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Challenger GT is first muscle coupe with all-wheel drive

Dodge finally saw the light: offer its retro-focused, two-door muscle car with the all-wheel-drive (AWD) system from the Charger SE and SXT sedans. AWD is big, and it’s something Camaro and Mustang don’t offer.

Recently, I tested the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT AWD on-road in snowy, slushy Portland, Maine — and off-road at the new Club Motorsports race track in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

The business case for the Challenger GT was fairly easy, as the platform (shared with Charger) already offered an AWD option. Both are five-passenger vehicles, but the Charger is often selected over Challenger because of the extra rear doors and AWD option.

The 2017 Dodge Challenger GT AWD offers only the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, delivering 268 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Unfortunately, “that thing (don’t) got a Hemi” — Dodge doesn’t offer a V-8 on the GT.

Dodge’s advanced all-wheel-drive system includes an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect to help boost fuel mileage and performance-driving fun. Most of the time, the all-wheel-drive system operates in rear-drive mode and you don’t feel a switch to AWD. Challenger GT also comes with a three-mode Electronic Stability Control (ESC) — including full-off — and Vehicle Dynamic Control to aid handling in dry, wet or snowy conditions. Dodge tweaked the suspension to keep the muscle-car feel for the big, heavy coupe, which rides on Hyper Black 19-inch alloy wheels in P235/55R19 BSW all-season tires.

During our drive to the track, the 2017 Challenger GT performed like a rear-drive car until we hit the snow-covered streets and it sensed low traction and spinning tires. The AWD also is triggered when you stomp the pedal. Driving bonuses include Super Track Pak, Dodge Performance Pages and launch control.

When we got to the track, Dodge had arranged three different areas for us to experience Challenger’s AWD system. I tried the snow-covered skid pad first. I turned everything off to get a feel of how the car would drive in just rear-wheel mode. I really had to muscle the car around and perform heavy steering corrections and throttle adjustments.

With the system fully operational, the only way to get the car crossed up was to enter a turn too hot. Otherwise, the system dampened my input to just enough to get around the four corners or out of deep snow. I never felt like I wasn’t in control.

The autocross course was a serious challenge without AWD. With AWD active, I was able to keep the car moving — and moving at a fairly brisk speed.

The last area was a snow-covered drag strip. The AWD system kept the Challenger GT pointed in a straight direction even as I stomped the pedal and tried to get the car to wiggle, slide or just spin the tires — no luck.

The real benefit of AWD is that it’s invisible to the driver, making the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT a great-looking four-season car.