Mountain Wheels: Overly orange, winter-ready Challenger GT is an odd mix (column)
March 23, 2018
I have a neighbor across the street I have taken to calling Scowling Guy. Scowling Guy, I think, is a high-school volleyball coach, with a newer small GM SUV and an old Explorer in the driveway.
And while Scowling Guy is clearly unimpressed by this ongoing rotation of automobiles on my side of the street, I have never seen as dirty, hand-on-his-hip, complaining-to-the-other-neighbors looks as I got with a week of the 2018 Dodge Challenger GT.
The GT, a new wrinkle in a broad range of strengths and flavors for the retro-futuristic two-door muscle car machines, is the variation that provides full-time all-wheel-drive to the package — rendering the mean-looking machine into a credible winter traveler.
To my great delight (and Scowling Guy's abject horror), my Challenger GT test vehicle came not only with its standard "you-outsiders-are-ruining-Colorado-by-the-minute" Michigan plates, but a shade of paint Dodge dubs Go Mango.
It was, essentially, like having the General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard" parked in the driveway, or out turning heads on the road. I cannot say I blame Scowling Guy for all that scowling.
The very orange Challenger GT is, thusly, an odd mix of lifestyle choice, seasonal capability and fashion statement. Unlike the more unruly members of its extended model family, tire-smoking, NHRA-troubling horsepower is not the name of the game.
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The GT features the company's more basic 3.6-liter V6, producing a grand total of 305 horsepower. You'll still see the sport buttons and the track mode functions on the car's center console, above its slick eight-speed automatic shifter, but the raw chaos that's become associated with Challengers of up to 500 more horsepower is not there.
That said, you can play with the power at highway speeds and certainly give onlookers some bang for their buck; the prospect of a four-wheel burnout at a light is just not going to be a thing, despite that AWD setup.
What you do get is the added confidence for dragster-types who want to rock their eye-catching machine 365 days a year, to the bewilderment of Scowling Guys across the land.
The high-performance all-wheel-drive system with a front-axle disconnect is shared by the Charger AWD and can indeed allow 100 percent of the torque to go to the rear wheels, as a standard setup. When it senses slippage, the front wheels engage, and you suddenly have the lowest, orangest winter cruiser on the market.
In a way, it's sort of like getting the year-round, all-wheel-drive confidence local law enforcement officials have in their police-edition AWD Chargers, including the same beefed-up suspension.
The GT does look as though it rides higher than standard Challengers, but that was probably the absolutely fresh Blizzak DM-V2 winter tires, which are more typically found on light trucks and SUVs. The car's smoked, spider-web-shaped 19-inch Hyper Black wheels still looked pretty awesome; I just didn't get a lot of snow to play with during my drive, and Scowling Guy spent a lot of time looking at the car on a very dry driveway.
This all makes the GT a strange bird indeed, as it's certainly got the entire load of additionally macho bits we now associate with Hellcat or Demon carnage: a wide, flat, menacing brow with small, circular headlamps (including orange-glow LED rings for added effect), sumptuous wheels, air scoops on the hood and a large air spoiler on the tail.
Inside, a one-of-a-kind GT Interior package gives you an equally macho look, with more aggressive leather sport seats and grippy Alcantara suede inserts, a Dodge performance steering wheel and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system. An extra upgrade brought my vehicle an 18-speaker Harmon Kardon setup, which — when playing "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent, at very loud volumes — seemed to seal the deal. Those packages, plus the full 8.4-inch navigation display and a big ol' body stripe, raised the car's price from a $33,495 base to $37,670.
The interior look is very much 1970s cop-action-drama, with a flattened dash and a wraparound instrument panel, a central pod for the touchscreen and air vents, and a deep, old-school instrument cluster.
Storage room for skis or snowboards, even with one or both sides of the 60/40 splitting rear seats dropped for more access, is not gigantic, and I expect to see at least one customer somewhere rocking a trunk-top ski rack, straight out the 1969 Mercury Cougar featured in "Her Majesty's Secret Service." That will really upset Scowling Guy, I know it.
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