E = mc2. Anyone who has ever watched public television can recite this famous formula devined by Albert Einstein. It is seared into our brains, even if we donâ€™t comprehend its full meaning.
What we know for certain is the equation quantifies something that previously seemed unquantifiable. And in that we find comfort because it appeals to humankindâ€™s inherent compulsion to order the universe.
Now commit this to memory: 5.7L + 6MT.
It is the code for pure driving enjoyment. And it is revealed in the â€™09 Dodge Challenger R/T.
In the muscle coupeâ€™s mid-range trim,marries two never-before-combined components â€“ the new-generation 5.7L Hemi and the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission.
Churning together, their performance captures the basal elements of driving enjoyment. Responsive and exhilarating, the torque-rich V-8 and easy-shifting gearbox donâ€™t just turn the Challenger into an extension of your right foot, they transform that appendage into a fearsome instrument of bona-fide butt-kicking.
came close to this discovery with the limited-run â€™08 Challenger SRT8. But its 5-speed automatic transmission seemed to choke the life from its monstrous 6.1L Hemi â€“ despite the functionality afforded by the auto makerâ€™s trademark Auto Stick shifter.
We havenâ€™t felt frustration like that sinceAG saddled the 5.0L V-10 in its â€™06 M5 with the heartbreakingly balky Sequential Manual gearbox.
The vagaries of volume manufacturing forced Chrysler to let the 6060 sit on the shelf until now. The auto maker mused that introducing a new product and assembling it on the same line with platform-mates that donâ€™t offer manual transmissions, the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, was an unnecessary risk.
The good news is it was worth the wait.
Optional on the R/T, the 6-speed gets the most out of Chryslerâ€™s re-engineered 5.7L Hemi, generating 376 hp and peak torque of 410 lb.-ft. (556 Nm). Linked to the R/Tâ€™s standard-equipment 5-speed automatic transmission, the engineâ€™s output is marginally lower at 372 hp and 401 lb.-ft. (544 Nm).
But â€“ no surprise â€“ the manual gearbox, available as part of a $995 pacakge, offers instantaneous access to effortless acceleration. The new Hemi, which benefits from a two-plug-per-cylinder ignition system, delivers power to the road with confidence-boosting precision.
The R/Tâ€™s electronic stability control, unlike the system on the more boisterous â€™09 SRT8 with its 425-hp 6.1L Hemi, canâ€™t be completely disabled. Call us Pollyannish, but we say get over it.
In the interest of science, we hammered the R/Tâ€™s throttle often. (Repeatability is the hallmark of successful experimentation.) And every tip-in was accompanied by some persuasive seat compression, immediately followed by a husky exhaust timbre so intoxicating it could redefine the parameters of V-8 sound. (Take note,.)
The new Hemi, dubbed â€śEagleâ€ť during its developmental phase, sings so sweetly you may never switch on the Challengerâ€™s 7-speaker, 368-watt Boston Acoustics sound system. However, the tone emanating from the automatic-equipped R/T is slightly diminished.
Chrysler says its fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System, which periodically shuts down half of the Hemiâ€™s eight cylinders, called for a tuning compromise to accommodate its two running conditions.
Engineers went toe-to-toe with designers over another feature of the Challengerâ€™s exhaust. Designers wanted to see the carâ€™s tips integrated in the rear molding, but engineers won out when they demanded a stand-alone configuration.
The result is a subtle nod to nostalgia on the Challengerâ€™s updated lines.
|Vehicle type||5-passenger coupe|
|Engine||5.7L Hemi V-8; cast-iron block/aluminum head|
|Power (SAE net)||376 hp @ 5,150 rpm|
|Torque||410 lb.-ft. (556 Nm) @ 4,300 rpm|
|Wheelbase||116 ins. (295 cm)|
|Overall length||197 ins. (502 cm)|
|Overall width||75.7 ins. (192 cm)|
|Overall height||57.1 ins. (145 cm)|
|Curb weight||4,041 lbs. (1,833 kg)|
|Fuel economy||15/23 mpg (15.6/10.2 L/100 km)|
|Competition||Mustang GT,RX-8, Eclipse|
|Upgraded Hemi||Pedestrian gauge cluster|
|Exquisite Exhaust||Bulky seating|
|MT||Had to wait for MT|
Surviving from the nameplateâ€™s glory days is the signature rear-quarter-panel bulge, which accentuates the sinewy crease that runs, stem to stern, just below its high beltline. The combined effect suggests both power and stamina.
A 3-piece taillamp that spans the width of the car says â€śback-off.â€ť And its black grille sandwiched between a pair of round, dual-headlamp groupings is no less menacing â€“ particularly the way it peers out from beneath a broad, chiseled hood highlighted by dual intakes that wear â€śHemiâ€ť badges like a warning.
(From the Chrysler spin factory: Lift the Challengerâ€™s hood and youâ€™ll find a pair of circular depressions molded into a plastic surface that spans either side of the radiator. These, an engineer claims, are for holding celebratory beers back at the garage â€śafter you dust off a Mustang.â€ť)
The SE model, powered by a capable 250-hp 3.5L V-6, is plainer. But it retains the defiant, wide stance of its R/T and SRT8 siblings.
The cast-metal fuel door is another appropriate wink to the nameplateâ€™s glory days.
The interior is less inspiring. The gauge cluster is parts-bin pedestrian and the front seats are bulky. And there is no rear-seat access from the driverâ€™s side, a concession to the driverâ€™s 8-way power-seat mechanism.
However, a high-mounted release on the front-passenger seat is accessible to the driver.
The SRT8â€™s high-backed, big-bolster seats hug nicely, while rear-seat legroom is surprisingly generous.
The R/Tâ€™s 4-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel features appropriate girth for managing the carâ€™s prodigious pull. Feedback is uniform without inviting fatigue.
Front and center in the manual-equipped R/T is a leather-and-metallic-trimmed, pistol-grip shifter. Its smooth surfaces make for comfortable handling whether your preferred position is palm-down or revolver-style.
The stickâ€™s forgiving throw seems to welcome aggressive slamming as readily as it accommodates the relaxed shifting required of rush-hour traffic.
Pedal feel affords the desired connectedness, particularly the clutch, which is so pliable it begs you to rev the new Hemi.
While the â€™09 SRT8 can be had with the Tremec transmission, and it boasts nearly 70 hp/L, Chryslerâ€™s highest-ever specific output for a naturally aspirated V-8, it also comes with a heftier price tag.
With the 6-speed, the SRT8 starts at $42,390. But the R/T starts at $30,990. Thatâ€™s a difference of $18 per pony â€“ a winning formula if ever there was one.