2009 Dodge Challenger SEEnlarge Photo
Dodge's director of marketing, Mike Accavitti, said the folks at Dodge considered a convertible but ultimately decided that the potential market was too small to be profitable. They also felt the extra weight required by a convertible's structural bracing would burden the already hefty sedan underpinnings, hurting performance and economy.
Domestic auto news has been decidedly gloomy these days, what with all of the belt tightening, bailout packages, and horrifically low stock values. Heck, we can't even get a slick drop-top version of Dodge's menacing new Challenger. So let's try to end things on a bright note: The new-for-'09 base Challenger model, the SE (pictured above), shouldn't drive like anemic base-model pony cars of yore despite an engine much smaller than the iconic HEMI with which the Challenger was launched.
Chrysler's corporate 3.5-liter V-6 is a relatively modern and respectably powerful (250 hp) engine that also yields decent economy (18/25 mpg) in the new Challenger SE. This may be small consolation to wind-in-the-hair types, but anyone who ever drove a Camaro Berlinetta Iron Duke four or a Mustang LX 2.3 will gladly trade a little extra wind for a lot less wheeze.
Chrysler's 3.5 in the Challenger SE should prove a bit happier and more refined than Ford's current 4.0-liter base six in the Mustang, which shows its coarse Explorer roots when pushed hard. However, the upcoming launch of Chevy's Camaro with the slick direct-injected, variable-valve timed "high-feature" GM 3.6-liter should keep things nice and competitive in the base-model pony car wars. Sounds like a good comparison test for next year...--Colin Mathews