The 2009 Dodge Challenger left a lasting impression on us. It’s been a few weeks since we gave it back, but it still was one of our early favorites when deciding our top ten cars for 2008.
This is a continuation of the first part of our time with the Challenger . Before that featured the interior and exterior in depth. Now we get the part we like the best, the test drive.
There’s nothing magic to a muscle car’s chemistry: sleek body and a big engine, anything else is just gravy.
The engine is what makes the car. The SRT8 comes with a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 making 425 horsepower and 420 lbs-ft. of torque. While the power is impressive, it’s the exhaust note that makes it all worth it. It has the low-tone rumble with gurgling that tells everyone, “technology be damned, real power comes from size.”
But power is nothing without control. Elements that wouldn’t be found on original muscle cars would be this Challenger’s four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control. It all adds up, but this Challenger is no rally car either. Take this car around the corner too fast, and it will break loose. Trust us, it breaks away, and it’s a real good time.
One thing that’s tough to find on a muscle car (no matter old or modern) is a manual transmission. Top Gear had to purchase a Challenger SRT8 in California to do their test, and only automatic transmissions could be found. That just makes us feel even luckier to have the six-speed in our tester. This is an absolute necessity. Not only does it keep the driver more in-tune with the car, but it is also a great tool for burnouts. Also a manual transmission means the driver can drop the clutch and give bystanders a little taste of what the big engine sounds like.
The more work that goes into changing a sedan into a sports car, the more it’s going to cost. For the original muscle cars to hug the road, it would require extensive modification to the chassis. That still holds true today. The Challenger feels a lot more like the Charger sedan it’s based from rather than road-hugging a Viper. The upshot of this is that it creates a car that can be lived with everyday. Just like the large interior, the sedan-like ride and the light power steering (speed-variable) is a good excuse to call the Challenger a family car.
Our Dodge Challenger SRT8 is exactly what the modern muscle car is supposed to be.
The engine is huge, the exhaust note is uncompromising, and it looks mean. Those who would put down the $44,425 (base price $39,320) could possibly buy a luxury sedan for the same price, but Challenger people aren’t like that. Those who buy this car may know how to choose a fine wine at a restaurant, but they don’t really give a damn. Too many glasses of wine means they can’t drive home.
The Challenger isn’t perfect. The interior lacks some personality, and there are some unnecessary cheap bits on the exterior (like the faux carbon fiber hood stripes.) But all can be forgiven. Just ask a gigolo, an intimidating personality can go a very long way.