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2009 Dodge Challenger: What's It Like to Live With?

We lived with the 2009 Dodge Challenger for a year. Read all about our daily driving experiences in our long-term road test.

Dodge Challenger 2009

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March 15, 2009

"Death is easier than a wretched life; and better never to have born than to live and fare badly." — Aeschylus

The first time we slip into the leather-trimmed bucket seats of our new 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T and press the start button, we're expecting a light stumble followed by the roar and burble of its 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Someone, perhaps the lot attendant at the dealer, has left the Sirius Satellite Radio on. It's on channel 10, E-Street Radio, and with the Boss cranked to an absurd volume, our muscle car's rumbling is muted. Bruce is singing about a girl. Or a river. Or Jersey. We can't tell, and frankly it doesn't matter. He's singing about America. An America that may not exist anymore. An America that works hard, gets dirty and knows how to unwind. An America that appreciates a solid burnout.

We turn down the Boss, grab the pistol-grip shifter, pop the retro Challenger into 1st and let our new Mopar sing its own sweet song. It's not the same tune, but the scream of melting rubber and the snarl of eight frenetic cylinders projected from gaping pipes at the rear of a preposterously long body tells the same sad story, pining for simpler days.

Before the smoke clears, before our minds start thinking of replicating Kowalski's last ride, the reality of the situation sinks in. It's 2009 and under the darkest cloud Detroit has ever faced, Dodge has turned the clock back 35 years, to a time of guiltless indulgence and exuberance. For the next 12 months, Inside Line is also going to ignore the harsh reality of the world today with a little help from a 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T.

Why We Got It
Because Dodge could use the money! (Hey-ohh, that's a good one, Johnny!)

There is a distinctive ebb and flow of horsepower in the U.S. auto industry. Be it a war, gas crunch, green movement or subprime mortgage collapse, there is always a roadblock that comes into play as soon as cars get too fun. That considered, it's with a grain of salt that we say this could be the very last time we have the opportunity to buy a rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered full-size coupe with a domestic nameplate on the trunk. Well, one that isn't a Mustang, anyway.

For a muscle-car guy, it's been either a Mustang or Barrett-Jackson the last couple years. And then the new Challenger showed up at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show looking like it had just burst from a time capsule. Those intimately familiar with the 1970-'74 Challenger will notice the new car is higher and larger, and has softer, more refined curves. It's more bulbous, less sculpted. But the full-wrap grille is there. The quad headlights are there. So, too, are the rectangular exhaust tips, chrome fuel door and ducktail spoiler on the trunk lid. When the new and old cars are parked side-by-side, the new Challenger looks like the classic's fat cousin. But on its own the 2009 Challenger is a faithful remake of a beloved classic — it doesn't push any boundaries, because it's not supposed to.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger is a throwback to win back old Mopar believers. Yet the ability to tug at heartstrings won't earn this car a free pass with us for the next year and 20,000 miles. At the end of the day, the new Challenger has to be able to meet the demands of today's drivers. And that's where we come in.

Besides, we need the Challenger to be around when our long-term 2010 Chevy Camaro arrives. We'll be buying a Camaro as soon as one with the specs we want hits a dealer lot.

What We Got
Would we pay $10,000 for an extra 40-something horsepower and 20-inch wheels? No, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 isn't for us. The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is lighter, cheaper and in our full test, only marginally slower in a straight line. The R/T is, however, almost 4 mph slower in the slalom due to its 235/55R18 all-season tires, which don't have the grip of the SRT8's 245/45ZR20 performance tires. The R/T also has a softer suspension calibration, which leaves us cold on mountain runs but ensures this car will be a top pick whenever road trips beckon.

Apart from the R/T trim level, we only wanted two things. First, we wanted a six-speed manual transmission, and in this case it comes with a 3.73:1 axle ratio (replacing the stock, mpg-enhancing 3.06:1 ratio), as well as a limited-slip differential, and also deletes the mpg-enhancing variable cylinder management in favor of an engine rated at 376 hp and 410 pound-feet of torque. And second we wanted a normal color. No Go Mango. No Plum Crazy. No Sub Lime, Hemi Orange or (God forbid) Panther Pink. Anything else was fine. We hoped we could find one without the stupid stickers on the hood, the ones imprinted with carbon-fiber weave.

Turns out a Brilliant Black R/T with slate-gray leather interior had been sitting at a local dealer. Six-speed. No stripes. It was saddled with a few thousand dollars of options that didn't make us entirely unhappy. There's $1,260 for the Electronics Convenience Group, which offers illuminated cupholders, LED inserts in the door handles, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless push-button start, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, tire-pressure monitoring display, UConnect phone, iPod interface and a garage door opener. It also had Sound Group II installed, and $185 went for a 368-watt amplifier and seven Boston Acoustics speakers and a subwoofer. Then $1,935 went for Customer Preferred package 27J, which includes automatic headlamps, body-color exterior mirrors, one-year subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio, heated leather-trimmed front seats and luxury front and rear floor mats. The six-speed manual and everything that comes with it tacked on another $995, while the navigation screen — "UConnect GPS" in Chrysler lingo — added another $1,390. Combine all this with the $725 destination charge and that's a grand total MSRP of $36,310.

But we weren't paying that. Not in this economy. Not when we have cash.

Invoice for our particular Challenger came to $33,646. Dealers need to eat just like us, so we made what we felt was a fair offer above invoice. It took some doing — and a walkout — but we bought our Challenger for our first offer: $34,600.

The Road Ahead
The 2009 Dodge Challenger's looks are spot-on. The price is spot-on and the performance is more than we expected from a 2-ton barge built on a shortened Dodge Charger platform.

But tastes have changed in the 35 years since Dodge last built the Challenger (we'll forget the rebadged Mitsubishi they pumped out in the 1980s for now). Don't believe us? Think the muscle-car segment is exempt from evolution? Check the spec sheet: iPod adapter, LED-lit door handles, illuminated cupholders. Concessions have been made to broaden the appeal of the new Challenger. But have there been enough? Were there too many? Does the old tree still bear fruit?

Over the next 12 months we'll put more than 20,000 miles on our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. Follow along with our long-term blogs to see if the Challenger meets our expectations or if, as some already assume, this remake falls short of the original.

Current Odometer: 1,707
Best Fuel Economy: 22.3 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 18.4 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Good Guys Wear Black

March 19, 2009

I took our Challenger out on an assignment and boy was I happy I did. It might not be your cup of tea, but the simple pleasure of a muscle car snarl is pretty freakin' cool to me.

Not only did I think this car was special, tons of people were gawking. Old guys walking down the street smiled and gave me the thumbs up. One guy even exclaimed: "Yeah! It's back!" while pumping his fist in the air. A truckload of Marines whooped and cheered as I downshifted and mashed the throttle past them. Even a car-full of beautiful women on spring break drove up next to me at a red light and took pictures of it on their cell phones while asking me about my "Charger".

The nature of my job puts me into new cars all the time, but it's pretty rare that so many people have such a visceral reaction to a car. Cars like this aren't only supposed to look and sound cool, but they're supposed to make you feel cool too.

I felt pretty damn cool yesterday.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Is it in you?

March 23, 2009

The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is one mean mother — the baddest prisoner in D-block.

It's easy to imagine it being driven by Lee Marvin or Samuel L. Jackson.
Or perhaps Charlie Bronson.

So you're considering getting one? In today's economy, it's best to be prepared before spending your hard-earned money.

In light of that, for my marketing class I've readied a Challenger screening pop quiz.
Let's see if the Challenger "is in you":

(continues after jump)

My favorite recording artist is:

a. Enrique Iglesias
b. John Mayer
c. Maroon 5
d. Jonas Brothers

The last good movie I saw was:

a. Sex in the City
b. Something with Reese Witherspoon
c. Jonas Brothers - Live!
d. Twilight (6 times: woot-woot!!)

I love to spend my Saturdays:

a. Shopping at Ikea (ref. "Fight Club")
b. Shopping at Crate & Barrel
c. Shopping at Pottery Barn
d. Shopping at Ambercrombie

(top photo by S.Jacobs)

My favorite jeans are made by:

a. Mavi
b. Seven for All Mankind
c. True Religion
d. Chip & Pepper

With regard to my mobile phone/internet:

a. I change my Facebook status more than once a day
b. I bought more than 1 phone last year, and one of them was an iphone/Blackberry Storm
c. I get just as excited when I get a new phone as when I get a new car
d. The best thing about my iphone/Blackberry Storm is that I can change my Facebook status several times a day (woot-woot!!)

My favorite way to unwind is:

a. Get a Shiatsu massage
b. Relax with a glass of Savignon Blanc in front of the fireplace
c. Watch a great Reese Witherspoon comedy
d. Pedicure

My favorite drink is:

a. Something with Kahlua
b. White wine spritzer
c. Double decaf half mocchachino/half latte (no foam)
d. Cosmo

My favorite TV show is:

a. Oprah
b. Tyra
c. The View
d. Grey's Anatomy

My next vehicle will probably be a:

a. Smart
b. Prius
c. Volvo
d. Vespa

How'd you do?

It's OK, you can rest assured: there are no correct answers — or for that matter, wrong ones.

Because I just don't know who will purchase the 2009 Challenger R/T.

But I sure as hell know who won't.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 2380 miles

Chance Encounter

March 24, 2009

Last weekend I was cruising down Pacific Coast Highway in the Challenger R/T with one thing on my mind.Take a picture for the blog. And by chance I find this guy parked in a lotbeside the road.

I jumpedout to take a picture of the white R/Tjust as theownerwas climbing into it.He re-emerged witha camera of his own. While wesnapped some shotshe started making Challenger smalltalk.

"You going to the showat the end of this month?"

"What show?"

"The Spring Festival of LXs. Its down in Irvine. You should check it out."

"Yeah, maybe I will."

That's about all there was to say. Sowith a cordialhead nod weboth went back the way we came. Does anybody out there have plans to attendthe LX event this weekend? We just might see you there.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 2,400 miles

Speed Test

March 26, 2009

The Autobahn is too far away. In order to conduct the test I had in mind, then, I would have tosummon all ofmy skills as a professional driver and wait for a break in traffic on a public road.

I wheeled our jet black2009 Dodge Challenger R/T out ontothe 405 freewayand bided my time, waiting for the opportune moment.

Then the traffic parted. I dabbed the throttle, grabbed a gear andwas off to see what this5.7-liter Hemi V8could do...

At the incredible speed ofone-thousand five-hundred revolutions per minute, an enginespeedat which each of this Hemi V8's pistons cycles up and down a mind-boggling twenty-five times per second, the Challenger reached a speed of sixty-five miles per hour in sixth gear.

I know, I know.

I never thoughttraffic conditions would allow the Challengerto reach the speed limit on an LA freeway at 4:30 pm, either.

But next time I'll stick with fourth gear to help me better maneuver in traffic. At this heady speed, the R/T is a slug in sixth. So much so, in fact, that I don't think I could tolerate driving insixthat this speed for a whole tank, some 350+ miles,to see what the best-case mpg and range could be. That test, my friends, takes a real professional — areally bored professional.

Or cruise control and an open road to Oregon, or something.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,563 miles

Rubbing Shoulders at Beach Burgers

March 27, 2009

All photos by Brent Romans

On Saturday, our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T willattend the 4th annual Spring Festival of LXs, a national gathering of owners of all modern-dayLX-platform cars (Challenger,Charger, 300 and Magnum)in Irvine, California.Our Challenger R/T and Igot a head start on the partying last night, as the SoCal LX Owners Club hosted the out-of-towners at Beach Burgers in Huntington Beach, CA.

The Beach Burgers lotis small, so even though we arrived a half-hour early,the two-ton lugs were already shoulder to shoulder. Notably, one of the Challengers in attendance was a version of the Speedfactory Vortech Supercharged SRT8 we tested in January.

Finally, we settled for a space in the back lot next to a white Challenger R/T (with black hood decaling) with Idaho plates. Its owner, Robert, had just driven it in from Texas, and it was still warm. Like our Challenger, it had the six-speed manual gearbox. Unlike our Challenger, which sits like a crossover on its 18-inch alloys, Robert's R/T had apretty nice (read: lower) stance.

Robert saidhe swapped out the stock R/T suspension bits for SRT8pieces... purchased from a Challenger SRT8 owner who put on the KW coil-oversas on the Speedfactory car.

"This is my daily driver," said Robert, "but I like to drive quickly sometimes, and the standard suspension is too soft."

His car still has the optional 20-inch chrome wheels, but he has his eye toward a 1970-esque replacement, probably Torq Thrust look-alike wheels from Coys.

Robert, who's studying to be an auto machinist, has also fitted his car witha cold air intake, a larger throttle body, SRT8 headers and an upgraded exhaust, including rectangular quad tips like on the '70 Challenger. Theseadditions are mild, though, compared to what he has in mind after the factory warranty expires: "I'm going to put in a bigger motor with a blower."

Robertlikes the pistol grip on the stock six-speed's shifter as much asI do. But he wants shorter throws.

"I'm going put in the Hurst short-throw shifter mechanicals but leave the pistol grip," he said.

(I should note that I'm still a fan of our Challenger's six-speed gearbox after a 1-hour, 45-minute slog from Santa Monica to Huntington Beach. In stop-and-go traffic, its long, easy throws and light clutchare your friends.)

Other thanits lower stance,my favorite touchon Robert's white R/T wasthe'70s-script Challenger badgehe added to the grille. It's very old-school, and with this car, there's no other way to play it.

And, if you go to Beach Burgers, order the Frisco Burger, medium rare.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,780 miles

Who's Your Daddy?

March 29, 2009

Driving home Friday night in our still new 2009 Dodge Challenger R/TI spotted this 1971 Challenger parked on the street near our Santa Monica office and could not resist the photo op. The car is not an R/T,but it is in awesome unrestored condition and appears to still be somebody's daily ride. The vinyl top, rallye wheels and hood pins are cool bits, and I swear that's the original paint.

Notice how the race car style gas door is on the passenger side on the '71, but on the driver's side on the new Challenger.

By the way, am I the only one that thinks the old car looks better?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief@ 2,798 miles

The Fourth Annual Spring Festival of LXs

March 31, 2009

Part of the fun of owning an enthusiast car like our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is taking it to events where you actually participate in the car world. And this weekend I did just that. I took our black R/T to the Fourth Annual Spring Festival of LX's in Irvine, California about 60 miles south of our Santa Monica office.

Fun event. More than 600Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers, Magnums and Challengers were displayed, including more that 100 Challengers, some modified, some stock. There were also vender displays byMoparand other companies that make up the aftermarket supply for these machines. Even a couple of Chrysler execs showed to unveil the Challenger Rallye Package, both Joe Dehner, the VP of Design and the LX Cheif Engineer Tony Elias flew in from Detroit for the event.

Basically it was an all daygathering of a couple thousand fanatics devotedto Chrysler Corps. latest rear wheel drive rides and I enjoyed being a part of it. But after looking at all those well modified Challengers I'm not so sure our stocker is as exciting as it once was.

More pictures from the show after the jump.

Blue skies and long row of new Dodge Challengers. Nice day. Somehow we parked in a row of orange SRT8s. This photo really shows off the metallic in our black car's paint.

I like the look of this silver SRT. It just has the right vibe. No blig. Looks fast.

The show is supported by

More than one club came out in support of the event.

Chrysler bought everybody lunch, but the line was a bit long.

Sam Hubinette displayed his Moparsponsored Challengerdrift car which will compete in the Formula D series this year. Check out thoseinline skate wheels Sam has added to the cars rear corners. Might actually work.

On the left is a 383 4-speed 1970 Challenger R/T that slipped in past security. On the right is the new ChallengerV6 with the Rallye Package.

Even the fuzz loves the LX.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 2,927 miles

Some Details are Better Than Others

April 02, 2009

Nice to see that Dodge hasn't forgotten what made classic muscle cars cool. You don't see much in the way of hood adornments anymore. Probably some federal regulation on it these days, but our Challenger does have these nice big "Hemi" badges on each side. A nice little detail that could have easily been nixed by the bean counters.

Then again, those hood scoops aren't exactly the real deal. They don't look bad, but there are no actual holes in them. Strangely enough, there are holes in the bottom of the hood just below the intakes. Not that it would really make a difference if there were openings. The engine sucks in its air through a snorkel in the left front corner, so the idea of any real ram air effect is pretty much toast.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 2,947 miles

Rocking the Baby Seat

April 06, 2009

Besides telling you how cool the cars are, how fast (or slow) they might be, and the like, this blog is also for letting you know what it's really like to live with 'em. So here's me with a few real-world Challenger impressions. (WARNING: If you have a low tolerance for baby seat installation posts, I suggest you skip this one. Bad-ass retro-style dads and moms, follow the jump!)

I generally hate installing our giant Recaro car seat in coupes. Even if the front passenger seat folds and moves forward far enough to create a hole big enough to cram the car seat into, there's usually not much space for me to maneuver back there to cinch it down (despite my super-slight frame). For the Challenger, the first order of business was to get that manual front passenger seat out of the way. I engaged the lever on the side of the seat and used all of my 98-pound weakling strength to shove it forward and simultaneously slide the whole heavy seat forward, too. Not an easy task, would be even less easy if you were trying to keep a toddler from running away from you in a crowded parking lot while doing it.

Happily, the kid seat fit pretty easily through the resulting space, once I extricated the shoulder belt from its router on the seatback (self-strangulation being low on the baby seat install priority list). There was enough room for me to crawl back there and tighten it down nice and snug, too. The grippy leather upholstery was also excellent at keeping the kid seat in place, which can't be said of every leather interior.

I was less pleased with the process required to put the front passenger seat back in place so someone could actually sit up there. When you push the seat back toward the rear of the car with your hand, it stops in the most upright (and impossible to sit in) position and the seat doesn't move backward in its track at all. To reset the seat to a usable position, it's a two-and-a-half-step process: 1) adjust the seatback angle with the lever on the side of the seat and then 2) reach down into the passenger footwell and adjust the fore/aft position of the seat. Very tedious and inconvenient if you're going to do frequent kid-driving duty (or any rear passenger duty, for that matter), then 2.5) re-route the seatbelt through the incomplete-O-shaped router.

However, kick space for the kid, once buckled into the forward-facing seat was decent, and the front passenger's knees weren't jammed uncomfortably into the glovebox.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 3,142 miles

If Dodge Disappeared Would Anyone Notice?

April 07, 2009

I really like our Challenger. Much more than I thought I would. It's a size too big which I like. It's not a "g-machine" either and that's fine. It has presence on the road. There's nothing else like it.

Yet as I read one bailout story after another, it's becoming pretty clear that Dodge could be gone forever very soon. I don't think it's going to happen, but it's sad to even imagine that 5 or 10 years from now there would be no new Challengers, no Ram trucks, no Vipers (yeah, that's not even going to take 5 years).

Sure, the market will move on and most people will forget Dodge as quick as they did Plymouth and Oldsmobile. Still, for company that put so many iconic vehicles on the road to just disappear is pretty sad. I certainly hope this Challenger isn't the last new Dodge I ever drive.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 2,954 miles

Where's My Handbrake?

April 08, 2009

I just want to know one thing: Where the hell is my handbrake?

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Here's Where The "Key" Goes

April 15, 2009

So there you have it: A solution to my problem. It's not obvious, and you have to dig back to page 243 of the manual to find it, but thissolves it.Getting the button off requires some kind of prying device and some persistence, but this solution is exactly what I needed.

As for the button itself, well, let's just say it won't be bothering us again. Its novelty was clearly lost on me anyway.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 3,417 miles

Where Does the "Key" Go?

April 15, 2009

This is a picture of our Dodge Challenger's key fob. Notice its shape. Looks like it was designed to be inserted somewhere, right? Like into a dashboard to start a car, right? Well, it was. And many Chrysler products still use it that way.

Not the Challenger.At least not our Challenger.

Here's what you get when you look for a place to put that "key." Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

And here's the gripe. I have to use the fob to unlock the car so it's in my hand — keyless entry isn't an option. Now I get in, push the start button guessed it: search for a place to put the key. Perhaps this wouldn't be such a hang up if I weren't paranoid about losing the key. Buthabit and experience tell me it should goin one of two places — either in the ignition or in my pocket.

Here's one option: I can drop it in the small-items tray which is occupying the space where my handbrake should be.

It's a small gripe, but it's one I face every single time I get in the car.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Shifter Looks Cool, Does Not Always Feel Cool

April 21, 2009

After a weekend in the Challenger, this is what I remember.

1) That cool looking shifter with the retro slant? Yeah, that sucker gets hot in the sun. It's also a little too "damped" for my tastes. It feels good when you're just cruising around, but when you try to rip it, the gates feel too spongy.

2) The tires are a little soft. They make for a comfortable ride, but they feel a little too wobbly when you're on it.

3) A guy walked by the Challenger parked on the street and said the following to his buddy. "Look at the front end of that thing. Now that's tough looking. I bet a guy driving that car would whoop your ass."

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 3,609 miles


April 24, 2009

When I drive our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, this is what I feel like I'm driving. It's a Mopar concept from last year's SEMA show (with the red stripes removed), but in my mind's eye (and apparently in yours), this is how our Challenger looks. It says, "Don't even think about it, Tinkerbell."

And do you know what? People take thecar seriously.I can't tell you how many challenges I've received whenI was driving either the Evo GSR or MR, the 370Z, and of course the GT-R, but not in the Challenger.Wrist-steering high-school kids in theirfive-oh'Stangs, spikey-haired community college kids in their Honda-rebadged Integra Type Rs, and even mid-life crisis enduring Corvette drivers with personalized license plates pretend they're not looking/admiring, but I see them.

And here's the ironic part: I drivethe Challengerslower and more gently than I drive just about anything else in the IL garage. I single handedly raised the car's accumulated fuel economy average from 17.4 mpgto 18.5with onedrive home and back.

Intellectually, I know the Challenger R/T isn't thefastest car, itdoesn't pull1.0g on the skidpad, it certainly isn't the most refined car, but it's quick enough, holds a decent line around most corners, andperhaps most importantly,it sounds as subtly bad-ass as it looks.

If it were any other color: Hemi Orange, Torred, Inferno Red, blue, silver, or even white, I don't think I'd like driving it nearly as much as I do. There's something about our Challenger's Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl paint that transcendsall the marketing colors' ability to intimidate without having to try.

Now I'm going to see if we have budget for window tinting and a new set of black wheels. What do you think?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 3,904 miles

Me Likey

April 28, 2009

I've never driven an original Challenger. My sister had one in sky blue when I was a kid, but I was too little.

Last night, was my first chance behind the wheel of any Challenger. It was not what I expected. It looks big and heavy but it drives light. And it's not as loud as I thought it would be. It looks loud. When I turned the key I expected it to roar rowdily to life like our previous Ford Mustang long-termer. It has a nice note but it's subtle. I kinda wish it were more obnoxious, actually.

Visibility is good as long as you're looking forward. Backing out of my driveway this morning I couldn't see much, except my neighbor drooling over the car.

I like the pistol-grip shifter. I haven't experienced any hand-searing moments like Ed described after parking in the sun. With the shape and slant of the shifter, I kept expecting to have to push a button on top. It reminded me of a joystick and brought back memories of late night X-Wing sessions. You know, back when we used to play games on computers instead of consoles.

Lots of envious looks from South Bay boys this morning. The Challenger is our fleet's new "it" car.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Feels Like a Crossover and That's Fine By Me

April 30, 2009

It's often mentioned aroundour office that the seating position in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is too high — that the high-mounted seats force you into a chair-like seating position reminiscent of a crossover.

There's little way Chrysler (er, the company formerly known as Chrysler) could have avoided this without major design changes, of course. The Challenger has the same comically high beltline and short glass area as other LX cars. Mount the front seats any lower and it'd be unsafe to drive.

However, I'm here to tell you that I don't mind this seating position a bit. I'm all legs and no torso, so I jack the seat-bottom cushionall the way up and enjoy the view over the big black hood. It's a fine view, it's relaxing, and yes, it's like sitting in some kind of SUV.This setup isn'tthe least bit true to the original Challengers, I realize, but in nearly all respects, the reborn Challenger is a modern-day homage to the old car, not an authentic, 1:1 copy.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,165 miles

I've Got Hood Ducts, How 'Bout You?

April 30, 2009

(satire intended)

Alternate Title: Who Is the Most Mean? (grammatical flaws intended)

2nd Alternate Title: Man, that Evo is white-hot! (effusive praise intended)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,165 miles (mediocre blog entry intended)

Initial Reactions

May 01, 2009

"What is that? It looks like a cartoon car. Do people actually drive that?"

"It looks like it should have an eagle on it and a guy leaning against it picking up girls at a high school."

Well, those weremy girlfriend'sinitial reactions after she pulled into the garage last night. I don't disagree — the Dodge Challenger is inherently ridiculous. The styling is a 12-year-old's fantasy ... a 12-year-old born in 1960. The size is absurd. The handling doesn't really exist, per se, and the steering lends little confidence when zipping through traffic. The e-brake is a pedal, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it strangely screws you up. Oh, and the power is crazy.

But ridiculous can be good. The TV show Chuck is ridiculous and I like that. All that stuff adds character to a car that is ostensibly a big touring coupe with whopping power. I love the comfy sofa seats and the driving position is excellent. The six-speed manual's clutch is surprisingly light in action and easy to modulate, witha perfectly placed pedal (at least for me). Although I hadrepeated trouble getting intosecondgear from first (thanks to the 1-4 skip-shift feature that I'll go over next week), the pistol-grip gearboxhas reasonable throws and is pretty direct. I also dig the stereo's sound quality, although its interface needs to be chucked into a Dumpster.

My very first reaction to the Challenger was that it was ridiculous in a bad way and wanted no part of it. Now I think it's ridiculous in a good way and can't wait to get the keys again. We'll see how it goes over at high schools.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,132 miles

Big Overdrive

May 04, 2009

Yesterday, after a pleasant 9 innings at Goodwin Field watching Cal State Fullerton generally clobber UC Santa Barbara, our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger and I found ourselves on wide open freeway. The first time I stepped out to pass in our Challenger, I realized I'd never before driven the car in light traffic.

I realized this, because I made a beginner's mistake: I left the Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual gearbox in 6th gear — and then had no torque with which to complete the pass. A blip of throttle and a hasty downshift to 5th ensued.

This gearbox has two overdrive gears — a 0.74 5th and a 0.50 6th — along with a 3.73 final drive. In practice, the engine is turning at all of 1,500 rpm at 65 mph when you're in 6th gear. Had I bothered to look at the tach first, of course,I never would have thought I could leave it in 6th. If you remember from our Challenger's trip to the dyno,the 5.7-liter V8doesn't get into the meat of its torque band until you're past 2,000 rpm, but then it has plenty — 350 pound-feet at the wheels.

It's not a big deal once you acclimmate (ask any Corvette owner, I'd imagine). But that first (and only) time you come up short for a pass, you feel like any weakling four-cylinder econobox driver. The difference is, in the Dodge, you can do something about it.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,424 miles

The Textcast

May 05, 2009

Magrath: My brain feels like mush today. I can barely type. It's kind of awesome.
Magrath: Up for lunch ramen?
Sadlier: Eh, I gotta get some cam-seal-swapping supplies at an auto parts store somewhere
Magrath: They rarely have good ramen.
Sadlier: What, auto parts stores? You'd be surprised
Sadlier: Kragen on Lincoln is a dark-horse candidate for best miso ramen in LA
Magrath: Exiting Kragen on Lincoln was the first time I fully unloaded the potential of a 335i. I headed south from that parking lot in a blaze of confused glory. I had no idea what that car was capable of.
Sadlier: Speaking of confused glory, we should do those SEMA mods to our Challenger that Chris mentioned
Magrath: All the grey stuff?
Sadlier: That's right. Or keep it black. Murder it out, dude
Magrath: Walton's point was that he feels like he's driving something super-cool when he's behind the wheel even though it's bone-stock. I feel completely ridiculous in that car all the time. Like I'm driving a clown car.
Sadlier: I'm somewhere in between. I feel super-cool when I'm on the throttle at least, not so much the rest of the time. But I'm definitely with Chris on digging the SEMA concept
Magrath: I like the SEMA concept because it lacks color. I'm over colors. I still think the car is ridiculous.
Magrath: And getting on the throttle in that car is a huge disappointment. It's a cool noise but where's the forward momentum?
Sadlier: I dunno, it's pretty fast
Sadlier: I think you've been driving the GT-R too much again
Magrath: It's not fast.
Sadlier: Hm, 5.9 to 60. Alright, not that fast
Magrath: Yep. 0.8 seconds ago the 135 was at 60.
Sadlier: But the Challenger sounds bitchin'. And you know, I'm alright with 5.9 to 60. I can live with that
Magrath: I can't. The 135 smokes it, and it doesn't have the aura of a chubby dude working at Home Depot who loves to talk about the glory days of high school football
Sadlier: Well, that's where the SEMA mods come in
Magrath: Then you look even MORE desperate.
Magrath: The only thing that could reduce the desperation oozing from that car is a crusher.

Sadlier: Note that the 5.9 to 60 is with two shifts
Magrath: Great so they didn't get the gearing right either.
Sadlier: Well, the 5,500 rpm redline or whatever isn't helping
Magrath: I really like the shifter actually. It fits my arm and hand perfectly.
Sadlier: I could do without the weird angle, but it's surprisingly decent, yes
Magrath: Thing is, I like driving the Challenger. It rides well. Nice and comfy. Quiet. Good sightlines, good driving's just that the outside is so pathetic.
Magrath: It's the automotive equivalent of a class ring: people wearing them don't want to accept the present, constantly grasping at the past.
Sadlier : So it's a refined GT with an image problem. SEMA mods to the rescue!
Magrath : You know the guys you see on Sunset Blvd at night? 40+, wearing clothes that were trendy in 1999, trying to be hip, trying to figure out why they aren't cool anymore. Those are Challenger people.
Sadlier : Yeah but the SEMA Challenger is badass. Adrien Brody might drive one
Magrath : Adrien Brody drives a Z06, what does he know?
Sadlier : Exactly!

Magrath : It is, if I remember correctly, pretty cool and "murdered out," but still....
Sadlier : I want a Z06, and I want a SEMA Challenger
Magrath : SEMA can't fix what's wrong with the Challenger. It's like assuming that plastic surgery cures the aging process.
Sadlier : You're saying the Challenger's problems are more than skin-deep? I thought you agreed that it's fundamentally a good car. The backseat is enormous. So is the trunk, if I recall correctly. V8, nice ride, quiet...what more do you want, aside from steering that doesn't suck?
Magrath : Actually you're right. The Challenger's problems are entirely skin deep. The analogy needed more depth. Try this:
Magrath : SEMA doesn't have what it takes to fix the Challenger. Its problems may only be skin deep, but simple add-ons won't do it. It's like assuming that a face lift reverses aging. The Challenger is a solid car but the design — both inside and out — is too old to salvage. Like Joan Rivers.
Sadlier : But the interior materials are pretty good. And I like the seats.
Sadlier : Give me the SEMA exterior treatment and some feel and precision from a steering wheel that couldn't reasonably be swapped into a city bus, and I'm onboard
Magrath : The dash is thick and the seats are comfy but the's so, so, Chrysler.
Magrath : Short of giving me one with the stipulation that I can't sell it and buy something else, there's no way I'd own a Challenger.
Sadlier : Still, I'd rather have the Challenger's overall refinement and forgettable interior design than, say, the 370Z's painstakingly designed/crafted interior and ridiculous road and engine noise
Magrath : Road and engine noise, sure, but also stellar driving manners and non-ridiculous looks.

Sadlier : Psh. I think the Challenger is way cooler-looking than the Z
Magrath : You're not embarrassed to get into that car?
Magrath : Swinging open the 11-foot door doesn't fill you with shame?
Magrath : It's like buying a Britney Spears CD, or a ticket to see the Sex and the City movie.
Sadlier : Your mushy brain is on a roll today
Magrath : Or, worse, it's like buying those items that, every once in a while, your girlfriend needs at the convenience store. That's a more apt example.
Magrath : You go in, find what's needed, grab it and head for the register. There's a point where your eyes will meet those of the clerk and you'll want to explain, "Really, guy, these aren't mine. Clearly." But he'll know that. It's how these things work. I want to explain to everyone who sees me in the Challenger that I don't in fact own something this sad. If I get it for a weekend I'm going to have to put on a bumper sticker that says "My other car isn't desperate."
Sadlier : The only things that fill me with shame are the dorky ride height and wheels on our long-termer
Sadlier : If you got the SEMA car for the weekend, you'd change your tune
Magrath : I don't think I would. At that point people would assume that I've not only bought one of these stupid things, I also like it enough to mod it.
Magrath : OR...
Magrath : They'd think I bought a car that I initially didn't like, so I had to monkey around with it to make it tolerable.
Magrath : Like going to a restaurant, seeing they have nothing you like and, instead of leaving, walking to 7-11, buying some canned vegetables, and smearing them all over what the chef serves you.
Sadlier : Your analogies are on fire
Magrath : I need a video camera on me at all times.
Magrath : I think you could probably make this into a textcast.
Sadlier : Oh, I sure will
Magrath : Last word: I kind of dig the old Challengers. People driving them today have to pay for the privilege either with hard work and a lot of time, or with a metric-bucket of cash. The new one is riding on the coattails of past glory and I just can't get behind something like that. The new Camaro on the other hand, I'm 100% behind that. Gold Chain Lane , here I come.

I'm Feeling Italian...

May 05, 2009

With bankruptcy and an Italian marriage that may end up as contentious as a typical Hollywood divorce, Chrysler's future is yet to be decided. In the ongoing Face-Off series on Edmunds Daily, we pitted the Challenger against Fiat's 500 (Cinquecento). An unusual pairing for sure, but perhaps it will give us a peek at what's down the road. Take a look here, and let us know your thoughts.

Rear Visibility and Calling the Police

May 06, 2009

The above picture is for those of you who asked what the rear visibility of our 2009 Dodge Challenger looked like. BTW that passenger seat is tilted all the way back. As for backing out, I myself haven't experienced any real issues with that. There was this concrete pillar in our parking garage that I couldn't see when I was in reverse but let's just say it was a good thing I already knew it was there.

But driving this car, for some reason I'm not intimidated by its blind spots. Could be attributed to its seat height adjustability, the well-positioned side mirrors which allow me to see really far to the sides and its power. This morning on the commute to work there was this BMW 135i behind me switching to the right lane at the same time I was about to and I quickly checked him in my mirrors, stepped on the gas and no sweat. That's saying something since there are some cars with blind spots that either make me not want to switch lanes ever or that make me feel like I need to triple check before I switch lanes.

On a completely unrelated note, apparently my neighbors are scared of the Challenger. Frank, an old man who lives across the street from me, stopped my roommate when she was leaving the house this morning to ask her if she knew whose black Dodge that was parked in front of his house. He said it had been parked there for two days (note: this was the first time I've ever brought it home) and then told her he was going to call the police and report a stolen vehicle. "I think he was nervous because there was no license plate," she said. We live in a neighborhood of family cars so I guess a sinister-looking Dodge Challenger would be some cause for alarm. Heh.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 4,454 miles

Back in Black

May 10, 2009

By now you've heard that we've added the all-new 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T to our long-term test fleet.

I'm glad we opted for Brilliant Darth Vader Black. It goes well with the dramatic line of the car. Although, I do wish Dodge would offer the car in Plum Crazy.

We know you're all eager to hear about it, so we're featuring the new Challenger R/T as car of the week.

What color would you get?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Challenger or Camaro?

May 11, 2009

I sawthis black Camaroduringmy commute home in the Challenger the other night. First customer car I've seen on the road.I paced him for a bit inbumper-to-bumper traffic. Onlookersslowed to check itout and voice theirapproval. All eyes were on the Chevy.

SoI was surprised whenI pulled alongside it to findthe driver's gaze lockedonme. His interestin theChallenger could've beendiagnosed as early-stage buyers remorse. He smiled and gave a thumbs up.

Challenger, Camaro, Mustang - - we've already shared our favorite.Which would you choose?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 4,600 miles

Eardrum Thumper

May 12, 2009

My first reaction after firing up the Challenger is to lower the windows. Its 5.7-liter HEMI rumbles like a V8 should and I want to hear it. But only until the speedo hits 45 mph.

Beyond 45 mph wind starts to reverberate in the cabin and pound the eardrums. We've all experienced this before. Crack another window or the sunroof and the beating stops. We can't do that in our sunroofless Challenger. Our only options are to tough it out or roll 'em up.

This thing needs wind wings.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,600 miles

Hill Start Assist

May 12, 2009

I found myself nodding in silent agreement as I read Josh's recent post about the lack of a handbrake in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. I like handbrakes. Always have. But that's probably because a lot of my early cars were small econoboxes with manual transmissions — and handbrakes. Uber-difficult San Francisco hill starts (and my parents' steep driveway) were no sweat with this setup.

Exactly none of that was going through my head last night as the light turned green at the steep uphillintersection I was waiting at in the Challenger. It's not uncommon for there to be ateensy bit of roll-back in these situations, especially when you're wiped out after a long day and a long drive home.

Not this time. There was none, zip, zilch, nada. I tried it again on another hill, being deliberately lazy when transitioning from the brake to the throttle and being intentionally late with the clutch. Again, nothing.

That's because the 6-speed manual Challenger R/T has Hill Start Assist (HSA), a neat trick they play with the ABS hardware and a few lines of code.

Here's what it looks like in my driveway. OK, my driveway isn't exactly a hill, but it is steeper than 7%, the trigger threshholdof the system.

Watch the brake lights; the car doesn't roll back right away when they go off. Youhave two or three seconds to add throttle and let the clutch out. After that, the systemwill disengage and let the car roll backbecause there are plenty ofsituations where youwant that to happen.

And the system has a sort of grade logic. It works in first gear when you're pointing uphill and reverse when you'rebacking uphill.

Oh sure, I still like a good handbrake. But with a system like this I don't really need one for steep-hill starts in the Challenger.AndI don't see myself needing to do rally-style handbrake turns in this thing.

Dan Edmunds, Director of VehicleTesting @4,720 miles

Info about Skip Shift

May 12, 2009

Two weeks ago I mentioned my troubles shifting the Challenger due to the presence of skip shift. I had never experienced it before, at first chalking it up to the slanted pistol grip shifter and my own inabilities. When casually accelerating, I'd jam going into second gear as if smacking into a jumbled mass of bolts. It didn't slide into forth. Instead, I let the revs fall, waited and then rammed the shifter into second gear, tearing away to make up for my lost momentum. This happened about 10 percent of the time.

Then I was reminded of skip shift. Rather than my own explanation, here's one from Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh: "Basically, gasoline engines are more efficient when the throttle is opened wider due to reduced pumping losses (think of it like breathing through a paper towel tube instead of a drinking straw). These skip-shift systems allow the engine to operate that way — when you upshift, revs drop and the load on the engine increases. This is better for efficiency and thus fuel economy.

"The skip shift functions by a lockout on the second gear gate. So if you're shifting out of first gear under a very specific set of conditions (throttle, engine, rpm), the lockout is activated by a solenoid, forcing the gearstick to go into fourth gear gate instead of second gear."

Except, the Challenger never gracefully slides into fourth gear as skip shift is described to do. As it is, it feels more like ramming into a wall rather thangracefully changing course upon grazingoff a gentle lateral ramp.

Yet, even if I did successfully get into fourth, there would still be problems as Kavanaugh continues. "This has deleterious effects on driveability. It cuts the legs out from under the engine. Bogs down like it drove into a swamp.

"The real motivation behind skip shift is obviously that they are a dirt-cheap way for the automakers to improve the MPG numbers on the window sticker (perhaps avoiding a gas guzzler tax). They have little real-world improvement in fuel economy since everyone 'drives around' the skip shift."

The most common solution I've heard is to just drive it hard like any good Hemi driver should. That's all well and good, but sometimes you can't do that.Plus,you don't accelerate the same way every time — sometimes you meet those exact conditions, sometimes you don't. It's the inconsistancy that's the real annoyance.

Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans commented thatskip shifthasn't bothered him that much in his Corvette since he usually does a 1-3 shift around town. Whenskip shift does show up, he just pauses in neutral for a moment and guns itlike I did in the Challenger.

The other solution is to disable the stupid thing. A quick look around Challenger and Corvette message boards found a few annoyed owners who purchaseda skip shift eliminator for about $25. Apparently, it's only a five-minute install. I'm saying that would be $25 and five minutes well spent on our Challenger.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Open Thread: Part 2

May 12, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T? Post your questions and we'll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

It sounds like a few of you are Challenger owners already. Write your own review in the comments section. And let us know how you optioned your vehicle.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Brings me back to my coupe roots

May 13, 2009

"I'm a single-seat guy living in a world full of fenders." That's an approximation of a quote by the Executive Editor here at Inside Line, Michael Jordan. We're sitting around one day talking about, surprise, cars. More precisely, we're talking about how it is we got caught up in this crazy business of driving cars and how, real surprise, we're getting paid to do it.

"Not me." I shoot back, "If I ever stumble blindly into a pile of money I'm buying a Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe and I'm going to drive it very slowly up and down the coast. Windows down, seat heaters on."

My formative years, while dotted with sports cars, was primarily occupied with sport-luxury coupes. I grew up in the northeast, the only thing more plentiful than bland, straight roads were bored cops with twitchy radar guns. Cornering, grip and G-loads never played a big part in my life. Burnouts, powerslides and all-night road trips to NYC or Montreal were more my speed.

I've owned Thunderbird Super Coupes. I've fruitlessly searched for a clean Lincoln MK VIIIs. Every six months or so I check eBay to see if the '05 GTOs have continued their price decline. And I promise you this: before I die I'll own a Mercedes-Benz CL65.

What, if anything, does this have to do with the Dodge Challenger R/T? Very little, actually, but it does give you a background of information to prime you for what I'm about to say.

As much as I dislike looking at the '09 Challenger, I'm happier driving this car than virtually any other in the long-term fleet. The ride is soft but never floaty. The engine drones, but never in an unpleasant way. It can't corner, it's not terribly good at braking and it'll get gunned down at a stoplight by any college girl in her mom's 335.

Let them have their corners and off-the-line speed. This thing can cruise. Looking over 50-feet of hood, it's a joy to drive aimlessly for hours with the windows down regardless of the weather. Sure the '09 Challenger will do a big silly burnout at your buddy's house, but despite tire-melting power, this car doesn't tempt me to go to the mountains, it tempts me to drive to Mexico, or Canada, or Maine. Or to Detroit to slap them for not making this years ago.

If it didn't look so stupid, this car would be on my list of Must Own toys. What are the odds that Dodge will, pending survival, make a 2-door Magnum a-la the Chevy Nomad that drives like this? And would I be the only buyer?

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 4,852 miles

OK, Sometimes It Does Embarrass Me

May 14, 2009

Last night I took our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T out for burgers (at The Counter in Santa Monica). Going out for burgers is pretty much the perfect thing to do with a Challenger. I've now done it twice and hope to do it many more times before the year is up.

But last night I was reminded of the very specific set of circumstances in which driving the Challenger embarrasses me: when parallel-parking. I think it's a combination of the sluggish throttle response at tip-in, the vagueish clutch takeup and the near total lack of rear visibility (combined with no backup sensors), but I have now stalled this car more times than I'm comfortable telling you.

And, darn it, it only happens when I'm reversing, while I'm trying to be careful and squeeeze on the throttle to ease the two-ton coupe into a spot without tapping a 3 Series behind me. And when you're too ginger with the throttle, you're liable to stall a six-speed Challenger R/T. Or maybe only I am. Either way, it's attention I don't want. Burger was good, though.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Duh, What Goes Here?

May 15, 2009

Duh, what goes here? Looks likeme could pourliquids in heres.

Oh wait, there be words here.

Ah hah!Fuel goes in here. Thank jeebus it was labeled.

If only the entire car had these help labels.

I know, I know. It was on the original car ... but it wassilly back then too.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,900 miles

Natural Habitat

May 15, 2009

What two things go together like a burger and fries?

American muscle and Bob's Big Boy.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 4,941 miles


May 15, 2009

The clip board was good to me today. Somehow I scored the car of the week.

And this is how it makes me feel:

Have a nice weekend.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Spare Me

May 18, 2009

The 2009 Dodge Challenger has a butt you could serve tea on. This is a good thing because it allows for 16.2 cubic feet of luggage space.

It also has folding rear seats. They don't fold flat but they do allow for extra room for long items. The trunk has a wide opening and good depth, too. I can stand my laptop bag up straight with plenty of room to spare.

And speaking of spares, there isn't one.

More after the jump...

A compact spare tire is optional equipment, which we did not opt.

The compactwould go where the foam insert is now. But there isn't enough room for a full-size spare under the trunk liner.

If we wanted a full-size spare tire, we'd have to fasten it down inside the trunk taking up precious cargo room.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Putting Miles Behind Us

May 20, 2009

5,000 miles on the Challenger and counting.

What have we done with those miles? Let's take a little retrospective of our time with the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T

We met some originals and took it to a Festival of LXs .

We carted around our kids.

We lamented the lack of a hand brakeand were grateful forHill Start Assist.

We went from keyless to key.

We strapped it to a dyno.

We got up close and personal with the suspension.

And of course, we took it for some burgers, burgers, and more burgers.

Whathaven't we done? We haven't had any problems. Knock on wood.

What should we do next?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Magic Fingers

May 26, 2009

They call it "Keyless Go". And if your 2009 Dodge Challenger has it, like ours does, you'll see a "Start" button on your dash instead of an obvious key slot.

Push it while your foot is on the brake (and the other foot on theclutch, if applicable) and the engine will crank to life. You have to keep your foot off the brake while you push it to get "Accessory" mode; a second push gets you"Run" mode.

Josh already discovered what you need to do if the car won'tacknowledge the presence ofthe "Keyless Go" key:simply pop that "Start"button off the dash to reveal a place to insert the physical key.

And then it got weird.

It's really just a parlor trick. Finger-start won'twork if theKeyless Go key weren'tin the car and functioning properly.

All this really does ispoint out the fact that the "Start" button is just a "Start" button-shaped piece of plastic. If you ever lose it, you aren't completely hosed.

The aftermarket could have a field day with customized buttons. Perhaps "Engage" forfans of Jean-Luc Picard. I'm rather partial to a big red "Launch" button myself, but the more literal-minded among us might prefer"Ignition".After all,we've all been calling it the ignition switch for years.

I'm sure you have your own ideas.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,301 miles

More on the Great Pipe Debate

May 27, 2009

Leave it to a true muscle car to have a properly finished exhaust system. You know, one where the tailpipe is actually attached to something.

From this angle it's not particularly elegant. In fact, it looks like a simple straight pipe would look even better, but compared to the nonsense uncovered on our Audi R8, not to mention the Lexus IS-F and Ferrari California, I was glad to see Dodge get this simple detail done right.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 5,364 miles

Easy Rider

June 01, 2009

I've put about 600 highway miles on our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T during the past few days and have found it to be a pretty agreeable companion. Credit goes to the quiet interior, relatively soft suspension tuning, long wheelbase, tall overdrive gearing (about 1,700 rpm rpm at 75 mph) and relaxed seating. And thanks to the 19-gallon fuel tank, you can go about 400 miles between fill-ups.

If I had to do a cross-country trip with one of our long-term cars, our Challenger would be pretty high on my list.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,952 miles

6,000-Mile Service

June 04, 2009

I took our 2009 Dodge Challenger in for its scheduled 6,000-mile service yesterday. Lithia Dodge of Fresno, Calif.,was the dealership of choice for an oil change and a tire rotation. Just as was the case with my previous experience at this dealership (with our now-departed Dodge Caravan), service was friendly and without any sort of annoying up-selling of stuff not required. Lithia Dodge also installed the Challenger's front license plate bracket for us (yes, it's on there straight), so this photo is the last new pic you'll see of our car with a clean-looking front-end. Total cost was $57.30.

Also, Edmunds still has its dealer rating and reviews feature, so remember to tell your friends and family about it if they buy a car or have a car serviced at their local dealerships.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Can We Have More Tire, Sir?

June 08, 2009

I enjoy looking at our 2009 Challenger from some angles, but the view from directly behind isn't one of them. It's not the sheet metal that's distracting, it's the tires. Seriously, who secretly fitted our car with skinny tires off a rental Taurus? This is not the way a muscle car is supposed to look.

As Dan pointed out in the latter part of his suspension walkaround, our two-ton Challenger R/T is rolling on Michelin Pilot MXM4 235/55R18s all around. I wasn't just making up the bit about a Taurus, either; my wife is driving a rental 2009 Ford Taurus Limited right now and it's shod with comparable Pirelli P6 225/55R18s. It's not the height of the Challenger's wheels that bothers me (I think they look fine), it's the lack of tire width and compound grip. In testing, our Challenger pulled a modest .83g on the skidpad.

In his suspension post, Dan finished with, ''I figure that a set of focused high-performance tires might make a bigger-than-usual difference on this car. And if I can talk Scott into it, we might just test my theory ourselves." I second that motion.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,001 miles

Mum's The Word For Premium Fuel

June 11, 2009

The 5.7-liter V8 for the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is a little different depending on whether the car is equipped with thefive-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual. With the automatic, the V8 is rated for 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque on regular-octane fuel. It also comes with cylinder deactivation technology fora slight fuel efficiency bump.With the manual transmission (such as our car), Chrysler drops cylinder deactivation and retunes the V8 to take advantage of premium fuel (91 octane or higher). That raises output to 376 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

The owner's manual details the fuel requirements. But the chromed fuel-filler door, with its fueling-up-for dummies script, actually doesn't have any premium fuel requirement information on it anywhere. Do you smell the irony along with the gas fumes?

If you're the sole owner of a six-speed Challenger and read your car's owner's manual, it'd be no big deal. But I wouldn't be surprised if our Challenger has gotten a tank or two or regular since we've had itgiven the lack of fuel info and how our staff is in and out of different cars so frequently.

I've addressed the situation (in a very tasteless way) by writing the 91 octane requirement on some masking tape with a Sharpie pen and applying it to the backside of the filler door.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Making New Friends

June 15, 2009

"What kind of car is that?"

This was actually the third time the guy had asked the question. The first two times, I couldn't hear what he was sayingbecause he was 30 yards away,standing next to his geriatric blue-and-primer Chevy Suburban. Finally, he walked over.

Me: "It's the new Challenger." Him: "Huh." Pause."Hemi?" Me: "Yep." Him: "Dang, it's tight." Hmm.

At this point, I should mention that this conversation took place roadside in front of the Astro Motel, a photo location I selected for the name and retro ambiance. Any place with "Astro" in the name is OK my book. This motel just happens to be 100 yards off the interstate and is in what I'll kindly call a financially challenged (pun!) part of town. I'll also mention that the guy had some rather interesting tattoos.

He also had a friend (presumably) who was actually the driver of the Suburban. I kept eyeing him, but he wasn't getting out to see the Challenger. Other than moving around in the driver seat, I couldn't tell what he was doing.

Meanwhile, my bystander was eyeing the interior. Me: "What are you guys up to today?" Him: "We ran out of [expletive] gas, man." Now, these guys were both inside the Suburban when I pulled up. How long had they been there? But, you know, I'm helpful. Me: "You know, there's a gas station just a couple blocks up the road." Him: "Yeah..."

At this point, I decided that having our just-washed, fully-gassed Challenger in this location wasn't the best idea. So I told the guy good luck on getting fuel and hopped in. I'd like to say that my U-turn and full-throttle V8 Hemi blast past the Suburban was for show, but it was also some "Let's get the hell out of here!" too.

Our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T certainly attracts a lot of attention. Sometimes, it's not exactly the kind of attention you want.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,242 miles

It Can Actually Haul Stuff

June 18, 2009

Our 2009 Dodge Challenger has a 16.2-cubic foot trunk — that's roomier than the trunks of most midsize family sedans. It also has, as Dan discovered on his suspension walkaround, load-leveling rear shock absorbers.The rear seats fold down, too. Surprisingly, the Challenger works pretty well as a beast of burden for trips to Home Depot if you want it to.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

2009 Dodge Challenger R/T = Road/Trip

June 22, 2009

I read in a magazine a few months back that, "A man likes to drive — alone." While I've always felt this to be true, I had never seen it spelled out so succinctly. It's true. It gives a man time to think, sort things out, prioritize in silence and arrive with a clear head. There's a particular Zen to driving alone: Putting miles behind you with the sound of a V8 burbling in the background, or with music of your choice playing as quietly or loudly as you care. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to drive our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T for an extended weekend drive up to the central coast. Problem was that I started my drive on a Friday afternoon from Orange County.

You see, my wife and daughter were already there (in Arroyo Grande in the first photo) planning a Father's Day weekend. Two-hundred, ten miles and 4.5 hours later, I arrived, though not as refreshed as I had hoped. Yes, that's a 46-mph average. Woof. Just getting out of the greater L.A. area proved a challenge; even at 1:00pm on a Friday. The first 50 miles took 2 hours. Had there been an ice pick in the center console, I would've used it to put a clean little hole in the nav screen. Why?

I'm not sure how often the traffic info is updated, but it wasn't often enough for my needs. I've got route options (I-5 up the middle to 101, 57N to the 60W to the 101, and so on) and based on the *green* freeway icons, I chose the most direct, but apparently most congested route there was. Hundreds of thousands of other people were Zenning right along with me.

Finally, somewhere around Camarillo, the road opened up and I could make use of the V1 and 6th gear. On the trip up, my fuel economy averaged 20.4 mpg, but that included the stop-and-go of L.A. So much for Zen, but thank goodness for Raw Dog comedy on Sirius.

Then on Sunday, when my wife asked if I'd like to go wine tasting in Paso Robles, I thought it'd be a perfect weekend activity. I plugged in the address of first winery and off we went. Here are a few photos of that drive.

(Chimney Rock Road on the way to Justin Winery — deserted)

(Justin Winery)

(back down Chimney Rock Road to J. Lohr on the other side of Paso Robles)

Well, you get the idea. We had a wonderful Father's Day. Sunny, great red wine (we've got a case arriving twice a year from J. Lohr), and a beautiful drive.

As good as wine tasting was, I was looking forward to the peaceful drive home that hadn't happened on the way up — and it did.

Leaving Arroyo Grande at 9:00am on a Monday is apparently the right time.

(US 101S/Hwy 1 — blue sky and Pacific Ocean almost the whole way home)

(...and this time, the green traffic indicator was correct)

Besides a positive outlook on life and a general feeling of kindness toward my fellow man, one other thing that improves with free-flowing traffic is fuel economy. On the 3-hour drive home, the Challenger averaged 26.4 mpg! Combined with my less-than-zoomy trip up, the on-board fuel economy calculator topped out at 24.6 mpg, but by my math it was closer to 22.5 mpg.

Still, that's not bad for a 5.7L V8. Obviously, cruising in 6th with less than 2,500 rpm works.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 7181 miles

Our Favorite Caption: June

June 26, 2009

Thanks to world champion ergsum who takes the titleagain. But it was a very creative week for everyone. Here are the other captions that made us snort:

Smokey Links and the Bandit (ergsum)
And I thought I had a fat ass (dougtheeng)
From the look of that backside, you really love doing donuts. (ergsum)
Boss Hog! (ergsum)
Full Boar = Smoked Meats (altimadude00)
Hello, Officer. (vwthing1)
We pulled in to the porking lot at this swinery. (vwthing1)
Just another evening at the Boar's Nest.....YEEEHAAWWW!!!!! (threem)
and now you just attach a rope and...voila! pulled pork! (dougtheeng)
Gotta LOVE the HAMI engine....(daddiod)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption

June 26, 2009

Our Chief Tester Chris Walton took this photo of the Dodge Challenger at the Eberle Winery in Paso Robles.

Here are our attempts at a caption: "Yesterday, I peed on a new Camaro." Now that's starting the day off with class. Or how about "Boarn To Be Wild"

We look forward to reading yours.

We'll post our favorite at 4PM Pacific Boar Time.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Key Fob Not Detected

July 03, 2009

I climbed into the Dodge Challenger yesterday. Hours parked in triple-digit heat left our black-on-black R/T scorching hot. All thoughts were focused on starting the car and cranking the air conditioning. So I pressed the start button. Key Fob Not Detected.

Four more tries. Each with the same result.I fished through my pockets toconfirm that sure enough, the key fob was right there. I tried the button a few more times. Nothing. With sweat beading on my forehead I located my pocket knife,popped the start button offand jammed the key into the opening. Success.

I'm not saying this issuewas heat related. But I am saying it was friggin hot at the time. And when I snapped the button back into place today it worked just fine. I won'tadmit to agreeing with Josh, but in this case, keyless entry sure wasn't veryconvenient.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 7,200 miles

2009 Dodge Challenger R/T

July 21, 2009

I've mentioned in a previous post that the shifter in our Challenger is a little on the spongy side and I still feel that way. But after driving it again last night, I couldn't help but notice how comfortable the shifter itself feels.

There have been a thousand different shift handle designs over the years, everything from chrome balls to T-handles to the ol' pistol grip emulated here, all with their own quirks. But as derivative as this shifter is of the original, it's about natural feeling as a handle gets. Between its shape and the canted position, it's just about perfect. Makes getting the same car with an automatic all that more of a travesty.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 7,895 miles

Octane in the Membrane

July 23, 2009

AFuel Octane Saga is currently swirling around our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. Brent Romansheard somewhere that it needed 91 octane, but he was flummoxeda few weeks ago by a fuel filler door that made no mention of a premium fuel requirement. His theory was supported by this statement on page 315 of the owner's manual:

"The 5.7L engine (with manual transmission) is designed to meet all emissions regulations and provide excellent fuel economy and performance when using high-quality premium unleaded gasoline with an octane rating of 91 or higher."

So he unleashed his mad fabrication skillz and devised a cunning warning label of his own, the results of whichyou can see above.

But the utter lack lack of afactory-installed gas-door warning that stipulated the use of 91 octane was a red flag for me. Any carmaker worried about reducing warranty claims and warranty costs (and thats ALL of them) wouldn'tdream of omitting such a warning if 91 octane were required. There might even be a legal requirement for such a label.

So I did a little investigating...

1) The owner's manual references our R/T's fuel requirement in TWO places.

a) Re-read the statement above from page 315. Nowhere does it say that 91 octane is required. It says only that 91 or higher octane will "meet all emissions regulations and provide excellent fuel economy and performance". It doesn't say thatthe engine will be damaged by the use of 87 octane regular. Sure, performance would be lower on 87, but fuel economy and emissions could easily be the same or better.

b) Page 412 is a specifications chart, the kind that tells you what kind of oil to use, etc.

Note the word "Preferred." According to this page, fuel with an octane of 91 isnot "required", They would use that word (or omit "Preferred") if they were dead seriousabout 91 octane. It's not even"recommended", the word used when there is a clear benefitassociated with91, but the use of 87 won't hurt anything.

"Preferred" seems like a word choice that makes the use of 91utterly optional. I prefer to eat at Ruth's Chris steak house or Morton's, but I can afford Sizzler or Black Angus.

2) My final bit of evidence is the actual EPA certification for this car, as documented on the EPA's website,

Manufacturers choose the fuel that willbe used for the official EPA fuel economy and emissions tests that determine the car's window sticker MPG rating and it's contribution to the parent company'sCAFE score. And make no mistake, those are high-stakes outcomes.

Ifan engine requires 91, they must use 91 for these tests. It the manufacturer thinks 91 will deliver better MPG or emissions, they'll use 91 and make it a requirement. The official EPA results are THAT important to them.

But theDodge Challenger R/T 5.7-liter V8 with a manual trans (our car) was certifed on 87 octane regular gasoline.

Want to see for yourself? Go here, and click on "2009", then "Dodge", then "Challenger", then the third line down labelled "Manual 6-spd, 8cyl, 5.7 L, Regular Gasoline SIL". Actually, you don't need to click the link because it says "regular gasoline" right there. But click it anyway and you'll see "Regular Gasoline" front and center. And that, my friends, is87 octane in EPA-speak.

To recap: a) There's no premium warning on the gas door; b) 91 octane is listed as "preferred" in one part of the manual, not required; c) another page says only that the engine will meet emissions and deliver "excellent fuel economy [Ha!] and performance" on 91 octane, and; d)this engine and transmission combination underwent officialfuel economy and emissions testson 87 octane regular.

Sorry Brent, but I'm peeling off your tape. This thing will run just fine on 87 octane. Dodge is steering us to 91 octane because that's what they used for their advertised 0-60 times and horsepower and torque claims. And we'd use it for our own track tests, too, because track tests are a measure of best performance.

But you can use 87 octane all day if that's what you can afford or if the premium pump is broken at your local station. All you stand to lose is5 or 10 horsepower.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing@ 8,880 miles

To R/T or SRT? That is the question

July 28, 2009

The great hotrodder Hamlet once said, "To R/T or SRT? That is the question." He then went on a vengeful killing spree, but that's not relevant here.

What is relevant for me is the first question, as I am considering getting a Challenger in a couple of years. Perhaps.

But which one shall I pull? — as there are two Challengers from which to choose, and both are bad mothers.

Well, I was fortunate to drive both of them in the last few days, and I think I've made up my mind.

The SRT8has HID headlamps standard, more heavily bolstered seats than the R/T, beautiful standard 20" forged Alcoa aluminum wheels... oh yeah, and a 6.1L pushrod Hemi V8 vs the 5.7L in the R/T.

And that's the thing — when both are equipped with the awesome 6-speed Tremec manuals (and equally awesome clutch), I couldn't feel any discernable difference between the two in straightline performance. Close acceleration numbers have already been shown by Inside Line performance testing.

Can you really tell the difference between 375 and 425 hp? Not me.

The SRT8 also has more heavily bolstered and prettier seats with suede inserts. But I like to sit close to the wheel and found that the bolsters (like on some on other vehicles) interfere with my elbows.

I'll probably get it in black, and on the SRT8 that means no contrasting stripes like on the other colors. Besides, we looked at the stripes on our SRT8 test car and they appeared to be decals(!)

Although the SRT8 is better looking and better performing, there's not enough of a distinction to justify the $10K base or $5K optioned-out price discrepancy.

My answer to the Prince of Denmark'soriginal dilemmaof R/T or SRT? R/T.
However, the SRT8 isstill betterlooking...

So instead of contemplating suicide like my pal Prince Hamlet, I'll continue to ponder R/T or SRT.

(SRT8 with auto trans shown)

Albert Austria Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 8100 miles

Not Too Windy

July 29, 2009

I don't know how this is possible but I just drove home on the freeway at about 70 mph, with the windows down and didn't feel much more than a gentle breeze in the cabin. I'm sure it has to do with aero... something something. I don't really care about the science of it but I do knowthathearing the engine is a total bonus. I'm leaving the windows down everyday.

Brian Moody, Automotive Editor

Simple Gauges Are Better Gauges

August 03, 2009

A weekend in the Dodge Challenger R/T reminded me that when it comes to gauges, simple is always better. This was never really in dispute as I am never wrong, but occasionally one manufacturer or another tries to get to cute and screws things up, like say, Chevrolet and the Camaro.

Thankfully, the Challenger was spared such fakery. As you can see, the gauges are nothing more than black on white dials that are shared with any number of Chrysler products.

An oversight? Not really. The Challenger's original gauges were similar in style, just harder to read. Had Dodge gone overboard in its quest to revisit the past, the added authenticity would have been negligible while usability would have suffered. In this case, the evil eye of the accounting department actually helped the cause. Don't get used to it.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 8,234 miles

Most Worthless/Coolest Feature?

August 11, 2009

This screen is boring, yes? Besides a teeny-weeny map in its place, Dodge lets you change that Ram-encrusted logo with anphoto of your choice. The only other pre-loaded photo is, well, just plain wrong for the Challenger's macho image.

Eeew. That's not right.

After connecting a flash drive to the jack on the front of the center stack,...

delve deep into the Menu, and you'll find the following screens that allow uploading of photos. Touch "My Files."

Then touch "Manage My Pictures" and "Add A Picture"...

from USB...

Repeat the steps to upload more photos, then set your favorite photo as the default photo for the Photo Viewer.

Voila. Here'sare some variations and the final result.

So that was worth it...not. I'll never get those ten minutes back.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 8,816 miles

Wrong Door Handle

August 12, 2009

Note how the Challenger's door handle is of the latch variety and placed on the upward slant of the door. As such, the handle is almost parallel to the ground when lifted. Its underside has a rough texture to it, but there's not enough grip or leverage available to properly open the heavy door. My hand slips off the handle every second time Itry to get into the Challengerand I haven't been alone in this gripe.

It could be a pull-style handle, but that would ruin the retro motif. SoI would suggest moving it to the door's vertical plain instead and making the handle itself bigger.

This isn't a major issue, though, so I've only used my small WRONG stamp.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 8,916 miles

For Those Who Actually Listen to the Radio

August 26, 2009

I have an issue with the radio controls in our 2009 Dodge Challenger. I know, I know. Who needs a radio when you have a perfectly good V8 to listen to? But for those times when you want to switch it up, wouldn't you want to be able to scroll through the radio stations or satellite channels? For some reason I can't figure out how to do that here. The radio controls only offer a knob for volume and sure there are seek buttons, but on the display you can't tell which channel you're landing on. Aarrrrgh!

The steering wheel controls offer the same seek buttons and at least you get the display with station names on the screen behind the steering wheel but what if your passenger wants to be the dj?

The owner's manual mentioned something about a tuning button but do you see one in the first picture above? On the Dodge Web site, though, they do show a picture of a radio setup that has two knobs. OK, we don't have that one so now what?

Eff it. Radio off, windows down.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 9,943 miles


August 30, 2009

Friday night, our Challenger's odometer clicked over 10,000 miles.

The only thing I noticed is the disappointing amount of tread still on the rear tires. I would have thought that, by now, these tires would be as bald as I am. I think this car's been hauling too many handbags and not enough ass.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 10,000 miles

Don't Touch My Seat

September 03, 2009

So last night I was the designated driver for a birthday outing in Long Beach. Figured our 2009 Dodge Challenger would be the perfect vehicle in which to transport the birthday girl and our friends. It's got lots of elbow room, sounds it's all sinister and black, to poke fun at her sadness about turning 30.

Well, that was fun but the only glitch was that at first we didn't know how to get the girl sitting behind me out of the car. For some reason, unlike the front passenger seat, the driver seat doesn't come with a lever on the seatback to move the seat forward. Just the power buttons. And we all know how long those take.

So she ended up exiting and entering through the passenger side at every stop. A minor annoyance but I wondered why it's that way. Does Dodge really think that people have the patience to work the power button to slowly slide the seat forward? And is it a "No one touches the driver seat" thing? You know, because the driver has it all configured the way he/she likes it, so why inconvenience them? Who knows? The owner's manual makes no mention of a secret driver-side lever. Just that, yes, those are the power buttons on the driver seat and that's the lever on the passenger-side seatback.

BTW, yes, the birthday girl cheered up.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,469 miles

Doesn't Skimp on Storage

September 07, 2009

The reborn Dodge Challenger often takes flak for being bigger than it needs to be. On back roads and in tight parking lots, I sometimes wish it wasn't so, um,un-small. But I never wish it had fewer storage slots. Storage space in our long-term Challenger R/T rivalsmost midsize sedans. A quick tour:

1. Center console box (hinged lid tipped back) with USB hookup and ample space for iPod and cord.

2. Oblong open slot provides ample room for key fob (not inserted indash thanks to keyless ignition), assorted house keysand employee ID badge.

3. Dual-depth cupholders. Deeper well houses 800mL stainless steel water bottle so that it doesn't obstruct use of pistol-grip shifter. Shallower well works well for take-out coffee without burying tall (small) double lattes.

4. Random rubberized slot behind shifter holds tin of mints. Or chapstick. Or hand sanitizer. Or plastic caps when adjusting tire pressure.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,666 miles

Replacing the Clutch

September 09, 2009

We purchased our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T back in March of this year. Over the past 6 months we've driven our Challenger more than 10,000 miles andit's taken all we could give. So why are we looking at a picture of its clutch?

Well, just because your brother-in-law says he knows how to drive stick doesn't mean it's true. We loaned our Challenger to the clutch rider for 2 days. That's all he needed to smokeit up.

Anominous stench of clutch was thefirst sign of trouble. So we fired it up. We let out the clutch pedal andfelt asignificantjudder at theengagement point. This wasn'tgood. It was still drivable butclearly upset.There was only one way to get to the bottom of this. Pull the clutch.

Heat scars on opposing sides of the pressure plate painted a clear picture. Ride the pedal and the clutchdisc never truly engages.This causes excessive slippage and generatesmore heatthan the pressure plate and flywheelcan dissipate. The metal surfaces warp, creating high spots. These high spots are marked by theburnt patches.

Similar scarring is evident on the flywheel, as expected. From the first picture in this series you will findthe engine side of theflywheel is alsoblued from theheat.

We opted against a DIY project on this one and that made it a costlyendeavor. All told we paid La Brea Chrysler Jeep $550 in labor for the installation and about $1,100 for parts (pressure plate and clutch disc $417, throwout bearing and sleeve assembly $236, flywheel $464). And now it drives like new.

Oh, and while we were there wesnuck in a 40-dollaroil and filter change.

Days out of service: 8 (waiting for parts)

Cost: $1,800

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 10,500 miles

Why Do I Like This Car?

September 11, 2009

For reasons unknown, I've been driving our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T for the last 5 days. OK, actually, it's because thebig coupegot covered in ashfrom Southern California's Station Fire and I kept neglecting to getit washed.

Yet, I think my laziness might be a window into my growing affinity for the Challenger R/T. I can't quite figure it out. This is not a sporty car. Suspension is soft, steering feel is not really there, and I'd never takethe Dodgeon a back road for the sheer fun of it. And with its 5.9-second 0-60 (5.5 with 1 foot of rollout) and 14.1-second quarter-mile, it's hardly the quickest car out there.

But somehow, every freeway drive I take in our Challenger R/T feels a little bit special.Mostly, I think it's the nicely executed exhaust(see video link below)for the 5.7-liter V8 (376 hp, 410 lb-ft) and the pistol-grip shifter. I've never driven a late-'60s/early-'70s muscle car, but with these two things, I can imagine it and feel a little of what it might be like.The oversize, un-nimble feel of the car and the broad, flat seats add realistic elementsto the experience — or at least in my imagination they do.

And when I get tired of this (not that I ever really do), I can fall back on the Challenger R/T's very compliant highway ride and powerful air-conditioner.

SL Video: Camaro/Challenger/Mustang: Which One Sounds the Best From the Factory?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,727 miles


September 13, 2009

Now that we have the Chevy Camaro, have you forgotten about the Dodge Challenger?

Have you ever looked at them side by side?

2009 Dodge Challenger
Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Horsepower: 372 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 401 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

2010 Chevrolet Camaro
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Horsepower: 426 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm

You can see from the numbers that the Camaro has the bigger engine.

But which car do you prefer?

Our 2009 Dodge Challenger is car of the week.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Big Bruiser, Easy Cruiser

September 14, 2009

I always knew the new Challenger was big, but the point was really driven home when I parked it the other day in a standard, not "compact car only" street parking box. Look at the picture and you can see the beefy Challenger takes up nearly the whole space. At 197.7 incheslong, it's only about fourinches shorter than a Chevy Tahoe!

I was also struck with what a laid-back cruiser this thing is on the freeway — with thattall sixth gear, at 75 mph the engineis just loafing along at 1,750 rpm. With such long strides, it's no wonder thismuscleboundmonster earnsan estimated 24 mpg on the highway.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10,966 miles

Open Thread

September 15, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T?

Are there any details you want a photo of?

Have you driven one? Sat in one? Write a review in the comments section.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Nails the New School, Fails the Old School

September 15, 2009

It's a funny thing about the audio interface in our navigation-equipped 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. If you hook up your iPod, it's great. In fact, this is one of the nicestinterfaces I've ever encountered for browsing albums, artists, playlists and podcasts.

But if you want to do something old-school, like say, listen to an LA Dodgers game on AM radio, the touchscreen interface is a pain in the butt. There's no tuning knob, so you have to tap, tap, tap those arrow "keys" until you get the station you want. (You can't use the buttons on the steering wheel for this function, as they only "seek" between presets, rather than tune.)

You've told me before than I need to ditch my CD collection. And you're probably right on that one. But until Sirius starts offering an MLB package, I can't give up AM radio.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,793 miles

Skip S^#*%

September 16, 2009

In case you didn't know, our Dodge Challenger R/T has a great fuel saving feature known as a skip shift. And by great fuel saving feature I mean TOTALLY WORTHLESS, ANNOYING PIECE OF &*^#!

If this were my Challenger, I'd pull the skip shift wire out, piss on it and send it back to Dodge.

Don't get me wrong, I like this car; it's a total rip. It's so much fun that something as stupid and archaic as a skip shift just becomes that much more annoying. Good thing it's easy to 'fix'.

I know that 4th Gen F-Bodies had this 15 year ago. That's 15, one - five, years ago. I would've thought that would be enough time to make a slightly more efficient 5.7 liter V8. Guess not.

I'm sorry, what? The Camaro still has one?

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 11,086 miles

You can't miss reverse

September 17, 2009

Our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/Tpositionsreverse gear to the upper right, next to fifth.
You can't miss it in thislocation. You also don't have to push down, pull a ring up, or something.
You just move the shifter to the right,ram it up and you're good.

On some vehicles, like our departed cadaver/crayon-smelling M3, reverse is next to first with no lockout. No problem, most of the time. But rush the shift to firstat a red light because you were busy doing something else — let's just say it gets your attention in a hurry.

I never saw this reverse locationbefore we got our Challenger. But the Ford Shelby GT500 andour long-term Camaro share the same reverse position.

For me, it's the best location — by far.

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 11, 200 miles

Official Soundtrack for Pistol-Grip Shifter

September 17, 2009

Last night I found the perfect soundtrack for our manual-shift 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T — Rage Against the Machine's "Pistol Grip Pump."

As always, I like the feel of the pistol-grip shifter on our Challenger R/T's 6-speed. But it's not like you can shift quickly in this car — the throws are looong. So you might as well have some appropriate music playing. Note: This is a "clean" clip from this particular Rage song, so those with sensitive ears needn't worry, and you'll have to crank the volume on your computer to hear anything. As always, enjoy the high-quality, shaky-handheld cinematography.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Meet Your Two-Wheeled Equivalent

September 18, 2009

Sometimes I play a mental game when I get stuck in traffic. As I migrated down Santa Monica Boulevard at a glacial pace last night, the game was afoot. The question posed from one brain hemisphere to the other (yeah, I've got two hemis!) was, "What is the motorcycle equivalent to the Challenger?"

Previous mental meanderings concluded that a Ford Mustang = Ducati Monster, Nissan GT-R = Honda RC-51, BMW M3 = BMW K1300S. Our Challenger's equivalent came to me fairly quickly and allowed me the rest of my drive home to ponder the reasonings.

Dodge Challenger = Harley-Davidson Vrod

1. Both sound great in stock form. A low burble at idle, a loud, brash burst low in the rev range and a muscular chorus higher up.

2. Every time the light turns green, my impulsive little brain stem turn it into a brief drag race, just to feel the initial hit of torque.

3. Both seem to be made for older, bigger pilots. Their seating positions are nearly identical.

4. Both have soft floaty suspensions and low handling limits. Still, they're fun up to, and just past those limits.

5. Long sweeping curves are better than tight twisties in either vehicle.

6. Other drivers seem to give either a bit more respect. I get cut-off a lot less.

7. Both look and feel pretty long.

8. Hundreds of miles in either seat would be no problem.

9. Both represent something unique to their respective brands. The Challenger is the first real retro-styled model for Dodge. The Vrod is Harley's modern interpretation of its past.

10. Both will go through rear tires and fuel like the State of California goes through cash.

Have you got any auto/moto equivalents?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 11,117 miles

Which One?

September 18, 2009

Which one do you think looks better?

Karl's Plum Crazy 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE or our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Gearshifter Guessing Game

September 21, 2009

The pistol-grip shifter on our 2009 Dodge Challenger takes some getting used to. Not for the shape of the shifter but because its canted toward the driver so it's difficult to tell exactly which gear I'm in, even when I glance down at it. For instance, guess which gear the Challenger is in in the above picture? (Answer after the jump.)

Of course this is more of an issue when driving around town, when you're shifting a lot and have short-term memory like I do. It's gotten so that I'm afraid to downshift for fear that I'm going to slot it into 3rd instead of 5th. So now I just shift to neutral and apply the brakes. I wish the dash displayed which gear the car was in.

BTW, I'm still trying to figure out what sets off the 1-4 skipshift so that I won't ever activate it. It doesn't happen when I upshift under 2,000 rpm and sometimes doesn't even happen when the dash reads "Shift 1 --> 4." Editor J to the K said that it's a combination of applied throttle, engine and rpm but most times it just seems random to me.

And if you guessed 4th, you're wrong. It's actually 6th gear. Below is 4th. Yes, they look exactly the same.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 11,207 miles

The Upside of Being Big

October 05, 2009

I recently lamented about the Challenger's largeness (as a lot of us car buffs have). Really, if this thing was 500 pounds lighter, 10 inches less lengthy and a few inchesshorter, it would go a long way towards being more of a pony car/sport coupe competitor. But even the old Challengerwas too big to be considered a pony car, even though its rivals back then were also the Mustang and Camaro.Well, this past weekend I discovered a few practicaladvantages the Dodge has over its familiar rivals.

Me and the girlfriend did some shopping as well as our laundry (see glamorous beauty shot) and the Challenger's trunk easily handled those domestic duties. The Challenger's capacity measures around 16 cubic feet to the Camaro's 11 and the Mustang's 13. And later that evening, four of us went out for dinner and the average-sized adults in backwere quite comfortable, no doubt due to the long wheelbase, ample headroomand high seat cushion. Its rear legroom spec's out at around 33 inches versus 30 inches for the other two. Doesn't seem like much of a difference, but what that spec doesn't tell you is how the Challenger'sseat offers more supportunder one's legs.

So that's all good, butpart of the price paid for that roominess comes upwhile parking. If anyone from Dodge is reading this take note:the Challengerneedsa reverse park assist system (and/or a rearview camera) as the high deck and cheeky rear roof pillarsmake ithard to judge when you're parallel parking or backing into a tight spot in a lot.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 11,886 miles

Every Time

October 06, 2009

"I've got the Challenger tonight. It was that or the 2010 Camaro and I'll take this one every time."

I'm in our parking garage with Oldham and I press on, "It's the kind of car I just want to get in, roll the windows down, plug in my iPod and drive north on PCH until the highway stops or time does."

The pistol grip shifter isn't the most accurate, nor does it have the smoothest motion, but there's no shifter that's more fun to manhandle. Each shift is like opening the floodgates on a dam or flipping the switch on Old Sparky; it's mechanical and raw and when you grab it the muscles in your forearm get all veiney. You shift the Camaro as fast as possible to avoid touching that knob for any longer than is absolutely necessary. The Challenger's shifter belongs in a factory, the Camaro's belong in a kitchen stirring soup.

And then there's the Challenger's seat (which I'll get into in another blog later this week), steering wheel (slightly too wide, but still...), legible gauges, and super-smooth ride (18's > 20's).

There is no competition when it comes to engine, though. The 5.7 here pulls hard and sounds good, but the Camaro trounces the Challenger from the V6 to the SS to the hopefully-someday Z28. The 2010 Camaro might need more aggressive gearing, but there's no denying the merit of that mill.

There are two cars in our fleet I feel this way about. Two cars that whenever I see them I want to hop in, pack some clean clothes and just drive until I'm out of road: One of them is the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, the other is the 2009 Ford Flex.

What that says about me, I'm not sure.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 11,090 miles

How Much Room is Back There?

October 08, 2009

Last week we were asked how much room was in the back of the Camaro. Last week I answered that question: Not much.

This week I thought you'd be interested to see how the Challenger fares.

Much better. If the Camaro fit .78 Riswicks, the Challenger accommodates .98 Riswicks. Legroom is better than the Chevy, but still not impressive (I still had to move the seat up). Head room is obviously way better since I can sit upright and don't look like I'm about to be executed. I'd say it's a bit better than the 135i.

As a bonus, the Challenger adds rear HVAC vents, a center armrestand a little light in the front seatback. There's also a seat belt for a middle passenger, but I'd hate to be that guy.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,951 miles

Some Cars and Songs Are Just Made for Each Other

October 12, 2009

I was enjoying a cruiseup the coast in our Challenger on thishalf-holiday (half the people I know had it off, half didn't) out here in SoCal and was doubly blessed.Grey skies meant an unusually empty PCH, and the Challenger'ssatellite radio meantSpringsteenwas readily available.

With "Ramrod"blaring out of the speakers, I had no choice butto graba 5>3 double downshift and lean into it to addappropriate backing "vocals" when this passage came up: "Well she's a hot-steppin' Hemi with a four on the floor..."

It was all enough to put a smile on my face as wide as the Challenger's grille. Cars like this were meant for songs like that...

What are y'all fave driving songs?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor@ 12,100 miles

If It Was Mine...

October 16, 2009

I like the Challenger, really, I do. If it was mine, though, I'd drop it an inch or so. It rides too high for my tastes, plus, I think it looks better - even a bit more sinister. I'd also have to cut the wheelwells out a bit so the tires won't tuck under the bodywork. Finally, I'd rig together one of those induction tubes from the 2010 Mustang to get some of that wonderful engine noise to blend with the thumpin' sound system.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 12,289 miles

The Tale of Two Hemis

October 16, 2009

(Two vastly different generations of Dodge Hemis. Photo by Andrew Reed.)

I came out yesterday to get in the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T and found it had made a new friend. Or maybeit had become reunited with a long lostrelative.

My neighbor is a big muscle car fanatic; he also has a Viper. He bought this car at a swap meet and has been restoring it. When he fires it up, our whole house shakes.

Anyone know what this is? After the jump there is a better picture of it.

The Choice of 60-Year-Old Professors

October 19, 2009

I ran into my old journalism professor this past weekend and inevitably got to chatting about cars. After decades of buying Buicks (he owned the last Riviera when I met him and owns the 1951 Buick Eight pictured), he finally gave up and bought a pair of his and her Priuses. Well, he no longer likes his. He was about to explain, but judging by intonation I already knew why he didn't like his Prius. It was the same reason I wouldn't like my Prius.

Any way, we chatted about the new LaCrosse and the upcoming Regal. He mentioned he always wanted a Jeep Wrangler, but then I explained that his bad back would disintegrate if he got one of those. Then I asked, "Hey Dr. J, do you know what a Dodge Challenger is? Yeah, want to see one?"

I took him out to see our Challenger, told him to press the ON button and letter fly. He loved it.

"Maybe this is what I should get. Doesn't an old muscle car seem perfect?"

When he told this to his wife, she laughed saying in a very wifely way that this car was more for young guys like me rather than 60-year-old professors. After a second of thought,I then laughed and said, "Actually, this is exactly the type of car for 60-year-old professors. Big, comfy, easy to drive, stonking fast and he can remember the original one."

She still wasn't sold, but I know he'll be liking his Prius even less now.

UPDATE: Since so many of you noticed and complained about my little Photoshop job/error above, please see new and improvedversion after the jump.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 12,457 miles

More Hollywood Than Beverly Hills

October 20, 2009

In L.A., there a strip of pavement that runs from Hollywood to the beach called Sunset Boulevard. It's a straight four-lane cruising run as it runs through Hollywood, then turns into a serpentine snake as it climbs up and over Beverly Hills. On an evening dinner run on both sections of Sunset, I learned quite a bit about our big black Challenger.

You don't have to drive like a maniac on the twisty parts of Sunset to get a feel for a car. Turn into a bend just a little late to pitch the car a bit more aggressively and you'll have a good idea of how it'll handle. In the curves, the Challenger feels floaty and the steering is way too light, but it's surprisingly obedient, tracking through the left-rights and ups-downs like a much sportier car. Yes, it can take the curves, but no, I don't enjoy the experience.

Then there's the straight sections of Sunset - Hollywood. Cruising past Mel's Diner and the Whisky-a-go-go, I realized, THIS is what the Challenger does best. It's a got a presence about it that few cars have — something scary, sinister and foreboding. It even turned the head of a Bugatti Veyon driver! If only Hollywood had a drive-in diner...

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 12,465 miles

Looking Back

October 22, 2009

Everyone likes to think "the old days" were better. In many ways they were — common courtesy was actually common, gas was under a bucka gallon andthe musicians whomade the Billboard Top Ten actuallypossessed musical talent.But in others they weren't better; there was civil unrest, more pollution and no internet. But I digress...

Muscle car guys — and I've been guilty of this too — like to think 1970 was the pinnacle of performance, at least that of the straight-line acceleration kind. Well, it was for a long time, what withthe LS6 Chevelle,455 Stage 1 Gran Sport and 426 Hemi Cudas and Challengers. Long story short, I was curious as to how our modern "small"5.7-liter Hemi Challenger (as opposed to the SRT's 6.1-liter Hemi) stacks up againstits larger-than-life1970 426 Hemi forebear. And yes, I know our long-termerbenefits from four additional decades of tire, suspension and brake technology advancements...

As a bonus, here'sa link to our history lesson on the Challenger (and its Plymouthcousin, the Barracuda).

2009 Challenger R/T Hemi:1970 Challenger R/T Hemi:

0-60 MPH: 5.5 sec 5.8 sec
1/4 Mile: 13.9 sec 14.0 sec
60-0 Braking: 128 ftHuh?

Slalom:64.7 mph What?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor

Look Again

October 25, 2009

Our Dodge Challenger's number is up again. It's getting another turn as car of the week.

You know, one of the best parts of Inside Line's redesign, IMHO, is the photo galleries feature.

Go back to the Introduction of the Dodge Challenger and look at all the photos in full-screen mode. Follow this link. You won't be disappointed.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Plum Crazy

October 26, 2009

Plum Crazy pearl coat paint will be available for the 2010 Challenger R/T and Challenger SRT8.

It's a traditional color that will bring back fond memories for you original Challenger lovers out there.

Now, how about the other oldies likeSublime and Go-Mango. We want them all.

Read the full story on Inside Line's News section:

In the Air Tonight

October 26, 2009

As a child of the 80's, I was struck by the visual richness of Miami Vice. One scene in particular stuck with me through the years. It was from the pilot episode, a Tuxedo-black Daytona Spyder zooming down the streets of Miami, with Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight playing in the background.

Here is my photographic homage to that scene with our Challenger R/T.

And here's the original scene, complete with kitschy 80's style and weak dialogue. Click through to see the other two shots. I really wish I had a stronger camera rig to get the nose back shot that Michael Mann had on the Daytona, though. And for the record, yes, I was listening to In the Air Tonight as I shot these.

Open Thread

October 27, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T?

Have you driven one, sat in one, seen one on the road? Write your review in the comments section.

Any details you want us to take photos or video of?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Missing Buttons

October 27, 2009

Perhaps it was an overzealous vacuum-wielding car-wash employee. Maybe the seatbelt has been waiting for just the right set of circumstances to pluck-off the cover. Whatever the case, the seat-bottom adjuster cover has gone AWOL. I checked under the seat, in the glove box, in the center console and found Bupkiss. I also noticed the linkage on the 6-speed manual shifter has a bunch more slack and wiggle in it than last time I drove the Challenger.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 12,695 miles

12,000-mile Service

October 28, 2009

Last week we had our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T serviced at La Brea Chrysler Jeep. We were a little off schedule, so this appointment satisfied the 12,000-mile maintenance interval and put things back on track. As expected, it included an oil and filter change, air filter replacement, tire rotation and various safety inspections. But it was pricey.

Total cost: $179.47

Days out of service: 0

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 12,411 miles

Why I Like It Better Than the Camaro

October 28, 2009

Yeah, I didn't think I would. The Camaro has all the right specs on paper and it looks pretty good in person. But I got in the Challenger last night after driving the Camaro for a couple days and it simply suits me better.

You don't feel like you're sitting so low in the car and the controls all work together more naturally. Sure, the Challenger feels huge from behind the wheel, but the Camaro is no Caterham either. I like the power delivery of the Hemi too, comes on stronger out of the hole. I know the Camaro is faster and all, but it doesn't always feel like it.

Strangely enough the Challenger's interior works for me too. There's nothing very retro about it either . It's just simple, not gimmicky, it works.

I'm not saying that the Camaro won't grow on me in the coming months, but for now I'd take the Challenger instead.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 12,761 miles

More Thoughts on the Big Trunk

October 29, 2009

Every time I open the trunk of our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, I get a bit of a shock. It's a wider and deeper hold than I've been conditioned to expect in a coupe, and published capacity is an impressive 16.2 cubic feet.

Still, a few cargo tie-downs, or grocery bag hooks, or a cargo net would greatly improve its functionality. As it is, I end up stuffing grocery bags (and, yes, melons) into the cabin since there's no way to corral anything. I checked the Mopar accessories site and came up dry — the only extra you can get is a trunk mat. So real owners might have to use some creativity here.

Just seeing the trunk, though, makes me wonder why I haven't taken our Challenger on one of my road trips. Plenty of room for my stuff here, and I certainly like the way the big coupe rides. I also like the way it moves out in traffic (with a downshift or two) but then settles back into its customarily serene cruising demeanor (with an upshift to 6th). So, no reason for delay:I'm planning a road trip for November.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,842 miles

My 2nd Favorite Sound

October 30, 2009

The exhaust note in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is pretty special, but after that there's the horn. This video doesn't do it justice (maybe we'll put a real mic to it one of these days), but it's one of the loudest and most satisfying horns I've ever used in anger. It's perfect for a large black coupe. "You will respect my authoritah!" I've been heard to quote...

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Distance to Empty? Wouldn't You Like to Know...

November 02, 2009

Over the weekend, I ran into the same issue on our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T that we've had with our Evolution X MR and Evo GSR. The "distance to empty" meter stops counting down the miles once youdrop belowa certain threshold.

In our Challenger R/T, that threshold is 30 miles, and it seems to be timed with the low fuel warning light. That light (off to the left) came on at the 347.5-mile mark in this trip.

On the upside, the lack of DTE functionality isn't such an annoyance in theDodge, which actually has some fuel range, thanks to its 19-gallon tank and respectable 25-mpg highway rating (though of course it rates only 16 in the city).

I ended up with 19.8 mpg on this 365.8-mile tank and I put in 18.468 gallons. I have to think, though, that the 19-gallon "capacity" is a rounded-down estimate. Hard to believe I was really a mere half-gallon from running dryfewer than 20 miles after the low-fuel warning light illuminated. Still, this tank bodes well for my upcoming road trip in the Challenger: Our longesttank so far is 396.8 miles (as driven by Brent Romans), so 400 should be attainable.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,007 miles

Steering Wheel Gets a Pass, Barely

November 05, 2009

I have yet to get tired of looking at our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. Yeah, I get that its stance is too high with the stock suspension, and I'm not a huge fan of the wheels, but look at this rear-quarter panel — it's luscious. I also have yet to get tired of driving the car. It rides like some kind of personal luxury coupe, yet it makes all kinds of wonderful, noisy sounds when you accelerate hard or execute a heel-and-toe downshift.

However, I do not like the steering wheel in our Challenger R/T. I also didn't like it our long-term Magnum R/T, nor have I liked it any Charger or Chrysler 300 I've driven. It's not that it's too big. The steering ratio is not quick in this car (it's listed at 16.1:1 in the specs), so turning the front wheelsis a leisure activity anyway. It's the squared off spokes that ride up too high for a comfortable grip at 9-and-3.

The Challenger's steering wheel only gets a pass because we have a Camaro to kick around.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,040 miles

Baby Steps and Leaps

November 09, 2009

If Goldilocks happens to score the keys to our Challenger, she could be bumming. Sometimeswith theChallenger's navigation system, the "just right" setting on the map scale is elusive. Case in point: although the system offers more than enough increments on the low (zoomed in) end (e.g. you have 150 yds and then250 yds), the midrange adjustment is lacking. It jumps from 1/2 mile to 2 miles.

So sometimes you're eitherlooking in too close or you'retoo far away to see the somewhat major roadwaysyou may be looking for. Say, the ones that would be visible if this thinghad a 1 mile setting.Other than that minor quibble, I find this nav system easy to use with its logical interface and clear vocal/visual prompts.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 13,287 miles.

What Would a Texan Drive?

November 13, 2009

"WWTD," right? Isn't that what those bracelets say? Well, in any case, I know what I'd drive if I were a Texan: a Challenger R/T. No question about it.

The Challenger is frankly out of its element in the concrete jungle, as you might expect from a coupe that's longer than a Pontiac G8. Parallel parking is a particularly harrowing experience. But on the open road, are you kidding me? Short of maybe a Benz CL65 AMG or something comparably ridiculous, what would you rather be driving? The Challenger R/T is extraordinarily smooth and quiet at speed, its looming visagereliably scares the hoi polloi out of the fast lane, andits sonorousV8 deliversa burly low-end punch that's conspicuously absentfrom the Camaro SS. Oh, and it also seats four adults in comfort and swallows everyone's luggage with ease.

Forget full-size pickup trucks — this thing should be the official vehicle of Texas.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 13,366 miles

From the Other Side

November 14, 2009

386 miles each way. Assuming I don't, intentionally or not, get lost.

A few weeks ago, I took this drive northward, girlfriend in tow. The Challenger, I thought, would be a great partner:excellenthighwayride, good stereo, nav, comfy seats,passing power,doesn't draw the ire of theHighway Patrol.

And I was, as usual, correct. The 2009 Challenger R/T was a great pick. Each time I do along drive in this car, I'm glad once again that we didn't opt for the harsh, silly-looking SRT-8.Unfortunately my passenger, who was along for the ride when I took the Long Term Flex back to Boston, wasn't so thrilled.

"Up until the 500-mile mark, this was one of my favorite cars."She says.

"What happened then?"

"The seat. It's fine for a short trip. But the back doesn't line up with the bottom right and there aren't enough adjustments to makeit livable."

While the driver seat is 8-way power adjustable, the passenger seat is not.

So next time I go cross country — unless i go solo — the Challenger is, unfortunately, off the list.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

iPod Facepalm

November 21, 2009

For a while now I've criticized the iPod interface in Dodge products as being acceptable, but lacking in one critical feature: A way to scroll to higher letters without having to navigate through 100 pages of artists.

Well, turns out Dodge has been ahead of me this whole time. While my attention has been focused on the up/down arrows that scroll four artists at a time, there, between the arrows was a button I wasn't aware of. Hitting that A-Z tab brings up a full keyboard that lets you pick artists, but only by the first letter. Z brings up Zox first, which is one of four "z" artists I have on my iPod, so there is still some scrolling, but this is helpful.

As for the months I've been doing this wrong....*facepalm*

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant


November 25, 2009

I soooooo didn't want to like the new Challenger

I even brought it home and invited some friends over so we could all sit around and mock its gargantuan proportions, completely uncreative and uninspired throwback styling and downright depressing interior. But after a few hours and more than a few cheap tacos, something very unexpected happened.

We all liked it. It's just so honest.

Especially in our car's R/T trim, there's no pretense made by the styling. It's not some over styled street-tough like the Camaro. The interior's nothing special, but it works. Dodge didn't try to trick you into thinking this car is sporty either by leaving that huge steering wheel in your lap. The suspension's soft and the sidewalls are tall, but in return you get a pretty nice ride on ANY surface and side benefit, you get to squeal and spin the tires around slow corners. Did I mention you can hear the tires break loose as you grab third gear? Yeah, that doesn't hurt either.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 14,306 miles

I Love Road Trips

November 25, 2009

Over the weekend, I put 1,100+ miles on our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. It was a rushed trip, but an enjoyable trip, and I'll be posting a couple more entries about it this week.

For now, I'll say that the Challenger is an excellent road trip car when you'retraveling solo. Is it too much car for the task? Oh, most definitely. But the combination of big, usable torque (401 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm, but plenty below that), a compliant ride quality and soft but adequately supportive seating (for the driver) make for a blissful journey up the interstate.

And frankly, the 19-gallon gas tank is great, too. If you're disciplined enough to keep it at 75 mph in this car, you're looking at close to 500 miles of range. Even at my worst, 400 miles on a tank was easy. Gas mileage bragging will come in tomorrow's post.

There's also a big sensory component to driving the Challenger R/T. You look out over its long, black hood, as you hold its oversize steering wheel, as the sun fades north of Sacramento, and is life really so bad? I think not.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,221 miles

15,000 Miles En Route to Phoenix

November 27, 2009

Greetings from that mecca of global culture, Goodyear, Ariz. Home to a Target, a Macaroni Grill, the Cleveland Indians and the parents of one James Tiberius Riswick.

In the past twoThanksgiving journeys out here,I've written letters to myself in the future to warn against repeating that year's calamities. Leaving stupidly on Wednesday in the G35 for one, and leaving my wallet behind the other. This year, I'm happy to report that I heeded my own advice and no such letter is warranted. I won't need to reiterate to myself next year that I should just celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.Outside of an unfortunate accident-caused traffic jamjust outside of Ontario, my Tuesday trip went muck-up-free.

In fact, this was the best Thanksgiving trip thus far largely thanks to a marvelous road trip companion — our Dodge Challenger. I've been meaning to take it a long distance ever since I decided it wasn't solely just a car for balding, 50-year-old men in Tommy Bahama shirts pining for days gone by. It's powerful, the ride is excellent, the stereo is awesome and the trunk is huge (more on that Monday). People are also apt to notice you and clear out of your way. The more I drive the Challenger the moreI like it and the more I think Dodge nailed the muscle car thing perfectly — making a 6-hour cross-desert road trip is far more important for this sort of car than trying to make it handle well.

The Challenger hit 15,000 miles somewhere west of Blythe, Calif., but since it was pitch dark outside I couldn't take the picture while driving and didn't think it was safe (or important enough) to pull over just to nab the money shot. I lack Dan Edmunds' devotion. Sorry.

More on driving through the dark in the desert later this weekend.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,000 miles (sort of)

Headlights and Blinkers

November 30, 2009

As I mentioned this weekend, I had the opportunity to drive the Challenger at night through the desert. This was a perfect test of its headlights, which I thought were sufficient for the desert's pitch black darkness. Despite not being xenons, the wash of light was consistent and bright enough. I wasn't as enamored with the high beams, though. They aren't particularly brighter than the regular lights, just whiter in light and the beam casts itself higher toward tall shrubs and big reflective signs. I didn't find the high beamsuseful and stuck with the regular headlights.

Fast forward several days when I was driving in a torrential downpour on I-10 just east of Palm Springs. The cabin was quite noisy.I was concentrating on the treacherousroad ahead. The turn signal indicators are buried on the far left and right of the instruments and in a dim yellow color. You guessed it, I turned into Grandpa with his turn signal on for 157 miles.Thankfully, I didn't get that farbecause the Challenger has a pleasant feature that dings you the standard warning chime shared with the low fuel light and displays a "Turn Signal On" warning in the trip computer. What a smart feature.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,562 miles

Fake-Time Traffic

December 02, 2009

According to the nav screen's traffic report, this strip of eastbound I-10 is suffering from "yellow" traffic conditions. However,according to me, it was suffering from "red" traffic conditions. At least that's what stop-and-go traffic seems like to me. There was also no mention of the eight-car fender benderold enough thatall the cars had been moved off to the side, or the stalled Toyota Celica a mile back further mucking up traffic.

Later in the week, I was sitting in stop-and-go "red" traffic south of Palm Springs, yet the nav traffic screen was still showinggreen lines. Later still, a portion of the westbound Highway 60 was showing green, but it was yellow at best. Laterer still, the 60 was showingyellow, yet I decided to take my chances that the system was full of crap. Sure enough, I cruised through yellow at75 mph. A call to a friend confirmed there was nothing reported on Google Maps or SigAlert.

In the above paragraph's cases, Sirius' LA traffic station wasn't reporting any issuesin the described areas, which leads me to believe thisunreliability is caused by the source rather thanDodge's navigation system.However, past cars' systems seemed reliable enough and I have to wonder how long before an OEM utilizes Google for real-time traffic rather than satellite radio given its superior perceived reliability (according to me) and its coverage of surface streets.

Whatever the reason, though, there was absolutely nothing real aboutthe Challenger's real-time traffic.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,562 miles

Not So Serious Traffic

December 03, 2009

Driving to the L.A. Auto Show yesterday in the 2009 Dodge Challenger I hit stop-and-go traffic on the 10 freeway. No surprise there. But while sitting still with everyone else I noticed the real-time traffic icon on the top right corner of the screen and thought I'd get a report. As you can see from the photo above, there was plenty of congestion all around me, and on both sides of the freeway.

But you'd never know it from the Sirius Traffic service that's part of the Challenger's nav system.

As James Riswick pointed out in a post yesterday (and his commenters confirmed), it's almost expected that subscription-based "real-time traffic" services don't always operate in real time. That's because the service aggregates traffic info from multiple sources. So there's usually a significant lag time. And aggravation if you're relying on it for accurate info.

While I didn't have a route programmed (the Challenger's nav system is configurable so you can get general traffic messages or ones specific to your route), not reporting on the traffic all around me — and in a spot that's typically bottleneck-prone — is inexcusable.

A one-year subscription to Sirius Traffic is included when you pop for the $1,390 uconnectGPS option on the Challenger, and after that it costs $16.94 a month or $190.33 annually. Save your money and listen to local radio traffic reports instead. Or get it free from Google.

Speaking of which, I was also testing Google Maps Navigation (Beta) on the Verizon DROID as a follow up to an Edmunds road test on iPhone nav apps. After several unsuccessful attempts at programming a route to the L.A. Convention Center on the fly just to see if the Sirius Traffic reports would change — and being stymied by the Challenger's system since you can't punch in a route while the car is in motion, which is probably a good thing — I hit an icon on the DROID and said "Navigate to the LA Convention Center."

Within seconds the DROID plotted my route. And showed traffic along the way.

No wonder in-dash nav is going the way of the dinosaurs.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology,

You Talk, It Listens

December 06, 2009

I test a lot of Bluetooth hands-free phone systems. I also test a lot of voice-activation systems. But few work as well together as the uconnect and Voice Recognition systems in our long-term Challenger R/T.

It's a snap to pair a phone, all using VR and even while the car is moving. And no matter what name I throw at it, the VR system gets it right almost every time — unlike systems in cars costing much more.

I typically test a voice-activated Bluetooth system using names in my address book that I think will trip it up, and usually end up calling Edmunds exec ed Paul Seredynski. While in the Challenger last week, several times I'd just hit the uconnect phone button on the right side of the radio and say, "Call Paul Seredynski, mobile." The VR system would then ask, "Call Paul Sere-dine-ski, mobile. Is that correct?" I'd say yes and the next thing I'd hear after a ring is Paul asking "What do you want?"

I wish all BT/VR systems worked this well and were this easy. And were standard equipment like uconnect on the Challenger.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology,

Belated Road Trip MPG

December 07, 2009

Some days I ago I wrote here that I'd takena 1,000-mile road trip to Willows, California, in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, but I neglected to follow up with fuel economy totals. That changes today.

Totaltrip mileage was 1,277 miles and the Challenger went through 61.266 gallons for an average of 20.8 mpg against an EPA rating of 16 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. The combination of a big gas tank (19 gallons),the six-speed manual transmission'sconservative top gear (0.50) and the 3.73 final drive (it would be 3.91 if we'd gotten the 20-inch wheels) give the oversized coupe incredible range on the highway.

My longest tank spanned 390.9 miles, after which I put in 17.054 gallons for an average of 22.9 mpg.

I backed off on my usual manic pace for most of the nighttime drive back to Los Angeles. Keeping a 75-mph pacesignificantly reduced consumption, and I averaged 25.8 mpg over 342.3 miles (putting in 13.270 gallons). This is impressive, considering our Dodge weighs two tons and doesn't have cylinder deactivation.Had I been able to wait longer to fuel up, I would easily have seen 450 miles on this tank. (Oddly, no one has ever driven more than 396.8 miles on a single tank inour Challenger R/T.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,079 miles

Ride Could Be, Should Be Quieter

December 09, 2009

OK, this is the one thingI don't like about driving our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T hundreds of miles in a sitting: There's too much road noise.

And while that doesn't stop me from hearing the engine (fortunately) or my music (thanks to the upgrade amp and Boston Acoustics speakers that came with our tester's $1,260 Electronics Convenience group), it does detract from the car's otherwise luxurious cruising character. I don't mean to suggest the Challenger's road noise reaches 370Z levels. Rather,our Dodge is agreat road trip car that could stand to be a couple notches quieter.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,140 miles

Five for Flinching

December 10, 2009

So I was down in our parking garage this morning and started up our 2009 Dodge Challenger when its initial rumble ended up setting off the "wee-ooh wee-ooh wee-ooh" alarm of the car parked next to me.That was so funny I had to do it four more times.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Headlights On With Wipers

December 14, 2009

Something rare and strange happened this past weekend in Southern California: It rained...a lot.

Here in California, the law says you must turn on your headlights when you use your windshield wipers. And according to an AAA legal expert I asked, Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) do no count because: 1) DRLs and are not legally defined as headlights and; 2) headlight use also turns on the taillights and side markers, which is just as crucial if being seen by other cars is the whole point.

California is by no means alone in this. Headlight use is specifically required during periods of rain or when wipers are in use in a grand total of 23 states representing 185 million people out of a possible 304 million, the total population according to the 2008 US census. In other words, 61% of you are required to turn your headlights on when it's raining during daylight hours

Furthermore, an additional 74.7 million of you must use headlights whenever weather reduces visibility to less than a certain specified distance, usually 500 or 1000 feet. The wording of these laws stops short of specifically tying headlight use to wiper use. But I'm not sure how one is supposed to measure visibility while on the move, so headlight use in rain is at least implied. Taking this view, that brings the total up to 259.9 million out of 304 million, some 85%.

So why is it that very few carmakers tie the wipers and headlights together, like our 2009 Dodge Challenger?

More after the jump...

As you can see, "Headlamps On with Wipers" is one of the driver-selectable settings found in the Challenger's vehicle information center. If you turn this feature on and place the headlight switch in the "auto" mode, the headlights will come on in daylight after 10 seconds of wiper use. The delay is there to prevent the headlights from illuminating if one is merely cleaning the window, a type of wiper use that does not require headlights in any of the state laws I perused.

But with 61% of the car-buying public subject to a specific requirement that headlights be on with wipers (and another 24% implied by reduced-visibility language), I think all automakers should consider providing such a feature, but there aren't many who have seen the light, so to speak.

Specifically-required states as of December 2009: CA, NY, IL, FL, IN, KS, NC, MO, PA, MD, OH, SC, LA, GA, AR, CT, ME, MN, NJ, OR, RI, TN, VA = 23 states, 185.2 million (61% of US population)

Implied by visibility states: AK, CO, ID, IA, KT, MA, MI, MS, MT, NH, NM, OK, SD, TX, UT, WA, WV, WY = 18 states, 74.7 million (24% of US population)

All of the recent Chrysler products I have tested have this feature, but I'm not currently able to recall which other high-volume brands bother with it. Who among you has this type of setup on your car? What do you make of it? And is your state talking about joining the 61%?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,348 miles

Afraid of the Dark

December 15, 2009

I love the Challenger. I really do. There are just a few things that bug me about it — they're all pretty minor and I'm sure that if I owned and drove the car on a regular basis they wouldn't even be an issue. See the dark picture above? Find the start/stop button. I dare ya'. I triple-dog dare ya'.

Can't find it, right? That's because it's not illuminated, not even when the lights are on. When you get in at night, you've got to feel your way through the darkness, then hold the button down until it starts. With most other push button starters, a quick tap will bring the engine to life. When you park the Challenger in the dark, it's just as difficult to find the button to shut it down. Note to Chrysler and their Italian overlords, "per piacere, illuminare il pulsante."

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 16,360 miles

Amped Up Trunk

December 21, 2009

File this under the "it didn't look that big in the brochure" category, but when I ordered the Onkyo TX-NR1007 I didn't figure on needing a special vehicle to transport it home.Honestly I figured it would be delivered to my door, but after missing FedEx two days in a rowI decided to go get it myself in our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T.

No big deal, right? It's an A/V receiver, not a big-screen TV. But between the receiver's official box and the (much-appreciated)packaging used to keep it from being damaged by the racketball sessions regularlyheldin FedEx cargo centers it was a tight fit. The packing box was 26 by 26 by 16 inches, which meant the receivercompletely filledthe Dodge's cargo bay.

Both the trunk opening and its interior dimensions accommodated the receiver, but with little room to spare. More challenging was gettingthe Onkyoback out, as the receiver weighs 65 pounds and the high lift-overforced me to usethe wrong muscles during retrieval.

On the upside, those 65 pounds directly over the rear axle did wonders for the car's traction during high-rpm clutch dumps...I'm assuming.

I also must note the Challenger's hill-hold feature that keeps the car stationarywhen the pavement isn't level. I'm used tosuch premium treatment when driving a BMW, but it's an unexpected delight in an American muscle car.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief@ 16,529 miles

There is no doubt

December 22, 2009

Here's a pic of a red Challenger R/T to keep you in the Christmas spirit.

There's been a lot of Long-Term Blog activity recently on our dink cars — the Fit, Insight, Mini E, and the SX4.

And while these petite vehicles may have their charms (a few), I prefer our long-term Challenger R/T, especially when it comes to the engine and exhaust sound.

With thoseeconomy,hybrid, and electric cars, youcan barely tell if they're running, even when you're moving.

But with the Challenger R/Tand its glorious 5.7L Hemi V8 — there is no doubt.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer@ 16,650 miles

Back to Vegas 2010 CES

January 04, 2010

I'm heading back to Vegas, this time in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. I'll be going for the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (more commonly known as CES).

I chose the Challenger for its prescence and comfortable ride.It's well-suited for Vegas.

I'll be posting some interesting tidbits on Straightline starting this Wednesday. And my colleague Senior Technology Editor Doug Newcomb will be covering the show on Edmunds Daily.

So make sure you check us out!

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer

Drive It Again For The First Time

January 04, 2010

Challenger, right ... the slow one with the limp handling ... bigger than a G8 for godsakes ... Camaro and Mustang always seem to win the comparos ...

No. Wait. Stop your brain right there. You cannot, I repeat, cannot think of the Challenger as a wannabe Camaro or Mustang. Comparing this thing to the other so-called muscle cars is like comparing a Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe to, well, anything. Because the Challenger is in a class of one. It's awesomely, unapologetically, enormouslyAmerican. It's a rolling middle finger to the Honda/BMW generation, i.e., the ones whose idea of a good time is a firm suspension and a shortage of low-end torque. It's what the Cadillac coupe should be.

It's the kind of car that I thought — feared — this country didn't know how to make anymore.

To take a Challenger R/T 6MT on a multi-day road trip, as I did up the coast to Monterey last week, is to realize that this is the most authentic slice of Americana to hit dealerships in decades. The highway ride is downright pillowy, which makes the 64.7-mph slalom speed on slippery tires even more impressive. The seats, front and back, are wide and comfy. The cabin is living-room quiet. Elevated speeds are conveyed by the speedometer needle, not by any loss of dynamic composure. This isn't some rough-around-the-edges burnout machine; no sirree. It's a personal luxury coupe in the grand American tradition, with modern handling capabilities thrown in for kicks.

As for the powertrain, "Amen" is what I have to say about that. Unlike the Camaro's strangled LS3, the Challenger's 5.7-liter Hemi always sounds right, whether burbling distantly at 1,600 rpm (which is where the hilariously tall sixth gear puts you at 70 mph) or roaring toward its lovably low 5,700-rpm redline. The pistol-grip shifter feels meaty and delivers satisfying throws through tolerably notchy gates. Throttle response is surprisingly sharp and intuitive when matching revs, and I much prefer the Challenger's clutch to the Camaro's or 370Z's. I wouldn't mind a little more power at higher velocities, where it feels like the Challenger's weight and aerodynamics are getting in the Hemi's way, but overall this is one of the most engaging engine/transmission pairings out there.

Dislikes? Well, I guess I'm with just about everyone else in finding the Challenger's interior design disappointingly uninspired for such an inspiring car. But honestly that's the only thing I really wish I could change, and even so, I still appreciate the soft-touch dash, which complements the car's upscale driving character. Call me a chubby dude working at Home Depot, but I would totally buy this car. Take one on a trip and tell me you wouldn't do the same.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 17,590 miles

The Chills

January 07, 2010

Forgive me, but the above picture is of the Tremec TR-6060 as it appears in a Camaro SS, but you get the idea. This post, unfortunately, is about our Challenger's own TR-6060.

I had our Challenger about a week ago, and as much as I didn't want to, I parked it outside.

I don't know how cold it got, our thermometers in Southern California only go down to 55 degrees, but at around 9 am the following morning our Challenger was nearly impossible to shift. Any attempt to shift into second was met with a slow, but equally loud, thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk. Eventually, after about four or five thunks, it would slot into gear only to suffer the same ordeal when attempting to shift into third. After a few of these painfully awkward shifts, I decided to dust off my seldom used double clutch upshift.

Amazingly, ten years after I last used did it, the double clutch shift worked and the gear lever slotted into second without protest. Ditto for third.

The thunking dissipated as the car, and the gearbox, warmed up but was still perceptible and occasionally caused a sloppy and abrupt upshift - but only into second and third gears. The other gears worked without protest, even in the cold morning leading me to come to a few possible conclusions.

1. The synchros might be lunched. These are the gears people want to 'power shift' and since that fast shifting goes completely against the grain of this transmission, enough over-aggression has cause the synchros to wear down and cry uncle. Remember, there are 30+ people of varying abilities who have access to these cars and not everybody is as awesome as I am.

2. The tranny fluid might be ill-suited for cooler temps. I find that hard to believe in that this happened in Southern California which never gets that cold. If that's the case, I can't imagine what this car would be like in North Dakota.

3. The floor mat might be keeping the clutch pedal from being full depressed and thus keeping the clutch from becoming fully disengaged. If that were true, the other gears would be just as recalcitrant as second and third.

So basically, I don't know.

What do you guys think?

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 17,630 miles

Stubborn Unlocking

January 12, 2010

... or perhaps stubbornly locked. Either way, pressing the unlock button on our longterm 2009 Dodge Challenger's key fob issomething of a crapshoot.This morning I gave it a good five presses before it relented.

Maybe the battery's going dead? Dunno about that — locking and/or trunk-ing works fine.

That, and the Ram's key fob misbehaves in the same manner, too. Could be coincidence, but I doubt it.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Vegas Valets Like It

January 13, 2010

Oneof the things I love aboutLas Vegas is that valet parking is free — at all theswank hotels.

The valets at those hotels see just about every high-ballin' car out there. This past summer, during one visit alonewe spotted several NBA players by the pool — you can just imagine what they drive. And at the 2010 CES this past week, anew blacked-out Aston DBSwas parked in my hotel's driveway.

But nearly every time I pulled up in our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T last week,I was greeted with questions and compliments from the valets.

"I like those," I overheard one valet say to another. "Howdo you like it?" and "It's nice" were accompanied by enviousstares at the Challenger.

Rollin' in the Challenger on the Las Vegas Strip — I was never ashamed on my ride. And some other visitors must have agreed, as I saw severalin The Venetian hotel parking garage.

I'm not sure if they were also there for CES, as another major convention was occurring nearly simultaneously (ahem).

For me, the Dodge Challenger has the most presence of any vehicle under 40 grand.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 18,500 miles

Due for Service

January 13, 2010

Just the other morning our 2009 Dodge Challengergreeted us with aservice reminder. Dodge products are on a 6,000-mile recommended service interval. So it was really no surprise considering our last visit to the dealer came at the 12,000-mile mark.

Expected maintenance for this visit includes new oil andfilter, diff fluidinspection and a tire rotation. In our town that runs about 90 bucks. We'll schedule the appointment and let you know how it goes.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 18,533 miles

The Seats to Beat

January 14, 2010

Dodge really nailed it when it comes to the seats in the Challenger. They're super comfortable — not too mushy, just nicely firm. And the black stitched leather looks amazing — these photos don't even begin to do it justice. Every time I slide behind the wheel, it's as if I'm settling into one of these things...

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 18,660 miles

I can find the fob

January 17, 2010

I can find the key fob. Can you find it? Our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T can not.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant

Maintenance Reminder and Startup

January 18, 2010

Note the chime, the extended display and the two-stage reminder system. The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T does maintenance reminding well.

Oh, right, it's in for service for this and the key fob. Will post results next week.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 18,670 miles

Hemi Power More Refined Than You Think

January 20, 2010

After driving the Audi S5 all weekend, I thought the Dodge Challenger R/T might be a huge letdown. It wasn't.

Even after almost 19,000 miles, the Challenger still feels tight and well built. The doors slam shut with a solid thud and there aren't any noticeable squeaks and rattles.

The smoothness of its drivetrain is especially impressive. Sure, the big ol' Hemi is a pretty crude engine compared to the Audi's V8, but it doesn't feel that way from behind the wheel. It pulls smoothly from right off idle and doesn't get the least bit harsh at higher rpm. Other than the slightly rubbery shifter, the Challenger feels every bit as enjoyable in the drivetrain department.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 18,822 miles

May I Call You The Beast?

January 22, 2010

This isa goodweek to drive our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. It has rained for six days straight so the roads are damp as they can be. And after almost 19,000 miles, the Challenger'sall-season Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 tiresare finally showing some wear. Itdoesn't take much to break them loose.

Recently, I watched The Beast, the documentary about actor Eric Bana's Falcon GT. It's about a long-term relationship with a '74 Ford Falcon GT. It began when Bana saved up to buy the car in high school after watching Falcons tear around Australia's Bathurst circuit, and itculminates a couple decades later when Bana, the successful actor, overhauls the car to race in the Targa Tasmania Rally.

It's a moving story in the way that stories about long-term relationships with cars usually are. I've been wondering if I should start a long-term relationship with a Challenger R/T. The more I drive this car, the moreI like it. And with a few key upgrades, perhaps I could transform it into a car I'd want to go around corners in...

But first I'd have to deal with the clutch. I've put a lot of miles on our Challenger, and I still cannot stand the clutch takeup. Now I know I've just incriminated myself as the "brother-in-law" who lunched the car's original clutch. I swear that wasn't me. But I do swear about this clutch, all the time, because the vague engagement point, combined with the slightly delayed throttle response, drives me up the wall. I do not abide.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

Note to Fiat — This Is Your Best Nameplate

January 25, 2010

If you went to this month's Detroit Auto Show, you might have gotten the impression that Fiat executives really aren't as sure about Chrysler's product plan as they claimed to be last November. How else to explain the absence of the 2011 Grand Cherokee (scheduled to go on sale in the second quarter of thisyear) and the presence of the hideous Chrysler-badged Lancia Delta hatchback?

I hope, though, that some of the Fiat leadership havetaken a drive in the Dodge Challenger. From the burbling V8 soundtrack in the R/T to the beautifully executed ride/handling balance, this coupe is easily the best of the cars built off the LX platform architecture.

The Challenger also makes Chrysler look good to the public. When people see our black R/T, they come up to you wanting to talk about the car, not the bankruptcy and government/Fiat takeover. Eighteen months have passed since the Challenger SRT8 went on sale. Yet, even in Los Angeles, where the attention span is short andpreference goes to imports, I still hear people say, "Oooh, that's the new Dodge Challenger..." as I stroll through parking lots looking for a spot large enough to fit the beast.

If Chrysler's going to survive this upheaval, the Chrysler-Fiat leadership simply has to do right by the Dodge Challenger. Keep it alive. Keep it interesting. Absolutely don't neglect it.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 19,106 miles

Hello Mopar

January 26, 2010

Last night I broke bread with Jim Sassorosi.Who, over hunks of red meat and enormous bacon-covered baked patatoes,told me thatthe Dodge Challengerrecently surpassed the Ram truck as the vehicle Chrysler Corporation customers accessorize the most.

He should know. Jim is the Director of Mopar Parts Sales and Marketing which means he's in charge of selling you everything from Hemi crate motors to fancy floor mats. And according to Jim, Dodge dealers are now selling more Mopar stuff for Challengers then they are for Rams.

I think we need to get in on the action.

Of course our dinner conversation turnedto our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, which Iof course brought to the restaurant to show Jim.

"Jim, ol' buddyol' pal, I think our Challenger can use a little love," I said as we exited the Manhattan Beach bistro for the parking lot. "Maybe some of those parts you were showing off at SEMA back in November."

"Sure, what do you want," he replied. "Lower suspension? Torque Thrust style wheels?How about a strobe stripe down the side and a Challenger T/A style hoodscoop like we used back in 1970."

"Um, okay," I replied before he could reconsider. "And how about some floor mats."

"No problem."

So what do you think? Should we start throwing parts at our Challenger?

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

A Real Oil Pressure Gauge...Sorta

January 27, 2010

Frankly, I find it ridiculous, and a little sad, that a V8 muscle car like our 2009 Challenger R/T doesn't have an analog oil pressure gauge. Instead, Dodge has included this digital gauge which can be called up on the information screen with a few jabs at the steering wheel buttons. Better than nothing, but about as interesting and artistic as asheet of plain white paper.

At least it actually works. Watch the video and marvel how the Hemi's oil pressure rises and falls with its rpm. There was a time when manufacturers stopped such function because ignorant owners were bringing their cars into the dealer because it was broken.

"It seems to run fine, but the gauge goes down to 30 psi every time they stop at a red light. Something must be wrong."

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 19,172 miles

All Ages

February 01, 2010

Whenthe 2009 Dodge Challengerfirst came out, it seemed that only those that grew up with the old Challenger gave it a second glance. That's how it seemed when I drove our long term test car the first couple of times, anyway. This theory was given extra credence by the chorus of "mehs" and "I don't get its" that issued from some of the younger staffers in the office.

But this weekend was markedly different. At Ruby's a little boy pulled his daddy by the arm to "go see" the car. Dad seemedproud, perhaps,that his son saw something interesting there and wanted him to tell him about it, so he did. It was parked between a new Mustang and a New Beetle, but neither of them earned the slightest glance from this pair.

A young dude outside another restaurant walked all around our black R/T and peered inside it during his smoking exile. A teen girl walking through the Home Depot parking lot with her mom broke ranks and did the same thing, exceptwithout the cigarette. She was actually giddy and I heard her mutter the word "cool" under her breath.

Then there was the guy whomanages Ranch Enchilada, the local Mexican food joint I frequent. He took off his apron and headed outside for a closer look as we walked out to the car.

It's almost as if they'd never seen a Challenger. They certainly have, I'd wager, so I'll put forthanother theory. People recognize goodness when they see it, and now that the Camaro has made it's much ballyhooed appearance, the Challenger stands alone as the best-looking most authentic modern interpretation of the original of any retro-themed car out there. It has staying power, it has presence. It looks cool. People of all ages get it.

Photo by: Scott Jacobs

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 19,383 miles

Playing Packing Tetris

February 03, 2010

This one is from the cutting room floor, as I actually made this trip back at Thanksgiving. But the fact remains that I crammed the Challenger full of stuff, proving you don't need an SUV to haul agolf bag, 3 tons of laundry, a suitcase wrapped as a Christmas gift, aboxed Canon printer, a few suitcases, various groceries, three curling brooms and a partridge in a pear tree. No, all it takes is some creative packing while the Tetris song plays in your head.

All the bulky items went in the back seat,since it was easier to stack them. I still had enough visibility out the back — well, as good as can be expected in the Challenger at least. This big Dodge's size seemed like a detriment at first, but once again, an extended time withthe Challengerhas revealed its virtues.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,562 miles

Girls Need Cars Too

February 11, 2010

If I asked a girl out and she showed up driving a Furious Fuschia Dodge Challenger R/T with the pistol grip, it wouldn't matter if she wasa Yankees fan and her father was Bill O'Reilly. That would pretty much seal the deal right there. And if she looked like her up there, well, even better.Seriously, howawesome wouldshe be?

See, Furious Fuschiaand to a lesser extent, Plum Crazy, have caught some flack forexisting. But I say this: girls need cars too. These colors say "Heck yes I'm a girl andheck yes I drive a kick-assmuscle car." I'm pretty sure Joan Jett would be playing at all times.

This is a great color — deep, sharp, metallic — and it looks great on the Challenger. I wouldn't want it, but then again I'm not a girl (shut up Takahashi).

James Riswick, Automotive Editor@ the 2010 Chicago Auto Show

20,000 Miles and Counting

February 16, 2010

I hadn't taken our Challenger any distance, so this sounded about right: a long weekend when we'd be blasting up to Santa Barbara for a lacrosse game, 132 miles away, almost all freeway, sometimes trafficky. If the car managed a freeway cruise okay, great. If not, it wasn't all that long a trip.

The black Challenger did fine. I've complained how big and heavy and soft the new Challenger is for a retro-ponycar, but settling in for a couple hours on US 101, that wasn't an issue. (I aired up the tires to 36 psi instead of the recommended 32, and maybe that sharpened things a bit, but I still think THIS should have been the Charger and the Challenger should have been smaller and more athletic. But that's just me. I have a 1968 Charger, and it feels like the Queen Mary as I dock it in the garage, yet this 2009 Challenger is 200 pounds heavier than it is!)

Burbling along at 75, the Challenger feels relaxed and comfy. The seats are okay (the front ones, at least; don't put anyone in back for long), the HVAC and stereo and NAV work well enough, visibility is okay (except to the rear quarters), and the interior is plenty roomy enough for two and a snack bag and a weekend of stuff. Best of all, the car has a certain presence on the road that I like. And others like it too. This may be the only car currently in our fleet that kids in other cars take cell-phone pictures of.

My favorite feature in the Challenger is the shifter. It has to stir some heavy-duty gears down there, but it still feels light and positive, the gates are easy to find, and the sort-of pistol grip shape is quite functional. Honorable mention for a best feature has to be the exhaust note, which has great character without actually being all that loud.

For my least-favorite feature, the Challenger gets dinged for a pet peeve of mine: the door handles. This is the first physical contact you make with a car, and their feel should give you confidence. They should be solid and sturdy, with good, natural action. The Challenger's aren't. The lightweight handle feels flexy and loose when you pull it, and its angle in the body side has you lifting up too much. A small thing, but in a very vulnerable place. I've already cringed a little to myself, and I haven't even gotten in the car. Note to manufacturers: don't scrimp on door handles!

But that's about all I have to complain about. The Challenger makes a fine medium-range cruiser, with decent fuel economy (low-20s) to compliment its slightly malevolent attitude. I'd take it again.

Kevin Smith, Editorial Director, at 20,169 miles

Manly Gauges

February 18, 2010

Dig it. Unlike our Mazdaspeed 3, our Dodge Challenger R/T has an oil temperature gauge, a water temperature gauge and a real oil pressure gauge.

And while I'm not a huge fan ofdigital dials, you've got to give Dodge credit for understanding the importance of complete instrumentation.

Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief

Lights Up More Than Tires

February 18, 2010

Yes, the amazing Dodge Challenger also manages to fill its hard-to-find door handles with light when you turn off the car. Yeah I know, not a big deal these days. I'm sure our recently departed Honda Fit did the same thing.

But don't forget, the Challenger's doors are quite large, and when it's dark and the whole interior is gray, finding those handles isn't all that easy. Nice to see that Dodge didn't forget the small stuff.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 20,257

Do Not Mess With Me

February 22, 2010

When I first got the keys to our 2009 Dodge Challenger as my weekend car on Friday, I have to admit I was kinda bummed about it. "If I change my mind, I'll let you know," I told Mike Schmidt, the keeper of keys, so he could pass them on to the next person in line for cars. The Challenger is too big for my urban lifestyle, I'm not crazy about driving stick in the omnipresent L.A. traffic and ever since I got in a car accident last year (different car) I've been extra skittish about its blind spot via the passenger-side B-pillar.

But then things changed over the course of the weekend. I LOVE this car. It's so bad-ass. People actually move out of my way. Yesterday when I was on the freeway on the far left lane, I was at least two or three car lengths behind a 350Z. We were going the same speed and I wasn't putting pressure on him or anything but inexplicably he moves out of my way. And when I drive past him, he jumps back into the lane right behind me. Weirrrd and neat! This happened with other cars, too, even SUVs.

I wouldn't mind having this as a road-trip car. The seats are comfortable; score that there are seat heaters. And it has satellite radio.

My only beef is with the navigation. It feels like it takes forever to plug in an address. But no biggie. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't hand the keys over to someone else this weekend.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 20,341 miles

You Can Leave Your Hat On

February 23, 2010

In the usual horsepower-hazed stupor that envelopes me every time I drive the Challenger, a thought crossed my torque-addled brain. I thought, "If the Challenger was a convertible, I could really hear that wonderful exhaust." So here's my photo-chopped version. Not very good, right? Somehow, the car looks even heavier and chunkier than it did with a roof. Then there's the issue of chassis strength. I have a feeling this bad boy would flex like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I suppose some things are best left untouched.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 20,360 miles

Satellite Radio is Out, iPod is In.

March 01, 2010

Over the weekend it happened,radio silence in the Challenger.Or more accurately, theSirius satellite radio subscription in our belovedDodge expired.Bummer!But it turns out the Challenger's tour of duty is just about over too, so we won't be renewing it. Having left my iPod at home,it got me to thinking how much I don't like regular radio and lovesatellite radio.

When satellite radio debuted, I remember thinking "Who in their right mind would payfor radio?"Then I experienced it.No commercials, thedecades stations (gotta have the '60s through'80s), artist-specific/thematic stations (Bruce, old Motown)andreception no matter where you are in the country (except maybe in a tunnel or under a large bridge). All that instantly won me over.One of the biggest draws was/is the lack of commercials. Like anyone else, I hate 'em, especially the ones where some phone number or website is rapidly repeated manytimes at the end of the ad. And what about self-indulgent yammering DJs?Before satellite radio,I'dchannel surf my presets for a good song only to hearannoying adverts or obnoxiousDJs on nearly all of them at once. Trust me,if you have to give up four or fiveStarbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffeesa month tospring for satellite radio, do it.

Having said all that, the next time I took the car out, I just employeditsuser-friendly iPod hookup and was once again enjoying uninterrupted music.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 20, 708 miles


March 04, 2010

He couldn't hold it.That face, I mean. You know, that face you make when you cruise up alongside some guy on the highway and invite him to engage in an illicit exhibition of speed.

Anyway he couldn't hold it and just laughed and we were both laughing really, since we were each driving down the Harbor Freeway in a Dodge Challenger and were surrounded by people who were not as lucky as we were. So he sped off toward his exit after this traditional rite of the True Brotherhood and it made me think about the tenuous hold that cars like the Challenger have in a world that threatens them with extinction every day. When you think about it, the Challenger is a car that could disappear overnight.

Maybe NASCAR will keep this from happening.

It's easy to love the Challenger for its rarity on the road, but you also have to worry that it might ultimately seem irrelevant. It might just become some kind of car being hauled on a trailer to a weekend drag race, just like that red '70 Challenger with the blower and wide drag slicks being towed behind a motorhome that I saw on the way to work this morning. We might need a little reminder within the culture that it's posible to own cars like this and drive them on the road.

NASCAR is going to do its part by making over the race cars in its second-tier Nationwide-sponsored series into pony car surrogates. The result might not be pretty, since the full-size Car of Tomorrow platform being raced in the Sprint Cup will simply be adapted to a Challenger grille and graphics, but at least it's something.

These new Nationwide COT cars were tested last fall and a very insightful story about them was developed by Racecar Engineering. Before the COT platform is required from all the Nationwide teams for the 2011 season, it'll be raced by a number of teams four times during the 2010 season: July 2 at Daytona; August 14 at Michigan; September 10 at Richmond and October 23 at Charlotte. Challenger and Mustang packages will be in the mix, but Chevrolet has declined to involve the Camaro.

Naturally it's disappointing that we have to rely on what are essentially little more thandecal packages to make the case for cars like the Dodge Challenger, but I think I'm in favor of anything that makes people aspire to that moment when you're driving down the road in one and meet another member of the Brotherhood.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 21,540 miles

Kinda Like A Sloppy Joe

March 08, 2010

Ok, I think we've all read, or seen, or driven the Challenger car and know it's big. It's bigger than the original Challenger. A car that came to life in 1970, the grand era of land boats.

Maybe it felt bigger than it actually was because I drove my Mazda 3 before getting into it. It didn't matter once I hit that start button. When the engine came to life in the confines of the garage Friday night with a meaty growl, I was glad I had the keys to this beast.

It was raining out, so I turned off the stability control to have a little fun. It's stupid high school fun to spin out the tires on a slick surface or let the back drag out a touch when making corners, but it's even more fun when you have that Detroit motor revving loudly.

Precision is not the Challengers cup of tea. I thought it felt sloppy, it doesn't corner well, it's heavy and the skinny steering wheel doesn't give me a good feeling of control. But it does do big burnouts and it's meaty engine get nice 'n loud. For bonus points, its old school street machine looks still turns plenty of heads.

With the weekend over, the only size related negative I came away with were its large doors. The long and heavy swing can catch you unaware if you aren't prepared, and judging by the lack of paint at the edge of the door several editors have had this problem. However, size does matter when you're going to Goodwill in the morning. Its massive trunk accommodated two big boxes of donations!

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

What's the Perfect Soundtrack?

March 12, 2010

Driving in to work today with our 2009 Dodge Challenger, I was listening to Jack FM, a radio station that caters to all tastes, when Van Halen's "Jump," filled the speakers. OK, that's a good song but doesn't really suit the burly, intimidating Challenger what with all the synthesizers. Maybe something from the '70s, more guitar? Heart's "Barracuda"?

I asked resident car geek/music lover editor John Di Pietro for his opinion on the matter and he suggested The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" or really any Rolling Stones track from the '70s.

But I think found the perfect song! See my pick after the jump.

"Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin! No? What do you think is the perfect soundtrack for cruising in the Challenger?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Amenable Muscle Car

March 16, 2010

Due to beingunder the weather for the last few days, I haven'texactly been a happy camper.I was, however,thankful for theChallenger'ssplit personality. Sure, reliving my muscle car days ('69 and '70 Chevelle SS396s) by ripping through thegears is a blast(especially with the windows open so you can hear the engine's wail). But when you just want to kick back and get somewhere in low-stress comfort, the Challenger is equally up to the task.

The plush, heated seats, compliant suspension, quiet cabinand effortless low-end power were soothing amid the chaos that is known as driving around L.A. And it all alsoreminded me what a great daily driver this car is. The only thing missing is a reverse park sensor or back up camera to makeparking this beast on my increasingly crowded street easier.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21,658 miles

Longing for Open Road

March 18, 2010

What is it about the Challenger that makes me want to drive into a Springsteen album cover and never stop? You can try and rationalize this car all you want, but the second the V8 soundtrack starts and the convex hood starts bending open skies, your inner Mad Max starts growling about finding some far flat horizon to run down. Is this collective muscle-car unconscious generational? Will younger folk feel the same odd longing to unwind a Hemi V8 until center lines begin to blur? Questions for our varied readership...

I haven't been in the Challenger for a while, and initial impressions are that it's not aging terribly well. Seat trim pieces have gone missing, and shift feel has become almost brittle. May have to chalk up the gear-lever feel to the urge to power shift (I'm all clutch, all the time). With the way the Hemi V8 has broken in, you couldn't really blame anyone.

Whatever is Chrysler's future, this engine will always be thought of well. The 21,867 miles we've logged have only loosened up the Hemi's broad shoulders, and there is no road long or empty enough to feed the baritone snarl living under the long hood. Tractable and smooth, with an always surprising high-end rush, this is a mill you never get tired of, and a constant reminder of why we'll miss muscle cars one day.

Loafing along in geared-for-the-moon 6th, the Challenger carried me up into the high desert yesterday, showcasing the Dodge's muscle car mile-eating crown. The seats are holding up (and us) well. Too wide for corner carving, they're great for long stretches and will accommodate nearly any girth. The small-screened nav looks archaic but is functional, and the Bluetooth phone interface is one of the best around. If you want muscle and love to travel straighter paths, the Challenger is your pony car.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 21,867 miles

Busted Knob

March 18, 2010

I climbed intoour 2009 Dodge Challenger the other night. It wasn't long before I realized that the driver seat adjustment knob was still busted. This repair clearly fell off our radar and now the cover is missing completely.It did getme thinking, though. If I owned this car would I replace the part?

As the primary driver I would rarely touch the knob and easily forget it wasevenmissing. I wouldprobably just fashion my owncover and forget the OEM part altogether. If it was your Challenger, wouldyou replace it?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 21,867 miles

The Last Big, Comfy American Coupe?

March 24, 2010

A big, comfortable American coupe. It may look like a retro muscle car, it may have the engine of a modern muscle car, but in the end, the 2010 Dodge Challenger is a big, comfortable American coupe. They used to be all over the place, but rarely have they been as cool as this Challenger.

I started to wonder, what was the last such car to grace this fine land? Over the past 10 years or so, big coupes have been dying off. Ford's had nothing since the retro, two-seatT-bird replaced the older Super Coupe variety. Chrysler had the Sebring, but it was based on the Mitsubishi Eclipseand thus it wasn't that big and presumably not that comfortable (I never drove it, not that I would admit if I did). There was the Lincoln Mark VIII and Buick Riviera, but they died before the Millenium. The Cadillac Eldorado survived it, but shouldn't have.

And then I thought of it.

The Chevy Monte Carlo. The official vehicle choice of NASCAR fans everywhere, not to mention the last NASCAR to actually resemble the street vehicle upon which it was supposedly based (unless you know someone who owns a Ford Fusion coupe). Though the Dale Earnhardt edition was obviously not a front driver.

Especially in its original guise, the full Monte always struck me as, well, hideous. That NASCAR-friendly shape was always so bulbous from the rear. Those headlights were just weird. Could've been worse, though, it could've been a two-door Lumina.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have the last big, comfy American coupe still standing: the Challenger. I wouldn't mind if GM resurrected a rear-drive, big, comfy Monte Carlo, though. And a Riviera while they're at it. Dream on, I know.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 21,974 miles

Retro vs Retro

March 26, 2010

Which do you prefer?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

Real Estate Agent Approved

March 29, 2010

We all have our idea about a real estate agent's car. I've never seen one that wasn't white, and I'm generally shocked if it isn't a Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Lexus. Take my new realtor, who drives a white BMW 328i.

Yet, he pretty much flipped out when he discovered "my car," the very black, very un-real-estate-agent Dodge Challenger.He'sfrom France,too, so perhaps there's hope for them yet — real estate agents and the French.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 22,156 miles

Friendlier Than It Looks

April 05, 2010

Our Dodge Challenger looks like such a quintessential badass that it's easy to forget it's one of the friendlier muscle cars on the market. Wide, comfortable seats? Check. A rear seat with decent legroom? Check. A suspension that's reasonably communicative, yet won't leave you shaken like a martini? Check.

The end result is a coupe that pours on the fun without leaving you starved for practicality. This tiger has some tabby in its veins — enough to allow it to serve as a decent daily driver. And that's alright by me.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 22,452 miles

Sirius Traffic

April 08, 2010

I got in the car this morning and tried to see what sort of traffic was in my path to work. Wait, why isn't there any traffic displayed? Oh, yeah. Sirius traffic expired along with our Sirius satellite radio subscription that John DiPietro discovered a month ago. Good thing my phone has Google maps with traffic.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 22,695 miles

Fun in the Wet

April 13, 2010

It rained a bit here in So Cal the othernight and into the morning, creating many rush hour wrecks, including a horrible multiple-fatality crash on the 5.

Our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T hadno such problems. Actually, it's a lot of fun in the wet. You can provoke the rear end to come around just a bit when cornering.

And it's easy to catch, with no early intervention from the traction/stability control.

Just another reason why rear-drive is better than every other drivelayout.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 22,900 miles

The Streets of San Francisco

April 22, 2010

I recently took the Challenger to San Fran for a business trip and just had to check out Lombard Street, one (if not THE) most famous crooked roads in the country. We're talking eight sharp, hairpin-style turns! Before that zig-zag section came up, I had to stop several times while ascending the steep street and was thankful for the Challenger's hill-holder feature. What I wasn't thankful for was the car's broad shouldered physique as I wound my way down through the hairpins of this carnival ride. But we emerged unscathed and I can now check that one off the road trip bucket list.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 23,850 miles

Versatile California Coast Cruiser

April 26, 2010

My two younger sisters came out from the East Coast to visit so I took them on the requisite cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway here in So Cal (from Santa Monica, through Malibu and on up to Oxnard). We left my 'hood, Culver City, at 9:30 am Sunday. There is a stop sign right at the bottom of the on-ramp to the 10 freeway and it was completely empty. Too good to resist, I treated them to a quick blast through the first four gears.

Reactions? Lori thought it was cool — she's more into cars and used to drive a Dodge Stealth with a manual tranny. That's Lori in the photo doing her Price is Right impression next to the car. More conservative Jeanne didn't care for the completely intended acceleration — it put butterflies in her stomach and reminded her of riding in my old '69 Chevelle SS (built 396, TH400, 4:11 posi, headers and glasspacks) except the Challenger wasn't nearly as noisy. She used towhackmy leg when I stuffed my foot into the Holley's secondaries. It was a long time ago, and not exactly a warm and fuzzy memory for her.

Once we were cruising on the freeway and then the PCH (both refreshingly free of traffic), both sisters thoroughly enjoyed the other side of the Challenger, that being a spacious, comfortable and quiet touring car. All the better for them to enjoy my '80s catalog on my iPod.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 24,068 miles

A Touching Interface

May 03, 2010

When you drive a different car homealmost every day it can be tough to remember exactly how each one works.

"Where's the E-brake release on this thing?"

"How do I get the fuel door open?"

"Why does the seat position change every time I start it?"

Certainly asmall price to pay for such a vast array of driving options,and a side benefit is how this constantexposure to multiple vehiclesallows our staff to quickly discern which systems work best among the various manufacturers' designs. And in the case of LCD screen interfaces, our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T confirms the obvious:touch screen worksbest.

Sure, there can be some variation in touch screen interfacedesign, and some are better than others. But all of them are better than the ol' "wheel-and-button" control system. Simply put, it's more intuitive to press on a screen with your finger than to try and navigate it via a mechanical middleman.

When I got in the Challenger recently and wanted to change audio settings it was refreshingly easy to tap the screen a few times and be done versus twisting a knob while hitting a button. Anyone who has used those systems knowshow frustrating it can beto keep missing your intended setting because you turned the knob a tad too far or didn't hit the button at the right moment.

No, the world is moving away from mechanicalinterfaces and rushing toward interfaces that work directly with our fingers. If you don't agree, maybe you missed a little technology intro a few weeks ago. It's the one surpasssing all sales expectations and likely to redefine how information is gathered/transmitted.

Karl Brauer, Editor at Large @ 24,255 miles

Styling Is Holding Up Well

May 06, 2010

I don't get it really. The "new" Dodge Challenger has been out for a couple years now and it still get all sorts of attention on the road, even in Santa Monica.

Consider that the streets here are littered with every AMG, M and Porsche 911 on the planet and yet people still stop and stare at our Challenger and its big ol' sidewalls.

Say what you will about its retro styling, but it's pretty clear to me that Dodge nailed it on this one.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 24,282 miles

This Coulda Been Our Challenger

May 10, 2010

You'll notice that the Challenger pictured above is not, in fact, our tasteful, black long-term runner. No, this is the car that our Challenger could have been, had we decided to bolt on a bunch of new Mopar parts to our car as we once considered doing.

Well, life got in the way of Mopar-izing our long-termer. But our friendly neighborhood Mopar folks recently loaned us a TorRed Challenger kitted out with pretty much everything they have on offer.
Join us after the jump as we pass judgment on each add-on.

Strobe Stripe, $190 (or part of the $1,995 Exterior Appearance Group which also includes hood scoop and rear spoiler)
We're not necessarily big fans of tape stripes. The double-horizontal R/T stripes on the Challenger don't really do it for us. But there's something so wickedly '70s cool about segmented strobe stripes that we couldn't help but order up a set. They come in only flat black and so might have looked either completely cool or non-existent on our black R/T. Anyway, thumbs up.

Katzkin leather front seats, $1,199
We've been less than complimentary about the Challenger's dour interior, so we appreciated the chance to dress it up with some leather seats with contrasting sticking or contrasting perforations. Still, we could think of better things to spend more than a grand on.

T/A Hood, $1,275 (or as part of the $1,995 Exterior Appearance Group which also includes rear spoiler and body decals)
We're not immune to the appeal of nostalgia. Hell, that we like the Challenger at all is proof of that. And we kind of like the look of this add-on hood "scoop" that mimics the look of the 1970 Challenger T/A. It is entirely non-functional though. In fact, you plainly see that the front of the scoop is blocked off with a piece of black plastic. Oldham still really likes the hood for its looks. I do not. It's just one of those matters of opinion where nobody is really right, except for the person who does not like the T/A Hood.

Rear Go-Wing Spoiler, $316 (or as part of the $1,995 Exterior Appearance Group which also includes hood scoop and body decals)
Nope. Wings aren't our thing. But again, it's a matter of taste. Because we would consider a black ducktail-style spoiler like the one from the 1970 Challenger T/A or the current Challenger SRT8. But a wing? Nah.

Cold-Air Intake Kit, $374
That huge, blue cone filter? The intake tract roughly the diameter of a sewer main? You bet we'd get this.

Engine Cover, $362
Faux carbon fiber plastic instead of the plain old black plastic of the engine cover that comes for no extra charge from the factory? No thanks. You can go ahead and file the $172 faux carbon fiber center stack applique in the same no-thanks category.

Cat-back Dual Exhaust, $1,190
The best grand-plus-change you could spend on your R/T. We like the look and we like the sound.

Lowering Springs, $1,750; Strut Tower brace, $359; Sway Bar Kit, $484
The lowering adds just the right amount of menace to the Challenger which can look a little tall in stock form. And, while they don't make a huge amount of difference, any help we can throw at the Challenger R/T's body control and steering money well spent. If you're interested, the new bars are 32mm front and 19mm rear compared to the stock 30mm/16mm pieces. Beside, the brace and sway bar kit only add up to $843. And even with the big, polished 20-inch wheels on our test car ($583 each), the Challengers ride quality remains plenty forgiving.

Most of the rest of the pieces that came on this Mopar-accessory showcase we could simply take or leave. Meaning, if it was our money and we had to check the box, we'd leave. We like the chrome T-handle shifter ($137). But given that it's available only for the automatic equipped cars, it wouldn't be a consideration for us. We'll stick with the pistol-grip manual shifter, thank you. As for the Kicker subwoofer, door-sill guards, bright pedal kit and premium floor mats? Meh. (All of those interior dress-up pieces along with a car cover are available individually or as part of the $945 Interior Appearance Goup).

Still, we would have piled on at least $4,300 worth of accessories to our Challenger if we were going to start down that road. That's not a bad chunk of change for Mopar, even on this Chrysler's most heavily modified and accessorized model.

Sticky Shift

May 11, 2010

I noticed this weekend that the tranny in Challenger isn't as happy as it used to be. Pulling the stick between gears — especially when driving short distances before the fluids are up to temperature — isn't as easy as it once was. Clutch take-up isn't as smooth as I remember, either.

Remember that we've have the clutch replaced once and that this car's miles are starting to accumulate. And there's this little endeavor, which probably didn't do it any mechanical favors. We'll see if this amounts to anything.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Our Favorite Caption

May 14, 2010

Thanks to technetium99 for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that we thought were sweet:

Man, this place is the pits! (technetium99)
Vanishing Pit (ergsum)
Jackpot! (ergsum)
Dodge Challenger: As American as cherry pie. (technetium99)
Da Cherry Bomb. (technetium99)
Your Cherriot Awaits (ergsum)
Damn, I misspelled Virginia in the GPS. (ergsum)
Rev the Hemi, pop the cherry. (e90_m3)
Marchionne Cherry (ergsum)
Why sports cars have back seats (sm42)
Out for a Sundae drive (mnorm1)
Unlike some, the Challenger will lay rubber. (mnorm1)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

You Write the Caption: May 2014

May 14, 2010

Automotive Editor John DiPietro sent me this photo of our Dodge Challenger.

We're not touching it with a caption.

You do it.

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Don't forget the caption contest over at Straightline.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Well Suited To a Desert Road Trip

May 17, 2010

Plenty of cars to choose from in the ol' Inside Line garage last week and I picked the Challenger to make a run from L.A. to Tucson late last week. Why?

Pretty easy actually. For starters, it's a big, comfortable coupe that lets you stretch out behind the wheel. No need to jam anything in, just spread everything out and relax in the nicely bolstered seat. Unlike the Camaro where you feel low in the car, the Challenger's seating position puts you up high which makes the view that much better.

Once on the road, the Challenger is a big cupcake. No stiff ride or twitchy handling and it's dead quiet in sixth gear at 80mph. I did notice a little too much gear whine at some speeds, but it faded in and out so I'm not sure if it's a problem or not.

Solid electronics is another reason the Challenger is such a great road trip car. There was a navigation system to tell me where to go and how long it would take me to get there along with an iPod connector and a strong stereo. Bluetooth is part of the package as well so I never had to reach for my phone.

I've now done a road trip in both the Camaro and the Challenger. Both were enjoyable, but if I had to do another one next week I would pick the Challenger again without hesitation.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 24,678 miles

Road Trip Notes

May 18, 2010

Just a couple leftover notes from my road trip in the Challenger.

- Best tank of gas yielded 23.9 mpg. Not bad considering I was running 80 mph most of the time.

- The iPod interface works well, but the nav system doesn't let you do much while you're moving. Lame.

- There's no actual dead pedal. There is, however, a big empty space to rest your left foot, so good enough.

- You can fit four full-size golf bags in the trunk should you need to transport a few friends in a pinch. Didn't expect that.

- It still gets looks, even when it's covered in several hundred miles of road grime.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 25,102 miles

25,000 Milestone

May 19, 2010

It's been 14 months — almost to the day — since we added our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T to the fleet and it's already crossed 25,000 miles. Quite a feat for a coupe.

In that time we've had it in theinaugural Burnout Contest, loaned it out to a guy we shouldn've, drove to Phoenix, to Tucson, to Willows, CAand a number of other places certainly during our 1,800-mile-a-month average.

14 months and 25,000 miles later, we're still impressed by this Dodge and still fight over the keys most nights — especially if there's any sort of ground to cover.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 25,749 miles


May 19, 2010

The helpful warning beep and reminder light on our 2009 Dodge Challenger reminded us that our car was ready for another round of oil this week.

We made an appointment at La Brea Chrysler Jeep letting them know that we'd be waiting on the car. I showed up at 7:30 on the dot — their opening time — and was first in line. No more than 45 minutes later the car was done, paid for and back on the road. SportsCenter was on the tube and the coffee was free. I was sort of hoping it would take longer.

Total cost: $45.
Days out of service: None.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 25,748 miles

You Write the Caption

May 21, 2010

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig sent me this photo of our Dodge Challenger R/T at the Ostrich Ranch just outside of Tucson, Arizona.

Don't bury your head in the sand. Write a caption.

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

By the way, how are your Photoshop skills? Better than mine I'm sure. Enter our new contest over on Straightline. Show us what you got.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Our Favorite Caption

May 21, 2010

Thanks to mrryte for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made us chuckle:

Ancient proverb say "Man who sticks head in sand gets True Grit" (ergsum) it a Hemi? (spin2win)
Picacho!?!? Peak your own Acho! (saxdogg)
Separated at Birth (dougtheeng)
I like big wheels and I cannot lie... (rayray633)
I Challenge you to a dual!!! (rayray633)
I think it's compensating... (rayray633)
What would the Duke do? (ed124c)
Professor Challenger has found the Lost World. (technetium99)
The Challenger gets ostrichsized! (ergsum)
Meet the all new 2011 Chrysler Town & Country-Bumpkin (rayray633)
Ed stops by the Mechanics day job to ask why he hasn't written any articles lately. (technetium99)
Poultry in motion. (sherief)
Rooster Cogburn; licensed to quill. (mnorm1)
Challenger gets "Plume Crazy" paint job. (ergsum)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Beautiful When it's Clean

May 26, 2010

We're getting ready to sell our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T so I gave it a bath and rubbed it down to keep off the drying marks. It reminded me of a piece of advice I once heard. Before you buy any used car you should wash it because it makes you touch all the body panels and you will notice any dents, dings and the quality of the paint.

What I noticed is that the paint on this car is gorgeous. It lives up to its name on the sticker: Brilliant Black. The only drawback is you have to keep it clean.

We're going to price the Challenger and post a for sale ad soon. It'll be interesting to see how much interest there is in this car. We'll keep you posted.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 26,100 miles

For People Who Really Really Love Cars

May 26, 2010

This commercial made me laugh last night. The fact that it's basically our Challenger made it all the more cooler. Man I'm going to miss it when it's gone.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Asking vs. Selling Price

May 28, 2010

We priced out our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T and were pleasantly surprised. Even with a $600 hit for extra miles (we're at 26,200 miles now) the True Market Value Price is $29,200. Back in February 2009 we paid $34,600 for it so the drop off hasn't been too harsh.

We're thinking that black is the preferred color for this bad boy, as is the six-speed manual transmission, so we're going to put it up for sale for $29,900 and see what kind of interest we get.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 26,200 miles

The Driving Experience

June 01, 2010

I never expected to like driving our long term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. It just doesn't suit me even though I grew up during the muscle car era it evokes. But I do love driving this stealthy monster and I've been struggling for a way to put the experience into words. Certainly, a lot of the pleasure comes from the deep well of power and the throaty rumble of the 372-horsepower Hemi V8. I also like the cool feel of the pistol-grip shifter in the palm of my hand. Beyond that, it's a blend of so many elements that it defies words. So, in lieu of any forced prose, I offer this photo which conveys a feeling of the driving experience for anyone who has not had the great good fortune to find themselves behind the wheel of this car.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 26,300 miles

Knob Replacement

June 04, 2010

^ This is what the driver seat adjuster looked like when we dropped the Dodge Challenger off at La Brea Chrysler Jeep (they've always been good to us — fast service and in my neighborhood) the other morning.

^ This is what it looked like 5 hours later. It wasn't a simple knob replacement, they had to remove the seat and install a new panel altogether.

Covered under warranty. Zero days out of service.

Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 26,280 miles

Let the 2nd Guessing Begin

June 04, 2010

The ad for our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T has been posted at the selling price of $29,900. My previous blog triggered a firestorm of speculation about the integrity of True Market Value prices, the psychology of buyers and other mysteries of the universe.

Some comments were thoughtful and insightful such as this: "Will you change the TMV calculator if you can't get it ;)" Our TMV experts definitely keep an eye on our long term sales and might modify the price slightly. However, this is just one sale, one piece of data, and TMV is based on thousands of transactions, both at auctions (for trade-in prices) and at dealerships (for dealer retail prices).

Another commenter said, "Considering I just priced out a new one on Dodge's website for $32,500, with no options save the manual transmission mind you, I'd rather pay extra for a new one." Well, our car had $6,000 worth of options so it would be about $38,500. To buy ours at $29,900 would be quite a savings.

Moving now to the more vitriolic comments we have this opinion from blueguydotcom: "25-26k. Dead company, car has a limited amount of appeal and TMV is pretty much always wrong." Did I miss something? Has Dodge been eliminated? As far as "limited" appeal, it was the top pick in coupes in Consumers Top Rated.

And finally this, from firstwagon: "TMV is a pretty much useless number. A used car is worth exactly whatever someone is willing to pay and not a cent more. You're free to ask whatever you want but the price is set by the guy who writes the check."

From this comment I'm led to believe that we should list our cars for sale and invite people to make offers based on what they want to write checks for. And as far as TMV being a "pretty much useless number," it is only a reflection of the market, an average of sales that have already taken place. Doesn't it make sense that anyone wanting to sell an item would check to see what others have been able to sell that item for in an open market?

Hey, TMV is free, check it out. Unlike Kelley Blue Book, which has a strong history of dealer support, has no vested interest in presenting prices that are artificially high. It's a guide, a reflection of the marketplace, a starting place for people selling cars.

Sales/Mileage Update

June 11, 2010

For an unexplained reason (probably a computer snafu) our Autotrader ad was rejected without our knowledge and we lost some valuable time selling the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. When it finally posted a few days ago we got two calls immediately but neither one was very serious. Still, it's a positive sign that indicates we are in the ballpark with our asking price of $29,900. In our experience, if the price isn't close, the phone doesn't ring.

Meanwhile, the Challenger has been doing a lot of highway driving and logging some respectable fuel economy for a muscle car. On a road trip in May it set a personal best for 401 miles on one tank and got 23.8 mpg. The lifetime average is 17.5 mpg and the EPA says the combined figure is 19 mpg. Given that we tend to be enthusiastic drivers, and that we spend a lot of time on clogged Los Angeles freeways, that's pretty close.

Philip Reed, Consumer Advice Editor @26,490 miles

Why Buy Used?

June 14, 2010

Some of the comments on the blogs about the sale of the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T have pointed out that you can get a new one for a starting price of $30,860 (before destination, tax and registry fees). This makes our asking price of $29,900 look unattractive by comparison.

After a Sunday afternoon with the Challenger parked near a busy street, and the phone not ringing at all, I began to lose faith in our price. I consulted with the pricing gurus here at Edmunds and they pointed out that there are incentives on the Dodge making our price even more unrealistic. However, when I looked at the actual incentives, I found a different story.

The customer cash back on this car is only a $500 military bonus or a $1,500 leasing loyalty bonus which many buyers won't qualify for. The $1,700 dealer cash (also called"marketing support") is only for buying a bunch of Mopar equipment. The one thing that looks attractive is the financing — as low as 1.9 percent — but for that you need top-tier credit.

Furthermore, to buy this car with the options on our car, you would actually have to spend at least $36,000. So buying this car for a negotiated price of $29,000 would save $7,000 plus the dough saved on taxes, insurance and registration fees. I think that's a bargain. So we'll leave the Challenger on the market for a few more weeks and see if the right buyer gives us a call.

By the way, you can print out the True Market Value for sale sign after you appraise your used car.

Up Yours Sir Henry Clinton!

June 15, 2010

Sometimes I'm at a loss for words, andcan onlyresort to this graphical representation of my thoughts ...

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Goodbye, Old Friend

June 28, 2010

On the way to deliver the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T to the buyer, I stopped to have it washed. The only problem was, there was no spot-free rinse so I arrived with a dripping car that was soon to have driving marks all over it. Before we even signed papers Matt, the new owner, grabbed a towel and dried it off. As the water disappeared, the luster of the black paint began to gleam. "This is so awesome," Matt said more than once as he lovingly rubbed down his new car. When we were done he signed quickly and I slid two sets of keys across the table to him.

Yes, sadly, the Challenger is gone. It didn't quite fetch the high price we had hoped but we still feel pleased with the result. We might have done better but there are other cars to buy and we need to keep moving forward. So here's a quick rundown on the selling process.

We began by offering the car at $29,900 — $800 over TMV. I got several calls but no serious action. So after two weeks we dropped the price to $28,900. I immediately got two calls. Strangely enough, they were both from guys named Matt.

On Father's Day, Matt #1 arrived with his father. They took a long test drive, enjoying driving the Challenger and remarking on the shift action, the suspension and its great looks. I felt an offer coming and I hoped it was a good one.

"Here's something for you to think about," Matt said. "I'll give you $26,500 for it." It took me a second to realize that Matt had undercut the asking price by $2,400. I didn't respond at all, hoping that Matt #2 wouldenter the fray and make a better offer. So for now, I just thanked Matt #1 for coming to see the car.

Matt #2 never called back so the next day, I called Matt #1 and talked about how the Challenger's trunk was plenty big for his golf clubs. This led to a friendly little chat about golf, his handicap and what courses in the area are fun to play. As we talked I felt he would open to a strong counteroffer so I told him we could be convinced to part with the Challenger for $27,800, an $1,100 discount from our asking price. He bounced back with $27,500 and I accepted.

Later, when I looked at the numbers, I realized we had done well to get that much for a one-and-a-half-year-old used car with 26,800 hard miles on it. Unlike many American cars, it only depreciated 20 percent from our purchase price of $34,600 a year and a half ago. That means it lost $7,100 of its value. That's a whole lot of fun for a small price tag.


June 30, 2010

"There is no pretense made by the styling of the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. It's not some over-styled street tough like the Camaro. The interior is nothing special, but it works. Dodge didn't try to trick us into thinking the Challenger was sporty by leaving that huge steering wheel in your lap. The suspension is soft and the sidewalls are tall. In return, you get a pretty nice ride on any surface. There is a side benefit to this. You get to squeal and spin the tires around slow corners. Did I mention you can hear the tires break loose as you grab 3rd gear? Yeah, that doesn't hurt either."

Honesty drew us to the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T over its Ford, Chevy and even SRT8 counterparts. It didn't promise any more than it could deliver. We respected that. And it's why reactions like the one above litter the Challenger R/T long-term blog.

Why We Bought It
In 1998 a stumbling Chrysler clung to Mercedes-Benz in a merger of "equals" that many hoped would keep the ailing automaker on its feet. No sooner did the German juggernaut move in than it left, pulling the rug completely from beneath the nation of Mopar. On the verge of being the first of the Big Three to bow out of the business, Chrysler needed help. It leaned on Dodge, and the 2009 Challenger, for support.

Dodge was rejuvenating its once-cherished nameplate. When the 2009 Dodge Challenger reached showrooms it was big news. It was all-new with an optional 5.7-liter or 6.1-liter Hemi. Our full test of the R/T sold us on the smaller V8. Our decision to get the R/T cost us 0.3 second in a straight line but saved us $10,000. This was a fair trade-off in our book.

In a new era of emissions-regulated retro-muscle cars capable of 25 mpg, the Challenger R/T was a legitimate contender. It was true to its roots. It still did burnouts. And it was fun to boot. Did we mention our plan to purchase a Chevrolet Camaro for side-by-side comparisons? So we bought one and our test began.

Between its fun-to-drive character and comfortable driver seat, the Challenger R/T offered everything we look for in a road trip car. Editor Ed Hellwig complimented the Dodge following a road trip to Tucson: "This is a big, comfortable coupe that lets you stretch out behind the wheel. No need to jam anything in. Just spread everything out and relax in the nicely bolstered seat. Unlike the Camaro, where you feel low in the car, the Challenger's seating position puts you up high, which makes the view that much better. On the road it's a big cupcake. No stiff ride or twitchy handling and it's dead quiet in 6th gear at 80 mph. I've now done a road trip in both the Camaro and the Challenger. Both were enjoyable, but if I had to make another one next week I would pick the Challenger again without hesitation."

Inside the cabin we still found ourselves enamored with how the 2009 Dodge Challenger drove. The shifter became a common focal point. Associate Editor Mike Magrath brought its persona to life: "This pistol-grip shifter isn't the most accurate, nor does it have the smoothest action, but there's no shifter that's more fun to manhandle. Each shift is like opening the floodgates of a dam or flipping the switch on Old Sparky; it's mechanical and raw and when you grab it the muscles in your forearm get all veiny. In contrast, you shift the Camaro as fast as possible to avoid touching the knob for any longer than absolutely necessary. The Challenger's shifter belongs in a factory. The Camaro's belongs in a kitchen, stirring soup."

Perhaps it was the pleasure we derived from slamming through six speeds of Mopar that shortened the life of its clutch. Or perhaps we loaned the car to the wrong guy for a long weekend. Our money was on the latter, literally. Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sighed, "As we walked up to the Challenger an ominous stench of clutch was the first sign of trouble. So we fired it up. We let out the clutch pedal and felt a significant judder at the engagement point. This wasn't good. It was still drivable but clearly upset. There was only one way to get to the bottom of this. Pull the clutch." Upon doing so we found suspicious heat scarring on the pressure plate and flywheel. Somebody rode the clutch, a lot. In the end our new clutch assembly cost us eight days, $1,800 and a friend. Other notable expenses resulted from regularly scheduled maintenance every 12,000 miles.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 15 months): $399.90
Additional Maintenance Costs: $1,765.27 for a new clutch assembly
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: Clutch replacement, seat adjuster knob replacement
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 4
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 8 waiting for parts to arrive
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
We didn't waste much time putting our new 2009 Dodge Challenger to work. Just a week after acquiring the R/T we'd already accumulated 1,200 miles, which primed it for preliminary testing. The results confirmed our wise choice of an R/T over the SRT8.

Compared to the SRT8 our R/T gave up just 0.3 second in a straight line and paced its big-displacement brother in all other categories. Our R/T reached 60 mph from a stop in 5.5 seconds (5.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and crossed the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 103.2 mph. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton chuckled, "Love the '60s soundtrack! It's a bit tricky to get off the line without lighting the skinny rear tires. Best technique was to practically bog it out of the hole, then go to WOT ASAP. Shifter requires a deliberate hand but works with precision."

When the time came to stop, the Dodge needed 128 feet to do so from 60 mph, average for the class. Dynamic tests were better than average. The Challenger generated 0.83g of lateral grip on the skid pad and its quickest slalom pass was 64.7 mph. Our R/T showed no significant performance changes between the beginning and end of its long-term test.

Best Fuel Economy: 26.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 10.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 17.7 mpg

Retained Value
We didn't know what to expect when it came time to sell the Challenger. We purchased the Dodge 18 months earlier for $34,600 and now attempted to sell it in an unfriendly resale market. When we plugged its vitals into Edmunds TMV® Calculator we were surprised to find that, with almost 27K on the ticker, our Challenger still held a private-party resale value of $29,100. But the market wouldn't allow us to sell at this price.

Our initial asking price for the 2009 Dodge Challenger was just above TMV, at $29,900. Nobody called for more than a week. We lowered it by $1,000 and the phone rang immediately. Further negotiation brought the final sale price to $27,500. This value was notable in that it marked a mere 21 percent depreciation from our original purchase price. Not bad at all considering the questionable used car market of the time.

True Market Value at service end: $29,100
What it sold for: $27,500
Depreciation: $7,100 or 21% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 26,800

Summing Up
We feared the massive proportions of our Challenger might hurt its popularity. We feared the same for opting against the SRT8. We were wrong on both accounts. This was one of the more popular cars we've tested, regularly more so than the new Camaro.

With the exception of premature clutch devastation, for which we can't knock the car, the 2009 Dodge Challenger held its own in the durability department. And we put it through the ringer. Fun and reliable are two awfully important descriptors when shopping for a car. Our R/T delivered these convincingly. The Challenger hoped to keep Dodge afloat and it was a good start. Time would prove it wasn't quite enough. But don't blame the Challenger. This was a great car.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.