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Tom Crosby: 2018 Dodge Challenger GT adds all-wheel drive

Tom Crosby

Americans love muscle cars and Dodge Challenger has become the first to offer an all-wheel drive for 2018 in its attractive, spacious GT coupe that can navigate weather-coated winter roads.

With seating for five, a cavernous trunk and acceptable performance characteristics, Dodge expects to woo buyers away from smaller, rear wheel drive four-passenger Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros.

Challengers come in seven major trims, with the base SXT and GT using V-6 Pentastar engines. The other five use more powerful, different sized V-8 engines, including top of the line-up SRT Demon, also new this year with 808-horsepower, the most in muscle car history.

Our GT test drive added six options totaling $4,375 that included a sunroof, spare tire, blind sport detection, upgraded audio, leather seats and an 8.4-inch voice-activated touchscreen dashboard display with navigation.

The GT’s all-wheel platform is based on the Dodge Chrysler LX and Charger sedan, both of which have offered all-wheel drive for a decade.

GT’s sleek, muscle car profile draws envious looks with an elongated hood, monochromatic exterior (ours was Indigo Blue), rear spoiler and classic proportions atop 19-inch painted granite wheels wearing all-season tires. Engine growls draw attention under acceleration.

Handling felt solid with responsive steering, despite the car’s 2-ton weight, and the firm suspension created a comfortable ride on smooth pavement although bouncier over potholes, speed bumps and ruts – a common feedback from a tight suspension.

Cruising the interstate, the GT disengages the front axle, reverting to rear-wheel-drive. When it senses the need, all-wheel drive is engaged. A Sport mode loosens traction control to test driving skills.

From a standstill, acceleration is adequate but slower than its competitors due to their additional horsepower. Less horsepower means more miles per gallon. Driver visibility is hindered but the rear view camera with cross alert helps.

Inside the cabin, Challenger emerges as top dog with large, comfortable leather seats in front and space for three normal sized adults in the rear.

The cockpit is monochromatic black with touches of chrome and the 8.4-inch UConnect dashboard touch-screen reacted well to voice commands. Armed with a destination, the navigation screen is reach in detail and voice directions.

Smartphone integration accesses Apple CarPlay and Android Audio apps. Knobs and dials are easy to reach and use.

A huge trunk, plus fold-down seats, allows luggage for long trips.

The GT Challenger received top safety ratings in crash tests.

LIKES: Looks, handling, passenger/cargo space, cabin comfort, winter capable, mileage

DISLIKES: Wide doors, poor visibility

BOTTOM LINE: Seating, all-wheel drive and cargo space challenging Ford and Chevy

FACT FILE

2018 DODGE CHALLENGER GT AWD

Base price w/destination charge       $34,590 ($38,965 as tested)

Vehicle weight                                    4,108 lbs.

Wheelbase                                          116.2 inches

Length                                                 197.9 inches

Width                                                 85.9 inches

Engine                                                 3.6-liter, V6, Pentastar

Horsepower                                          305 hp at 6,350 rpm

Torque       268 ft-lbs @ 4,800 rpm

Transmission                                          8-speed automatic, manual paddles

EPA rating       18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy

Range                                                 18.5-gallons, regular

Performance       0-60 in just over 6 seconds

 

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

 

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