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Steve Drives The Challenger, First AWD Muscle Car

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I’ve driven a lot of Challengers through the years. Scat Pack, 392, SRT8, Classic, manual, automatic – you name it. And I’ve loved each and every one of them. But until this week, I’ve never driven one with a V6. And I’ve certainly never driven one with all-wheel drive. This is the new 2017 Challenger GT.

Personally, I’d take my Challenger with a HEMI and a 6-speed. But after 2 major snowstorms this week, I can see real value in Dodge adding an all-wheel drive option.  The only caveat is that this GT model comes in one configuration; pairing the 3.6-liter V6 to an 8-speed automatic transmission.  Having never experienced a Challenger like this before I was curious how it would change the car’s vibe.  And the answer is big-time.  The visceral connection provided by the V8’s prodigious power and guttural sounds has by-in-large been displaced with an uncanny serenity. This Challenger goes about business like its Sunday morning.  It’s a very likeable car and despite it big coupe dimensions can handle the twisty road with grace and precision.

It’s far from your typical muscle car experience but the V6 is still an excellent car…just different in what it delivers. It’s so docile, quiet, soft and smooth that it’s hard to fathom that it wears the Challenger badge.  It’s loaded with performance technology and the Pentastar is certainly no slouch but this car is more about the image than the sport.  Therefore, it wears its GT badge with pride with the added benefit of all-wheel drive and the capability of comfortable long distance cruising.

So what does one with a Challenger GT do when it snows? You go find places to have winter fun of course.  And with traction control killed, the GT still enables the driver to steer the car with his right foot.   On dry pavement, not so much but the GT brings out the adolescence in you and I had a ton of fun sliding it around.

For serious on-road travels, this all-wheel drive system kicks winter’s rear end. I’m truly amazed at how confident and secure it tackles snowy roads, even without winter rubber.  The drivetrain is well suited for excellent control in slippery conditions, delivering its 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque with finesse.  A sport mode sharpens that up.   Borrowing the Charger’s setup, this system uses an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect transitioning between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Under normal driving conditions, the front axle is disengaged and 100 percent of the engine’s torque is directed to the rear wheels. It works very well but of course takes the requisite MPG hit, going from 23mpg to 21 mpg in combined driving.

The electronics are stellar – both in the big, high-res, fully stocked and easy to use infotainment system and the driver display. Loaded with performance measuring tools and cool gauges, Dodge knows what its drivers’ want and they deliver on an unparalleled level. I love playing with this stuff. I almost never had clear roads but launch control takes this Challenger from 0-to-60mph in about 6 seconds. The front seats are oversized and comfy while holding you tight and the rear seats are big Coupe usable. The cabin as a whole isn’t quite there in terms of creative layout, but what is in here works especially well. My fully optioned tester has all the goodies including heated seats and steering wheel, forward collision warning, blind spot and rear cross path detection, remote start, a thumping 9 speaker sound system and full smartphone integration.

The price starts at around $34,500 while this one stickers for $38,765. Dodge is the first to bring all-wheel drive to this segment allowing muscle car owners in the north to do more than just look at their ride in the winter months.

By TestDriveNow Auto Critic Steve Hammes for SouthFloridaReporter.com, Feb. 26, 2017

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A premiere automotive resource featuring video reviews by America’s top automotive critic Steve Hammes. Having road tested more than 2,000 new vehicles, Hammes, known as “The Go-to-Guy Before You Buy”, delivers at least two new reviews of his first-hand test drive experiences each week.