Oh, please — don’t act so surprised. The proliferation of turbocharged four-cylinders, automatic transmissions, and soon, a hybrid Mustang should have prepared you for the all-wheel-drive Challenger GT. It’s part of an inexorable push toward usability, and an all-wheel-drive drivetrain was inevitable. We spent some time behind the wheel of the first all-wheel-drive muscle coupe, and discovered how much the Challenger changes with the introduction of a front differential.
It’s true, this breaks with longstanding tradition, but don’t assume this was a hackneyed, impulsive oversight. Dodge crunched the numbers, and found the number one vehicle cross-shopped with its four-door Charger was the Challenger, and vice-versa. Unsurprisingly, for customers in the northern region of the U.S., the decision came down to the availability of all-wheel-drive, so the sales usually went to the Charger. It wasn’t too difficult to adapt the Charger’s AWD system for the two-door Challenger, thanks to shared platform and powertrains, and when the GT hits dealer lots, Dodge expects it to carry an average transaction price higher than the equivalent AWD Charger, so it’s a win-win for all parties involved.
Don’t worry — Dodge isn’t coming for your rear-wheel-drive Challengers, either. Aside from the new GT trim, every other Challenger variant is still available, including the regular RWD V-6 coupe. Hardcore muscle heads won’t even be all that interested in the car regardless, seeing as it comes exclusively equipped with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission.
It still scoots, thanks to 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. No official 0-60 times were released, but we’d conservatively estimate it in the high five-second range. Power is still primarily sent to the rear-wheels, only routed to the front wheels though an active transfer case and axle disconnect when the car detects slip, the ambient temperature drops past a certain threshold, the windshield wipers are activated, or the car is in manual shifting mode.
In practice, the system worked exactly as it should, with no extra vibrations, sounds, or drivetrain lash out on the cold, winding roads of rural Maine. We meandered through snowbound New England farmland for a few hours before arriving at the test track, and during our exploration of icy dirt roads, the Challenger never once gave us any reason to worry about becoming stranded. It was effortlessly surefooted, but it’s worth noting the ride comfort was a tad too bumpy for our tastes, thanks to standard “Performance” suspension.
At the Club Motorsports track, we practiced our best Sebastian Loeb impressions on the facility’s autocross course and skidpad carved out of the snowy landscape. Thankfully, each GT we piloted wore the same all-season tires available as standard from the factory floor, so we experienced the cars as a buyer would. On the snow skidpad, it was rear-wheel drive antics as usual — until it wasn’t. Throttle in; lock the wheel, point the nose, and the rear-end steps out for a brief moment before the front wheels begin to scramble, pulling you straight out of the slide and into a relatively controllable state. Fun? Not entirely, but that’s not what this safety-first system was designed for. If you’re looking for drifty winter antics, stick with the regular rear-wheel-drive Challenger shod with winter rubber.
The GT displayed the same amount of poise on the tight autocross track as well. When it under steers, just give it a boot full of gas to swing the rearend out a bit, allowing the front wheels to pull you forward. It’s a heavy car, so traction is ample, a fact we experienced on the snow dragstrip. Roll into the throttle, and the GT gets up to speed quickly and without much fuss.
It was bumpy out on the snow, but inside, we were no worse for the wear. Each GT arrives with standard leather seats and heated steering wheel. Spring for the trim-exclusive GT Interior package, and the car arrives with SRT-sourced Nappa leather and suede performance seats, along with a premium Alpine sound system and sport steering wheel. All said it’s what we’ve come to know and expect from the Challenger lineup. Prices for the GT start right at $34,490, a decent chunk of change over the $31,285 SXT Plus, but the price tag is a little easier to swallow thanks to the extra standard features.
While the Charger was briefly available with the 5.7-liter V-8 and all-wheel-drive, don’t expect to see an AWD Challenger R/T in the near future. Dodge claims the V-6 sells more than every other Challenger powertrain, so it was a no-brainer. Sure, an all-wheel-drive Hellcat would be brutal, but the V-6 GT makes a great deal more fiduciary sense.
The 2017 Dodge Challenger GT makes a whole load of sense, if you realize that the majority of buyers simply want the Challenger name and styling without the burdens of a hefty price tag. Now, with AWD available, expect to see more Challengers pulling Mustangs and Camaros out of snowy embankments when the weather turns frigid.
2017 Dodge Challenger GT
|ENGINE||3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6/305 hp @ 6,350 rpm, 268 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L X W X H||197.9 x 75.7 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.8 seconds (est)|