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On The Road With A 2017 Challenger T/A Edition!

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 10/30/2017 Hot Rod Network Staff
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Press reviews of new cars are sometimes hard to take at face value because more often than not, the ones doing the reviewing haven't had the chance to really live with the car—to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. As the owner of both a 2017 Hellcat Challenger and a 2011 Challenger R/T (and previously a 2006 Dodge Magnum R/T), this author has experienced the full gamut of the Hemi-powered LX platform. Regarding this 2017 Challenger T/A Edition, we have to say that to date, it is the pinnacle of 5.7-liter Hemi performance.

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We say "to date" because this is an outgoing 2017 model, and as we all know there's always something newer and greater around the corner. This in itself is kind of hard to believe, because Dodge really knocked this one out of the park. Let's take a look at why that is.

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When the Challenger R/T came out in 2009, its 372hp 5.7L Hemi was mated to a 5-speed NAG1 automatic transmission, which is a remarkably robust unit. With relative ease, it can be modified to handle copious amounts of torque—enough to go deep into the 9s. (Of course, the standard transmission was and still is the 6-speed Tremec, a nearly indestructible box that needs only an upgraded clutch to handle hard drag strip duty with sticky tires.) But then Dodge stepped up its game again in 2015 with the eight-speed TorqueFlight. The TorqueFlite has amazing mechanical efficiency (we figure it at around 10-11 percent total driveline loss), lightning fast shifts (160 milliseconds is quicker than even the best driver can muster with a 6-speed manual), and steering-wheel mounted paddles for manual shifting.

The year 2015 was a watershed year for the LX platform because so much of the Hellcat's development trickled down to the rest of the Challenger and Charger line-up. Take for instance the dual-mode performance exhaust. This 2.75-inch diameter dual system has a valve that opens at full throttle to bypass the mufflers. The sound is amazing, and the unfettered flow opens up a few more ponies in the process. That system was standard in Hellcats and Scat Packs starting in 2015, and everybody liked it so much Dodge made it standard in all Hemi cars for 2017. Flatten your right foot to the floor and the gates of Hell open, filling the cabin with the mellifluous thunder of the V8 Hemi.

So if the 8-speed TorquFlite and dual-model exhaust can be had in the entry-level Challenger R/T, why even bother with the T/A Edition for another $10k over the price of the R/T? For starters, there's exclusivity. Relatively few T/As were made in 2017, which makes it a collector's item. The satin black-out hood, roof, and decklid have a Demon-like look, and blackout Mopar hood pins hearken back to the Trans Am racing days of yore. On the functional side, Dodge ripped a page out of the Hellcat playbook with dual illuminated air-catcher marker lights that feed cold air right to the engine. The blackout hood likewise is plumbed with a functional cold-air scoop that feeds the driver-side airbox, which is sealed to the hood to prevent hot under-hood air from entering the engine.

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Compared to our 2011 Challenger R/T, the 2017 T/A Edition really shines—not that there's anything lacking in the 2011. For starters, the turning feel is more immediate—more connected to the road. This is a function of the stiffer suspension, grippier tires, and what feels like more steering boost. (The Super Track Pak includes half-inch lowering springs, Bilstein performance shocks, and three-mode stability control.) Stopping power with the upgraded performance pads is sharper too—something we'll have to look into for our 2011 down the road. What's really most noticeable, however, is the primal scream unleashed when the exhaust opens up at full throttle. This really takes on added importance when you tag the left paddle shifter down a few gears to put the Hemi into the fat part of its power curve. And while it's no Hellcat, we have to say the sound of the T/A Edition is hands-down the winner here.

As for the 5.7L Hemi engine, on paper at least, it makes 375 hp—the same as a standard R/T. Nevertheless, the cold-air intake coming from the pair of air-catchers plus the sealed hood scoop and high-flow air box has got to have a positive effect at road speed, even if not on the chassis dyno. This can be detected, albeit just barely, at speeds high enough to affect the airflow. The massive amounts of cold air flowing through the intake system is also more pronounced to the ear, adding to the symphony of sounds under full throttle.

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For those wanting even more power, the T/A Edition is available with the 392ci Hemi from the Scat Pack. The 392 T/A Edition also benefits from the upgraded brakes from the Scat Pack, and the wheels are split five-spokes designed to fit the larger brakes. If you've absolutely got to have the extra 110 hp that the 392 offers, the entry price is $50,975, and the TorqueFlite 8-speed adds another $1,500 on top of that. For those looking for something more exclusive than the Scat Pack that is visually stunning, the 392 T/A is the move to make.

For those with more modest bankrolls, however, the 5.7L Hemi version of the T/A Edition packs a ton of performance value, and is just as exclusive. This is not a car you're going to see a lot of on the road and there's no chance you're going to lose it in the parking lot. The exclusive Go Green paint will enhance the T/A Edition's collectability, and the extensive black-out trim treatment will swivel heads at every stoplight. You couldn't build anything close to this using aftermarket parts for the same price, and if you did it wouldn't look as nice or be worth as much. For that reason, performance notwithstanding, we have to give the 5.7L T/A Edition Challenger both thumbs up, but you better hurry if you want one!

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