Other than Peyton and Eli Manning’s mother Olivia, the only person who was not a professional football player in the famous Manning football family is Cooper Manning. You may, or may not have heard of Cooper; he is the oldest son of former pro quarterback Archie and obviously brother to two incredibly famous quarterbacks. I’m discussing Cooper because he’s not unlike the car I’ve been driving for the past week, the Dodge Challenger GT. No matter how good it is, it’s still in the shadow of the SRT and Hellcat/Demon Challengers. Check out the video for more, and then continue below.
I am not trying to slight the eldest Manning brother, he is a Principal and Senior Managing Director of Investor Relations for AJ Capital Partners. I don’t know exactly what that means, but it sounds impressive.
And if you don’t compare the Challenger GT to its V8 siblings, it’s pretty impressive as well. Sure, it only has 305 horsepower from the venerable 3.6L Pentastar V6 which is basically the same engine that’s in my Jeep Wrangler and my wife’s Grand Cherokee. Oh and also the Pacifica, 200, 300, Charger, and a bunch of other Fiat Chrysler vehicles. But I remember a day when the fancy pants V8 muscle cars only had 305 hp. And we were fine with it. Get off my lawn!
The big story here with this Challenger, besides the fact that the “third generation” Challenge is a full decade old this year, is that this GT model is all-wheel-drive! This AWD’ness is only available with the V6 model with the 8-speed automatic, so your desire to rip AWD V8 burnouts will have to be reserved for some other time. The GT was new for the 2017 model year and actually uses the AWD system and suspension bits from the Dodge Charger Pursuit vehicle. Yep, the cop car! If you want to spot a GT it’s pretty easy, besides the obvious GT badge on the side and a number “4” badge on the back, the GT rides a bit higher, just like the Pursuit Charger. It’s a pretty cool AWD system that defaults to RWD but can toss up to 38% of the modest power to the front wheels using an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect function. Interestingly, in Sport mode the GT defaults exclusively to AWD. So like Cooper Manning, the GT has a lot to offer, even if it’s not the most famous sibling in the Dodge garage.
I’ll admit, I love the way the latest generation Challenger looks. It’s evolved nicely from its initial debut alongside the Charger in December 2007 at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s certainly owning the “retro” aspect that has been a part of most modern day muscle cars. While Mustang and Camaro have morphed into more slightly more athletic, more modern and lithe shapes, the Challenger has eschewed that and continued to be an unapologetic mass of a car. It’s big, it’s heavy, but that also translates into more space. More on that later.
For the most part, all Challengers look the same from a distance. Sort of like the final generation Pontiac GTO and the Chevy Cobalt of the same era. Zing! Which is part of the problem. When I see a Challenger coming, I get that enthusiast buzz.
“Is it an SRT…maybe it’s a Hellcat…OMG if it’s a Demon I may squeal” (literally the day of this posting, that happened, and I did indeed squeal)
Sort of like if you saw someone who looked like Peyton or Eli Manning. You may be queuing up your phone, shifting the camera into selfie mode, looking for a sharpie, and then…wait…who the hell is this guy?
“Cooper? Never heard of you. Sorry to bother you sir.”
That’s sort of what it was like driving the V6 Challenger. It has the look, it has some of the feel, but I get the sense you would constantly be asked “is this the crazy one with, like, a 900 horsepower” to which you would have to say “uh, no”.
Inside, I’m a pretty big fan of the Challenger. Dodge, and FCA interiors in general, are on a really solid upward trajectory. Much like our Grand Cherokee, the Challenger uses nice materials, which means no hard plastics and it’s just generally a nice place to be. Take a look, all Challenger interiors look pretty solid.
This isn’t even a section that I would have considered adding to any other muscle car review, but the Challenger GT is pretty damn practical. We all know the story about the Chrysler LX platform, built from the Daimler-Chrysler days from W220 S-Class and W211 E-Class bits. It’s been around since 2005 and still forms the basis of the 300 and Charger (and formerly the Magnum wagon). The Challenger actually rides on the LC variant, which is the same thing, only shorter.
That obviously means that this is not a small car. Even as a 2-door coupe, the Challenger has a ton of space inside. Compare it to Mustang and Camaro and the size difference is evident. While they are all roughly 75” wide, the Dodge is 3-4” taller and a massive 10” longer! Ten inches! That translates into a more expansive wheelbase as well, the Challenger spreads 116.2” whereas Camaro is 110.7” and Mustang a scant 107.1” between the wheels. It also means a lot more cargo space, 16.2 cubic feet specifically. That’s almost 3 more than the Ford and a massive 7 cubic feet more than Chevy’s coupe. So for those who are actually buying these cars to haul people or stuff, the Dodge can do it much better than the competition.
I got a chance to actually put human beings in the back, my ever growing, almost 11-year old daughter (one of the photobombers) easily sat behind my driving position. And if you noticed in the quick video run through, I fit in the trunk quite easily.
All that girth comes with a penalty though. Four thousand, one hundred and eight of them. Pounds that is. The Challenger has always been a portly car, which makes the blistering fast numbers from the Hellcat/Demon even more amazing. But with 305 horsepower to pull it around town, it’s not quick. Handling and braking are adequate, for such a big car body roll is actually not that pronounced through the corners. I firmly believe that straight line performance is also “adequate” for most people as a daily driver. Those looking to have a fun looking, practical, AWD runabout will be pretty pleased with the GT’s acceleration. Plant the throttle, regardless of whether you have the traction control on, and the AWD Challenger will get its ass in gear pretty decently.
But you don’t want decently do you? You want with great drama and power. You want an SRT. You want a Hellcat. You want a Demon. You at least want an R/T V8 don’t you? You know you do. This car was made for big power, it’s the poster child for big power. And you can have that R/T for the same price as the GT. I mean, it makes sense that Dodge would cobble together the GT. The FCA parts bin is deep and they had all the components they needed at hand. All wheel drive system from a cop car? Check. V6 from, well just about everything they sell? Check. Cool two door body? Very much check. I started to fall under the Challenger’s spell during my week with it. But just like saying that you met Cooper Manning, in the end I wanted to meet Peyton.