Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: April 9, 2018
Dodge has been on something of a hot streak lately, releasing one mind-boggling vehicle after the other. First came the Hellcat, a supercharged 707-hp rubber-shredding machine. Then came the Hellcat’s big brother, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Then followed the main course, the 840-hp wheelie-poppin’ Challenger Demon.
However the latest vehicle from the FCA stable doesn’t boast outrageous power figures. Rather it features something entirely different – all-wheel drive. Indeed, the new Challenger GT trades in the juvenile excitement of rear tire fires and slidey back ends for the oh-so exciting practical sensibilities of all-weather traction. It’s a hard pill for enthusiasts to swallow, but perhaps an injection of practicality is just what is needed to offset the otherwise dwindling sales of Dodge’s primo muscle car, which ironically in GT guise it hardly even qualifies as.
At a glance, there are a few cosmetic differences between this Challenger GT and the rest of the lineup. A pair of fender mounted GT badges and a trunk lid II-4 badge are all that denotes this coupe’s AWD prowess. For the most part, Dodge managed to package nearly all of the drivetrain changes within the existing Challenger’s bodylines. The big bad giveaway is the raised ride height (presumably to accommodate said changes), and 55-section height tires.
While increased ground clearance is always a nice thing, on the Challenger GT it looks absolutely comical. While other sports cars strive to achieve a low-slung ground hugging look, here Dodge throws convention out the window and shoves enough space for me to literally fit two fists between the fender and tire. The GT looks like someone shoved a lift kit on it. Oh wait.
Inside is a continuation of the vehicle’s extra large stature. Leather wrapped seats that feel like a big comfy couch greet the driver, and at the centre of the dash is FCA’s ubiquitous uConnect 8.4-inch infotainment system. Like previous iterations of this software, it is responsive and easy to navigate. I wish there were more premium materials throughout the cabin but the reality is you are surrounded by plenty of plastics - thankfully none of it feels chintzy or flimsy. It’s assembled well, and serves occupants exactly what they need without all the frills.
Cold starts lack the heart pounding excitement from Dodge’s V8 powerplants. The Pentastar 3.6L V6 fires to life with a docile, almost timid nature. It’s hardly a hair-raising performer with an output of 305 hp, especially when you factor in the AWD’s additional 71 kg added to the heavy-set (1,790 kg) curb weight. Meaning even a 4-cylinder Mustang EcoBoost will show you its derriere should you choose to, ahem, Challenge it. No matter, this is the aptly named Grand Tourer, and that’s precisely where this vehicle excels.
It may not be quickest off the line but once at speed, it handles its weight well, offering responsive steering and decent road manners when loaded up in a corner. On smooth tarmac the ride is well damped but over undulating surfaces the revised suspension feels too firm, jostling occupants about.
Power is routed via the ZF-sourced 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic gearbox. Most of it goes to the rear wheels in normal conditions, with up to 38% shuffled to the front axle when the vehicle detects slip. It can also decouple the front axle entirely to mitigate fuel consumption, although this isn’t a user controlled feature like the Mercedes Benz E 63 or the BMW M5. Gear changes occur quickly and smoothly when left to its own devices, though I did note some lag when depressing the paddle and the gear change when operating manually.
At a starting price of $34,245, this Challenger GT comes at a $2,695 premium over the top of the line V6 model - not a tall order for all-weather dependability. The $895 Technology Package adds a lot of creature comforts you’d come to expect from more expensive vehicles too including rain sensing wipers, adaptive cruise, forward collision warning, and automatic high beam headlamps. Similarly the $995 Convenience Package completes the safety suite with blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and remote engine start. I’d skip the $1,500 Harman Kardon “premium audio” system.
Ultimately, the Challenger GT strays from the manufacturer’s usual formula of adrenaline pulsing high-horsepower fun, but there’s plenty to be said about a dependable all-wheel drive muscle car, especially when it lives in a class of its own. Perhaps Dodge is onto something here. Then again, if you wanted four-wheel traction and a beefy American engine, why not just buy a Jeep?
Model: 2018 Dodge Challenger GT AWD
Paint Type: Yellow Jacket
Base Price: $34,245
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,027 / 1,923 / 1,459
Curb weight (kg): 1,862
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Horsepower: 305 hp @ 6,350 rpm
Torque: 268 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.8 / 8.7 / 11.0
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.1