I wasn’t much of a car guy in high school, but I did go through a muscle car phase when I had a four-door Chevy with airshocks so I could raise up the back and get that sleek, forward leaning look. It had a 327, a decent size engine, and though I never rolled up my sleeves, there was definitely a whiff of hot rod when I got into the car to head out to the day’s adventures. When that died (ran out of oil on the highway. oops!) I moved into a long stretch of boring vehicles, starting with a Mazda RX-4 followed by a Toyota Tercel. Finally I got back into a muscle car in the 1989 Toyota Supra with targa top. Big, fast, a nice growl to the engine, and a targa top which gave me the benefits of a convertible without the risks.
Then child #1 came along and yes, I was That Guy and had to sell my sports car to buy a <gasp> mini-van. I still remember that sad, sad day that I had to part with my light blue Supra and replace it with a grey Chrysler Town & Country. Mini. Van.
And so it was with great enthusiasm that I waited for the media agency to drop off a 2017 Dodge Challenger GT for my week’s test drive. I knew my kids would adore it — what kids don’t like a sports car! — but what would it be like to drive a genuine muscle car in 2017, being far beyond my late teens and early twenties?
The answer: ridiculously, grin-inducingly fun. Here’s one of my kids trying to take ownership:
As you can see, it’s an eye-popping color too, a color that with wit Dodge calls Go Mango. Lots of hood needed for its impressive 3.6L V6 engine that puts out a respectable 305 horsepower and had more than enough oomph to push us back in our seats as necessary from a stop.
In fact, this is a car where it’s going to be really hard not to get speeding tickets and exhibition of speed tickets, it’s that fun and enthusiastic a vehicle. Dodge knows it too, check out the middle display on the dash:
It’s a 0-60mph timer and it shows that our best time, so far, is 7.3 seconds. The car’s actually rated theoretical best 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, so we were close! Thing is, there’s also a 0-100mph best time, 1/4 mile and 1/8 mile gauge and timer too, absolutely begging for you to find a road in the middle of nowhere and really open this baby up!
Look more closely above too because the middle gauge is a computer screen. In fact, there are a bewildering number of different displays you can move through, including oil life, carb temperature and fuel efficiency. Speaking of which, this is not a hybrid two-seater, but the fuel efficiency may surprise you: we averaged 21.5mpg on our mostly street driving.
Oh, one more thing about performance driving before I talk about other features. The car actually has launch control, a sports car feature that lets you maximize your off-the-starting-line punch:
I’m sure police just loooovveee this feature, but boy is it a lot of fun. The grins on the faces of my kids when we tried this out (on a quiet street with lots of visibility and zero traffic) was delightful, but I was laughing too. It’s like that kick at the start of a roller coaster ride. Ridiculously fun!
A clear holdout from the rounded edges and aerodynamic design of almost every new car on the road, the Challenger also offers much eye candy and has a significant curbside appeal. It even looks ready to burst into action:
It’s an eye-catcher and I found that it opened up more conversations in parking lots than any other car I’ve driven in the last few months. Almost always guys, they all wanted to know how it drove and whether I liked it. And kids? Oh, man, it was like flies to a piece of meat; picking up my daughter at school was an excuse for every boy within a half-mile to come over and ogle the car, tenuously stroking the hood or peering into the window. Ironically, I think this is much more of a “dude magnet” than a “chick magnet”, making it not a 50’s hot rod after all.
There were lots of interesting design touches in the vehicle too, including the dash controls having a vague race car shape atop a dashboard or sunglasses outline:
See the “Super Track Pak” button? That’s how you get to all the fun stuff with the car’s performance package, including launch control. Good to know if you’re ever behind the wheel!
Years ago I had to sell a Toyota Prius when I picked up the kids at school and we realized that we could either all go home or my daughter’s full-size cello could be in the vehicle with us at the cost of abandoning one child. That was the day I moved from a Prius to a Toyota Highlander, because with three kids space turns out to be pretty important.
The good news is that the Challenger passed the cello test with flying colors. Look closely below: that’s a full-size cello easily fit into the trunk of the vehicle, with lots of space to spare:
Older cars might now seem like boats, but boy did they have lots of room, and with the retro styling of the 2017 Challenger, that size pays off hugely when you want to tote things around. Of course balancing that is the fact that while billed as a five seater, the Challenger is really a two seater: the back seat has so little leg room if the driver or front passenger are tall that it was indeed reminiscent of the “five seater” Supra that I had to sell once a baby sit was in the mix. But let’s be candid; people don’t buy this car because they have a family of four. They buy it because they want to have a really fun drive!
Another thing that we liked was the false, oversaturated colors of the reverse camera. There was a nostalgic sense to it, like an oversaturated 60’s action film, that one can’t wonder isn’t deliberate on the part of the Dodge engineers:
And, finally, that classic Challenger front grill:
If that doesn’t get your pulse racing, just a bit, you might not be a car person after all. I am, and oh, the 2017 Dodge Challenger GT – all-wheel drive! — was great fun to drive, to park, to have people talk about, and just to look at. It’s not a practical car for someone seeking a little sedan for their growing family, nor is it a car that’s so underpowered that you’re sure never to earn yourself a speeding ticket. It’s the opposite. Midlife crisis, here we come!
I really enjoyed my week behind the wheel of the Challenger GT. To my amazement I didn’t get any speeding tickets, didn’t get tagged for accelerating so fast that I was “exhibition of speed” territory, and didn’t get in trouble for some of my particularly tight, aggressive cornering. Super fun, definitely take one for a test drive if you can!
AS DRIVEN: 2017 Dodge Challenger GT All-Wheel Drive AWD in Go Mango / Black, 3.6L V6 Pentastar engine and TorqueElite 8-speed automatic transmission. Optional: Technology Group, Driver Convenience Group, GT Interior Package, Body Side Stripe, and Uconnect 8.4 Nav system. MSRP: $38,965.00
Disclosure: Dodge loaned me this vehicle for a week for the purposes of this review.