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Dodge Avenger Strikes Back at Midsize Cars, Viper Gets More Venom

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2008 Dodge Viper Photo: Sean Frego
By Alexander Popple
Viper SRT10 bids for pole position with a big power boost, while the new Avenger offers Dodge attitude in the midsize sedan market.
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2008 Dodge Viper Photo: Sean Frego
Journalists crowd round the 2008 Viper at the Dodge press briefing. Larger air scoops are clearly visible in this image. Photo: Sean Frego
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Juan Pablo Montoya and Eric Ridenour with the 2008 Dodge Avenger NASCAR Photo: Sean Frego
Juan Pablo Montoya and Eric Ridenour with the 2008 Dodge Avenger NASCAR. Photo: Sean Frego
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2008 Dodge Avenger Photo: Sean Frego
2008 Dodge Avenger features a "menacing glare" and clear-lens headlights. Photo: Sean Frego
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2008 Dodge Magnum Photo: Sean Frego
The 2008 Dodge Magnum SRT8 has a lower ride height than other models. Photo: Sean Frego

Heart-pounding rock music, roaring engines, and plenty of automotive muscleat the Dodge press event, there’s no mistaking the impressive showmanship of an all-American brand.


The 2008 Viper is a brawny evocation of Dodge "attitude." “This is the most powerful, desirable, car on the roadit takes street legal performance to a new level and will outperform cars costing two times as much,” said Executive Vice President of Product Design Frank Klegon.


Viper Photo Gallery


With its V10 engine upsized to 8.4 liters and able to pump out 600 horsepower (plus a mighty 560 lb-ft of torque), Viper can once again claim to have more muscle than its key rivals at Chevrolet and Ford: the Corvette Z06 and Ford Shelby GT500 both top out at around 500 horsepower.


The extra power comes from an all-round development of the motor. Along with the additional engine displacement, there are stronger engine components that allow it to run faster. Improved engine breathing also plays a part.


On the road, that extra power means 0-60 mph acceleration in less than five seconds.


Message Boards: Is 600 horsepower too much for a street car? Voice your opinion!


There are also changes to the appearance of the hood and nose, with a new air scoop and air louvers to aid the new engine’s breathing and cooling.


Mr. Klegon and Chrysler Group Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour were joined on stage at Dodge’s press briefing by the Dodge racecar drivers Kurt Busch and Elliot Sadler.


Also appearing was Juan-Pablo Montoya joins Dodge Racing this year, driving the company’s new Avenger in the NASCAR series. He drove his race-prepared Avenger on stage.


The road-going Avenger, which will be able available in North American showrooms by March was also on show. (European sales start in summer.)


Avenger Replaces Stratus

Replacing the Dodge Stratus, the midsize Avenger sedan has plenty of Dodge attitude but little has changed from the aggressively styled concept shown at last year’s Paris auto show.


“This car will do for the midsize segment what Magnum, Charger, Nitro and Caliber have done for their respective segments," said Mr. Ridenour. It encapsulates Dodge values of “practicality, style, value and aggressive flair.”


Starting at $18,895, the front-wheel-drive Avenger will be built here in Michigan. It will have three engine choices, starting with a 2.4 four cylinder and topping out with a 3.5-liter V6. The midrange 2.7-liter unit is capable of running on any combination of gasoline and E85. Avenger will deliver fuel economy of up to 30 mpg on the tougher 2008 EPA measure.


There will be a new six-speed automatic transaxle on some models, and available all-wheel drive. Other features include a “chill zone” that will keep beverages cool, heated cupholders, and available SIRIUS Satellite Radio. A system named “MyGIG” allows entertainment, navigation and communication features to be controlled by voice commands and a touch screen.


Refreshed Magnum

With a race-inspired hood incorporating an air scoop to feed a SRT-tuned, 6.1 liter 425-horsepower HEMI V8, the Magnum SRT8 was also on show. SRT, or Street and Racing Technology, is Chrysler Group's performance tuning division. The Magnum's suspension also gets the SRT treatment, with revised spring rates and other components.


The SRT8 sits lower than other Magnums, but whole the entire line gets refreshed styling for 2008, including a new hood, grille, fascia and armrests. An all-wheel-drive system is also available.


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