American muscle cars, like their typical owners, are an interesting breed. They have been around for more than half a century now, with thundering V8s, rear-wheel-drive, and imposing design. The cars have developed significantly in this time, though the essential concept has gone unchanged. The Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang (reviewed here) have been neck-in-neck trying to outperform one another, while the Dodge Challenger has been full speed ahead with its 707-horsepower Hellcat variant. We opted to try a model that’s more in tune with what Canadians actually buy, and tested this 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T with a series of options including the Super Track Pak.
There is no argument that the Challenger is the most imposing from an aesthetic standpoint. It’s 197.9 inches in length, nearly 76 inches wide, and the 20” wheels on our tester look huge. Painted in a Destroyer Grey, the Chally is perhaps the most aggressive retro throwback to the original muscle car of 1970. It looks menacing and intimidating from every angle, and is unmistakably American muscle. The parking lights are bright orange halos, and HID headlights are located on either side of the grille, which has an R/T badge that reminds you that this isn’t the V6 model.
A significant step up from the base 3.6L V6 available, Challenger R/T models get the iconic 5.7L HEMI V8. When compared to the fire-breathing Hellcat or even the 6.4L Scat Pack, the R/T seems to fall short, but the real world dynamics sing a different song. The 5.7L model offers 375 horsepower at 5,150RPM and 410 lb-ft. of torque at 4,300RPM. This test vehicle was equipped with the six-speed TREMEC manual transmission, with the shifter cocked towards the driver (another retro touch), and tons of performance goodies.
When the car enters “Sport” mode, the exhaust gets a little bit louder, the throttle response and engine mapping are all calibrated for maximum performance. The Challenger isn’t made for the twisties, but is able to hold its own through the commute thanks to performance steering and sport suspension on this tester (included in the Super Track Pak). The result is a car that feels perfectly adequate – fast, even – and will never leave you wanting more on the street. The exhaust makes a throaty roar that immediately reminds you of the big V8 under the hood, and Mopar’s SRT performance division has clearly had their influence.
The high-performance brakes on our particular Challenger are an extra $295, but the ones you really want are the big Brembos available on the Scat Pack and SRT 392 (reviewed here) models. We compared the two side-by-side, and the Brembos provide far better brake feel as well as braking power. This model also adds sport suspension, which is notably firmer than the standard setup – this is mandatory for those who intend to take their car to the track.
If a focused sports car is what you’re after, the Challenger R/T is likely not for you. It’s a bit floppy, the ride isn’t that great, visibility is “okay” at best, and it just feels too big to be a sports car. Where it does start to make a lot of sense is as an excellent commuter or long haul highway car. It packs plenty of power to keep a smile on your face, it’s very comfortable, and is just sporty enough to keep enthusiasts happy. The six-speed manual is tons of fun to row through the gears, though the clutch is on the heavier side. An eight-speed automatic is standard equipment and also will do the job just fine, with the addition of paddle shifters and better gearing to keep fuel efficiency down on the highway.
If fuel consumption is what you’re after, a V8 Challenger is likely not the first vehicle on your hit list. Even still, we managed to pull off decent efficiency with this car. Mopar rates it at 15.6L/100km city, 10.1L/100km highway and an average of 13.1L/100km. It can also get away just fine using 87-octane regular, but this test took place on premium 91-octane. We were able to get highway consumption down to a generous 9.4L/100km, besting the average claim. The total test week average over 550km was 12.0L/100km, with no real effort to keep the car in the lower RPMs. Those driving their Challengers spiritedly will have no problems seeing numbers in the 14-15L/100km range.
The interior of the two-door Dodge is pretty much on par with its rivals. This year sees an update to UConnect that adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We compared the screen resolution to those offered by Ford and General Motors, and it’s much better to look at and operate. This remains the benchmark system in the segment. Overall interior quality is about right for the segment, with plenty of visible plastics and some panel gaps larger than we’d like to see. The driving position overall is quite good, and the leather seats are comfortable and supportive for extended drives. Fore-aft adjustment on the headrests would be a welcomed addition.
One gripe we have is the foot-operated parking brake. A manual transmission car needs either a hand-operated or electronic application. Those who park the car in first gear will need to make a habit of shutting the car off before engaging the parking brake, as the driver’s left foot is required to engage the brake. Personally, my routine is to put the car in first, engage the parking brake, then shut it off. Doing so will stall out the Challenger as you must remove your foot from the clutch in order to kick down the parking brake “pedal”. Hopefully this is rectified for the next model.
Pricing for the Challenger R/T starts at $40,695 for the entry-level model, which is a significant step up from the $32,595 SXT. On top of the base price, Dodge actually charges an extra $1,000 for the manual transmission, and $300 for the Super Track Pak. This is a must have, and the $1,425 power sunroof and $700 UConnect 8.4” is also required in order to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the car. The 20” matte black forged aluminum wheels are an extra $900, and the premium 18-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo is an extra $1,500. The sticker on our car after adding some miscellaneous options such as the Technology Group and Driver Convenience Group comes to $47,260.
There is a new model in the Challenger lineup for this model year, and it’s the GT – the first-ever Challenger to offer all-wheel-drive. Those living in snowier climates intending to drive their muscle car all year may want to consider it. For the muscle car aficionado, perhaps who has grown up longing for cars like this, the 2017 Dodge Challenger R/T is still a very viable option and a solid pick. It, like any other muscle car, has its drawbacks, but the overall package has a lot to offer and is an intimidating looker. Oh yeah; don’t forget to choose Destroyer Grey.