Bo and Luke Duke may have been driving a Charger back in the day, but the 1969 Charger's successor is definitely the current-generation Challenger. Put behind the wheel of the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT in bright orange paint – as we drove it – you may want to change your name, too.
The Challenger GT is Dodge's all-wheel-drive muscle coupe, offering something that those of us living in the land of inclement weather and dirt roads have long wanted. When the 2017 Challenger GT was shown as a concept back in November of 2015, we were drooling. When it finally dropped a year later, there was some disappointment on the engine choice.
The engine chosen for the production version of the Challenger GT is the venerable V6 that, it turns out, is the most popular engine for the Challenger lineup. Many people might be surprised to know that in the arena of American muscle, including the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, the six-cylinder engine has become the most popular engine for buyers in recent years. Plus, for Dodge, using the V6 meant not having to do any major retooling of the AWD drivetrain already used in the Chrysler 300, with which the Challenger shares a common platform.
So the beefy V8 shown in the concept car back in 2015 was not to be. That's disappointing, until you drive the Challenger GT as it is. The 3.6-liter V6 under its hood is putting out a solid 305 horsepower (227 kW) and 268 foot pounds (363 Nm) of torque. Both at between 4,800 and 6,350 peak RPM, making it relatively easy to keep the engine at high output. Top speed in the Challenger GT is 130 mph (209 km/h). It's also important to remember that all of that power is being output in all-wheel drive.
This means takeoff traction for the 2017 Challenger GT is far better than it is in the rear-drive versions of the car. Our best 0-60 mph (96.6 km/h) time average was 6.9 seconds on a public roadway. Professionals can probably shave a few tenths off of that. Dodge says that the Challenger GT is capable of 6.5-second 60 mph sprints.
At the same time, the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is EPA-rated at 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway (13.0, 8.7 l/100km). Our average was about 21 mpg (11.2 l/100km) overall in our week with the car. It was a week that saw a lot of highway driving and a lot of offroad hooning, we should point out. Luckily, Roscoe P Coltrane was nowhere to be found and Boss Hogg was busy at the buffet. Otherwise, there'd have been trouble.
On the road, the Challenger GT drives like any other Challenger model. It's smooth, confident, and massive. The feeling of sheer bulk that the Challenger imparts to the driver gives a great feeling of safety and muscle. The Challenger doesn't handle as precisely as some European sports cars might, especially when pressed into a corner, but in everyday driving, it's one of the most comfortable cars you can be in.
During regular driving, the Challenger GT disconnects the front axle from the drivetrain via a magnetic differential and becomes purely rear-wheel driven. That improves efficiency and handling. At any moment, the differential can re-engage and return to AWD for traction stability and control.
Fun fact: that rear-drive mode can be toggled manually and in full force via the Traction Control button on the center stack. Hold it down for about three seconds and the driver information screen between the gauges will announce that you're locked into rear-wheel drive. Let the games begin!
Off the pavement, out on a dirt track, the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is a blast. Going full Dukes is completely warranted and almost encouraged by this fun muscle coupe. Ground clearance is limited, of course, but on any standard dirt road or (in our case) a usually-empty dirt runabout, there is a lot of fun to be had. We do caution that getting airborne in a GT is not likely the best of plans. Hollywood does not equal reality, especially where the "wreck two per episode" Hazzard boys were concerned.
As it is, the 2017 Challenger GT will drift the dirt corner, keep its traction through the straightaway, and generally have a good time when at play. Like other Challenger models, during everyday use the car is an excellent ride with a usable back seat and a huge "Jersey three-body" trunk. Judging by what we've seen it do in less-than-ideal weather and road conditions, the AWD is going to work as advertised for those needs too.
This might be the coolest muscle car available, given its starting price of just about US$35,000.
Product Page: 2017 Dodge ChallengerView gallery - 8 images