Same great taste, less filling. That’s been light beer’s motto since it’s inception. It’s also what muscle car makers would have you believe of their smaller-displacement models. We’ve driven a number of Dodge Challengers over the years; the R/T Scat Pack, 392 Scat Pack Shaker, and Hellcat. But they’ve all had big V8s. The V6 Challenger normally flies under the radar. Last year, however, Dodge unveiled the GT trim and brought all-wheel-drive to the Challenger platform for the first time ever. The V6 Challenger is Dodge’s light beer. Would we find the same great taste with less filling?
Fitting the Charger’s AWD system underneath the Challenger was not an easy task. The front footwells have been reshaped to accommodate the extra drivetrain components. The body sits a little higher than a rear-drive model, making this the tallest riding Challenger in the stable. The large wheel arch gaps and narrow, 19″ wheels lend the GT model an awkward appearance compared to its burly SRT brethren. But other than the GT fender badges and Dodge’s new performance all-wheel-drive badge, like the one found on the Durango SRT, the Challenger design is completely unchanged.
Dodge’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 takes up very little room beneath the massive hood, but it still produces a worthy 305hp and 268 lb-ft torque. Challenger GT models are only available with FCA’s TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel-drive system disengages the front axle under normal conditions, which help preserve the Challenger’s rear-drive feel and fuel economy. When wheel slip is detected or the car is put into Sport mode, all-wheel-drive mode kicks in. The Challenger GT also rides on suspension similar to the Charger police interceptors.
Like light beer, the Challenger may look the same, but offers far less of an experience. The V6 is quick, but lacks personality and the Hemi soundtrack. The transmission shifts well-enough but doesn’t share the lightning fast responsiveness of the SRT-tuned versions. The all-wheel-drive helps this Challenger be effective year-round, but prevents any tire smoke from being generated. And the GT’s suspension is also surprisingly stiff. Laying eyes on the Tor Red GT evokes the Challenger stereotype, a big set of shoes that, for us, the GT can’t fill.
With the magic gone, some of the other cracks to begin to appear. The GT’s seats sit higher off the floor and the sunroof canabalizes headroom, a combination that resulted in several brushes with the headliner for this 6’2″ driver. The thick C-pillars leave a large blind spot that only the SRT motors can quickly clear. Otherwise, careful lane changes are required. And yet, after a week you love the Challenger GT for more than just its looks.
In all-wheel-drive trim, the Challenger pulls decent grand touring duty. With a large trunk and comfortable seats, it makes a perfect long-haul companion. And aside from the stiff ride, the Challenger’s driving characteristics are better than any 300hp sedan you could get from Ford or Toyota. The allure of year-round muscle car styling found in the Dodge Challenger GT may fit the bill for some. Ultimately, we found the same great looks, just less fulfilling.
|2018 Dodge Challenger GT
|Driver Convenience Group||$1,095|
|GT Interior Package||$1,095|
|Harmon Kardon Premium Sound||$895|
|Uconnect 4C w/ Navigation||$795|
|As Tested MSRP||$42,005|