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