Driven: 2019 Dodge Challenger GT AWD Redefines Road Conditions

I don’t always pray for precipitation while behind the wheel of a muscle car. But when I do, I prefer to be driving a Challenger GT AWD+. Not just because it grips virtually any road condition with an iron grasp, but because it truly is one of the most intriguing automobiles ever manufactured.

This marks the second time I have been given the opportunity to command the Dodge Challenger GT for a full week-long review, and to be honest it’s really beginning to grow on me. While the affordability of the R/T Scat Pack, with its undeniably cool Shaker Package still holds my vote for most balanced Challenger, the GT comes in at a close second. There is no Hellcat price tag or noise ordinance sodomizing 6.4-liter start-up here. Just an incredibly focused AWD vehicle that checks more boxes than a Mopar fan might expect.

All-wheel drive sedans have become increasingly popular within the past decade due to technological advancements and affordability. Yet for some reason, the sedan’s two-door counterpart very rarely receives the same consideration.

Thanks to multiple generations of automotive evolution, most people have either one of two images in their heads when they hear the word “coupe.” The first is of tire-shredding rear-wheel drive muscle car anarchy or European performance. The other is of the fuel efficient, double-door daily driven variety. Somehow, FCA has taken both of these concepts, and transmogrified them into one core entity, and you’re looking right at it…

The Dodge Challenger GT AWD+ is part sports coupe, part daily beater; all topped with loads of grip, and a surplus of package options. It’s a Mopar mutant vigilante with both super powers and secret weaknesses, unafraid of throwing down at the red light or playing it safe on the highway at 27mpg. Built to be the all-around alternative to bland AWD automobiles, the Challenger GT is brilliantly bizarre, starting with its powertrain.

FCA’s use of a TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic and its venerable Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 give the classically styled Challenger the ability to conduct quite a few fun tricks. The use of an active transfer case with front axle disconnects allows drivers to roll around on rear wheels if needed, with AWD engaging at a moment’s notice when needed.

Unfortunately, clicking into Sport Mode locks the vehicle exclusively into AWD. Empowering just the rear wheels means keeping the car in Normal Mode, a system that only engages all four axles if wheel slip, arctic temps, or said Sport Mode are detected. It’s an annoying trade-off, where you have to decide between rear-wheel drive enjoyment or tighter steering, sharper shift points, and higher revs.

Traction woes set aside, driver enjoyability remains surprisingly high in either mode in the Challeger GT. Despite not having Mopar V8 performance perks, the 305-horsepower V6 and its 268 pound-feet of torque do an excellent job of delivering street legal scoot. Although two tons of curb weight does slow you down a smidgen, flooring it to 60 in just over six seconds will likely provide enough engagement for the average Mopar enthusiast. Throaty-sounding as hell for being a V6, and notably more mean-spirited when in Sport Mode, I didn’t find myself continuously lusting for an additional two pistons during my time with the Challenger GT.

TorqueFlite’s 8-speed transmission hits gears cleanly and quickly, there are paddles on the wheel and a separate shifter gate for manual controls, and holding high revs seems to be a forte when in Sport Mode. Although seeing a Challenger GT equipped with a manual would be a dream come true, the smooth and decisive attributes of the TorqueFlite transmission earn a nod of approval. In slippery conditions both the all-wheel drive setup and traction control system offer sure-footed accelerations and cornering stability, with a monitoring gauge in the driver’s display showcasing what is happening behind the scenes.

But winter reassurances aren’t just about road grip, and from the viewpoint of a potential buyer in colder climates, there’s a lot to like in the Challenger GT AWD+ once it’s been outfitted with some package options. A few useful attributes in this regard include rugged sport pedals for increased grip, a heated steering wheel and seats that get to temp quickly and bring the fire, and auto-sensing wipers that precisely detect precipitation and adjust speed accordingly.

Equipped with “Customer Preferred Package 21J,” the Challenger GT plays host to a range of useful and aesthetic features, all to the tune of around $10,000. From the latest 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system and those informative Dodge Performance Pages, to an 18-speaker Harman Kardon audio setup and Nappa leather/Alcantara trimmed seats, this coupe comes ready for any occasion. As for safety add-ons, my tester came equipped with auto HID lights, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring,  all of which proved to be quite effective while not being overly sensitive.

Although the benefits of owning a sports coupe are put into question when it comes to interior space, the Challenger GT does have some hits on its hands. For starters, the rear seat is notably roomier than both the Mustang and Camaro, and it comes with integrated cupholders, something neither of its competitors can claim. There’s also a split glovebox for additional storage solutions, most of the interior hard plastics look well-made and feel sturdy, and a pair of two USB ports and 12V plugs provide plenty of charging solutions.

Add in the Challenger’s retro gauge cluster with its informative digital driver displays, along with on-board WiFi, Android and Apple connectivity, and 5 years of every SiriusXM option, and you have a very competitive tech sweep throughout. All of this builds upon FCA’s lightning quick, beautifully illustrated, and brilliantly layed-out UConnect 8.4-inch touchscreen, which to date remains a favorite among most car critics.

On the outside, the Dodge Challenger GT has received a few mild updates, causing this refreshed version to look even less like its base-born SXT brethren. Now equipped with a scooped R/T hood, all-new exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels, and GT badging on the grille instead of the front fenders, improvements appear both subtle and effective.

While I still feel that the Challenger looks a bit scrawny without fender flares, the classic lines of the vehicle continue to earn approval, especially since those halo front signals and piped rear LED tail lamps now come matched with a far more flush bumper-integrated exhaust.

While my prayers for snow ultimately went unanswered the week that I had my GT muscle car, I did get to test its mettle in icy conditions, followed by longer stints in the rain. Driving the Challenger GT in the wet is like having a winning hand at poker and no one around you knows it yet. It’s an all-wheel drive ace in the hole. A V6 sleeper that’s itching for battle the moment Old Man Winter raises his ugly head, encouraging you to look for unfavorable road conditions and slippery streets.

That’s not to say that the Challenger GT doesn’t have its own issues though. It’s a rapidly aging chassis that is both heavy and unwieldy, and even with Sport Mode engaged and beefier AWD Charger Pursuit suspension on board,  feels a bit disjointed in GT trim. Grip may be abundant when all four wheels are churning, and ride quality remains firm, but the revised cop car suspension  and skinny-yet-tall tires struggle to keep body roll down.

Adding to the confusion are the Challenger’s notoriously large blind spots, and a backup camera that only offers one viewpoint and dirties easily. Equipped exclusively with all-season Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires in a 235/55/R19 configuration at all four corners, it’s safe to assume that gratuitous amounts of grip during the warmer months of the year will be hard to obtain as well.

Design hiccups include mesh pockets up front that can’t even accommodate a cell phone, windows that will only roll down automatically, gauge cluster plastics that attract glare, and a kickdown e-brake instead of an electronic one. I also encountered unexpected glitches like the car’s auto lock not wanting to engage when it was cold out, and the UConnect 4C system freezing a handful of times for no apparent reason. Oh, and where is the interior GT branding? Nary a seat stitching or dash badge to be seen.

Perhaps Dodge’s biggest problem though, isn’t the Challenger GT’s packaging or performance, but in its inability to find the right buyer. All of that added weight without the addition of a V8 does little for most die-hard Mopar buyers. And while it may be a solid year-round daily driver, the GT isn’t a vehicle that invokes excitement when you look at it or launch it off the line. Those of us who have experienced the V8 glory that is the Scat Pack and beyond have become jaded, making anything less appear… well… less than.

Another issue with this vehicle has to do with practicality and price. For the average FCA fanatic, opting for a Jeep or a crew cab RAM truck is likely to be far more appealing than a Challenger GT, especially when it comes to daily usage. My tester for the week came to $43,260 once all of its optional accouterments were attached, putting the muscle machine in Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite territory. Factor in all of the inconveniences associated with dailying a coupe and the aforementioned issues I encountered during my time with the car, and the Challenger GT paints itself into an increasingly tight corner.

So being that I just got slammed with several rounds of snow and ice within the past week, with even more precipitation on the way, I must ask myself a single question. Would I consider owning a Challenger GT if it meant using it as my year-round daily driver?

Sure, I would own one of these machines. But not without first outfitting it with some staggered forged rollers and wrapping them in more aggressive winter rubber. I’d also look into attaching some SRT fender flares lowering the vehicle ever so slightly, and installing some Pentastar performance bolt-ons for additional forward thrust. These modifications may not solve any of the practicality issues with the Dodge Challenger GT, but they sure would make me look a whole lot cooler as I blasted sideways past you in the snow.

2019 Dodge Challenger GT AWD+

  • Vehicle Type: Five passenger sports car, all-wheel drive
  • Base Price: $33,295     Price as Tested: $43,260
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 305-horsepower, 268- lb.-ft of torque
  • Transmission: 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic with manual mode
  • Overall Length/Width/Height: 197.9 L x 75.7 W x 57.5 H
  • Curb Weight: 4,108 lbs
  • Tire Size: 235/55R-19 F&R
  • EPA Mileage Estimates: 18 city / 27 highway / 21 combined
  • Assembled In: Brampton, Ontario

About the author

Micah Wright

Raised on LEGOs by grandfathers who insisted on fixing everything themselves, Micah has been a petrolhead in training since age four. His favorite past times include craft beer, strong cigars, fast cars, and culinary creativity in all of its forms.
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