Car Review: 2021 Dodge Challenger GT AWD
One of the oldest new cars on the market is still mighty welcome
Not long ago, our homepage looked like this . Offended by this grayscale travesty, I shot off an email to the PR guy at Mopar. Subject line: “What colours ‘ya got?!”
He replied that they had a V6 Challenger in a purple that Dodge calls Hellraisin . Purple, you say? He’ll yeah, borther .
I picked up my big purple toy, assuming the position and relaxing into the vibrations. Awww yeahhh .
Talk to anyone from Dodge about the Challenger, and they’re almost certain to start reciting monstrous figures from the SRT, Hellcat, Demon, Red Eye, Scat Pack, Super Stock, or one of the other thousand-odd muscle specs that the brand now offers. The Challenger is a fabulous halo car for the brand, still keeping astonishingly relevant and selling plentifully a whopping 13 years later. Strip all of that 800-horsepower widebody drama away, however, and you get back to what remains a pretty straightforward and surprisingly conventional runabout.
To be clear, the Dodge Challenger GT AWD is not a muscle car. Powered by the venerable Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 and ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that you know from pretty much every other vehicle in the FCA lineup, this 1,847 kilogram cruiser’s 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft will bring 100 km/h in 6 seconds —that’s slower than some Toyota RAV4s, and just a tenth of a second faster than in a two-door Jeep Wrangler. Taken in this specification, what you see here is an ordinary car in a neat body.
That isn’t a criticism — it’s a point of praise. Besides aging more gracefully than perhaps any mainstream contemporary design, the Challenger is a known quantity for a shopper wanting something a little bit special. You don’t need an SRT Beelzebub 13.2 Rapturebreath to enjoy the Challenger experience; load up some friends, hit the A&W drive-thru, and take it easy.
Built from the same platform as the Charger, Magnum, and 300 models, a V6-powered Challenger GT drives like most anything else you’ll find on a Chrysler-family lot. Its everyday powertrain is known and trusted, the Pentastar engine having matured into a hardy and reliable plant, and the ZF 8-speed transmission boasting a strong reputation in everything from Dodges to BMWs to Aston Martins. It picks up quietly, floats along the commute relatively comfortably, and burns an entirely acceptably-rated 12.8 L/100km city, 8.7 highway, and 11 mixed. It’s not going to run as lean as your neighbour’s Prius, but it isn’t far off of its moderate-displacement peers.
With a base price of around $41,000 and a seemingly-impractical bodystyle, this is getting into toy territory. The trick, however, is that this is actually a feasible one-car solution. The boot will take 459 litres of groceries or beach toys across a shallow but broad floor — a whopping three-quarters more than in a Camaro, and even exceeding what you’ll cram into a hyper-sensible Toyota Camry sedan. Interior quality and design seem appropriate for the price, and Dodge’s strong UConnect system comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
As a daily driver, the heaving Challenger feels big and planted. The recent introduction of all-wheel drive steps this up even further, equipping the GT for sure-footed confidence in all weather. Most importantly though, it looks the part — the GT lets drivers indulge the long-hood muscle car fantasy, but without the risk to licence or neighbourhood relationships. Driving the Challenger feels cool , and while I was well aware of its V6 limitations, experience informs me that the layperson is plenty impressed by even the humble GT’s presence.