The Challenger For the Rest of Us

Imagine it now if you can, the salesman hands you the keys to your brand new, black, shiny 2009 Dodge Challenger. That long hood, that awesome stance and those oh-so-cool hood scoops. The legend is alive and well, and you’re about to drive it home but you stop and think, oh, let’s look under the hood!

The salesman looks away, and once the hood pops open something doesn’t look right. Something is missing, but what? Wait a minute, two cylinders are missing! A V6? It’s like a muscle car nightmare! 

The Challenger can be bought with a 3.5-liter, six cylinder, instead of its birthright V8 engine. Not just any V6 either, but rather a thoroughly modern DOHC, 24-valve motor that was the top of the line engine in the old Chrysler 300M. It generates 250 ponies, but is it enough to move two tons of Dodge? Um, well, not really. Let me explain.

The Challenger SE, as it’s badged, is a case of a decent engine let down by an archaic transmission. The four-speed unit is really a power sapper and destroys any chance of the SE getting around at a brisk pace. The specs show 0-60mph in over 8 seconds which equals to a decently running Ford Windstar minivan’s pace. It also rides on lower spec brakes and suspension, as well as cheap-o, all-season tires which only hurt its performance potential.

At $21,995 the Challenger SE is a good deal for anyone who likes the look of Dodge’s muscle car but can live without the big thirsty V8 and its accompanying performance. Just don’t expect any street cred at the local Sunday night muscle car meet.


Dodge’s new budget muscle car looks fast. I said looks.