2008-2009 Dodge Challenger Retrospective: Powertrain, Suspension, Brakes, Body, and Performance

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The 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 followed the initial revival of the Challenger as one of the most anticipated sophomore years since the days when Dodge muscle cars ruled the streets with V8 rear wheel drive performance. The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 offered a change from the then-current lineup of predominantly sedans, trucks, and minivans, and Dodge enthusiasts all over the country lined up to get their hands on the first release of reborn Mopar muscle.2008 challenger srt.jpg


After so many years without a V8, rear wheel drive performance car from
Dodge, the Challenger release was greatly anticipated; to commemorate
the return of this 70’s pony car, Dodge made the 2008 model very
simple, including lower production numbers than many had hoped. This,
in turn, made the car that much more sought after – all of the 2008
Challengers were pre-sold. Every 2008 Dodge Challenger came equipped
with the 6.1L Hemi engine and a 5-speed AutoStick transmission. The
SRT8 was the only trim offered and the few options dealt with the
sunroof, navigation system, and colors: Hemi Orange Pearl Coat,
Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat, or Bright Silver Metallic Pearl
Coat.

Though the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 was generally a success, the
public had some complaints: many were unhappy about the exclusion of a
manual transmission option, some wanted a more fuel efficient engine,
and others demanded more options such as body colors and wheels. Dodge
did not wait long to reply to those concerns with the juicy details for
the 2009 Dodge Challenger lineup, which addressed nearly all of those
issues.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger

The 2009 Dodge Challenger arrived with the addition of two new trim
lines: the V6 Challenger SE and the mid-level Challenger R/T. Along
with the returning Challenger SRT8, the vehicles are physically similar
and the overall look of the 2009 Challenger is shared across all trim
lines. These offerings provided the option to get good mileage out of a
great looking V6 daily driver or tear up the drag strip in a 425hp SRT
model, both bearing the same awesome look with only minor differences.  

The SRT8 model received the fewest changes, though there was big news
for the 2009 Challenger SRT8: a manual transmission option. The
standard engine and transmission package for the SRT8 remained the 6.1L
Hemi/5-speed AutoStick, but the manual transmission was finally
available along with a handful of supporting modifications to enhance
the driving experience. The 2009 SRT8 models with AutoStick
transmission have a 3.06 rear gear ratio, which jumps to 3.91 in the
6-speed manual, helping to greatly increase acceleration abilities. The
manual SRT8 also comes with the Dodge Trak Pak, offering hill start
assist, anti-spin rear axle, performance tuned steering, and a switch
to disable the Electronic Stability Program (ESP). The interior
remained unchanged, the SRT keeping its policy of mixing comfort with a
firm, steady ride during periods of spirited driving, including a set
of bright silver pedals for the manual option. One small alteration to
the SRT8 was the removal of the Hemi Orange Pearl Coat; in its place
another classic Dodge color, TorRed.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is closely matched in price, though
slightly pricier, to the 2009 Ford Mustang GT. A bit heavier than the
Mustang, the Challenger comes with a 5.7L Hemi making 370 horsepower
and 390 lb-ft of torque; 23% more horsepower and 22% more torque than
the current Mustang GT. The R/T may end up as the most popular
Challenger model thanks to the technology of the 5.7L Hemi engine,
featuring a Multiple Displacement System (MDS). This system can yield
fuel mileage up around 30 miles per gallon on the highway (specific
results, may not be typical). Like the SRT8 model, the R/T comes with a
5-speed AutoStick transmission and 3.06 gears and offers a 6-speed
manual transmission backed by either a 3.73 or 3.91 ratio Sure-Grip
differential. The Challenger R/T features a heavy duty braking system
with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and traction control that functions
at any speed. The Challenger R/T does not share a suspension with the
SRT8, but all Challengers use a short and long arm suspension setup in
the front and a multilink independent suspension setup in the rear;
helps to keep the wheels on the road in as many situations as possible.
The Challenger R/T has a slightly less race-inspired suspension setup,
offering a smooth ride but lacking the high speed limits of the SRT8.
However, if you like the idea of the 5.7L Hemi with MDS and a 6-speed
transmission backed by a set of 3.9 gears, the SRT tuned suspension can
be added to R/T models for some added cost. And the Dodge Trak Pak will
put the performance steering assembly found in the Challenger SRT8 into
an R/T. While the Trak Pak gives you the option of disabling this, the
2008 R/T also features ESP.

The exterior changes are very minor. The rear spoiler is body colored;
the SRT has a black spoiler, the badging on that spoiler and in the
front fascia proudly displaying the vintage R/T logos. The Challenger
R/T retains the Mopar Power Bulge hood, but there is no stripe option
for the raised portion like you have with the SRT8. The standard fog
lights from the SRT are offered on the R/T as an option only. Unlike
the Challenger SRT8, the Challenger R/T (and SE) is offered in 8
brilliant colors: Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl, Inferno Red Crystal
Pearl, Bright Silver Metallic, TorRed, Deep Water Blue Pearl, Hemi
Orange Pearl (R/T only, SE not available in Hemi Orange), Stone White,
and Dark Titanium Metallic.

The 2009 Challenger R/T offers either 18″ polished aluminum wheels or
20″ chrome wheels wrapped in 235/55R18 All Season Performance tires or
245/45ZR20’s depending on the wheel option. The only major difference
in the interior of the SRT8 and the R/T (and SE) models is the seating.
The SRT variant comes with SRT designed high back, race inspired
leather seats with SRT badging and orange and silver trim. The R/T
model has a similarly shaped seat design, but leather is an option to
the standard cloth seats, with an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat
and a 60/40 rear bench seat. The Challenger R/T will provide quite a
bit of kick, and with the added convenience of MDS, the affordable
price compared to other cars in the market, and the muscular retro
styling, the 2009 R/T could certainly help the Challenger build a
reputation as being one mean street machine.

The Ford Mustang has lasted over 40 years thanks to the model’s ability
to shift with the market, and a big part of that success is their base
V6 model. Originally, like the vintage six cylinder Challengers, the
non-V8 Mustangs put very little emphasis on performance. In recent
years the V6 Mustangs gained more and more power, the current base
model  having only 5 less horsepower as the 1997 Ford Mustang GT. This
efficient 4.0L V6 Mustang has popularized the base model even more,
helping the growth of the model as a whole. The Challenger design team
kept this in mind for the SE model, powered by a 3.5L, V6 making 250
horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque backed by a 4-speed AutoStick
transmission. While many people keep hope up for a manual V6
Challenger, this 4-speed automatic transmission has been reliable
inside the Dodge Magnum, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300; the AutoStick
can be a fun alternative to the normal automatic transmission. The 2009
Challenger SE comes with a suspension setup and 4-wheel disc brake
system that will handle the power of the 3.5L engine; the heavy duty
brakes from the R/T model can also be chosen for an additional price.
The power is sent to the ground by means of a single traction rear end,
and the Challenger SE sits on a set of 17″ steel wheels with bolt on
wheel covers and 215/65R17 all season touring tires (the R/T standard
wheels and tires can be selected as an upgrade). The external changes
to the 2009 Challenger SE are along the same lines as the changes from
the SRT8 to the R/T models. First, the rear spoiler is removed, and the
gas door is painted rather than bright chrome. The SE has no trim
line-specific badging, as it carries only Challenger and Dodge logos,
while the fog lights are not an option on the 2009 SE. The standard
interior of the Challenger SE is the same as what is found in the
Challenger R/T: cloth seating with leather seats and additional leather
interior accents as an option.  

The 2009 Dodge Challenger, whether it is the SE, R/T, or mighty SRT8 is
following the formula that made the 1970 Dodge Challenger a success,
and with that muscular styling and high performance both refined with
modern technology, the new Dodge Challenger will likely take a good
shot at the Mustang’s long-untested reign as the top pony car available
in the US performance market.

So the second model year is winding down and the new Challenger looks nice and drives well, but Dodge/Fiat is in a strange place these days. What do you see as the future of the Challenger? Did you appreciate the effort by Dodge to answer the complaints from the ’08 to the ’09 Challenger? Do you see that continuing on into the 2011 Challenger and beyond? Will the 2010 make its release date?

Wanna talk V8’s? Lots of threads here!

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