Challenger:

2009 Dodge Challenger: Motorist Choice Award Winner

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Dod_09_ChallengerRT_4 copy.jpg“Dodge Challenger’s win of the 2009 Motorist Choice Award was preceded by its win of the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award. Owners in the Sporty Car Segment gave the Challenger the nod as it packs everything the 1970s muscle car had to offer into a modern reincarnation. From flair and bravado to horsepower and braking, the Challenger has what it takes to be a success in this segment.” — AutoPacific
“The Challenger has the lowest insurance costs and was ranked first in the AutoPacific survey.” –IntelliChoice
Owner Satisfaction Highlights
* Image
* Exterior Styling
* Fun to Drive
* Braking
* Power and Acceleration
* Vehicle’s Ride
Cost-of-Ownership Strengths
* Lowest Insurance Costs


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2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8: Ready to Run

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After much hype and buildup, the Challenger SRT8 arrives in dealers this month. The wait for a broader lineup isn’t long, however, as a fleshed-out range arrives this fall (click for our coverage of the full-line reveal at New York, or the SRT8 reveal in Chicago). We were lucky enough not to have to wait until fall to get behind the wheel, though, as Dodge invited us to take a spin in Pasadena, California, on our way to Willow Springs Raceway. Not a chance we’d say no!

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Driving away from the hotel, easing out of Pasadena local traffic, it was a few miles before the opportunity to explore the depths of the throttle arrived. When it did, the payoff was instant acceleration and an exhaust and engine symphony. The 425HP Challenger SRT8 tune is visceral, powerful, and begs that right foot ask for more. When you get, say, up into the Angeles Crest highway and away from stop signs and bicyclists, Challenger proves an entertaining companion. In town, the car is comfortable and it only takes a well-placed blip to bring out that wonderful burble. Mustang’s V8s sound terrific; Challenger SRT8 sounds even better. Issues of fuel economy and pollution aside, the Challenger SRT8 and smoky burnouts are an obvious pair. Though none executed by this author, an SRT engineer left serious rubber on request just outside of pit lane. It was truly a sight to behold, watching the car just get swallowed up in tire smoke.
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That SRT8 is estimated for 13/18 mpg on the EPA cycle, improved with MDS and other tweaks over the known Charger SRT8, isn’t important here. If you’re considering an SRT8, you’ve already accepted living life below 50 mpg. And if you haven’t, there are plenty of options out there. The limited-run 2008MY starts at just under $38,000, with only three sub-$1000 options.


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Dodge Challenger Blows into Windy City

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Limited Edition SRT8 Arrives First
Ford launched the latest Mustang to a resounding critical and sales success, and its retro theme got GM and Chrysler thinking fast about a new-century take on the pony car wars. At the 2006 Detroit auto show, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concepts tested the waters for a full pony-car revival. Both companies were inspired by both pride and the success of the latest Mustang, and both the Challenger and Camaro will arrive on market. Eventually. Really. Both companies hope that the initial enthusiasm for these projects survives the gestation period. In Chicago, Dodge launched the Challenger, jumping the generation gap between by enlisting the help of the father-son Orange County Choppers team. And while the HEMI Orange paint scheme was front and center, the SRT8 Challenger looks mean and sinister in black, a look that matches the 425HP engine’s burble better.

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Dodge‘s Challenger arrives this spring as a late 2008MY product, while the Camaro doesn’t arrive for another year or so. The catch is that the first Challengers are in limited edition $37,995 SRT8 form, introduced at the 2008 Chicago auto show, assisted by the father-son team at Orange County Choppers and Jim Press. The first units are specially numbers and available in Hemi Orange, black, or silver. By fall, for the typical 2009MY start, a more substantial range including V6 and 5.7L HEMI options will be available. Contributing to the hype and (hopefully) fueling demand, the first Challenger SRT8 was auctioned at the 2008 Barrett-Jackson auction. The winning $400,000 bid, of which all proceeds go to a charity called notMYkid, was posted by Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.
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For an image car, launching with the hottest version first can contribute to the hype. Following that strategy, the news from Chicago is the first production reveal of the Challenger SRT8. As promised, the Challenger looks pretty much like the historic pony car, updated for a modern context. The SRT8 sports the same 425HP 6.1L HEMI that helps make Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300 SRT8s so much fun to drive. Because of the SRT team, the power is backed up by refinements to the brakes, chassis, and looks, compared with the standard Challenger, as well as some specific interior and exterior cues.
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SEMA 2006 – Twisted Steel and Sex Appeal

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Every year automotive industry guru’s and product specialists converge on the Las Vegas Convention Center to promote their products, meet the competition, and network. This year an estimated 145,000 people gathered to celebrate American Muscle and flaunt their piece of the automotive puzzle. From guys named Joe who craft cosmetic interior bolts to the major auto manufacturers like Ford, GM, and Toyota the Specialty Equipment Market Association has created a forum for almost anything in the automotive aftermarket. Bring your walking shoes, but leave your wallets at home because it’s time to visit the 40th annual SEMA show.
As died-in-the-wool car guys, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents covered the show. Ah, the aching feet!
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The irony behind SEMA is that there are miles of exhibits, thousands of vehicles, and millions of amazing products, but you can’t purchase anything but a t-shirt or hat. What makes SEMA so special is the passion. Everyone at the show is passionate about his or her part in the automotive aftermarket and that excitement can be seen in their sculptures. The experience could be likened to that of an art aficionado visiting the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, only you’re actually able to meet the artisans along with their work. There were superchargers, suspension kits, pistons, drivelines, radiators, batteries, wheels, tires, and of course vehicles with parts that fused form and function while screaming capability.


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It's Official: Chevrolet Camaro Returns

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As had been widely anticipated, today at a series of annual management briefings in Traverse City, Michigan, GM head Rick Wagoner announced that the Camaro returns to Chevrolet dealerships in late 2008. He also promised that it will look nearly identical to the concept, which wowed Camaro enthusiasts at its reveal at the 2006 Detroit auto show this past January. Of course the Camaro enthusiasts were strategically planted by Chevrolet at the auto show stand… but that’s alright. It was a hoot!

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Camaro sales will start the first quarter of 2009, with production in late 2008. That should give plenty of time for all you Camaro enthusiasts to start saving and preparing for your next car.
The Camaro will retain its rear-wheel-drive traditional configuration and be offered with V6 and V8 engines, with both manual and automatic transmissions on hand. The “fuel economy” engine will be the V6 – with 275-horsepower no less.
Dodge Challenger – Low Investment Coupe from Chrysler’s RWD Platform
The other pony car concept from this year’s Detroit show, the Dodge Challenger, was confirmed forproduction in June. (Click here for our story.) Dodge will beat Chevy to market by a few months, having promised sales in late 2008.
Market May Be Thinner Than Expected if Mustang Can Keep on the Pressure
Timing of Challenger and Camaro give the latest version of the Mustang four to five years’ head start. Given the freshening of the Mustang at about the same time as the Challenger and Camaro introductions, plus the plethora of Mustang special models over the years, Ford may have done a pretty good job siphoning off prospective buyers for the General Motors and Chrysler pony cars.


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Dodge Approves Challenger

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As if There Would Have Been Any Other Answer…
In the biggest non-surprise of the year, Dodge made it official: The Challenger concept will spawn a Challenger production coupe. The Challenger will go on sale in 2008, within two years of the concept’s introduction, as a 2008 model-year vehicle. The announcement was made in conjunction with the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in Daytona, where the Dodge Charger is a competitor.

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Though the name was used a few times on non-muscle cars, the Challenger that is being revived had a five-year run (1970-1974) and saw sales about 188,600 units, coupe and convertible. Which begs the question: When is the convertible coming?
Chevrolet is expected to also follow its 2006 North American International Auto Show concept Camaro with a production version as well. But Dodge looks to be in position to get Challenger to market before Camaro, which could be huge in the image game. No one wants to be last.
All in all, Challenger has a solid platform to launch from and a nice set of powertrains to choose from, being based on Dodge Charger/Magnum and Chrysler 300, though a 500HP SRT Challenger would be helpful. Response to the concept car has been strong enough to get the green light. In 2008, we’ll find out if the enthusiasm translates to real-world purchases.
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(VehicleVoice and AutoPacific brought you news of the Challenger and Camaro back at auto show time; click here and here to revisit those stories.)


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Chrysler Revives Imperial Nameplate for Luxury Concept

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Imperial Takes Style Cues from the Past
The Chrysler Group has a history of presenting stunning concepts, particularly at the North American International Auto Show. Some of these reach production, though the 2006 Imperial concept is still just a concept. The Imperial may have a weaker business case than the Dodge Challenger it was introduced next too, but with it Chrysler explores how far up the luxury chain they may be able to reach. Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the unveiling, complete with star of Desperate_Housewives Eva Longoria flubbing her line. Expected to say she was desperate to have one, she turned out to be not that desperate to have one. No matter, in the end, as the concept won best in show from a 100-person Detroit News readers’ panel.

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The Imperial is envisioned as a flagship sedan, and looks to a lengthened version of the Chrysler 300 (LX) platform, though it has an additional seventeen inches between the axles and another six inches in height. This allows for the long, narrow proportions the company was looking for as well as the room to pamper rear-seat passengers. While the Dodge Charger borrowed inspiration from the Charger of old and the Dodge Challenger concept was a modern replica of the 1970 Challenger, Imperial looked to the 1930s and 1950s sedans that also bore the name.
Frankly, the styling of the Imperial has been very controversial no matter what the Detroit News poll says. Pundits have been ripping it apart. One design chief we talked to wondered what has happened to Chrysler’s vaunted styling team? Another senior designer thought it had interesting cues from the side view but that the front and rear designs were abominable. We know Chrysler can do a tasteful, very upscale Imperial. We’ll wait to see the next one.


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Dodge Challenger Unveiled

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First Pictures: 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept
There is much hype this January about the Dodge Challenger concept, with conversations about the potential coupe’s marketability and the wisdom of reviving an icon seemingly everywhere, including on this blog.
Though the unveiling at the Detroit auto show is still a few days away, the first pictures have found their way into the public arena, so here they are available for VehicleVoice and AutoPacific to use. Has Chrysler’s Pacifica Studio succeeded in bringing back the 1970 Challenger as we wished it were, folding all the advances of the past twenty-five years into a package that still resonates with the 1970 look and feel?

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Dodge Challenger: 1970, All Over Again

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What’s the next “new” concept for the Chrysler Group’s successful rear-wheel-drive platform? Back to the history books. Dodge cannot resist the temptation to revive a muscle car entry, given the available rear-wheel-drive platform and current powertrains. Though Dodge may have gone this direction without the success of the latest Mustang, consumer’s response to the latest Mustang is certainly cause for inspiration.

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Where the Charger played on the heritage name and some cues in an unapologetic modern package and interpretation, the Challenger is instead all about reviving an icon. The Challenger will be the star of the Dodge stage at this year’s Detroit auto show and likely previews a production car. The concept was directly inspired by the 1970 Challenger, and mirrors that shape and look as best it can on the modern platform.


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