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2017 Dodge Challenger GT AWD First Drive

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/28/2017 Motor Trend Staff
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With sales of all-wheel-drive Dodge brand vehicles (Journey, Durango, Charger) up 12 percent overall and sales of the all-wheel drive Charger sedan up 17 percent, it was a no-brainer for the automaker to offer all-wheel drive on the Challenger coupe. Dodge also noted a few more compelling trends: the No. 1 vehicle drivers cross-shopped against the Challenger coupe was the Charger sedan (and vice versa), sales of the all-wheel-drive Charger were up 50 percent in northern states, and two-thirds of those who didn't buy a Challenger said it was because it wasn't all-wheel drive (50 percent of them buying an all-wheel drive car instead).

Power for the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT comes from the automaker's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which is mated to an eight-speed automatic. Like rear-drive models, the Pentastar engine in the all-wheel drive Charger GT is rated 305 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 268 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Dodge says that a tuned induction system and true dual exhaust system contribute to the engine making 90 percent of its peak torque from 1,800 to 6,400 rpm.

With V-6/eight-speed automatic being the Challenger's highest-selling drivetrain, Dodge says that offering all-wheel drive with that combination represents the largest opportunity for customer sales.

Like the all-wheel-drive Charger SE and SXT sedans, the Challenger GT uses the automaker's all-wheel-drive system with active transfer case and front-axle disconnect to improve fuel mileage and dry weather performance. The Challenger also features three-mode Electronic Stability Control (ESC) including full-off, and Vehicle Dynamic Control to improve handling on dry, wet, or snowy conditions.

The Challenger GT is the only Challenger to use the suspension from the all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger Pursuit sedan. Dodge tweaked the suspension to keep the muscle car feel for the big coupe, which rides on a set of Hyper Black 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in P235/55R19 BSW all-season performance tires.

2017 Dodge Challenger GT front three quarter in motion 15© Motor Trend Staff 2017 Dodge Challenger GT front three quarter in motion 15

In normal driving, the 2017 Challenger GT operates like a rear-drive car. It only switches to all-wheel drive under certain criteria including: low traction situations that trigger an ESC event, wide-open throttle when passing, in Sport mode, manual shifting via the steering wheel mounted shift-paddles or console shifter, and more. The Challenger GT also comes standard with the Super Track Pak button to access Dodge Performance Pages and launch control.

The all-wheel drive 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is EPA-rated 18/27 mpg city/highway versus 19/30 mpg for the rear-drive Challenger SXT and SXT Plus with the same engine and transmission.

Dodge flew us up to Portland, Maine, to experience the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT in a variety of road and weather conditions. The all-wheel-drive Challenger GT handled well on the wet and snowy conditions on our scenic route from Portland to the new Club Motorsports race track in Tamworth, New Hampshire.

At the track, Dodge prepared three distinct courses for us to test out the Challenger's all-wheel-drive system. With an instructor from the track riding shotgun, we first headed to the snow covered skidpad. I initially left all the electronic nannies on as I attacked the skidpad. Impressively, the Challenger GT was able to keep up a good momentum despite the computer trying to intervene.

After getting a feel for the car in both directions, I disabled the ESC completely and attacked the skidpad again. Without any electronic intervention and all-season tires, I was able to keep the gas pedal more than half-throttle while drifting around the cones. I only needed to saw back and forth on the wheel dialing the steering in and out to maintain trajectory.

A few times when I was slow to adjust steering angle, I either went out too wide or too tight into the inner circle and into the extremely deep untouched snow. That caused the fresh stuff to spray more than roof high over the side windows. Call it driver error, but regardless, the Challenger GT never slowed down or felt out of control. Even when my circle became too tight, I was able to avoid the cones every time.

Next we headed over to the snow-covered autocross course. We did one warm-up lap to familiarize ourselves with the track, and then we headed out at speed with all the nannies off. As long as I gave the proper inputs at the precise time, I could tackle the autocross with the nearly the same vigor as I would a dry course hitting the apexes and braking zones for the best laps. Although my lap times on the snow-covered course would undoubtedly be quicker on a dry course, the large and heavy Challenger isn't ideal for such a small coursewet or drybut it did give me a good idea of how well the all-wheel-drive system helps keep the car on course.

Finally, we headed over to the snow-covered drag strip for a few acceleration runs. The Challenger GT accelerated nearly straight with the car seesawing slightly as all four tires fought for traction. Although the Challenger GT didn't accelerate as fast as it would on dry pavement, we could instantly go to wide-open throttle without getting stuck and, again, all these activities were performed on the factory-spec all-season tires with the ESC switched off. A set of snow tires could improve foul-weather performance.

The Challenger GT had no issues accelerating or braking in the snow, but we noticed it felt particularly slow in passing maneuvers on a wet two-lane highway. It made us wish we had the all-wheel-drive option with the more powerful Hemi V-8 engines. The Charger Pursuit's suspension also rode firm even on smooth roads.

Currently, Dodge only offers all-wheel drive with the V-6 powered Charger sedan and Challenger coupe for civilian use. The automaker, however, does offer an all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger Pursuit with the V-6 or 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines for police duty.

In testing, a rear-drive 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus with the Pentastar and the eight-speed automatic on 20-inch wheels reached 60 mph in 6.0 seconds and finished the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds at 96.9 mph. The SXT Plus took 105 feet to stop from 60 mph. It also lapped the figure eight in 25.9 seconds at 0.73 g lateral average and pulled 0.91 g on the skidpad. We expect the all-wheel-drive Challenger GT to be slightly slower in acceleration tests, though the all-wheel-drive system and Charger Pursuit-based suspension has the potential to improve on those handling figures.

In the early days of the modern Dodge Charger, the automaker offered a Mercedes-Benz 4Matic derived all-wheel-drive system on the 3.5-liter V-6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engines. Unlike the current all-wheel-drive system, which operates in rear-drive mode most of the time, the previous system split the power 40:60 front-to-rear.

The $34,490 (including $1,095 destination) 2017 Dodge Challenger GT comes nicely equipped with an Uconnect system that has an 8.4-inch touchscreen, the aforementioned Dodge Performance Pages, a Super Track Pak button and launch control, projector fog lights, a rear decklid spoiler, and ParkSense rear park assist and a rear camera. Interior features include Nappa leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats with four-way power driver lumbar adjustment, a heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescoping column, a universal garage door opener, Hectic Mesh aluminum bezels, and bright pedals. Other Uconnect features include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with a 276-watt amplifier.

Options include a $995 GT Interior package, which adds SRT sport seats with Nappa leather and Alcantara inserts, a Dodge performance steering wheel, and a nine-speaker, 506-watt Alpine audio system. The GT Interior package is the first time SRT seat are available with the V-6 engine.

Although we enjoyed our time spent in the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT, we do pine for an all-wheel-drive variant powered by the Hemi V-8 engines. Hopefully enough Challenger GT models are sold to make a business case for the all-wheel-drive system with more engine options.

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