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New Dodge Vehicles

Dodge brought by a selection of their newest vehicles at a recent media event. We had the chance to try out the Dodge Challenger (SRT-8 and R/T versions), the new Dodge Ram, and the Durango two-mode hybrid.

CNET Reviews staff

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Up front, the more docile R/T version of the Challenger features the same wide, low slung look.
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The R/T also receives smaller 18 inch wheels, all-season tires, and a less aggressive brake package.
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Both Challenger models receive similar instrumentation with retro white gauges and black text.
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The R/T on hand was equipped with an automatic transmission. Though it can be equipped with the MyGIG multimedia system found in the SRT8, it doesn't get the optional 13 speaker Kicker package. Instead Dodge offers an optional eight speaker Boston Acoustics package.
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When paired with the standard five speed automatic transmission, the Challenger R/T's 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 outputs 370 horsepower, 5 less than when equipped with the six speed manual, and 390 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi V-8 is also equipped with cylinder deactivation tech that allow the Challenger to operate on four cylinders for highway cruising.
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At first glance the step down Challenger R/T looks identical, but closer inspection reveals the less aggressive chin spoiler, non-functional ducts on the hood, and missing SRT striping.
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Also on hand was the 2009 Dodge Ram. Dodge tells us that this model is equipped with their new in-vehicle Wi-Fi system, but unfortunately we were unable to test it.
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The Dodge Ram featured innovative and optional Ram Boxes built into the bed rails which in a way compensates for the lack of an enclosed trunk.
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The 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 under the Ram's hood is similar to that of the Challenger R/T featuring 390 horsepower and cylinder displacement tech. Also available for 2009 are a 4.7 liter SOHC V-8 and a 3.7 liter V-6.
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The Ram features a remarkably detailed interior for what is essentially a work truck, but is still plagued by hard, cheap feeling plastics in some places. There's plenty of space to stretch out in this big boy, even in the crew cab's backseat.
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The Ram features the MyGIG entertainment hub with UConnect voice activated Bluetooth that's available across Dodge's model line. Interestingly enough, the unit in place in the test Ram seemed to be lacking a navigation feature.
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The Ram shows its truck roots by allowing the driver full control over the differential. Switching from two wheel drive to any of the three four wheel drive programs is as simple as turning a knob.
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The dash-mounted 110V is very convenient on one hand. On the other hand, it lacks a third grounding prong, which makes the outlet difficult to use with some devices.
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The most tech-laden vehicle on display at the event was the yet unreleased Dodge Durango Hemi Hybrid. As the name implies, Dodge has paired their Hemi engine with a two mode hybrid drivetrain similar to the one seen on the 2008 GMC Yukon Hybrid.
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The hybrid system operates in two modes: an all-electric mode for light acceleration below 27 mph and a "tag-team" mode that uses the gasoline engine and electric motors together for cruising and heavy load situations.
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Coupled with the hybrid drivetrain is Dodge's staple 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 gasoline engine, featuring MDS cylinder deactivation tech that allows the engine to operate in four, six, or eight cylinder modes.
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In place of a tachometer, the Durango Hemi Hybrid features this hybrid gauge that lets the driver know what mode the powertrain is operating in at a glance.
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The fully optioned MyGIG system in the Durango features Sirius video. Picture quality was a bit on the fuzzy side, but the fact that it's even present is a little amazing.
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The standard MyGIG Infotainment package features another hybrid display that gives more detailed information about the operations of the hybrid drivetrain and instantaneous and average mpg readings.
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Behind a false button is the dash mounted USB input for playback of music on USB devices. We couldn't get the system to work with an iPhone.
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The MyGIG system will allow the downloading of music and jpeg images from USB devices. Previous models had anywhere from a 20GB to a 30GB hard drive.
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The most visually and viscerally exciting vehicle of the day was the Dodge Challenger SRT8. Loud, fast, and bright orange, the SRT8 turned more than a few heads on our test drive.
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A full width grill with integrated gun chamber inspired head lamps and deep chin spoiler create a wide and low look. The chin spoiler is of note since it scraped the ground multiple times over the course of the afternoon leaving the driveway.
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The carbon fiber patterned stripes on the hood are attractive and sporty, but they're just stickers on a sheet metal hood.
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The interior of the Challenger is simple, yet purposeful. There are still lots of cheap plastics that we'd like to see go away on domestic vehicles, but the overall impression is that of a nicely made interior.
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The optional six speed manual transmission comes with this pistol grip shifter. While the shifter felt great in hand, the throw was awkward with notchy gates. As a result, we kept ending up in fourth gear on the 1-2 shift.
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The Challenger SRT8 can be had with the optional MyGIG hard drive based navigation and entertainment system.
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Behind the massive spokes of the 20 inch forged aluminum wheels, we can see the Brembo brake calipers and slotted rotors. Unlike the muscle car engineers of yesteryear, Dodge has seen fit to equip the Challenger with brakes worthy of a performance vehicle. We were impressed by the amount of grip the SRT8's exhibited in fast turns.
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The view under the hood is, thankfully, devoid of the plastic cladding we've come to expect in today's engine bay. Instead the 6.1 liter SRT Hemi V-8's attractive intake manifold is put on display. In this incarnation, the Hemi outputs a staggering 425 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque. The engine makes almost as much noise as it does power. Thanks to the throaty V-8 growl, the car feels fast even when you're cruising along at the speed limit.

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