Test driving lots of cars is really fun, even as I admit candidly that I’m not a “car guy”. I don’t read the car magazines, don’t travel to the big national car shows in Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles, and can’t even tell you the bore ratio or torque rating of my own vehicle. Heck, I’m driving an SUV that’s almost 10 years old and turned over 100,000 miles quite a while ago.
But I grew up in Southern California and I really get car culture. I retain that desire for my car to look good, sound good and drive great. The desire to turn heads and have other people look impressed when they say that’s your car? Sweet. And when it comes to a drive-to-impressive vehicle, there’s nothing quite like a muscle car. You know what I mean, the low, mean looking vehicles that sport big, powerful engines and the low growl to prove it. The car that when it pulls up next to you at a stop light, you just try to look cool in your mini-van or hybrid, but secretly fantasize about being behind the wheel of that car, ready to burst forth from the stop!
So it was with great enthusiasm that I received an invitation from the Dodge Challenger team to head up to Loveland, Colorado for a chance to test drive the new 2017 Dodge Challenger GT on an outdoor test track. A chance to push a muscle car without worrying about speed limits or other people on the road? Banked curves, bikini-clad women waving checked flags at the start line and jumps through fiery hoops? Well, it wasn’t quite that exotic, but still, I had a great time remembering what a real car is like to drive. None of these eco-friendly sensible hybrid vehicles with their lovely stereo and cup holders for a small army.
And yet, the 2017 Challenger GT features another acronym that surprised the heck out of me: AWD. Yes, you can now get an all-wheel drive Challenger and avoid sliding off the roads in bad weather. Ironically, we missed a snowstorm by just a few days, so instead of slamming through snowbanks and marveling at the traction control on icy surfaces, our driving experience was much more about dirt and gravel roads.
Which still gave me plenty of chance to drift around corners. Around every darn corner, actually. So, so fun! It’s AWD but you can disable that if you want the classic rear-wheel-drive experience, and boy is that different to my practical Toyota hybrid SUV!
Not enough? The Challenger has something called Launch Control that lets you rev up your engine at the line so you can burst off with smoking tires, a satisfying screech and some g-force for the people in the car. Here we are trying it at 1750 rpm — lower than on asphalt because the tires were slipping on the gravel:
Practical? No. But really fun!
In fact, it’s remarkable to think about how much fun we’ve removed from the driving experience with our 21st Century focus on safety and comfort. The Dodge Challenger GT is a good reminder that there’s more to driving than comfort and safety, though it certainly doesn’t stint on either, as you can see with this dashboard pic:
I was surprised how comfortable the car felt and how luxurious. Not really the interior experience of a classic muscle car (those were more crude, had a push-button AM/FM and often driver-added gauges for oil pressure and the like) but much better. And the sound system was just perfect for blasting your favorite rock ‘n roll as you drift and sway through the ‘burbs on your way to a nice, fast abandoned road to enjoy launch control and, who knows, maybe race for pink slips.
Many thanks to the Dodge Challenger team for letting me participate in this fun event. I’m way too conditioned to the pragmatic efficiency of an SUV to consider buying one, but boy is it tempting to have an AWD Challenger as a second car for when I want to remind myself just how fun driving can be…
AS DRIVEN: 2017 Dodge Challenger GT All-Wheel Drive: Go Mango exterior, Black interior. 3.6L PentaStar V6 with 8-speed automatic transmission. Optional Equipment: Technology Group, Driver Convenience Group, GT Interior Package, Challenger Body Side Stripe and UConnect 8.4 Nav System. As configured: $38,965.00.
Disclosure: Dodge sponsored the driving event and fed us hungry drivers. The interior photo is also from the Dodge Challenger Web site since I was too busy driving to remember to take even one photo of the interior of the vehicle!