The Challenger is one big bruiser, with heft better suited to cruising or drag-racing at the strip than turning laps on a racetrack. Powertrains include the standard 305-hp 3.6-liter V-6 and an eight-speed auto; one 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 makes 375 hp with the standard six-speed manual, and one (with fuel-saving tech) makes 372 hp with the optional eight-speed automatic. The Scat Pack option features a 485-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V-8; a six-speed manual is standard and an eight-speed auto is optional.
Calling this Challenger the first all-wheel-drive muscle car may be a bit of a stretch, though, since it’s not all that muscular. Powered by FCA’s familiar 305-hp Pentastar V-6, the steel horse makes it through the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds. Though launch control is featured in the Uconnect infotainment Performance Pages, it’s a ruse. A 3500-rpm launch can be selected, but the torque converter limits engine speed to 2500 rpm while stationary, creating an uneventful dash from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Despite its newfound traction, the acceleration times are actually slower by 0.1 second to 60 and through the quarter-mile when compared with rear-wheel-drive V-6 models, which means the Challenger GT is the slowest of the current generation of Big Three pony cars, even lagging behind the turbocharged four-cylinder versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.
Torque is routed solely through an eight-speed automatic transmission; a manual is not available. The all-wheel-drive system, capable of decoupling the front axle to reduce parasitic loss and increase efficiency, favors rear-drive most of the time. When the temperature dips into winter-like readings, or when the computer detects wheelslip, a clutch seamlessly engages the propshaft, sending up to 38 percent of the available torque to the front axle. The activation of sport or manual shifting mode will also lock the system into all-wheel drive. Here in Michigan, where winters sometimes last into spring, we confirmed what the system advertises: all-weather performance. The front tires are eager to provide additional bite in icy conditions, and, if one desires, well-controlled slides can be performed.
Outside, the Challenger’s bulky proportions and retro looks remain unchanged. The GT’s standard 19-inch wheels house front rotors that are one inch larger than those on SXT trims, although any benefit is lost to the all-season rubber. Our GT required 176 feet, 14 more than the last Challenger SXT we tested, to stop from 70 mph.