Chrysler LLC has completed the rollout of its Dodge Challenger muscle coupe by introducing the lower-powered R/T and SE models and augmenting the already-introduced SRT8 version with an available six-speed manual transmission.
The Challenger is also the first announced car application of the second-generation Hemi V8 engine, which debuted in the Ram pickups. In the Challenger R/T, the 5.7-L Hemi delivers increases of 30 hp (22 kW) and 8 lb·ft (11 N·m) to 370 hp (276 kW) and 398 lb·ft (540 N·m) while trimming the engine’s appetite for fuel by 5%. The 250-hp (186-kW) 3.5-L V6 carries over from the Dodge Charger unchanged, along with its four-speed automatic transmission.
The new Hemi features cylinder-deactivation technology but only on Challengers equipped with the optional five-speed automatic transmission. The Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual gearbox offered on both the 5.7-L R/T and 6.1-L SRT8 models was lifted from the 2008 Dodge Viper, complete with the two-disc clutch.
The Challenger does use different gear ratios, however, and the new coupe’s shifter is modeled after the Hurst pistol-grip shifter that was an available option on the original Challenger. The car also adds Hill Start Assist, which applies brake pressure for a few seconds when starting off to prevent the Challenger from rolling backward on hills.
In addition to the manual transmission, which was not available on the limited-production 2008 Challenger SRT8, another upgrade for the 2009 version of the highest-performance variant is a new 3.91:1 limited-slip differential. It features dual carbon clutch packs for transmitting power to the axles and is carried in a lightweight die-cast aluminum housing.
The new R/T and SE versions ride 0.5 in (13 mm) higher off the ground than the SRT8 version, the high-performance model which features spring and damping rates that are 40% stiffer than those on the lower models, according to Pete Gladysz, Senior Manager of Powertrain for Street and Racing Technology. The SRT8 uses Bilstein dampers, while the other models feature ZF Sachs shocks.
The combination of softer spring rates and higher-profile tires produces a comfortable ride in the R/T and SE cars, said Gladysz. The lesser models use Bosch-supplied brakes rather than the SRT8’s Brembo units, with two-piston front and one-piston rear calipers on the R/T and single-piston calipers all around on the SE.
Because of the differences in the suspension and brakes, the R/T is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h), while the SRT8 is unrestricted and will reach 173 mph (278 km/h), Gladysz said.