2009 Dodge Challenger R/T: a blast from the past – and into the future

2009 Dodge Challenger R/T: a blast from the past – and into the future

Being the most practical adult on your block will most likely earn you points at the PTA meeting and  the weekend youth soccer tournament, but for the rest of us, well, that’s why they invented pony cars.  Back in the 1960s and ’70s, two-door muscle cars were rolling out of Detroit in grand fashion, carrying  names like Mustang, Camaro and of course, Challenger.

But before many of us could earn our driver’s licenses, practicality put a stop to all of that “foolishness.”
A few lucky souls held on to their prized chariots of a bygone era, but most were relegated to clunky, slow, unleaded sleds in ugly square body styles that delivered neither show nor go.

Fast-forward to the new millennium where Detroit automakers have seen fit to bring about the
dawn of a new era of the pony car, writing new chapters in the bench racer’s manual. And I, for one, could not be happier.

Ford struck first with the rebirth of Mustang, and Chevy has finally graced us with its release of a new Camaro. And then there’s Dodge.

Some of the strongest emotions I have seen in the company of musclecar enthusiasts are related to the Mopar heritage. In recent years, the Chrysler Corporation has given us a new breed of rear-wheel-drive sedans, many carrying a new generation of HEMI engines. But where was the pony car?
I give you Challenger.

For this resurrected badge, Dodge is delivering a two-door cruiser complete with modern-retro styling and a range of powertrains sure to please all. For me, anything less a HEMI under the hood would be a disappointment, and for 2009, the hot V-8s are available with a six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip rear differential.


Our recent Challenger R/T tester came rolling in with the 5.7-liter HEMI and included the six-speed manual tranny along with optional Trak Pak that consists of taller rear end gears, anti-spin rear differential and dressier pedals. The R/T package adds the body side stripes, even taller rear end gears, larger brake package and cool 20-inch chrome wheels that bear a striking resemblance to the Cragar SS mags we all had in the “good old days.” Pricing for the complete package comes to $37,410.

“Our all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger is a modern-day muscle machine representing the best from the past and present,” Mike Accavitti, director, Dodge Brand and SRT Global Marketing, said. “Nearly 40 years following the debut of the original, we are bringing Dodge Challenger back and loading it with essential hardware, styling and technology desired by today’s buyer.”

To date, I have driven the Challenger with both SRT-8 powertrain and the 5.7-liter HEMI and, in my opinion, prefer the smaller engine with the manual gearbox on the R/T package. It is an easier package to drive every day in mixed road conditions and that R/T trim package just kicks things up an extra notch.


Essential Hardware
The Dodge Challenger SE, powered by the 3.5-liter High Output V-6 with a four-speed automatic transmission, produces 250 hp and 250 lb. ft. of torque. The Dodge Challenger R/T features the new-generation 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission that produces 372 hp and 401 lb. ft. of torque. For 2009, the HEMI engine is upgraded to get on average a 4 percent improvement in fuel economy, an increase of more than 30 horsepower and up to 20 lb. ft. improved torque over a greater range of engine speeds. The Dodge Challenger R/T also offers a precision-shift, six-speed manual transmission – the first for a new-generation HEMI-powered car – that produces 376 hp and 410 lb. ft. of torque when running on premium fuel. The Dodge Challenger R/T can go from zero to 60 mph in less than six seconds.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 features an SRT-exclusive 6.1-liter HEMI V-8 engine mated with a new-for-2009 six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic transmission with Auto Stick that generates a blistering 425 hp and 420 lb. ft. of torque. The vehicle can go from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Patterned off the Dodge Charger architecture, the front short- and longarm suspension and five-link independent rear suspension system on all Dodge Challenger models provides excellent ride and handling characteristics.

Essential Styling
The Dodge Challenger design team stayed true to the concept revealed at the 2006 North American International Auto Show, while drawing upon elements from the original Challenger. The result: A bold, aggressive muscle machine that blends nostalgia with modern Dodge style.
On the exterior, the long, raised performance hood with scoops and recessed grille with round dual headlamps are reminiscent of the original Dodge Challenger. The bold A-line, or character line, that runs from stem to stern gives the all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger an instantly recognizable muscle-car profile. Retro dual rectangular exhaust outlets complete the look from the rear.

On the interior, the trapezoidal theme of the door-panel cove and gauge cluster, dark headliner and slanted shifter console are inspired by the original Dodge Challenger. The modern interpretation of the Dodge Challenger offers exceptional rear seating and cargo capacity for a two-door coupe.

The all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger offers customers a full range of innovative technologies including:
• uconnect gps provides cutting-edge audio and navigation with integrated voice recognition and touch screen for easy operation;
• uconnect phone provides convenient, voice-activated communication with Bluetooth cellular phones;
• uconnect studios with SIRIUS Digital Satellite Radio offers a variety of commercial- free radio programs and music;
• Keyless Go allows the driver to start the vehicle with the simple push of a button; and,
• Remote Start starts a secured vehicle with the key fob.

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.

3 Comments on "2009 Dodge Challenger R/T: a blast from the past – and into the future"

  1. I know these cars are for a very special demographic. The originals were for teenagers, but at nearly $40k, that’s not going to be high on the list of most teenagers except for rich ones.

    My $38k Infinity G35x has a 3.5 liter v6, pushing 308 ponies, and rockets me with all wheel drive from 0 to 60 in about 5.4 seconds. It can do pretty close to that in almost any whether condition. It pushes 100% rear wheel drive on dry pavement, and graduates up to 50/50 when things get slippery (can’t do that on these live axle retro cars).

    It’s loaded with an interior that makes that Walmart interior on the challenger look seriously cheap. US auto maker interiors, IMHO are one of the biggest reasons for their downfall.

    Skidpad, handling, luxury are years apart between the two.

    There is no way you can look/drive a challenger and my Infiniti and roughly the same price tag and say they are in the same universe.

    But again, I recognize there are alot of 35 to 55 year olds who remember their muscle car and want to bring back that hay day and that’s what this is for. However, will they move enough units to get out of bankruptcy? I doubt it.

    Toyota is alot more pragmatic. Rather than live in the past with a remake of the Supra etc, they know what todays kids want with brands like Scion. The rest of us ‘old kids’ realistically need the mini-van or SUV with the families we now have and the real concerns of $3+/gallon gas.

    In addition, now that the US government owns 2/3 of america’s automakers, these cars are going to be short lived to be replaced by some type of modified golf cart.

  2. Joel McLaughlin | August 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

    Ahh the fun has been removed from most daily rides. This ride isn’t practical by a long shot. However, it is FUN! 😀

  3. One of my favorite weekend shows, Gears, did an episode comparing a modern Challenger to a classic one. It was a great look at both cars. The host, Stacy David, then dropped a supercharger into the modern Challenger giving it an extra hundred-and-some-odd horses. Very nice car!

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