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Dodge Challenger the coolest coupe

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Dodge Challenger the coolest coupe

The Oakland Press
Published: Sunday, September 20, 2009
Of Scripps Howard News Service

Arguably, the Dodge Challenger is the coolest coupe on the road today.

So far, I haven’t found anyone who wants to argue.

At first, I attributed my affinity for this machine to the experiences of my youth when I bonded with the muscle cars from which it is derived. The ideal size, the pony-car proportions, the ride and handling, the roar of the big Hemi V8 engine, the stripped exterior and understated interior all contributed to my feeling of wellbeing in the driver’s seat.

But then I discovered that my affection was shared by the younger generation. The teenage boys next door came over to take pictures of the new Challenger R/T Classic with its special graphics. A recent high-school grad working at the Lowe’s home improvement store could recite Challenger’s vital statistics without notes. A couple of cops nearly half my age tailed me into a parking lot so that they could ask about my impressions of the super coupe.

The R/T Classic represents one of three trims for the rear-drive coupe introduced as a 2009 model. In addition to the base version, Challenger comes in SRT8 format. All of them are high-performance muscle cars with impeccable styling. No car maker revives retro as stylishly as Chrysler.

“The new 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic delivers the greatness of our pony car past with advanced fuel-efficient muscle,” said Dan Knott, vice president for Chrysler’s SRT Product Team.

Indeed, the 372 horsepower V8 in the R/T Classic is designed to reduce fuel consumption by running on four cylinders in cruising mode. That results in EPA figures of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. While that won’t win any accolades from the Sierra Club, it’s not bad for a car that soars from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds.

Pricing is steep enough to keep the R/T Classic in the hands of aficionados without barring entry to the wage earner who qualifies as cognoscenti. From a base price of $34,005, the R/T Classic peaked at $37,410 with a full slate of options.

The Classic comes with a “pistol-grip” six-speed Track Pak stick designed for maximum first-gear response and easy shifting. A five-speed automatic with Auto Stick is available as an option.

The performance-tuned dual exhaust features “low restriction” bottle resonators to accentuate the Hemi’s leonine throatiness.

For 2009, the Hemi engine gains a 4 percent improvement in fuel economy, an increase of more than 30 horsepower and up to 20 foot-pounds more torque over a greater range of engine speeds.

The chassis is equipped with Electronic Stability Program with traction control, Hill Start Assist, four-wheel disc performance braking system and an anti-spin 3.92 differential.

R/T Classic’s exterior is distinguished by body-side R/T stripes, ‘Challenger’ fender badging in classic script, 20-inch polished-chrome wheels with all-season performance tires, egg-crate grille with ‘R/T’ badge, body-color rear spoiler and chromed fuel-filler door.

The review car came in red paint with black stripes. The interior was black with leather upholstery that came with a $1,935 package. As with the muscle cars of old, the interior is devoid of fru-fru. A trapezoidal gauge cluster, dark headliner and slanted shifter console are legacies of the original Dodge Challenger. Gauges come with white faces that are synonymous with performance cars.

Despite the retro styling, the Classic can be fitted with modern conveniences such as push-button ignition, global positioning system navigation and voice recognition software.

The Challenger boasts comfortable rear seating for a two-door coupe, with segment-leading head and leg room. Cargo capacity is also somewhat abundant thanks to a roomy trunk.

My only complaint about the interior design is the small rear side window and an interior shoulder architecture that tends to catch the light and distract in lane-changing situations. The driver is forced to check twice before changing into the right lane because the view gives the impression of another car in the blind spot.

Not every Challenger fan will desire the R/T Classic design. The regular R/T with the unadorned body starts at $29,320 and is admirably designed.

If you’re in the market for even more power, check out the Challenger SRT8 that packs a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 bearing 425 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque that propel it from 0 to 60 mph less than 5 seconds.
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