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Challenger GT AWD Handles Winter’s Worst
The all-wheel drive system on the Challenger GT transforms the car into an all-season performer especially in winter when you need the grip.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: All-wheel-drive makes the Challenger a four-season car here in the Great White North.
- What’s Worst: Back seat space is limited and getting in and out is a chore.
- What’s Interesting: A Hemi-powered version of the GT AWD would be an interesting proposition.
It was a dark and stormy night….
Sounds like the corny lead to a suspense novel, but that’s exactly the description I would use about the night I picked up the keys to a 2018 Dodge Challenger GT AWD.
My wife and I were on our way home from the airport and a vacation in the sunny south and the Challenger was to be our test vehicle for a couple of weeks over the Christmas period.
When we arrived at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) facility in Mississauga, winter had arrived with a vengeance. The snowflakes were huge and wet and the wind was blowing them around in blizzard-like fashion.
Under those conditions, a rear-drive muscle car like the Challenger was perhaps the last car one could wish for.
But the GT AWD is a different animal from other Challengers.
It doesn’t have a Hemi or a big V8; instead it has a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6, cranking out 305 hp and 268 lb/ft of torque.
Many muscle car fans will “pooh, pooh” those numbers, but with the Challenger GT you’re getting what FCA says is the first two-door American muscle car with all-wheel-drive.
The main competition for the Challenger comes from the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, neither of which offers an AWD version.
In the Challenger, AWD turns what is essentially a summer car into a capable four-season performer that can handle any weather conditions.
It’s the second Dodge product with all-wheel drive, joining the four-door Charger AWD in the lineup.
The drive home on Hwy. 401 from Toronto to southwestern Ontario that December night was not a pleasant one.
The roadway was reduced mostly to one lane — in some places just snow-covered and in others with icy tracks — but the Challenger was up to the task.
The AWD system worked to perfection. The Challenger felt stable, competent and comfortable in what would normally have been a white-knuckle drive.
Built at FCA’s Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant, the GT is one many models in the Challenger lineup, but the only one to offer all-wheel drive.
Priced from $38,895, our tester had a few optional packages that took the as-tested price up to $45,275.
Our test car came with the brilliant Yellow Jacket paint colour that I thought was beautiful; my wife begged to differ as she not a fan of yellow. I also liked the 19.5-inch aluminum wheels with dark pockets, a new option for 2018.
The “new” Challenger with its classic retro look has been around for a decade now, but to my mind it still looks fresh and modern.
But then again, I’ve been a fan of the Challenger ever since the original 1970 model captured my imagination as I eyed the one sitting in our neighbour’s driveway.
Inside, the cabin of our test car was nicely decked out with Nappa leather-faced front seats with heating controls for those cold winter mornings. The leather-wrapped steering wheel was also heated, a nod to the four-season value added to the GT model.
Among the other upscale standard features were power tilt/telescoping steering column, power six-way driver’s seat and four-way lumbar adjust, rear park assist and back-up camera, keyless enter and go with push button start along with Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The $895 Technology Package added adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlamp control, rain sensing wipers and forward collision warning.
At $995, the Driver Convenience Group featured blind spot/rear cross-path detection, HID headlamps, power mirrors and remote start.
The $1,500 premium sound system was from harman/kardon, featuring 18 speakers and a Green Edge amp.
A $770 add-on was the latest-generation Uconnect infotainment/navigation system with 8.4-inch display screen.
All in all, a very nice package that would make an excellent daily driver. Coupes aren’t for everyone, but the Challenger has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its abundant trunk space.
There is seating for five, but getting in and out of the rear seats is not the easiest of tasks and legroom is on the limited side. Once on board, the ride is fairly comfortable and the cabin a pleasant place in which to travel.
Although the Challenger is a big, heavy car it handles and steers relatively well, both in city and highway environments.
But all-wheel drive is what this car is all about and the system it employs is the same one as in the Charger.
In a nutshell, the system employs an active transfer case and a front axle disconnect.
Under normal driving conditions, 100 per cent of the torque goes to the rear wheels. When additional traction is needed, the front axle is automatically engaged and all-wheel drive mode seamlessly comes into play.
And for those of you who question the lack of horses under the hood, the V6 proved to have plenty of grunt for any driving situation I encountered and at the same time provided reasonable fuel economy with Natural Resources Canada (NRC) numbers of 12.8/7.8L/100 km city/highway.
By way of comparison, the Challenger R/T with its 5.7-litre Hemi has posted numbers of 14.7/9.4 L/100 km city/highway.
So while the Challenger GT doesn’t have the power of its R/T, Hellcat or Demon brethren, it does look and feel like a muscle car while offering all-season capability that the others can’t hope to match.
2018 Dodge Challenger GT AWD
BODY STYLE: Two-door coupe.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine (305 hp, 268 lb/ft of torque) with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.8/8.7/11 L/100 km city/highway/combined.
CARGO CAPACITY: 453 litres (16 cu ft).
TOW RATING: not recommended.
PRICE: $38,895, as tested $45,275 including $1,795 destination charge.
WEB SITE: Dodge.ca
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