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Dodge Challenger GT: Muscular retro-styling, all-wheel drive impresses

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The retro-themed Dodge Challenger is an iconic muscle car that offers an extremely wide variety of trims and impressive performance levels.

While Challenger offers more trim level choices and the opportunity to experience considerably greater pavement-pounding thrust than either of its two competitors, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, the Camaro and Mustang can be had as a coupe or convertible.

Sadly, Challenger is only offered as a coupe. But Challenger is considerably larger than its competitors, and it can be had with all-wheel drive for all-season enjoyment. Neither of Challenger’s competitors is offered with all-wheel drive.

King of the Class

Plus, if you love horsepower, Challenger is the all-out king of its class. Until now, the powerful SRT Hellcat sat at the top of the Challenger line. For 2018, the folks at SRT have outdone themselves and unleashed the all-new Challenger SRT Demon. It is the world’s first purpose-built, factory production drag car, featuring a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine with 840-horsepower and 770 lb.-ft. of torque.

The SRT Demon is capable of launching from 0-60 mph in just 2.3 seconds, and shreds the ¼-mile in an NHRA-certified 9.65 seconds and 140 mph. Only 3,000 2018 SRT Demons will be available in the U.S. and pricing starts around $85,000.

Also new for 2018 is the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody. It is powered by the Hellcat’s 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine. The Widebody adds fender flares, unique 20 x 11-inch wheels, Pirelli tires and electric power steering with selectable modes.

Old School Muscle

Regardless of which Challenger you choose, they all look brawny and lusciously old school. Even if you select the entry-level Challenger SXT model, it still looks like a muscle car with plenty of swagger.

Priced around $27,000, the SXT includes a 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine, refined 8-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button starting, remote starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, Houndstooth sport cloth seats, 7-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, six-speaker audio system, back up camera and more.

For about $30,000, the SXT Plus adds 20-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilate front seats, 8.4-inch touchscreen display, Alpine 276-watt six-speaker audio system, fog lamps, rear parking sensors and more.

For about $34,000, you can choose either the GT or R/T. The GT is only offered with all-wheel drive and features the V6 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, 19-inch alloy wheels, Dodge Performance Pages and Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery with Alcantara suede inserts.

The R/T features a 375-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 engine, 6-speed manual transmission (8-speed automatic is optional), 20-inch painted alloy wheels and leather-wrapped performance steering wheel.

Take Your Pick

Moving up in trim levels obviously adds more standard and available amenities, and additional horsepower. Challenger does offer available features like adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, but missing from the list of available safety features is automatic emergency braking.

Still, that should not be a deal breaker. Challenger has so many trims and option packages to choose from. I recently tested the Challenger GT.

GT’s V6 is not as throaty as any of the V8s offered, but it is quite strong and refined. Its standard 8-speed automatic transmission is very likable, too.

GT’s all-wheel drive system brings all-season pleasure to the pony car segment and it features an active transfer case with front axle disconnect for times when extra traction is not needed.

Challenger’s large doors make it easy to enter and exit the cabin, but you may not be able to swing them fully open when parked closely to other vehicles.

I continue to be a fan of the Dodge Challenger for its muscular and retro-themed exterior, spacious and well-appointed cabin, and powerful engine choices.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication