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Why the All-Wheel Drive Dodge Challenger GT doesn't Pack Hemi Power

The 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is the first ever 2-door muscle car to offer all-wheel drive and after receiving tons of questions asking why this car doesn’t pack Hemi power, we wanted to look at why FCA made the first ever 2-door muscle car with all-wheel drive a V6 model.

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to spend a day driving the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT around Maine and New Hampshire, where we got to experience the first ever all-wheel drive muscle coupe in deep New England snow. You can expect to read all about my first drive in the Challenger GT next week, but before talking about how the AWD Challenger drove, I wanted to look at why Dodge picked the Pentastar V6 rather than one of their powerful Hemi V8 engines.

The First AWD Challenger
When FCA first showed off a Dodge Challenger with all-wheel drive, it was the Challenger GT AWD Concept which debuted at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. That car had a widebody kit over huge wheels and tires, a sport suspension setup for a lowered stance, a concept all-wheel drive system and a modified 5.7L Hemi V8 with somewhere in the area of 450 horsepower. That AWD Challenger concept car proved very popular, so when it was announced that the Challenger GT with all-wheel drive was becoming a production reality, many people assumed that the car on sale would be similar to that concept car – but it is not.

The production Challenger GT has all-wheel drive, but it doesn’t have the wheel flares, nor does it have the built 5.7L Hemi V8 or the sport suspension setup. Instead, the 2017 Challenger GT has a more street-friendly suspension setup that offers proper ground clearance for more comfortable daily driving and, more importantly, it is powered by the 3.6L Pentastar V6.

Why no Hemi, you ask?

Well, because FCA wants to sell as many cars as possible and realistically, the kind of people who are going to buy this all-wheel drive Challenger GT are more interested in year-round drivability than a high performance, AWD muscle car.

The Challenger GT is not a Race Car
When the SEMA Concept AWD Challenger debuted with that worked Hemi V8 and the widebody package, it drew attention due to its perceived performance potential. An all-wheel drive Challenger with a 450hp Hemi could offer impressive acceleration with the improved traction, but the fact of the matter is that most people who want a high powered Challenger don’t want the added weight of the AWD system while they do want the feel of a rear wheel drive car.

On the other hand, there are millions of drivers in the United States and Canada who live in an area where all-wheel drive is necessary to get around in the winter, and there is where this Dodge Challenger GT comes into play. This 305 horsepower Challenger GT is engineered to offer drivers the same level of performance, comfort and style year round for someone who deals with real winters.

It isn’t the fastest muscle car on the block, but for someone who isn’t so worried about being the fastest as much as they are worried about being able to get up their road in the winter, the Challenger GT could be the perfect year-round daily driver.

But Why Not a Hemi?
Im sure that some of you are still wondering why Dodge didn’t just go with the Hemi for the Challenger GT, as it would make for an all-around better muscle car, but there are a few things to consider.

First and foremost, the Dodge Charger is available with all-wheel drive and while AWD is only available with the V6 now, you used to be able to order a Charger R/T AWD with the Hemi. However, very few people ordered them – few enough that it didn’t make financial sense for FCA to continue offering the combination of the Hemi V8 and AWD. Keep in mind that an automaker has to conduct emission tests, fuel economy tests and crash tests for each drivetrain configuration, so offering the Hemi/AWD combo is a costly endeavor – one which didn’t pay off on the sale sheet. On the other hand, the combination of the V6 and AWD in the Charger has been far more successful, which is why that package is still available.

If so few people were interested in the AWD Hemi Charger, it is likely that even fewer buyers would opt for the unconventional all-wheel drive Challenger with the Hemi, but for those folks who want a 2-door car that will handle the worst winter weather, Dodge rolled out the AWD Challenger GT with a V6.

Using the V6 makes the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT slightly lighter than it would have been with a Hemi, while also being less expensive and more efficient. This engine option may not satisfy those few prospective buyers who want a higher performance AWD muscle car, but for the majority of AWD shoppers, things like fuel economy and a lower purchase price are more important than big power when it comes to their winter driver.

Who is Going to Buy the Challenger GT?
Since the first solid information on the Dodge Challenger GT was introduced, I have been contacted by a great many Mopar fans who live in an area which gets heavy snowfall. Many of them drive a high powered Mopar muscle car, like a Hellcat Challenger or a Scat Pack Charger, but come winter, they are forced to drive small crossovers simply because they have all-wheel drive. These folks will finally be able to trade in their Subaru Impreza or Ford Escape for a muscle car that will get through the deep snow without much trouble, all while offering the plush interior and styling exterior of the modern Dodge Challenger.

The Dodge Challenger GT isn’t intended to be a traction monster at the track. It is intended to be a perfect year-round daily driver or a comfortable, styling second car for someone who lives in an area with heavy snowfall.

Stay tuned to TorqueNews for our review on the new Dodge Challenger GT next week!


Steve (not verified)    January 27, 2017 - 10:51PM

I can't believe the person who wrote this article doesn't see the contrast of an AWD Hemi or Hellcat Challenger, nor the different demographic of Charger buyers.
It isn't to drive in the snow, it's to get the car to hook up, thereby, increasing performance.
The Charger is a 4-door sedan, so many of those buyers need the practicality, not maximum performance.

Ron (not verified)    March 1, 2017 - 2:57AM

You guys seriously need to stop referring to this Challenger GT as a "muscle car". That's laughable. Did you ever think sales were low because nobody knew it was even available? Talk about terrible marketing. There are tons of people who want an AWD muscle car. Moreso than want a bloody Grand Cherokee with a 707HP Hellcat or God forbid, a Hellcat Durango. Lambos aren't high volume cars and they get AWD. Get it together FCA. Get your priorities in order. AWD in the full range of Challengers, especially the Demon. And start producing vehicles that DESERVE a Hellcat, such as the Ram TRX abd Wrangler Trailcat. Those will sell like hotcakes and should've been green lighted long before a Hellcat Grand Cherokee or God forbid a Hellcat Durango. That didn't even need an SRT option and the GC could've been left at an SRT as a top model. Whose gonna spend $100,000 for a Hellcat Cherokee? Way more people would spend $80K on a Hellcat Ram and Wrangler and both concepts are getting rave reviews. Why let Ford steal all the potential sales with their Raptor? The TRX Ram blows it away. And Wrangler owners have been loyal to you for decades, asking for Hemi Wrangler for decades. At least offer them a jacked up 6.4 Hemi Wrangler with 37" Toyos and killer suspension so we don't have to spend $100,000 USD at a specialty shop as the only option. For that kind of money you could be offering us a Hellcat Wrangler. I've seen one tear up a field on YouTube. It was phenomenal.

Hemi Fever (not verified)    October 26, 2018 - 3:41PM

In reply to by Ron (not verified)

Wrong. The reason FCA doesn’t offer the Hemi (or more) in their AWD sedans is simply because they don’t want to cannibalize existing sales of other vehicles that do.

And to whomever wrote this article the notion that owners of AWD cars are a “different” type of car buyer is pure BS. I live in the northeast and have owned plenty of of AWD vehicles that are sub 6 and even sub 5 second 0-60 rides. I like to lite up 4 tires just as much as 2, even more so frankly. So don’t post this BS and take people for a bunch of jamokes.

Michelle (not verified)    September 18, 2017 - 8:55AM

I own a hemi AWD Charger AND live in WV where we get snow. My car never sits in the garage in the winter. It goes like a tank and is still a blast to drive. I agree that they didn't advertise it well because when we bought it that's when we found out the AWD was available.

Tom (not verified)    November 18, 2017 - 10:42AM

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Lol. If you live in Morgantown your the reason I bought my GT . I seen a Charger go great last winter and so I got the GT and will be adding pep via super charger and Diablo tuner. But one step at a time. Agree no marketing. Found the GT by fluke luck.

Jason (not verified)    January 23, 2018 - 7:44AM

Makes sense why they didn't do it. Doesn't make sense why they never advertised the charger/300 rt awd. I have not ever seen one single advertisement or any indicator they ever offered it. Ahh Chrysler, you great communicator. How are sales supposed to be adequate on something that nobody knows even exists?

Brian (not verified)    January 25, 2018 - 1:34PM

Dodge would have sold a ton of awd hemi chargers if they would have fitted it with the eight speed transmission.I gave up waiting on them to do just that.By all accounts,the five speed slush box was a poor match in that car.

Martin Hinchman (not verified)    January 28, 2018 - 8:40AM

We had 2 AWD/Hemi 300S sedans, a 2013 & 2014. We leased these cars for 4 years in row. We loved them. We live in Michigan and the traction was awesome in the snow and the highway gas mileage was GREAT at 22 mpg at 75 mph. Did you know the AWD system was borrowed from Mercedes Benz? It is the E Class 4 Matic. It is bullet proof. When I found out in MY 2015 the new 8 speed transmission AWD package did not come with a HEMI we terminated our 2013 lease early and found the last remaining 2014 AWD/Hemi and leased it. It was loaded 300S and we loved it. I wrote letters to FCA and filled out survey after survey with no response from FCA. I waited years for the 8 spd AWD/Hemi in any of the full size sedans. So they only way to respond was not buy another sedan from FCA. If I want a V6 AWD I'll get a Cadillac ATS.

The writer of the article has no idea what he talking about. FCA lost my business because they stopped offering AWD/Hemi Sedans. They had something no else offered. PENNY WISE AND POUND FOOLISH.

Daniel (not verified)    April 13, 2018 - 1:47PM

In reply to by Martin Hinchman (not verified)

I just bought the AWD charger. I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get the R/T trim with AWD. I didn’t want to get an older 2014 just for that, it took weeks to decide if I wanted AWD or Hemi more. In the end I opted for AWD but would have preferred the Hemi with AWD, and I would have paid for it.

RT Charger (not verified)    June 17, 2018 - 9:53AM

In reply to by Daniel (not verified)

I had a bad car accident 10 years ago. I need at least front wheel drive. A RWD Charger is not an option. For 10 years I drove a 96 Taurus SHO. For 3 grand, no car payment, and no collision insurance needed. I looked the new SHO. Couldn't even fit in it. I did buy a 2014. It literally looks brand new. Every possible option. Exactly the way I would have ordered it. At half the price of the original sticker of $40,370. Certified, with a 4 Year, 48,000 The Charger R/T doesn't need the 8 speed transmission. I'm addressing a different post. The V6 doesn't come close in torque. It needs the 8 speed. Especially with the added AWD weight. I have paddle shifters, Beats Audio, Nav, backup camera, Granite Crystal Metallic with full black leather, and the AWD appearance package. Not an inch of chrome on my Charger R/T. All black honeycomb grill. 19 dual 5 spoke rims, cross drilled rotors, huge red calipers with the gray R/T logo. The speed and handling are phenomenal. Plus a full size back seat, 4 doors, and a huge trunk. I'm into AWD performance sedans. But can't afford an AWD Hellcat even if they made one. A used AWD SXT V6 was about the same price. The 5.7 Hemi is more then anyone needs on the street. My choice was a 2015+ AWD V6, with the new front end, or the 2011-2014 style with a Hemi. Given the appearance package on my car, I'd take the Hemi any day. And I did. I only found this article because I couldn't understand why Dodge stopped making the perfect car after 2014. That's the worst excuse ever. And the last thing that I expected to find. There's A LOT of used ones available. RWD is NOT an option for MOST of the US. My neighbor has my exact colors. On a 2015+ SXT AWD. Bet they would have bought an R/T. Without the AWD, the Charger isn't an option for me. To say people that want AWD don't care about HP is ridiculous. MOST high end performance sedans have AWD. It is a 4Matic unit. Only engages the front axle on rear axle slippage. Mine is just the best value AWD performance sedan. At least it was until 2014.

Phil (not verified)    August 21, 2018 - 1:57PM

Why then does the Jeep Cherokee have a Hemi? The AWD Challenger should have an option for the Hemi.

Aaron Graham (not verified)    November 4, 2018 - 4:54AM

All i want to know is why wont they make a v8 hemi a.w.d challenger ? I think people like my self who love the challenger would buy the g.t if it was a v8 rt model.

ClearHeatVision (not verified)    December 9, 2018 - 7:37AM

In reply to by Aaron Graham (not verified)

Agreed. I bought a 2018 GT Challenger because it was a nice coupe to buy for northeast driving compared to my long time Subaru Forester. But when renting a Challenger Hemi, omg, there is NIGHT and DAY difference in power between V6 and V8.

Such a stupid decision not to have an AWD V8. I would have bought that in a heartbeat. If it is ever announced, I'd trade in the GT for it.

Dusty Hines (not verified)    November 25, 2019 - 6:40PM

I live in northern wyoming where we can have a lot of snow and that is why I bought a 2014 charger hemi r/t awd. Great on ice and snow plus great mpg for it's weight. Can't understand why more people wouldn't want an awd hemi charger.....

Nate (not verified)    September 29, 2021 - 12:17AM

I came here off a Google search on why no hellcat awd, I live in Oregon, rarely snows. But it rains here like 10 months out of the year and rain is just as bad with traction. I had to put 9in wide wheels on my Lexus sc400 it's only 250hp. But my subaru legacy gt had no problems and it pushed +350 hp after a few mods. When looking at 600 to 700 hp awd would be nice especially at a red light on hill.