2007 Dodge Challenger Review

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TCC Team TCC Team
July 2, 2006

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2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8

2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8

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With a wave of the green flag, Chrysler officials confirmed the most poorly kept secret in the auto industry.

 

“It’s a go,” proclaimed the automaker’s CEO Tom LaSorda as the Dodge Challenger show car rolled into view. A production version of the two-door prototype will screech into showrooms in early 2008 as an ’08 model, company officials announced at a press conference prior to the holiday weekend’s NASCAR race inDaytona, Fla.

 

The show car made its much-discussed debut at the Detroit auto show last January. Chrysler officials did little to disguise their interest in the business potential for the reborn muscle car, which will now enter an increasingly crowded segment that includes not only the Dodge Charger, but also the popular Ford Mustang. General Motors, meanwhile, is weighing heavily the possibilities for the Chevrolet Camaro concept, which was also unveiled at the Detroit show.

 

Like Ford’s offering, the Challenger is decidedly retro, borrowing heavily from the design of the classic 1970 Dodge muscle coupe. But Chrysler’s number-two executive, Eric Ridenour, suggested the ’08 Challenger is “not…a recreation. It’s a reinterpretation.”

 

Gas pains?

 

Vipers club.

Vipers club.

The timing of the announcement may have been meant to bask in the glory of NASCAR, America ’s most widely-followed race series, but it also came at a time when gasoline prices are running at near-record levels, and consumers are showing increasing interest in high-mileage products.

2007 Dodge Challenger

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It was the first Mideast oil shock, perhaps more than anything, that helped break the back of the original muscle car era.

 

That’s clearly on Chrysler’s corporate mind. Ridenour noted that the new Challenger will be “playing into a smaller segment” of the market. Sources said the Dodge division expects significantly smaller volumes than Ford has achieved with its Mustang, long the best-seller in the so-called pony car segment.

 

Indeed, it appears that several elements of the business case built around the Challenger are still being worked out. For one thing, Chrysler has not yet determined where the coupe will be built.

 

Most analysts have expected Challenger to be dropped into the Brampton, Ont., plant where Chrysler builds its popular 300 sedan, and other models which, like the Challenger, share the rear-drive LX platform. But the automaker is also looking at two other production sites, including a plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., and another in Toluca, Mexico.

 

Details thin

 

While it’s clear that Challenger will offer the automaker’s strong-selling HEMI V-8 in a rear-wheel-drive layout, Chrysler’s weekend announcement was notably short on additional details. No word whether there will be a manual transmission in the catalogue, or just an automatic. And officials declined to say whether there’d be a second engine option, such as a more fuel-efficient V-6.

 

Ridenour did admit that a super-high-performance SRT version of the Challenger is “a very good possibility.” There are now SRT spin-offs of most Chrysler products, including the 300, the Viper, and even the big Ram pickup.

 

Insiders expect that in production, Challenger would likely carry a base price of around $20,000, though an extensive package of options could nudge the typical transaction price closer to $25,000 — and perhaps above the $30,000 mark on a fully-loaded model.

2007 Dodge Challenger

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The original Challenger came late to the muscle-car game, debuting in 1970. The nameplate lasted only through January 1975 in its original iteration, when the last car left the factory. Yet despite — or perhaps because of — that short run, the coupe is today among the most popular cars of its era among collectors. That popularity was reflected in the attention the show car got at Detroit’s North American International Show.

 

“We haven’t seen this kind of spontaneous, passionate response to a car since we unveiled the Dodge Viper concept in 1989,” Chrysler Group President Tom LaSorda said.

 

There was some criticism of the way Chrysler designers stuck to such a literal interpretation of the ’70 Challenger. But there was also praise for the two-door body style. The automaker had faced some extremely sharp criticism two years before, when it brought back the Dodge Charger in four-door form.

 

Sticking with a two-door “is the only way to go,” said NASCAR legend and long-time Chrysler spokesman Richard Petty. “I think they missed it with the Charger and would have gotten a lot more enthusiasm with a two-door.”

 

Ridenour acknowledged that the criticism stung. The Challenger’s design was a direct response, he said, “for those who wrote those nasty letters to me.”

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