It’s not everyday an automaker invents an entirely new feel of driving, but that’s what Dodge pulled off with the arrival of the 2017 Challenger GT with all-wheel-drive. By combining the traditional turbocharged power of the Challenger nameplate with the latest in AWD technology, Dodge built a machine that knows when you want to have fun and when you need help getting home.
During a recent winter drive event in snowy New England, this scribe was asked to resist the urge to spend an entire day spinning donuts on the nearby skid path in favor of track testing the new Challenger GT’s new AWD system on a mix of icy roads, snow-packed straight aways and (most wonderfully) a short course rally track. Along the way, Dodge opened up a window on how improved AI can work hand in hand with a traditional muscle car to provide an evolved driving experience.
A Dodge Charger with AWD was already part of the brand’s family, so this Challenger completes the set. Still, it’s a segment first — the only two-door, American engineered and built muscle car with AWD. For now, that all-wheel-drive system comes in the 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 engine Challenger GT trim level with an automatic transmission. That power plant provides 305 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque.
Of course, the lack of a V8 means you miss some of that throaty rumble out of the exhaust, but this car focuses on handling over outright, straight-line power. By adding all-wheel-drive, Dodge provides muscle car drivers with a car that remains effective in all weather driving conditions.2
The Challenger GT employs an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect assisted by an A.I. drive monitor system. Depending on the settings the driver chooses, the car reads weather conditions and grip to lay in all-wheel-drive capacity when needed. Under ideal conditions, the car can remain in rear-wheel-drive for the traditional muscle car experience.
In the snow and ice, that smart AWD system provides a unique experience as the driver can feel the extra grip engaging in real time as the car tears around sharp turns. By not locking in and staying locked at all times, the driver can still let the back end out and drift a bit on demand. Everybody ends up with a car that’s safer and more manageable, but still fun enough for a little misbehaving (for which a muscle car is truly intended).
It must be reported that Dodge did provide the Challenger’s natural rival and America’s original muscle car — a 2016 Ford Mustang – at the track for comparable testing. Like the Challenger GT, the Mustang on the scene employed a V6. However, that pony car breed has yet to introduce AWD to the stable. I made an attempt to consumer test how the Mustang did on the same ice track, but the car’s rear wheels dug into the snow within eight yards of departure and never made it out on the rally course. That’s the value of all-wheel-drive in a muscle car.
The creation and building of the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT with AWD does this car writer’s heart no limit of good. As cars become smarter and develop artificial intelligent abilities that take more of the feel out of drive and limit our connection to the road, this Challenger takes the traditional speed and power of a muscle car and allows it to work with the car’s artificial intelligence to make driving better, not easier. “Easier” driving is intended for the lazy or the feeble. “Better” driving exists for car lovers.
The Dodge Challenger GT AWD just started production and will see showrooms before the close of the first quarter of 2017. The car has a starting MSRP of $33,395.