In the next few years, the pony car field which has been dominated by the Mustang since 2003 will become more crowded with the release of the new Challenger, followed by the 2009 Camaro. The Mustang has been alone in this field, minus the short lived GTO, since 2003 when the Camaro and Firebird both were discontinued.
Ever since Chrysler announced in 2006 that the Challenger would be coming back, car fans have been salivating waiting for the car to arrive. Fans of the early 70's Challenger remember that car fondly for its great looks and tremendous performance. In a different twist, Chrysler has decided to release the flagship model, the SRT-8 first. Normally, this model would come last, but not this time. There are plans for a 6-cylinder version and RT V-8, most likely the 5.7 Hemi, to follow.
The new Challenger shares many characteristics with the Dodge Charger, with which it shares a very similar chassis. A shorter wheelbase and overall length are the main differences in the two. Suspension wise, the Challenger uses an identical front a-arm and rear multilink suspension as the Charger, but has custom tuned shocks and different rate coil springs to enhance the ride and handling. With this sport-tuned suspension, the car sits slightly lower, but the actual ground clearance is a little higher than the Charger.
The SRT-8 model will sport the same 6.1L Hemi that powers the other SRT-8 vehicles, namely the Cherokee, Charger, Magnum and 300C. A 5-speed automatic transmission with Auto-Stick pilots the Challenger. Power wise, the Challenger puts down 425 horsepower and 420 ft lbs of torque, enough to burn the tires off !! According to Chrysler, the Challenger is capable of 0-60 times in the low five second range and quarter runs in the mid-13s, while the top speed is 160 mph.
Moving at speeds like that, a top-notch braking system is in order and the Challenger delivers on this. Brembo 4-piston brakes come on all four corners with 14.2 "rotors up front and 13.8" rotors in the rear. ABS is also standard to aid in the stopping power and enables quick inputs from the driver.
On the exterior, the styling is retro, similar in many ways to the last Challenger of the early 1970s. The car is equipped with a front splitter with integrated cooling ducts for the brakes, adding great looks but also aiding in performance. HID headlights add top of the line lighting to the Challenger. A functional hood scoop rounds out the aerodynamic package on the front end. Out back, the Challenger sports an attractive tail wing to aid in down force on the car, but also for the aesthetic appeal. The Challenger is minus Dodge's trademark crosshairs front grille, but the reasoning is acceptable to us: to retain a similar grille to the original Challenger.
Dodge has been taking orders for the new Challenger since December with an MSRP price of $ 37,995. Customers ordering the car can choose from black, silver or Hemi orange for their Challenger SRT-8. The 2008 SRT-8 will be a limited run and will include a numbered dash plaque. Love the look of the Challenger but can't afford the $ 38,000 SRT-8 ??? Starting next year, the other models will become available, including a V-6 version and a 5.7L RT.
All in all, Dodge has done a great job on the appeal and performance of the new Challenger and looks ready to jump head first back into the pony car field. One thing is for sure, with the Challenger, Mustang and new Camaro for 2009, the horsepower wars may just be beginning !!