2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8. Click image to enlarge

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Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2009 Dodge Challenger

Toronto, Ontario – You don’t even have to be moving in the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 to sense something is afoot. Pressing the starter button on the dash awakens the 425-horsepower 6.1-litre Hemi V8, and the cabin vibrates in gentle sympathy while a nostalgic baritone rumble tickles the eardrums. It’s quite a novel experience in this time of sanitized motoring, when the trend is to banish any evidence of mechanical goings-on within the passenger compartment.

But Dodge’s $45,995 halo pony car isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill coupe, is it? With the way things are going for Chrysler right now, this car just might become a collector’s item.

By combining the go-fast parts of Chrysler’s SRT8 cars (Dodge Charger SRT8 and Chrysler 300 SRT8) with a nice take on the 1970-74 Dodge Challenger’s body, Dodge has created an instant classic. And by gawd, everybody loves this car. Not since driving the Audi R8 have I felt so much love from John Q. Public.

2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8. Click image to enlarge

On its 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and shortened LX platform, the Challenger SRT8 is very well proportioned – so much so you don’t get a sense of how big it is until you’re up close.

Everything is XL here. The long doors swing way out, and once nestled in the excellent SRT sport seats, you’re facing a huge steering wheel and a broad dash with large rotary audio and HVAC knobs. The end of the long hood is nowhere in sight: familiar territory for anyone who’s driven other LX offerings.

What won’t be familiar here is the pistol-grip shifter that sprouts from the console and angles towards the driver in a come-hither fashion. While the first 500 Challenger SRT8s sold in Canada were fitted with a five-speed manumatic, a six-speed manual Tremec transmission ($2,000) is available in the 2009 cars. Money well spent, I’d say. This gearbox pairs well with the Challenger’s underhood mayhem.

Although a bit recalcitrant when cold, the shifts are short and direct once the tranny warms up. Clutch take-up is smooth, and both clutch and shifter have a manly heft to them that is in keeping with the rest of the car’s personality.

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