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2009 Dodge Challenger Hemi RT

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Muscle Car Review: This is a car that's easy to love. It's the new 2009 Dodge Challenger, a reborn muscle car that flaunts its all American roots. It's proof that the Chrysler Corp, and indeed, the entire American auto industry, still knows how to make exciting cars for the masses.

Let's put the Challenger in perspective. For decades, starting in the early 1980s, American cars continually became more and more like Japanese cars. This has been a great thing for quality, as the American brands have finally caught up with, and in some cases exceeded, their Japanese competitors in recent years.

At the same time, it was a terrible thing for automotive styling.  America used to lead the world in design with luxury cars in the 1930s, aerodynamic cars in the '40s, tailfin decked cruisers in the '50s, meaty muscle cars in the '60s and dramatic yachts in the '70s.  The rest of the world followed our lead. 

But in the '80s, American cars turned into bland boxes, which happened to look exactly like the bland boxes from Japan and Europe. They were no longer distinctive. And worst of all, they were no longer truly American.

The new Challenger is completely American, following in that grand tradition of making cars that look distinctive and powerful.  It's very retro, looking like it would be right at home cruising Woodward Avenue in 1968, but it also has a hint of modern tension. Any way you look at it, it's a stunning design.

While it's not quite as noticeable as the body, the Challenger's interior is a comfortable place with big, roomy bucket seats up front. Materials and construction are OK, but it doesn't have the same styling flair as the exterior. The front seats are comfortable and supportive.

The back seats are fairly roomy, but it can be tough to get back there, especially from the driver's side. In my test car the passenger-side front seat had a lever that let you easily slide it forward for the back-seat passengers to climb in, but the driver's seat didn't have it. You had to use the power seat controls to slowly motor the seat forward to let a passenger climb to the back seat.

Fortunately, the Challenge drives exactly like a modern muscle car should. It's a big, heavy car with sloppy, truck-like steering, but it handles better than you'd expect for a vehicle this size. Body roll is kept in check, and braking is superb. Best of all, it can spin the fat rear tires at will.

While the base Challenge comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 250 horsepower, I drove the Challenger R/T with its big 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine that makes 372 horses. It's an intoxicating feeling, knowing you can stomp the gas and squeal the tires any time you want. Coupled with that hot body, it makes even the nerdiest driver feel James Dean cool.

What was tested? The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T with a base price of $29,320. Options on the test car: Sirius satellite radio $195. Total MSRP price as tested including the $675 destination charge: $30,190.

Why avoid it? The interior quality doesn't seem up to par with its competitors, and the Hemi only gets 16 mpg in town.

Why buy it? The Dodge Challenger turns heads with its classic muscle-car styling. This all American design hearkens back to the heyday of the powerful and thrilling cars of the 1960s. Its classic American body draws lots of attention, and its available Hemi V8 makes huge, tire smoking power.

Bottom Line: And really, that's what the Challenger is all about. It's not the most practical car, nor the most fuel efficient. But wherever it goes, it's sure to be the coolest car around.

By Derek Price AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Byline: Muscle Car Review provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net

Dodge Home Page

Column Name: Challenger brings back American muscle

Topic: The 2009 Dodge Challenger Hemi R/T

Word Count:  697

Photo Caption:  The 2009 Dodge Challenger Hemi R/T

Photo Credits:  Dodge Challenger Internet Media

Series #:  2009 - 17

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2009 Dodge Challenger Hemi R/T

Download the Original Image File here:   2009 Dodge Challenger Hemi R/T

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