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Motorweek Review of SE

Old 10-13-2008, 07:54 AM
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Default Motorweek Review of SE

Here is the Motorweek review of the Challenger SE that aired on TV on October 12, 2008:

Also, here is the text of the program:

2009 Dodge Challenger V6
Program #2806

Right from their start in the 1960s, "pony cars" like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger have ignited many an argument among fans and auto writers alike over horsepower and big V8s. But, truth be told, most of these sporty coupes go out with smaller, more insurable, and more economical power trains. Case in point, the new Dodge Challenger SE. While it may trade a HEMI V8 for a more responsible V6, Dodge promises most of the flare of the HEMI. So, let's see if this Challenger's sparks will still fly or fall shy.

There's no doubt that the MotorWeek staff was impressed with the HEMI V8 Dodge Challenger SRT8, calling it "an all new chapter in the American muscle car story." But like most horsepower junkies, our resident lead footers were less than excited when presented with the 2009 Dodge Challenger SE.

It's not because the SE doesn't look the muscle car part. It does, wearing the same broad shouldered retro-tough lines as its HEMI sibling. From the wide-mouth grille with round vintage-look head lights to the long-hood short-rear-deck pony car profile, the Challenger SE is nearly identical to its big-bore brother.

Only a discerning eye will note the smaller 17-inch wheels, which can be upgraded to 18s.

Of course the engine that turns those wheels is what matters most here, and in the SE that's Chrysler's yeoman 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6, which is shared with more mundane models like the Avenger sedan, and Journey Crossover.

In the Challenger, the 3.5 V6 makes 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. While more than the Mustang's V6, it's still 122 horsepower less than the mid-level RT model's 5.7-liter V8, and a huge 175 ponies short of the 6.1-liter in the SRT8.

And don't think about maximizing your go with a manual gearbox. The only tranny available is a 4-speed automatic.

That may not yield blazing fast quarter-mile runs, but it does earn government fuel economy ratings of 17 city/25 highway on regular grade gas. Our test run returned a fine 24 miles-per-gallon. The SE's energy impact score is an acceptable 17.1 barrels of oil per year, with a carbon footprint of 9.2.

And that's not to say that the SE can't get out of its own way, as a 0-to-60 time of 7.8 seconds shows. The SE also gets through the quarter-mile just dandy, with a time of 16 seconds at 91 miles-per-hour.

But don't expect a vigorous launch, as the 3,800 pound SE is a lot of car for 250 ponies to move. Once up to speed, the 4-speed box shifts slowly but smoothly.

On the handling course, the SE shows itself to be competent, while lacking the tight feel and sharp response of the SRT8.

With its touring oriented suspension, and the optional electronic stability control, our SE has a more big sedan feel with prominent front push.

Stopping distances averaged a longish 135 feet from 60, but the big chassis was always rock solid.

So, while the SE may not be quite as track ready as the SRT8, it does provide a much more comfortable ride in daily driving, and you still get to ride in the same retro yet modern cockpit as the more powerful Challengers - one with a classis four dial gauge cluster, a full-size steering wheel, and wide comfortable seats.

Crash protection comes from multi-stage front, and two-row side curtain airbags.

The tight rear seat splits and folds, to increase the already substantial 16.2 cubic feet of trunk space.

So while the Challenger may be big, but the SE's base price is a compact $21,995. That's 8 grand less than the Challenger RT, and a huge $18,000 less than the SRT8.

So, the classic style of the 2009 Dodge Challenger SE still makes sparks fly! And, with V6 pricing, fuel economy, and insurability; you can actually light up the road more often.

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