2009 Dodge Challenger Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Expanded lineup to add V-6 engine model and second V-8 engine model

  • Updated 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine

  • Two-door coup_ body style

  • Styling inspired by 1970 Challenger

  • Based on Dodge Charger architecture

  • Rear-wheel drive (RWD)

  • On sale Fall 2008

Introduction

Dodge made headlines at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit when it showed a new Challenger concept. Clearly inspired by the original Challenger of 1970-74, the concept was a modern interpretation of a classic muscle car. Dodge unveiled the at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, revealing that the 2008 model would only be offered as a high-performance SRT8 model with a 425-hp, 6.1-liter, Hemi V-8 engine coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Only 6400 of the 2008 model are being produced.

In addition to the SRT8 model, the 2009 Challenger lineup gets a V-6-powered SE model and an R/T model with an updated version of Dodge's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Both Hemi engines are also available with a new 6-speed manual transmission, the first manual to be paired with either of Dodge's new-generation Hemi engines.

Like the 2008 SRT8, all 2009 Dodge Challengers will be offered as RWD, 5-passenger, 2-door coupes to compete against the Ford Mustang pony car. The Challenger's trunk will have 16.2 cubic feet of cargo room, and Dodge claims best-in-class rear head and leg room. A convertible body style is rumored to be in the works.

Model Lineup

The 2009 Dodge Challenger will be offered as SE, R/T and SRT8 models. The SE will have cloth upholstery; driver and passenger seat manual lumbar adjustment; 60/40-split folding rear bench seat; air conditioning; cruise control; 4-speaker, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack; Dodge's Touring suspension; power mirrors, windows and door locks; remote keyless entry; 140-mph speedometer; tilt/telescoping steering column; and P215/65R17 all-season touring tires on steel wheels with hubcaps.

The Challenger R/T will get a sportier "Performance" suspension with firmer settings; dual exhaust; fog lamps; 160-mph speedometer; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; a body-color rear spoiler; and P235/55R18 all-season performance tires on aluminum wheels. Manual transmission R/Ts will add Dodge's Track Pak with Hill Start Assist; limited-slip differential; bright pedals; performance steering; and an off setting for the electronic stability control (ESC).

Challenger SRT8 models will come with a High-Performance suspension with even firmer settings and Bilstein shocks; leather upholstery; 8-way power adjustable driver's seat;; heated front seats; Xenon automatic headlights; heated exterior mirrors; electronic vehicle information center with Dodge's Reconfigurable Display Keyless Go push-button start; universal garage door opener; steering-wheel audio and vehicle information center controls; six Boston Acoustics speakers; Sirius satellite radio; Brembo brakes; a 180-mph speedometer; a black rear spoiler; and P245/45ZR20 all-season performance tires on polished aluminum wheels.

Options on the 2009 Dodge Challenger will include a sunroof; 7-speaker audio system with 368-watt amplifier; SRT-exclusive 13-speaker Kicker audio system with 322-watt amplifier and 200-watt subwoofer; 6-disc CD changer; DVD-based navigation system; Dodge's UConnect hands-free cell phone link; auto-dimming rearview mirror; remote engine starting; and Dodge's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment system with a 30-gigabyte hard drive and built-in navigation system.

Pricing has not been announced, but expect the SE to start at about $21,000 and the R/T to come in at about $30,000. The 2009 SRT8 will have less standard equipment than the 2008 model, so it should be one to two thousand dollars less than the $36,995 starting price for a 2008 Challenger. While the 2008 Challenger SRT8 is offered in only three colors, nine colors will be available for 2009.

Hardware

The 2009 Dodge Challenger will use a shortened version of the LX platform that underpins the Dodge Charger and Magnum and Chrysler 300. The wheelbase will be 116 inches versus 120 for its siblings, and overall length will be 197.7 inches, which is 2.4 inches shorter than the Charger. Unlike its closest competitor, the Ford Mustang, the Challenger will have a multi-link independent rear suspension. SRT8 models will have firmer suspension settings with stiffer shocks and springs and larger-diameter sway bars.

Under the hood, the 2009 Challenger will feature three engines and three transmissions. The base SE model will have a 3.5-liter, single-overhead cam V-6 engine that will make 250 hp at 6400 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. of torque at 3800 rpm. It will be mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. Dodge quotes EPA fuel-economy estimates of 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

The R/T model will have an updated version of Dodge's 5.7-liter overhead-valve Hemi V-8 engine. When teamed with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission with Auto Stick manual shiftgate, the 5.7-liter V-8 engine will produce 370 hp at 5800 rpm and 398 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. When paired with the optional 6-speed manual transmission, horsepower will increase to 375 and torque will rise to 404 lb.-ft., both at the same rpm. Dodge says the Challenger will be able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine. Midgrade fuel is recommended for this engine, but Dodge says it will run on regular. EPA fuel-economy estimates will be 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the automatic transmission and 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the manual transmission.

The Challenger SRT8 will use Dodge's 6.1-liter version of the Hemi V-8 engine. It will crank out 425 hp at 6200 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm. Dodge says the 6.1-liter V-8 engine should allow the Challenger to post a 4.9-second 0-60 mph time and a quarter-mile time of 13.3 seconds. It will be mated to either the 5-speed automatic transmission with Dodge's AutoStick manual shiftgate or the new 6-speed manual transmission. EPA fuel-economy estimates have not yet been released.

Safety

All 2009 Dodge Challengers will come standard with advanced multi-stage front air bags, head-protecting curtain side air bags that cover both seating rows; and a tire-pressure monitor. Standard on R/T and SRT8 and optional for SE will be anti-lock brakes with brake assist; traction control; and ESC. The 2009 Dodge Challenger has not yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Technology

Dodge's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment system can be controlled through a 6.5-inch touch screen or by voice commands. It has a 30-gigabyte hard drive that stores music and picture files, as well as map information for the built-in navigation system. The navigation system is available with real-time traffic through Sirius satellite radio. Dodge says the hard drive can hold up to 4250 songs. Gracenotes file management software adds song, artist and album information to the music files. A voice-memo recorder feature is also included.