Quick Spin: 2018 Dodge Challenger GT All-Wheel Drive

Last year, when the all-wheel-drive Dodge Challenger was first launched, the good folks at FCA invited me to snow-covered race track to hoon that thing. And the damn thing proved to be shockingly good in snow, even with stock all-season tires on. It went, it stopped, and it turned while wagging its huge butt around course.
But outside of the track, there was no snow that day. It was January’s warm spell that lasted exactly for the week that Dodge was showing its first AWD pony car to the press. And, to be honest, I am always a bit skeptical about how a vehicle I have never driven before behaves on a track that was purposely set up for me to drive on. I’ve seen cute ‘utes do the three-wheel motion on big dirt mound only to be sliding all over the place in a trace of snow.
But now, I year later, I get to drive this big all-wheel-drive boat on a snowy day…

…and it drives as good as it did on that frozen track. Yea, there is some wheel slippage, of course, but in street driving it’s completely fine and confident. It goes off line with gusto, never noticing that the surface is imperfect. It stops well, not as good as it would with snow tires but relatively very good, better than many so-called SUVs. Put it into sport mode and go sideways with a smile – on a closed course, of course.
Overall, the Challenger feels old, because it is. But I see it as a good thing, it’s got personality. Years from now we will yearn for a car like this. It might be the last large American coupe made. It’s unfortunate that a proper V8 engine cannot be had with the AWD system, as that would be a blast. And it’s not like FCA doesn’t have the hardware, they do, but they just don’t think people will but it. The 305 horse-power 3.6-liter V6 does the job but it’s nothing to write home about.
So, if you’re looking for a large, fun to drive, all-season coupe, the Challenger is worth checking out. It’s not the newest thing, it is far from perfect, but it’s one of the few remaining such cars. Damn, I wish it had a V8!
Disclaimer: FCA provided the vehicle for the purpose of this article. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2018]


      1. I doubt the old 5 sp is a better transmission than the ZF 8 speed!
        How long before someone swaps a V8 in? It’s got to be pretty similar to the Durango or Grand Cherokee driveline surely.
        Also if you didn’t know, HSV did an AWD version of the Monaro/GTO. Just 100 were built, give or take. Obviously great traction, but very heavy.

        1. I suppose it depends on how you define better. Can an independent tech actually rebuild the ZF, or is it a replace-only affair?

          1. Well the ZF 6 speed certainly can be, workshops are building them up etc so I don’t think the 8 speed will be any different. This sort of thing happens with every new transmission it seems, the aftermarket works it out.

      1. I was being sarcastic– that car is stupid low. I do like the Rocket Bunny conversion, though, and if the suspension were higher, I’d invest in one of these before I would drive a V6 Challenger.

  1. In theory this makes plenty of sense. After Ross’s list of winter-related maladies from yesterday, I’m not so sure.

    1. With the kinks worked out, a V8 AWD Challenger would be a *fantastic* winter vehicle. Give it selectable AWD, a la newest M5, and it would be perfect.

        1. Got to wonder if that is due to lack of demand? I mean, those of us who convene here regularly are probably not stellar customers, but are we that much off?

          1. Considering Chrysler did offer the V8 and AWD in the 300C and Charger previously (and the Magnum too?), and dropped it, I have to think they probably have enough marketing data to know there’s just not enough demand to justify pairing AWD, the 8-spd, and the V8.

          2. Yet, Subaru has somehow build an entire, ridiculously successful brand around the idea of four wheel drive in everything. Maybe it’s true that FCA attracts such a price conscious audience that whatever is considered a bonus seems not worth paying for.

          3. I think moreso than being ridiculously successful, Subaru is just a solid niche player who’ve developed a very clear identity. In real terms, Subaru does not outsell Jeep (let alone all FCA brands). The Charger by itself (with the option of AWD), sells a fair bit better than the cheaper Legacy.
            I suspect the real issue is that the Pentastar is so adequate for daily driving, it’s a very specific buyer who’s going to step up to the Hemi, and to find that buyer who’s deadset on the Hemi, lives in a snowy region, and won’t garage it over the winter just isn’t worth FCA’s time.

          4. No, but we are the ones that would like to pick up the used V-8 AWD Challenger cop cars at the police surplus auctions in a few years. Not the kind of people to drop $50k on a new Dodge.

          5. I’d like to understand the market projections that determine the AWD will sell better with the 6.

          6. A colleague of mine says I am a living anti-focus-group: Whatever I dislike will be a commercial success. This is where I shut up.

      1. In all honesty, it wouldn’t. A deep well of torque isn’t the best formula for traction, even when divided among four wheels. It would be a helluva lot of fun, though.

  2. Went to lease a Challenger AWD last Feb and drove out with a loaded 300S. $150/mo less out the door, same performance, more stuff and more practical. Challenger stance looked too high with AWD. And there would be garage disagreements with my built 08 Stang GT….

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