2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8: The Classic Muscle Car Reborn

The Dodge Challenger returned as a new model for 2008 after being put on the shelf for more than 30 years. For 2009, the Challenger lineup was expanded to three models: the base SE, mid-level R/T, and the high-performance SRT8 ($39,820), which I had the fun of test driving.

Every once in awhile a car comes along that not only gets your attention, but grabs you and hits you upside the head. The SRT8 has an in-your-face attitude that will definitely get your attention, and everyone else’s too. The Challenger SRT8 will appeal to a different buyer--it will be for someone who enjoys power and wants to show it off to everyone within hearing distance. The SRT8 will probably not be a daily commuter for most drivers, but a car that you take out on weekends, and then, only on sunny days.

SRT8 buyers are getting the ultimate performance model in the 2009 Dodge Challenger range. The SRT8 is fast, stable and ready for the drag strip. This is Dodge's fastest car next to the vaunted Viper. It comes with a 425 horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 that’s EPA-rated at 13/22 mpg city/highway when equipped with the six speed manual transmission.

It's easy to make an SRT8 go fast, you just stand on the gas and point it where you want it to go. The All Speed Traction Control does a very good job of transferring all that power directly to the massive 20 inch forged aluminum wheels. The six speed manual transmission is a must for those who like to drive. After you have gotten the speed up and need to slow down quickly, the SRT8's powerful Brembo brakes do a commendable job of slowing the big 4140 pound vehicle to a stop. At first, it seems like there is a lot of travel in the brake pedal so initial bite might not be what you expect but if you keep pushing you'll come to a quick stop.

The latest evolution of the Challenger features an entirely new body but many of its parts are shared with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and Magnum. With the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger already having a proven reliability, the potential for new-car problems has been significantly lower in the Challenger than in most other new cars. The Challenger is a big two-door, but expect it to face some competition from the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro.

The Challenger SRT8 also has a special suspension and a limited-slip differential. Many things optional on the R/T are standard, including a better audio system, bi-xenon headlamps, trip/data computer, leather trim, keyless go and Sirius satellite radio. The SRT8 also comes with a rear spoiler in flat black, a front spoiler, hood scoops, a polished aluminum fuel filler cap and heated sport seats--all as standard. Optional goodies include a Track Pak, a 522-watt 13-speaker Kicker audio system, navigation, hood stripes, remote start, and high-performance staggered-size tires.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger has that distinctive look that attracts a lot of attention and positive comments, and the SRT8 is the ultimate Challenger. Regardless, the Challenger avoids the small rear seat and trunk of most coupes because of its size, and carries its big body well on the road. In Hemi Orange you won't own the road but it will sure feel like you do.

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