2018 Dodge Challenger GT
Introduce yourself to the only four seasons muscle car
Words by: Adam Allen
Seriously? No muscle car has ever offered all-wheel drive?
Correct. Traditional muscle cars – think American Iron- have never offered buyers the option to have all four wheels driven. You may point out that BMW’s X5M/X6M and super sedans like Mercedes Benz’s E63 boast all-wheel drive and weapons grade horsepower, but they aren’t really muscle cars in the truest sense. Someone posed the question to us while giving the Challenger GT you see here the once over: why hasn’t anyone done this before? Frankly, we really didn’t have an answer. But none of that matters anyway because Dodge has arrived at the party first- only to discover that no one else has shown up. That’s right folks; what you are looking it is a car that has zero competitors. There is really nothing else analogous on sale today.
They must’ve spent a boatload of money developing an all-wheel drive system for this application.
Actually, they didn’t spend a dime. The AWD bits had already been developed for the Charger sedan- a car the Challenger is closely related two, with the addition of two doors- and have proven their toughness in Chargers serving the law enforcement community. FCA engineers simply scaled the system to fit the Challenger. It even borrows some of the suspension hardware from The Fuzz to work in concert with the active transfer case. Note that we said active- the system will only drive the rear wheels under most conditions in a nod to eking out the best possible fuel mileage. When the Challenger’s array of sensors detect you might need the pull of the front wheels (depending on factors like current speed, ambient temperature and even the deployment of the windshield wipers) a maximum of 38% of the engine’s grunt is shuttled to the front axle to keep things in line. Should you choose to indulge your inner hooligan (and if you’ve bought a Challenger, you are probably well acquainted with yours) you can relax the stability control to the tune of three different stages, one of those being completely off. When the snow flies, lurid slip angles and four wheeled rooster tails of the white stuff are but a twitch of your throttle foot away.
Cool! I want mine with a Hemi. No, wait…make it a Hellcat!
Yeah, we hear you. We prefer our muscle cars with eight pistons under the hood doing their thing in reciprocating fury. At this point in time, Dodge will not sell you an all-wheel drive Challenger with anything except the 3.6 litre V6 under the hood. Before you cue the sad trombone, know that the V6 makes a respectable 305 horsepower and 268-foot pounds of torque. That’s enough to move the big, heavy Challenger around without too much effort, and you’d hardly call it slow. Throw a dusting of snow into the equation and even the hottest Camaro or Mustang won’t be able to keep up the Challenger GT, turning their prodigious outputs into wasted wheelspin. Still, we can’t help but be tantalized by the prospect of a Hemi or the wonderfully belligerent Hellcat engine sending power to the two driveshafts; think of the off-the-line traction you’d enjoy! Maybe those engines are in the cards for later, and maybe they’re not. Either way, you can’t fault FCA for making the AWD available with the V6 only- a glance at the Charger’s sales charts will confirm that the take rate for the V6/AWD combo is by far most popular configuration.
Fine, but how does it drive?
The Challenger often takes a ribbing for being the big boy of the muscle car class; its platform is showing its age and this thing ain’t light. That might hurt you in an autocross context, but its welcome in most situations. The Chally has a comfortable ride you’ll enjoy when heading to and fro. It’s a nice balance between stiffness and compliance, with only the nastiest tarmac upsetting its composure. Thankfully the structure is rock solid which allows the suspension to be tuned to handle but also to munch miles with minimal effort- it truly earns its GT badge in that respect. The V6 and 8-speed automatic play nice together, too. The transmission is adroitly calibrated to the V6’s power delivery and despite a touch of lag, the paddle shifters are fun to use. Speaking of fun, the Challenger GT supplies a surprising amount of it. One more thing to note- while we didn’t have a chance to see how it would fare during winter’s fury, we did have a chance to drive it during a dusting and can confirm that when you want to partake in shenanigans, the Challenger is a surprisingly willing partner. In fact, it’s so easy to steer with the throttle that we declared it one of the easiest all-wheel-drive cars we’ve ever had the fun of tossing around. We talked in the past about what makes a good car to hone one’s driving skillset – this car would be the perfect tool for your budding rally driver to learn the ins and outs of controlled oversteer.
Isn’t outward visibility a challenge for the Challenger?
It does have some large blind spots and can be a bit tricky to park, but a bevy of cameras and sensors help a great deal. Hey, it’s easier to see out of than a Camaro, and show us a car these days that doesn’t have super wide pillars and ever rising beltlines. Once you make yourself at home in the Chally’s confine you’ll find it’s a pretty nice place to be. The gauges are perfectly legible and the Uconnect infotainment system with its suite of Performance Pages is among the best in the business. The interior’s best attribute is the seats. Trimmed in Nappa leather and available for the first time with the V6, they add aggressive bolsters for lateral support. They tread a fine line that so many performance thrones get wrong, and that is that they are extremely comfortable in any situation, not just in high G loads. The comfort and refinement on display here are welcome for a majority of the time you spend behind the wheel or when you just want to relax. Not every drive is done at 10/10ths.
What might go wrong?
The whispers of discontent towards the Challenger play out like a song that has gotten way too much airtime- its too big, too heavy and when will they ditch the early oughties vintage Mercedes Benz bones that underpins the platform. All those complaints have merit, and if the Camaro can go from a plodding oaf in its last generation to the finessed thoroughbred it is today, there is much hope for the Challenger’s next chapter. Hey, if you find it too hefty just buy a Hellcat; 707 horsepower can shake off the shackles of portly curb weights in short order. We said that FCA’s decision to make the AWD partner solely with the V6 is the right one, based on a glance at sales charts. As gearheads who think more with their hearts than their heads, we’d still love to see how the drivetrain would fare with a stonking V8 doling out the power. While we’re wistfully imagining what the future may hold for the Chally, we wouldn’t mind Dodge massaging the low speed behaviour of the otherwise competent 8-speed automatic- it can act a bit uncouth before it comes up to operating temperature. One thing they’ll never be able to improve on is the exterior LED lighting front and rear. FCA is doing this better than anyone else these days.
Should I buy a Challenger GT?
After crafting this review amid a stubborn Canadian winter, we’re certain there are many of you out there who’ve already answered this question in the affirmative. Plus, why buy yet another small, cramped and boring crossover when you could have one of these? After some careful consideration, we think the Challenger’s biggest hurdle to acceptance into the muscle car community is how it looks on paper. A ponderous, AWD, V6 with an automatic? Just reading that sentence is going to turn up a lot of noses from the demographic that usually feature folks sporting bicep tattoos of Calvin urinating on a Ford/Chevy logo. To truly understand and appreciate the Challenger GT’s virtues, you must drive one. Only after some seat time will you really ‘get it’. Those that covet exclusivity, it bears repeating that the Challenger GT is in a class of one. Let’s see Camaro and Mustang loyalists talk their way out of that, right?
2018 Dodge Challenger GT- Specifications
- Price as tested: $45,275
- Body Type: 2-door, 5 passenger Coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.6-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 305 @ 6,350 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 268 @ 4,800 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,862 kg (4,106 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 14.2L/100km (17 mpg)