In the world of modern muscle cars, the Dodge Challenger is the only one that boldly sticks to its roots. The competitors, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, at least in their latest renditions, blur the line between the sports car and muscle car segment. The Challenger, however, continues to stick to what it knows best – going in a straight line while urging bystanders to think about times when America was truly great.
In the realm of what’s going on with modern muscle cars, the Challenger is an anomaly. And Dodge, in all of its wisdom, has decided to take the Challenger and continue the tread of not following in its competitor’s wake with all-wheel drive.
Let that sink in for a second. The Challenger, which sits on a shortened version of the LX platform that harks back to 2005, now sends its power to all four wheels in its GT trim. There is some bad news, though as the automaker has no plans to shoehorn one of the glorious V8s in its stable underneath the hood or to have drivers shift their own gears through a manual transmission.
That’s a shame and a missed opportunity.
As someone that once owned an all-wheel-drive coupe, I can see how a sporty car, especially one with the Challenger’s menacing looks, that sends power to all four wheels is an enticing option. And while the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 that pumps out 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque is more than enough grunt for the majority of red-blooded drivers, I can’t shake the feeling that Dodge needs to do more under the hood.
When looking at the current crop of athletic and affordable all-wheel-drive coupes, my mind fails to bring up anything that would say interested buyers away from the Challenger GT. Off the top of my head, there’s the Audi S5, Infiniti Q60, BMW 4-Series and, Audi TTS. I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind. There are, of course, more like the Porsche 911 4, Nissan GT-R, Jaguar F-Type S AWD Coupe, etc., but those aren’t necessarily what I consider “affordable.”
The Challenger GT, then, is already in an intimate group of vehicles with its current powertrain. If Dodge, however, were to place the mighty, red-blooded Hellcat engine into the all-wheel-drive coupe, it would, assuming a similar price tag to the current Hellcat twins, be in a league of its own.
Having experienced the ferociousness of having 707 horsepower on tap, I can definitely state that having all-wheel drive as a safety net for everyday use would be a welcomed addition. And there aren’t many V8-powered, all-wheel-drive coupes on the market.
Don’t get me wrong, sending 707 horsepower to only the rear wheels is addictive, downright impressive, and hilariously unusable for everyday driving. With power going to all four tires, the new Challenger GT, and any more powerful variants coming in the near future, caters to those who actually want performance that they can control.
Having dealt with a few weeks of Michigan’s harsh winter with a rear-wheel-drive SUV, I can see how enthusiasts living in states that get snow would be interested in this. For those out there that believe a muscle car should only be rear-wheel drive and that the Challenger GT is the contaminated foe to the pure Challenger, there are some upsides to the new model.
For one, all-wheel drive has become something that is meant to exude luxury. Mercedes-Benz and BMW have decided to that all-wheel drive is the future for its high-powered sedans and it makes sense for American automakers to follow suit. This will surely drive the Challenger’s price up, but will also solidify its role in Dodge’s lineup. A fair tradeoff from where I’m sitting.
All-wheel drive, thanks to its abilities to lull people into a safety net, will also draw more drivers towards the Challenger. The muscle car, which has routinely come in third place in sales behind the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, needs something to boost its sales figures and capture the attention of a new group of buyers. More attention would give Dodge the confirmation it needs to stuff more powerful engines into the all-wheel-drive coupe and, possibly, even a manual transmission in the near future.
The all-wheel-drive Challenger GT may be the most un-American vehicle on the road. But a V8-powered Challenger with a manual transmission is 80-percent American. In a time when we can choose between 80-20 and 92-8 beef, having more options to pick is a great thing. And for those of us that have the misfortune of dealing with wintery conditions for roughly four months out of the year, it’s the ideal compromise.