Monday, March 10, 2008

Manual for Challenger waits until '09

ETROIT — Driving enthusiasts who want a Dodge Challenger with a manual gearbox will have to wait.

All 7,100 2008 Challenger SRTs — the initial production run — will be equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission and a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 engine.

The powertrain cranks out a tire-smoking 435 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque.

Company and industry sources provided a peek at the Challenger's equipment. More information will be available at the New York auto show next week.

The six-speed manual gearbox, a Tremec 6060, will not be available until the 2009 Challengers arrive later this year. The Tremec box is a modified version of the same 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10 unit.

The first production Challenger will be built April 14 at Chrysler LLC's Brampton, Ontario, plant, according to a Canadian Auto Workers official who declined to be identified.

To stoke excitement for the retro muscle car, Dodge has adopted an unusual rollout plan.

Chrysler usually introduces the SRT performance versions of its vehicles only after it has rolled out the high-volume version. But with the Challenger, the SRT comes first in the short 2008 run, with the lower-priced units arriving for the 2009 model year.

Also in the 2009 model year, Dodge will offer a lower-priced version with a 3.6-liter V-6.

By offering a V-6, Chrysler has decided to go toe-to-toe with its rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, to appeal to a wider audience.

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