Under the right circumstances, I enjoy throttling a powerful muscle car as much as anybody. A Hellcat on a wide-open two-lane? Oh yeah, I’ll have some of that! And, some more again tomorrow. But, let’s be real: You can’t drive a car like that every day.
OK, you mostly can because the Hellcat is pretty tame under light throttle, but you may not want to. Feeding that supercharged V8 is expensive and you can forget getting it to go straight on snowy roads. That’s where the Challenger GT AWD comes in. It may not be quite as ferocious, but it’s the civilized muscle car for daily driving.
Distinguished Muscle Car Style
Unlike some competitors that are more sports cars than true muscle cars, the Challenger is every bit the equal of its predecessors. It’s essentially a full-size car on a shortened wheelbase, sharing architecture with the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300. But, the styling is pure Challenger with quad round headlamps, long hood, kicked up beltline, and wide taillamps. A formed-in hood scoop implies power. Look close to notice projector headlamps, LED taillights, and dual bright exhaust tips. I really like the dark green paint over 19-inch Hyperblack alloys shod in all-season performance tires as part of the Blacktop package. A satin black rear spoiler and blacked out badging further distinguish it.
Gray houndstooth cloth seats greet passengers for a modern retro vibe – as does the large driver-focused dashboard with large analog gauges and aluminumesque trim that wraps down into the long console. Plenty of black vinyl continues that '70s feel, but heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a heated leather-wrap steering wheel bring us back. Seats are big and comfy while fold-down rear seats allow skis, luggage, and other gear to fit.
Chrysler’s Uconnect system controls audio, climate, and navigation by voice, touchscreen, or redundant buttons and knobs below. Intuitive icons on the bottom of the touchscreen flip through screens for each function. It’s simply the model for other infotainment systems, made better with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Harman Kardon audio and 4G Wi-Fi connect to tunes and the greater world beyond. Safety is enhanced by a rear camera, blind zone alert, and parking sensors.
All-season Traction, V6 Power
This Challenger comes very nicely equipped, but there’s nothing extravagant. The same can be said for the powertrain…which is fine by me. Instead of the Challenger SRT’s 485 horsepower 6.4-liter V8 or the Hellcat’s 707 horsepower supercharged V8, the GT comes with Chrysler’s corporate 3.6-liter V6 making 305 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s routed to the all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive helps control on dry roads, but is especially welcome when snow falls, making the GT AWD perhaps the world’s first all-season muscle car. Feather the throttle to see 18/27-MPG city/highway.
It’s been over a decade since the Challenger’s debut, but it’s still a pleasant car to drive. We can thank underlying architecture that was derived from the late-'90s Mercedes E-Class while Daimler fronted Chrysler. Especially when parking, you realize this is a big car and the dash feels big enough to host picnics. But, it also feels very solid and heavy like a fine German car should, soaking up rough pavement with aplomb.
If there is any room to complain, I could do without all of the black vinyl inside and it’s difficult to maneuver without a camera. Mercedes’ architecture has served Chrysler and Dodge very well, but if it was a person, it would be out of college. I can’t help but imagine how fun the Challenger would be slightly downsized on the modern Alfa Romeo Giulia platform. But then, it would no longer be a proper muscle car.
I would not turn down a more powerful Challenger, but I’d be very happy to own this one. The V6 has plenty of power, the eight-speed transmission shifts it smoothly, and the confidence of all-wheel-drive will encourage long drives no matter the weather. It also looks ready to eat Mustangs, Camaros, and all of those other cute little coupes. Challengers start at $27,845, but our loaded GT AWD came to $39,965.
2019 Dodge Challenger GT
- Five-passenger, AWD Coupe
- Powertrain: 3.6-liter V6, 8-spd auto trans
- Output: 305hp/268 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Performance
- Fuel economy: 18/27 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Brampton, ON
- Base/As-tested price: $27,845/$39,965