Entry Price: $26,995
Price as tested: $38,735
This week, we’re driving the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT, a new all-wheel-drive (AWD) version of the retro “pony car” that cruised the nation’s boulevards in the early 1970s (sans AWD). As a proud owner of a 1972 Dodge Challenger, with a gas hungry 440-inch V8 under the hood, this new all-wheel-drive (AWD) gives Challenger a “one-up” on the rear-drive-only competition Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro as it’s the only pony car to ever offer AWD.
Pony car, by the way, is defined as an American-built automobile inspired by the Ford Mustang in 1964. The term describes a smaller, sporty or performance car in two-door coupe form. Thanks to the abilities of the Dodge engineers, Challengers are now more popular than ever following a 2008 re-introduction and have sold over 425,000 units to date.
The original Challengers, meanwhile, roamed from 1970 to 1974 during the final years of the muscle car phenomenon. Back then, you were either a Ford, GM, AMC or MOPAR fan, the latter “MOPAR” nomenclature standing for “Motor Parts” before evolving into slang for anything produced by Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge. Notable Pony Cars of the 1960s included Pontiac Firebird, Plymouth Barracuda and AMC Javelin/AMX.
Fast forward and the 2017 Challenger GT perfectly executes its “pony car” heritage and then adds modern engineering and the new AWD underpinnings. This AWD system consists of a fully automatic active transfer case coupled to a front-axle disconnect setup. This allows for a seamless transition between rear-wheel drive and AWD with no driver input.
Thanks to our tester’s 3.6-liter V6 and its 24-valve design, there’s 305 horsepower available that isn’t far from the 335 horse 383 Magnum that powered many a 1970-1971 Challenger R/T back in the day. As for transmissions, Dodge’s proven eight-speed TorqueFlite delivers better acceleration and improved fuel mileage, the latter going from 18/27 in 2014 to 19/30 this year with rear drive or 18 and 27 for the AWD version.
Challengers for 2017 come in 14 distinct models, from the entry SXT ($26,995) to a screaming, hang-on-to-your-hat, supercharged 707-horsepower Hellcat Hemi. Following SXT is the SXT Plus ($29,995) R/T ($32,995), our Challenger GT AWD ($33,395), R/T Shaker ($36,995), Challenger TA ($37,395), R/T Scat Pack ($38,995), R/T Plus Shaker ($39,995), TA Plus ($40,195), 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker ($43,795), TA 392 Hemi ($44,995), SRT 392 Hemi ($50,195), and the 707-horse SRT Hellcat ($64,195). Muscle car enthusiasts will quickly note the use of many of the muscle car era nomenclature Dodge and Plymouth utilized with its performance cars from 1967 through 1974.
Underneath, an independent Sport Mode suspension and four wheel ABS discs help keep Challenger pointed the right direction. Notable features on the GT include 19-inch Michelin all-season performance tires on aluminum wheels, all stability/traction controls, keyless start, hill start assist and all the airbags.
Inside, Nappa Performance seats are standard and all expected amenities come as standard fare. The dash layout is upgraded to include two main instrumentation gauges, i.e., tachometer and speedometer, while oil pressure, fuel and engine temp gauges are alongside the main cluster. Add paddle shifters, air, all the powers, heated and ventilated front power seats and a standard six-speaker 276-watt SiriusXM with Google and Apple play functions and you’re ready for some serious cruising.
Options on our tester include a $995 GT Interior package that upgrades to a nine-speaker, 506 watt stereo and leather steering wheel; $1,195 Technology Group with forward collision warning, adaptive cruise, auto high beam and rain sensitive wipers; $1,095 Driver Convenience Group with blindspot, rear cross path detection, upgraded headlights and remote start; and a 795 U-Connect 8.4 Navigation with a 5-year SiriusXM travel link subscription, not to be confused with the one year Sirius XM music subscription which comes standard. Delivery at $1,095 and a $195 compact spare took the final tally to $38,765.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 116.2 inches, 5.2 inch ground clearance, 4,108 pound curb weight, 16.2 cu. ft. trunk area and an 18.5gallon fuel tank.
Overall, and with thanks to movies like the “Fast & Furious” franchise with its 1970 Dodge Charger and the entire collector car market, Dodge high performance lives on. What’s next? How about a Challenger Demon for 2018 that puts out 808-horsepower on 91 octane fuel or 840 horses on 100-octane racing fuel. It is being promoted as a street legal drag car, and will come from the factory with just the driver’s seat and a production run of just 3,300. It will arrive this fall and goes 9.65 at 140 mph in the quarter mile.
We like “normal” 2017 Dodge Challenger very much and it’s a fine choice regardless of whether you’re a Baby Boomer, Generation X or Millennial. If you crave the muscle car look and need AWD traction, your Dodge dealer has the answer sitting in his showroom.
Likes: Best retro looks, eight-speed automatic, great V6 MPG, interior.
Dislikes: Pillar blind spot, rear seat access cumbersome, curb weight on heavy side.
-- Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications. He welcomes reader questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Test Drive: 2017 Dodge Challenger GT AWD
Entry Price: $26,995