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2008-2010 Dodge Challenger - Used Car Review

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author photo by Joe Tralongo July 2011

Like MGs are to the English, and Porsches to the Germans, big, loud, fast V8-powered coupes are what make American gear heads go weak in the knees. In the late 60s and early 70s, three cars ruled the muscle car roost. Actually, they were considered pony cars because of their smaller size, but that didn't stop Americans from flocking to the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Unfortunately, by 1973 strict emissions rules and a costly oil embargo all but killed the dream. The Mustang shrank to little more than a Pinto knock off, and the Camaro ballooned in size while simultaneously losing all its muscle. Sadly, after only four short years in production, the most powerful and stylish of the three, the Challenger, died an unceremonious death.

But reincarnation is part of the Motor City's religion, and so, after the resurgence of the Mustang, Dodge saw fit to bring back the Challenger name (and its legendary HEMI engine), which in turn, inspired Chevrolet to do the same with the Camaro. In an odd twist of fate, the 2008 Challenger was launched right at the onset of a major gas crisis and near-economic collapse, just like the original Challenger. Hopefully, this model will survive the bad times and outlive the original car's run. But if not, look for that used Challenger to become a future collectible, just like its 70s era kin.

Why You Want It

Whether it's to regain a little slice of your lost youth, or just to delight your need for speed, the Challenger provides the look, power and appeal of an exotic sports car at a price al most anyone can afford. Unlike the original, this car can do more than just go fast in a straight line. Using the same chassis and suspension as the Charger sedan, the Challenger is able to hug curves with confidence and stop on a dime. And, unlike the smaller Mustang and Camaro, the Challenger offers a usable rear seat and a rather large trunk, two important features when there are family members to consider. True muscle car devotees will no doubt want the 425-horsepower SRT8, but the R/T trim, which also has a HEMI V8, or the V6-powered SE are going to be more affordable, not to mention plentiful.

Notable Features & Options

The SE trim features a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission (five-speed on 2010 models), air conditioning, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, power driver's seat, AM/FM stereo with four speakers and MP3-compatible CD player, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel and manual lumbar adjustment for both driver and passenger. The R/T adds the 372-horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8, five-speed AutoStick transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, body-colored rear spoiler, 160-mph speedometer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The SRT8 adds the 425-horsepower 6.1-liter HEMI V8, a limited slip differential, 20-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, heated leather seats, unique hood with scoops and black decal and a 368-watt, seven speaker Boston Acoustics sound system.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction and electronic stability control (optional on SE in 2009, standard on 2010 models) and side curtain airbags. Optional equipment varies by trim and includes the UConnect hands-free phone connectivity package, Keyless Go with push button start/stop, DVD navigation, the Boston Acoustic sound system, heated leather seats (in the SE) and a power moonroof. The R/T can be equipped with the Track Pak which adds a six-speed manual transmission with Hill Start Assist and a limited slip differential. In 2010, the Track Pak was upgraded to include 20-inch wheels, Nivomat self-leveling shocks, a stability control off switch and a larger rear stabilizer bar.

Model Milestones

2008: First year of production brought a limited number of SRT8 models to market.

2009: The SE and R/T join the Challenger lineup and a high performance six-speed manual gearbox is offered on the SRT8.

2010: The SE trim gains a five-speed automatic transmission, as well as standard traction and stability control. R/T models gain automatic headlamps, while the SRT8 is offered in Plum Crazy or Furious Fuchsia editions.

Engines and Performance

In just about any other car, a 250-horsepower V6 would seem more than sufficient; but this is a Challenger we're talking about. The SE is a nice car, pretty quick, fun to drive and certainly the most affordable Challenger on the lot. But, the real fun is had behind the wheel of the HEMI-powered R/T and SRT8. Both the 5.7- and 6.1-liter V8s are HEMI engines, so called because of the hemispherical design of their combustion chamber. But, the 5.7-liter engine also features Chrysler's Multi-Displacement cylinder deactivation system, which saves fuel by deactivating four of the eight cylinders when not needed.

We had the chance to drive the Challenger SRT8 and R/T on Chrysler's enclosed proving ground test track and it lived up to the hype. The car is well-balanced and its steering is direct and precise with almost no play in the wheel. The back end can be made to break loose, but the electronic stability control quickly steps in to kill the fun; luckily, you can kill the ESP aligning the Challenger's driving characteristic with its 1970s counterpart. Unlike those early Mopars, however, this Challenger can be quite comfortable when not racing around messing up your passenger's hair. Around town or on the highway, the ride is smooth and unintended encounters with random potholes won't jar your fillings loose. The interior does get a good dose of V8 rumble, but you can drown it out with the excellent Boston Acoustic sound system (although why would you ever want to drown out the sound of a happy HEMI?).

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2008-2010 Dodge Challenger:

2008: Models with automatic transmission and Keyless Go option recalled for a defect that could erase the electronic key code when the vehicle is not in park. If this occurs, the vehicle could roll out of control or be vulnerable to theft.

2009: Recall for possible defective tire pressure monitoring valve.

2010: Recall issued for possible missing front wheel spindle nut, which may result in the wheel separating from the car. Also, a recall was issued for a module that allows the key to be removed from the ignition prior to the transmission being placed in the park position.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs where performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, the Challenger receives five stars in NHTSA front and side-impact crash tests, the highest score possible. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet tested the Challenger.

The 2008-2009 Dodge Challenger offers a 3-year/36,000 basic and drivetrain warranty. In 2010, the drivetrain warranty increased to 5-years/100,000 miles. Dodge also offers a number of extended warranties as part of their Certified Pre-Owned program, including a Lifetime Certified Upgrade program that allows drivetrain coverage for the life of the vehicle.

Word on the Web

You know what the experts say, but what about the people who have bought and lived with the Challenger for more than a week? We thought you might like to know what they thought, so we rummaged through the complaint threads on sites like, and For the most part, there no major stand outs, with most complaints centering around dead batteries and the problems this situation causes the MyGiG navigation and music storage system once power is restored. There are more than a few threads regarding poor quality paint jobs and/or peeling clearcoat, a groaning noise from the steering column and some minor trim problems. Most of these issues are covered by TSB (Technical Service Bulletins) and should be covered under the factory warranty. With the exception of average grades for paint and audio systems, Consumer Reports gives the 2009 Dodge Challenger high marks in all other test categories.

Competitive Set

Among the domestics, the Challenger's two most obvious rivals are the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. The Mustang has been around longer than the Challenger, so you'll have a greater selection and price range. Both the V6 and V8 Mustangs can certainly match the Challenger's performance, and the car's smaller size may be more appealing to some. But, the Mustang's antiquated solid rear axle can't hold a candle to the Challenger's independent setup, nor does the Mustang have much room for rear seat occupants. The Camaro is every bit the Challenger's rival in the performance arena with a similar independent rear suspension and powerful V6 and V8 engine choices. But, the Challenger's larger and wider body provides more interior room for passengers and the Camaro's relative newness means finding a low cost model on the used lot may not be easy. If rear seat accommodations are not high on your priority list, then consider the two-seat Nissan 350/370Z. Although the car's price tag will be significantly higher than a V6-powered Challenger, the Z's rear wheel drive layout, close ratio manual transmission and high-output V6 engine make it a blast to drive. If price is no impediment, try a BMW M3. It can certainly outperform the Challenger in every category, is widely admired, and when it comes time to sell, is highly sought after.

AutoTrader Recommendation

While we love the SRT8, it is a hard car to come by and when you do find them, they fetch a high premium. The SE V6 is a nice car, but if you're getting a Challenger, you should go with one that rumbles like the original. The R/T trim with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 fits the bill nicely. Its fuel economy on the highway isn't bad considering the amount of muscle under the hood, and when the time comes to show off that muscle, the R/T knows how to strut its stuff.

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2008-2010 Dodge Challenger - Used Car Review - Autotrader