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2009 Dodge Challenger R/T Review

>2009 Dodge Challenger R/T (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Dodge Challenger R/T

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyers Guide


2009 Dodge Challenger R/T SPECIFICATIONS

Model: Dodge Challenger R/T
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8
Horsepower/Torque: 370 hp @ 5160 rpm/401 lb.-ft. @ 4300 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 116.0 in.
Length/Width/Height: 197.7 x 75.7 x 57.1 in.
Tires: P245/45ZR20
Cargo volume: 16.2 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city/25 mpg highway/20.4 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 19.0 gal.
Sticker: $39,155 (includes $725 destination charge and $8,270 in options)

The Bottom Line: The Dodge Challenger R/T looks retro (in fact I saw an original coming at me one day), but it outperforms and handles better than the original. In addition, the power reaches the road through a 6-speed manual gearbox (vs. probably a four in the original) and stops with 4-wheel disc brakes. It retains the great sound of a big HEMI engine though.

There's retro and there's retro. The Dodge Challenger R/T brings back memories of the original so well that you sometimes feel as if you're in a time warp. It has a big HEMI engine emitting a healthy roar through the dual exhausts. There's a 6-speed manual transmission to help get the power to the road. And there's an orange paint scheme with black side stripes ending in an "R/T" that makes the car attract more fuzz than a cheap wool suit.

And it's fun.

>2009 Dodge Challenger R/T (select to view enlarged photo)

I confess to basically ignoring the Chrysler muscle cars in my youth (and extended youth) in favor of other vehicles, like British sports cars and Mustangs before children came along and forced us into station wagons and vans. Despite these "distractions," I still appreciated the cars when I saw them perform.

And performance is still the hallmark of the Dodge Challenger R/T, even if modern speed limits do tend to cut back on the top speed aspects of the car. For example, the fact that the sudden roar of the exhaust and the chirp of the tires as we accelerated away from a stop sign is a memory my 9-year-old grandson will carry with him for a while. Sitting in the back and watching me working the manual transmission is also something he doesn't normally see in his "soccer mom's" minivan.

Still, the Challenger gave us decent fuel economy at 20.4 mpg for a test that included mostly urban and suburban driving. Granted, the five miles the Pennsylvania State Trooper stayed glued to my rear bumper forced me to drive under the speed limit and help increase economy, but generally I was pleased. Too many exhaust roar show-offs and tire burns cut back as much as adhering to the limit helped. Cruise control is definitely an asset. To add fuel, you flip up a "racing style" filler cap, but there's an ordinary cap below it.

The front seats are deep buckets and are very comfortable. They offer excellent side support, and since this edition of the Challenger has much better handling than the original, you need that support. The rear seats are okay, but since this is a coupe, they are more of an afterthought. My grandson liked the rear, but anyone taller might have a problem.

I was impressed with the trunk. I remember "older" cars having enormous trunks. The Challenger's 16 cubic feet could easily accommodate a couple of golf bags.

I liked the instrument panel, with black-on-white gauges. They were as clear at night as in the day. The navigation screen was also unobtrusive and didn't blind the driver at night.

The gearbox had a pistol grip shifter. One former owner of a Plymouth 'Cuda (the sister car to the Challenger) who looked at the car said his Hurst shifter had a similar grip.

In a concession to modernity, the Challenger had a keyless ignition with a pushbutton start and stop.

My only complaint with the styling of the Challenger is that there is a serious blind spot in the right rear caused by the sail plane at the C-pillar. This is something an owner might be able to work around with experience behind the wheel, but with only a week I simply dealt with it.

While I'll readily admit to not even considering a Dodge Challenger in its Sixties and Seventies heyday, I confess to thoroughly enjoying the modern version. This is a vehicle that would be sorely missed if Chrysler Corporation's new Fiat (and Federal government) executive board decides to drop it.

2009 The Auto Page Syndicate