Used 2008 Dodge Challenger
- Nostalgic exterior styling, ripping performance, agile handling for such a big car, strong braking, comfortable ride, generous cargo capacity.
- Narcolepsy-inducing interior styling, automatic transmission only, initial purchase prices will likely be well over list, poor rearward visibility.
Used 2008 Dodge Challenger for Sale
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 is exactly what a modern version of an old muscle car icon should be -- comfortable, athletic, stylish, fast and with an exhaust soundtrack that'll make you forget about the standard 13-speaker audio system.
Did you miss out on the original 1970-'74 Dodge Challenger? Or maybe you had one back in the day, sold it and now regret the sale? Well, thanks to the Dodge boys who share a similar nostalgic sentiment, you get a second chance with the 2008 Challenger.
Those familiar with the old Challenger know that it was a belated response to Ford's wildly successful Mustang, which was launched some six years earlier. Size-wise, however, the brawny Challenger was closer in size and weight to a 2-ton muscle car than a lithe pony car. Big V8s were the engines of choice, including the legendary 426 Hemi V8. Unfortunately, this model's life was shortened by the era's gas crisis and more stringent emissions regulations.
Despite arriving into an eerily similar climate, there's no need to worry about the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 merely being a poser's visual link to the past -- it sports standard "Hemi" V8 power, rear-wheel drive and the right sound burbling from its rectangular exhausts. Initially, it will only be available in ultra-high-performance SRT8 form, meaning its 6.1-liter (around 370 cubic inches for you old-school types) V8 makes 425 horsepower. A less powerful (and less expensive) R/T model will debut next year.
The Challenger is based on Chrysler's LX platform, which is also used for the 300 and Charger sedans. Its wheelbase is 4 inches shorter than the Charger, though with an estimated 4,140-pound curb weight, the new model is frighteningly similar to its forbear in sheer bulk. Of course, the '08 Challenger does come with features previous Mopar designers could have hardly dreamed about, such as stability control, side curtain airbags and an available hard-drive-based navigation system that can also store music and video files.
In addition to having more features, the new one also differs by being fairly athletic and able to go around corners without scraping the Goodyear lettering off the tires. And thanks to its massive Brembo brakes, it can also stop from 60 mph in significantly less than a football field's length. Sadly, also unlike the old Mopar, you can't get a manual transmission. Instead of a pistol-grip Hurst to grab gears with, you get a five-speed automatic with Chrysler's AutoStick mode.
Overall, however, we like how the 2008 Dodge Challenger impressively combines the visceral and visual excitement of the past with modern engineering, safety and convenience features. We have no doubt that it will live up to the hype, though the accompanying dealer markup and limited availability will make this $38,000 car that much more dear. Shoppers not willing to deal with all that could simply pick up a Ford Mustang GT or GT500. Or even better, one could be patient and wait a year until the new Chevrolet Camaro will be available. At that point, the domestic pony car wars will once again be in full swing.
2008 Dodge Challenger configurations
The 2008 Dodge Challenger is a large five-passenger sport coupe available in a singular, high-performance SRT8 trim level. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels wearing 245/45 high-performance tires, a sport suspension, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights, leather and heated front sport seats, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated side mirrors and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat. Also standard is a 13-speaker premium audio system with six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Options include a sunroof, the MyGIG combination navigation and music server system, and ultra-performance summer tires.
Performance & mpg
The Challenger SRT8 is powered by a 6.1-liter V8 that sends its prodigious 425 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. The latter features Chrysler's "AutoStick" manual shift capability.
Dodge claims that the V8 vaults the Challenger to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and through the quarter-mile in around 13.5 seconds. Fuel economy, should a potential buyer care about such things, is an expectedly dismal 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.
Antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control and front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags are all standard.
Performance is thrilling, as one would expect. Provided there's sufficient grip, the 2008 Dodge Challenger lunges off the corners and swallows the straights, its sustained thrust complemented by long riffs of resonant mechanical music. However, we'd appreciate a rev-matching feature for the transmission to make downshifts smoother when running along a curvy road.
For such a big car, the Challenger handles itself well, with minimal body roll and a surprisingly comfortable ride. Braking is up to the task as well. Large (about 14 inches front and rear) Brembos fitted with four-piston calipers provide powerful stopping power. The brakes also automatically keep their pads closer to the rotors when driving in the wet.
While the exterior is enthusiastically nostalgic, the Challenger's interior is rather narcoleptic. There's a faint echo of the original Challenger present in the 2008 version, but in total, the cabin is somber and dull with only a few metallic trim pieces and orange seat accents to spruce up what is otherwise a sea of gray. There was certainly no effort to answer the Mustang or upcoming Camaro's retro interiors, but the Challenger at least provides good-quality materials. The well-bolstered sport seats covered in leather and faux suede are also better than those found in the cheaper Ford. The rear seat features a fold-down armrest and a split/folding back that opens up to the 16.2-cubic-foot trunk, making for impressive cargo capacity.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
You'd think that Texas in December would be a better place to stage the very first drive of the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 than in Chrysler's home state of Michigan, right?
Yeah, we thought so, too.
But when we arrived at Texas Motorsport Ranch near Fort Worth, the track was shiny wet and the humidity was so high that fish could breathe it. Worse, the low cloud cover suggested the situation wasn't going to improve.
Perfect conditions for the 425-horsepower 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, you think?
It lends another dimension of meaning to this car's name when you find yourself attempting to pilot a 425-hp, rear-drive coupe around a wet track you've only seen before in a video. Adding to the drama is the fact that TMR's full-length 3.1-mile track links new pavement with a well-polished racing surface that when wet has a coefficient of friction somewhere between that of frog slime and raw egg whites.
"Don't even think about switching off the ESP," advises Challenger Chief Engineer Herb Helbig as we change into our racing gear and helmet. Hey, we don't even know where the stability control switch is, and there certainly isn't time to look around much when you're desperately trying to remember where you should swap from a traditional racing line on the grippy new surface to a wet-style driving line for the slick stuff.
Besides, with 420 pound-feet of torque available from the 6.1-liter Hemi V8 that powers this 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the ESP proved invaluable. Even squeezing the throttle as gently as possible off the turns would snap the Challenger's tail out before the electronic gremlins could chop the power delivery and start applying the brakes. But since the new pavement section turned out to be in pretty good shape, this bold new coupe could strut its stuff to much better effect on that half of the circuit.
Good Power, Needs More Transmission
Once there was some traction available, you could appreciate the V8's broad plateau of torque, the immediate and emphatic throttle response and the swelling rumble of an engine breathing through big-bore plumbing. Where there's grip, the Challenger lunges off the corners and swallows the straights, its sustained thrust complemented by long riffs of resonant mechanical music.
We would brake as delicately into corners as we could on the glistening surface, forced to use the same polished line on corner entry as everyone that had ever lapped the track, and then we'd tap the shifter for a downshift when it seemed safe to do so. Unfortunately we were rewarded by the scraping sound of rear wheels rotating a lot slower on the pavement than the fronts as the tranny dropped a lower ratio on them.
In dry conditions, there'd be no problem, but we'd still like to hear a throttle blip at every manually triggered downshift, both to quicken the shift itself and also to keep the rear wheels from dragging. It's not nice when the rear tires try to lead (rather than follow) you through a corner.
Based as it is on the LX platform of the Dodge Charger, the Challenger's dynamic performance isn't altogether unexpected. As in the high-powered SRT8 version of the Charger, the Challenger benefits from the big Hemi, the W5A580 five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual override and the same suspension system. So it's a good and strong package, and we expect acceleration times similar to the Charger SRT8.
Think zero to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and a standing quarter in the mid-13s. A better measure of performance, according to chief engineer Helbig, is the 0-100-0-mph test, in which he predicts the Challenger SRT8 will run high 16s. Not bad for a 4,200-pound car.
While the suspension bushings are essentially carried over from the Charger, the specific tuning of the Challenger's chassis is softer. This is partly to accommodate the Challenger's 112-inch wheelbase, which is 4 inches shorter than the Charger. But it also has to do with the fact that Chrysler's product planners feel this car is likely to be bought by nostalgic baby boomers whose days of jowl-jiggling hot-rod rides are over.
Softer the ride may be, but uncontrolled it is not. There are monotube Bilstein shocks all around, and the antiroll bars have enough meat on them to quell any incipient floundering from the body. Actually, the slightly softer ride proves better for the wet driving conditions we experienced, giving you a pretty good idea of how much grip is available at the contact patches of these beefy 45-series Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tires on 20-inch wheels.
The Brembo brake setup also is familiar from the Dodge Charger, but all Chrysler's Brembo systems have now been improved by utilizing an ABS-controlled wet-weather function that keeps the pads close to the rotor surfaces whenever the car corners at greater than 0.60g. Prior to this latest fix, all SRT8 models using similar brake components suffered from pad knock-back during hard cornering, resulting in long pedal travel just when you wanted it the least.
With the track surface as wet and slick as it is, good brake pedal feel and more than adequate braking power is all we can honestly report, but we fully expect that the Challenger's 14.2-inch front rotors and 13.9-inch rear rotors with four-piston calipers all around can get the job done, no questions asked. Though the Challenger has a retro look, its stopping and steering capabilities are right up to the minute.
Retro Looks, Modern Execution
So, in a way, is the look of the car. While its silhouette might hark back to the fondly remembered 1970-'74 Challenger, the execution is completely up to date. The body panels show a subtle fluency that stamping mills of the past couldn't manage. The incorporation of this car's bumpers into the body surface, suggesting competition practice from the SCCA Trans-Am in the bad old days of 1970, brings a postmodern tidiness to the look. You can also expect modern standards of structural stiffness from this reborn muscle car.
You can also expect contemporary aerodynamics. The Challenger wears a deftly tweaked front splitter and a tail-wing assembly designed to provide real aero effects. Check out the dive planes on the front fenders, designed to generate vortices down the side of the car that aid air extraction through the wheels, reducing flow separation and turbulence. It's evidence that the Dodge engineers spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel, and that the SRT guys also like to perform 150-mph lane-change tests. The result is a nostalgic design with leading-edge aero additions.
Muscle (Car) Memory
The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 resonates on many familiar neural pathways. Its shape and proportions are right on the money. The big driver door offers easy ingress (unless, like us, you're driving a development mule with a full roll cage). The seat height is at a respectable altitude, precluding that sideways limbo you have to use to get into many modern coupes; and the high beltline and cowl shared by all the LX-platform cars is entirely appropriate to the era being celebrated here.
Then there's the baritone grumble of the big V8 as it lights off. This sound speaks directly to those of us with the Y chromosome. There must be some genetic component that is passed unaltered from father to son that explains the identical emotional response in all of us to the inimitable sound of an awakening Hemi.
So Worth the Money
Dodge dealers have been taking orders for the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 since December, asking $37,995 per copy. There will be 6,400 made before the car is joined by other models in the Challenger range a year later. These will probably include variants all the way down to a 2.7-liter V6 version, with maybe even an all-wheel-drive model.
It is a complete reversal of procedure for Dodge to release the SRT version of the Challenger before friendlier versions that have a wider appeal, but for this skillful interpretation of an automotive icon, we can happily set protocol aside.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Dodge Challenger Overview
The Used 2008 Dodge Challenger is offered in the following submodels: Challenger Coupe. Available styles include SRT8 2dr Coupe (6.1L 8cyl 5A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Dodge Challenger?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.