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Challenger GT winter review: a Hellcat owner’s perspective

by Patrick Rall on

There have been scores of reviews written on the new Dodge Challenger GT because it is the first ever American muscle car to feature all-wheel drive. When I first drove the AWD Challenger a year ago, I was impressed by the combination of its ability to tackle the snow and the plus interior, going so far as to state that it was the perfect winter vehicle for a Hellcat Challenger owner.

Some people criticized that comment, stating that the short time that I had spent in a Hellcat Challenger test car didn’t qualify me to say what owners of the 707-horsepower muscle car would or wouldn’t like. I didn’t own a Hellcat Challenger back then, but now I do and recently, FCA sent me a 2018 Dodge Challenger GT to experience in Michigan’s winter weather. I performed many of the same tasks with the AWD test car that I did with my Hellcat before the snow fell, and aside from the big power, the Challenger GT offers the comforts of home – if home in this review is my supercharged Go Mango muscle car.

The Hellcat’s Only Shortcoming

Over the past few years, I have had the extreme pleasure of putting thousands of miles on Dodge Hellcat test cars and I loved them so much that I went out and got one of my own. The car offers a great mix of performance and on-road comfort, the interior is loaded with premium features and I love the look, but the one time when the Hellcat cars are a bit less fun is in the snow.

Realistically, a rear-drive muscle car with 707 horsepower is far from the ideal winter driver for someone who lives in Metro Detroit, but there are plenty of Hellcat owners who have swapped out the Pirellis in favor of a dedicated snow tire and those people have no issues driving in the snow. I could have gone that route, but with the roads being so rough and so coated in road salt, I drove my Hellcat until the first hard snow in early December, at which point it was whisked away to dry, salt-free storage.

Hellcat Interior

A Ram 1500 is my daily driver my Hellcat is in winter storage and when I do not have test cars, and while my truck lacks the big power, I don’t really miss that when there is a foot of snow on the ground. I do, however, miss the plush cabin of my Challenger. I miss the heated sport seats, the heated steering wheel and the premium sound system of my Hellcat and even though my truck has heated seats, I miss the comfort and the feel of my Challenger.

Hellcat Seats

For Hellcat owners like me, the Dodge Challenger GT is the perfect winter vehicle, as it offers similar comforts and the same basic interior feel as my own muscle car, but it does so while also being able to deal with the harshest winter weather.

A Familiar Cabin

One of the selling points of the Dodge Challenger GT is that it comes with a long list of interior features that are also included in the Hellcat models. This starts with the sporty front bucket seats, which have power controls, heated surfaces and the gorgeous two-tone skin with leather trim. The Challenger GT also has a heated, leather-wrapped performance steering wheel that is similar to the Hellcat, except the 707hp model has a flat-bottom design. Both steering wheels have extensive controls on the spokes for the driver information center and the infotainment system.

Challenger GT Interior

Speaking of the infotainment system, the Challenger GT has the same 8.4-inch UConnect system as the Hellcat and when you check some boxes, the AWD car also has the Harmon Kardon 18-speaker sound system that I love in my Hellcat. Since the GT isn’t an SRT product, some of the performance displays on the infotainment system vary a bit from the Hellcat, but all of the controls for the navigation, the climate control, the sound system and the hands-free phone system are the same in both Dodge muscle cars.

Challenger GT Seats

I love the performance of my Hellcat Challenger, but I also love how the car feels when I am driving it. The Challenger GT features similar seats, the same sound system, the same infotainment system, all of the same controls and the same layout, providing the same level of high-tech interior comfort as my Hellcat.

Driving the Challenger GT in the Snow

When I first drove the new all-wheel-drive Dodge Challenger GT, I did so in Maine amidst a nasty Nor’easter. That storm led to heavy amounts of snow on the roads around Portland, Maine, but we also played on a closed course in knee-deep snow. In every case, the AWD Challenger never missed a beat, getting us safely from the hotel to the track and back, so I had high expectations when I took delivery of my most recent AWD Challenger test car.

Winter was well upon us when Dodge dropped off the all-wheel-drive muscle car and many local unpaved roads had been hard-packed in snow for weeks. I drove some of those local roads for the first few days, easily making my way through conditions that would swallow up any rear-drive vehicle. I spent time on those roads because the paved roads were relatively clear, but in the middle of my time with the Challenger GT, we got a significant amount of fresh snow. The roads were coated, causing people to skid off of the road and get stuck all over the place and in some cases, people with rear-drive muscle cars weren’t able to make it out of their neighborhood.

On the other hand, my Challenger GT test car had no issue on any road in the area, even when I sought out roads that I knew would be lightly traveled, unplowed and unsalted. Roads where only SUVs and trucks go in the winter were no challenge for the AWD Challenger. I was able to proceed with all of my daily errands without any concern of getting stuck, all while enjoying the interior features of my beloved Hellcat Challenger.

Best of all, while it doesn’t pack 700+ horsepower, the Pentastar V6 makes the AWD Challenger fun to drive in the snow and even when the roads are dry, the basic driving dynamics are loosely comparable to that of the Hellcat. Of course it is far shorter on power, but even with the package-specific suspension and AWD, it feels like a muscle car.

The Perfect Winter Muscle Car

Critics of the Dodge Challenger GT complain about the lack of V8 power, but there are many Hellcat owners like myself, who turn to a different vehicle with less power and more winter traction. Sure, you aren’t going to replace a full sized Ram 1500 with the AWD Challenger, but for those supercharged muscle car owners who turn to a small SUV or a foreign compact to get around in the winter – you might want to take a good, hard look at the Challenger GT.

For around $35,000, you can have the familiar interior comfort and the striking good looks of your Hellcat Challenger in a car that is nearly-unstoppable in even the harshest winter weather. You will essentially trade that extra horsepower for all-wheel-drive when you pack your Hellcat away when the snow begins to cover the streets, but you will still be able to enjoy the exterior look and the interior feel of your supercharged Mopar muscle car.

If you are looking for something to drive in the winter when your Hellcat Challenger is tucked away from the snow and salt, don’t buy a $35,000 SUV – buy another Dodge muscle car and enjoy the Mopar muscle car feel year-round.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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