There’s nothing unusual about lining up a Dodge Challenger at the start of a quarter-mile drag strip; the muscle coupe was born to race. Nothing unusual, that is, unless there’s a half-foot of snow on the ground.
But that’s where we found ourselves recently, getting ready to put pedal to metal to see how the 2017 Challenger would handle. Of course, we had one thing working in our favor: this was the new, all-wheel-drive edition of the Dodge muscle car, the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT.
Dodge has already put its AWD system in the Challenger’s sibling, the Charger, so we had a sense of what to expect, but the 2017 Challenger GT proved itself with aplomb during a couple days up in the snow and ice of Maine and New Hampshire, with plenty of time on public roads, as well as on a track normally closed for the season.
(Dodge Demon set to make its return. Click Here for more.)
Adding all-wheel-drive is a classic no-brainer these days, all the more when you’ve got plenty of torque to deliver to the pavement. It’s telling that Mercedes-AMG has committed to adding AWD to virtually all of its own performance models. And the technology is becoming more and more commonplace in virtually every segment on the market. Significantly, AWD is becoming more popular even in Sunbelt regions, where drivers often view it as a performance enhancement.
According to Dodge data, sales of the Charger have surged by a full 50% in northern states since that GT package is offered. Conversely, the Fiat Chrysler performance brand found that 75% of those who would have bought a Challenger turned elsewhere because it didn’t offer that AWD option. Now, they have no excuse.
The GT isn’t for everyone, especially those who might want a Challenger with its big Hemi V-8. The AWD package – at least for now – is limited to the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, paired to FCA’s eight-speed automatic.
That said, this is the coupe’s most popular engine option. And with the V-6, the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is no slouch, turning out a more-than-respectable 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Better yet, 90% of maximum torque kicks in by 1,800 RPM.
As you might expect, the all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased, varying degrees of torque being directed to the front wheels only as needed. In fact, the GT uses a front-axle disconnect system that significantly reduces frictional losses, among other things, when the AWD control system determines power is only needed at the tail. That’s one reason the Challenger GT’s mileage is rated 18 mpg City, 27 Highway. That’s just a 1 mpg in-town penalty, 3 mpg lower on the open road.
You can switch between an assortment of displays on the LCD display screen in the instrument cluster to see how the AWD system is kicking in, by the way.
Meanwhile, you can adjust a variety of vehicle settings with the three-mode Electronic Stability Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control. The car also has a Super Track Pak switch which, among other things, let’s you turn on Launch Control.
If you’re familiar with the stock Challenger V-6 you’ll likely notice something a little different as you put the GT through its paces on dry pavement. Credit the fact that it gets the same suspension package from the police-oriented all-wheel-drive version of the Dodge Charger Pursuit sedan.
The GT also gets 19-inch all-season performance tires. We found them to be reasonable good as we moved back-and-forth from dry to wet to snowy pavement, the GT’s AWD system compensating for all but the most extreme, low-grip situations. To our mind, however, Dodge would be well-advised to offer customers the option of purchasing two tire packages, with owners getting the ability to switch to true winter tires when the weather starts getting messy.
(Fiat Chrysler earnings soar to $2b for 2016. Click Here for the story.)
We pushed the limits during our time at Club Motorsports in rural Tamworth, New Hampshire. The club features a number of different tracks, and we got the chance to put the Challenger GT through its paces around a skid pad, an autocross circuit, and that quarter-mile straight.
As you might expect, we spent a lot more time sawing at the wheel, working brakes and throttle than we might have during a summertime visit to Tamworth. But we never felt like all hope was lost. Even when overcooking a corner on the autocross, it took surprisingly little effort to rein the Challenger in and keep it on the snow-covered path.
Entering the skid pad, we took a couple loops before switching off the ESC system. In most cars on snow, that would have been a recipe for doing a few 360s. But even pushing harder than we knew was reasonable, it took surprisingly little effort to avoid a complete tail-first spin.
During about six hours of on-road driving, the GT proved equally adept. Only once, charging into a tight corner and discovering it was covered with a bit of glaze ice, did we experience a pucker moment. And, even then, the Challenger was able to regain its composure after a minor slide.
For most buyers, the V-6-powered 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is going to be a perfect combination for winter driving. We would, of course, love to see a GT version with the familiar Hemi V-8. Perhaps that will come in the near future. Dodge insiders smile knowingly when asked. Rumor, indeed, has it that the upcoming Demon version of the Dodge Hellcat could put as much as 910 pound-feet of torque down through all four wheels.
For now, we expect to see plenty of potential buyers stay within the Dodge fold now that the all-wheel-drive coupe is part of the family. Starting price for the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is $34,490, which includes $1,095 in delivery charges.
(Click Here for a review of the Lexis RC 350 F Sport.)