The Dodge Challenger GT is a car that probably came about due to hesitation from General Motors and Ford.
So far, the two biggest of the American Big Three have yet to stick all-wheel drive into their pony cars. It’s not hard to imagine a few FCA higher-ups sitting around one day in early 2016 saying, “Chevy and Ford haven’t done an all-wheel-drive Camaro or Mustang yet, might as well do something like that,” before setting to work on what was assuredly the most straightforward research and development process the company had undertaken in years.
After all, the Challenger rides on the same Chrysler LX platform as when it debuted in 2008, which is shared with the Charger — a vehicle that has been available with the all-wheel drive since 2007. It seems FCA could have dreamt up something like the Challenger GT shortly after the muscle coupe’s revival 10 years ago, but perhaps it was hesitant to muddy the Challenger nameplate and upset lifelong Mopar fans.
No matter how the Dodge AWD Challenger came about, it’s here. And we’ve driven it. Our thoughts? It’s a weird package, but there are a few good reasons why some of you might want one.
Oh My, How Tall You Are
The Challenger GT’s powertrain consists of a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that makes 305 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 268 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. There’s also an eight-speed automatic transmission, the same one you find in a myriad of other FCA products, and a “high-performance” all-wheel-drive system. The AWD system disengages the front axle with a clutch when it’s not needed, mostly to save fuel, so the Challenger GT can still be 100 per cent RWD in certain scenarios. There’s also a drive select system with a Sports mode that changes the AWD system’s behaviour and loosens up the traction control, but the TC can also go fully off for some mid-winter parking lot drift sessions.
For whatever reason, this AWD drivetrain forces FCA to raise up the Charger and Challenger by what looks to be about two inches in comparison to the RWD cars. It’s excusable on the Charger and it’s nice to have a bit of extra ground clearance, especially in the winter, but it looks a bit hilarious on the Challenger. This is already a huge car, but it feels even bigger when you mix in ground clearance that would shame most compact crossovers on sale today.
That said, the 3.6-liter V6 moves this 4,100-lb coupe around pretty well. Most people attracted to this AWD GT model probably just want to drive this thing to work and the gym and look kinda cool doing it, and this powertrain is more than enough for that. The transmission is a bit lazy to get up and go when you initially press the accelerator, amplifying this car’s overall feeling of sluggishness, but it shifts smooth and relatively quickly when you’re at the wide open throttle.
I’m a Coupe, I Swear I Am!
This isn’t really a shocking revelation, but the Challenger doesn’t do a great job at hiding its sedan roots. The double wishbone front suspension is related to the W220 S-Class, while the rear suspension is from the W211 E-Class. It feels heavy and won’t be giving you a lot of feedback, but the ride is far from crashy or unrefined. It’s a quiet and comfortable car, and the suspension geometry is more than sporty enough to outperform the Challenger GT’s skinny 235-mm all-season Michelins.
The Challenger’s size means front passenger room is as good as it’s going to get in this segment, and the back seats are roomy enough where your friends might choose to actually ride with you instead of calling an Uber. You could probably fit a few hockey bags in the trunk (important in the wintery climates where the Challenger GT will live) and the trunk opening is big for a coupe — something Camaro owners certainly can’t say. In regards to being a usable, everyday car, the Challenger definitely has a leg up on the Camaro and Mustang.
Most Comfortable in Class
That brings us to our next point: The Challenger GT is nothing if not comfortably equipped. The big, heated seats are like sitting on a leather couch and are just one standard feature that makes it a nice object to walk out to in the winter. There’s also a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a six-way power seat with four-way lumbar adjust. The standard 8.4-inch UConnect system bugged out on us once, but it was fixed with a restart and didn’t show up again. Apart from that, the tech in the car worked well during our week with it.
Our test car was fitted with the Technology Group and the Driver Convenience Group, which are priced from $1,195 and $1,095 in the US. The tech group includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam assist, forward collision alert, and rain sensing wipers, while the convenience group features blind spot detection, high-intensity headlamps, multi-function mirrors and remote start. Neither is entirely necessary on the already well-equipped GT, but the $1,500 Harmon Kardon audio system could be of interest to those who want more than the lowly six-speaker, the 276-watt system it comes with.
The Verdict: 2018 Dodge Challenger GT Review
The V6 Challenger can handle a bit better than its 4,100- lb weight would suggest, and its eight-speed automatic shifts decently, but it’s no performance proposition. This is an everyday car that looks a bit more fun than something with four doors. You get the added benefit of AWD with the GT, but we have the feeling this car is for the type of person who says they need AWD for safety but don’t buy winter tires.
In short, the Challenger GT is a big, spacious and relatively practical two-door that’s more usable than its rivals from Ford or GM, but will turn more heads than any comparably priced sedan. It’s really just a Chevrolet Malibu or Ford Fusion rival doing its best coupe impression, so if either of those is on your short list, you might as well get the one available in yellow with racing stripes. It makes for better photos.