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We Drive: 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T

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Which brings me to how the R/T drives. Really romp on the throttle and the car responds with grin-inducing acceleration, but don’t expect to be blowing the doors off of anyone in a stoplight-to-stoplight battle. The Challenger weighs an astonishing 4,041 lbs, and two tons is an incredible amount of weight for anything to slosh around. Really lean on an apex and the suspension pushes hard to the outside. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend tracking this thing any time soon, it’s an incredibly comfortable highway cruiser. The suspension is soft enough to absorb imperfections in the pavement and the cabin is incredibly quiet.

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Though the speed hungry best look elsewhere, Dodge has done a fantastic job with the fit and finish on the Challenger. Everything feels solid and well sorted. Our tester had nearly 17,000 miles of abuse at the hands of various auto journos and was still as solid as could be. Out back, there’s a trunk the size of my first living room, and the rear seat can actually be used by small adults. If you’re looking for a muscle car you can live with, the Challenger’s not a bad way to go. Dodge claims the 5.7-liter Hemi is good for 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, which aren’t exactly numbers to sneeze at given the engine’s power.

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We get to drive some pretty entertaining metal around here, and at the end of the day, the question is always whether or not I could own this car. In the Challenger’s case, the answer is a resounding yes. During my week with the car, it’s impossible to say how many people flagged me down, gave the thumbs up, or simply told me how gorgeous the car was. More than once I came out of a store to see a crowd of guys standing around nodding with approval. Above and beyond everything else, the Challenger has shirked the common mold of what constitutes transportation these days. Combined with a seriously comfortable, quiet interior and the throaty rumble of the V8’s exhaust, the car is a joy. Even the MSRP of $30,945 is livable.

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Unfortunately, the Challenger’s competition has sharpened its teeth considerably. Those looking for serious on-track thrills will wander off toward cars like the Mitsubishi Evo X and the Subaru WRX STI, or maybe even the Nissan 370Z, and folks with a muscle-car bent will be hard pressed to pass up the lighter, more powerful Camaro SS. Dodge could have benefited from shedding several hundred pounds from the Challenger’s frame, and maybe even shrinking the overall proportions a tiny bit. Separated from the pack, however, the Challenger is a damn fine car, and one I wouldn’t mind having in the garage at the end of the day.

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Driven, Fiendings

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