? At 17 mpg for the V-6, we'd think about it. For those that want American Iron, it's a great buy; and we'd gander to think that's who Dodge is going after in the first place.