2021 Dodge Challenger GT AWD

Is the Challenger GT AWD a car that’s exhilarating as it looks?
Is the Challenger GT AWD a car that’s exhilarating as it looks?

by Zack Zeraldo | July 8, 2021


There are not a lot of people daily driving two-door coupes these days. While the V6 Challenger has been the butt of a few jokes, the Challenger GT has done the namesake well. Here in the Toronto area there are loads of them on the road, and I love seeing them. Despite not having a major refresh in years, they still look great. Classic and muscular, often in bright 1970s throwback colors, and built right here in Ontario. To see if this is the perfect Ontario daily driver, or if all the jokes really do hold water, I spent a week with 2021 Dodge Challenger GT AWD.

As noted, I love the way the Challenger looks, and our test car is no exception. A great color, great lines and loads of attitude. The Blacktop appearance package adds 20-inch black rims, a black rear spoiler, black fuel door and blacked out trim, grille and badging. For a mere $375 the Blacktop package delivers a lot of content and adds to the muscle car persona here. It’s noteworthy that despite how popular the Challenger and its sibling the Charger are, this car still garners a lot of attention. If looks per dollar were a thing, this car would be at the top of the leader board.

While the exterior of the Challenger is nearly universally loved, the interior does take some heat in the industry for being a little low-rent. Quite honestly it is; the materials are on the cheap-side and it’s mostly all black plastics, black rubber and some faux metal accenting. I look at it a bit differently though. The Challenger’s appeal is that it’s probably the most legitimate throwback to the golden age of muscle cars on the market today, and those 1970s street machines were not pretty inside either.

The interior in the Challenger is a modernization of the traditional muscle car. It has a big black expansive dash, big long doors with high sills, a low cut roofline and a matching low-slung seating position. There’s a unmistakable old muscle car vibe in here, and that’s not something I’d say for the current Camaro or Mustang which have moved onto much more modern layouts.

That said, that’s where the similarities with cars of yesteryear end. The Challenger’s interior is stuffed with the latest tech and gadgets, including the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a kicking Alpine sound system, navigation, a hotspot and more. The Dodge Uconnect system has some age on it now, but it’s still one of the most intuitive and user friendly units in the market. The gauge cluster features a seven-inch info center which includes performance data such as 0-100km/h times, reactions times, g-forces and more.

To go with all of this, the Uconnect screen also comes with a Performance Pages app which allows drivers to configure the drive mode of specific elements of the car including the engine, transmission, suspension, steering and traction control. This is a great feature for the type who likes certain elements of the car in “Sport” mode, and others in more economy friendly settings.

If you get past some of the low-end finishes, the interior is actually quite a pleasant place to be. Our tester came with the Nappa Leather and Alcantara faced ventilated seats. They’re wide, well bolstered and very comfortable. There’s decent storage in the center console and deep door pockets, the trunk is huge and the split rear bench seats fold for longer cargo as well. The rear seats themselves have loads of room for two kids, making it a somewhat practical family machine. Dodge claims the Challenger seats five adults, which would be a tight fit – but it’s absolutely the roomiest of the coupes on the market today.

Now, the big controversy with this car is the engine. When you think Challenger, and you see this big purple muscle car, you immediately think of big lumpy V8s. Thankfully, there are multiple very good V8 options to choose from with the Challenger, but today we’re here to talk about the base 3.6-liter V6, which incidentally, is the only engine that’s available with AWD. The 3.6-liter is FCA’s go-to V6 and makes an appearance in everything from the Jeep Wrangler to the minivan. It makes a very healthy 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800RPM. The V6 mates to an eight-speed automatic that flows power to all four wheels, sort of.

The AWD system in the Challenger is surprisingly advanced and if certain conditions are met it actually disengages the front transfer case and runs in rear-drive mode to save fuel. However, if the car detects slippery roads, aggressive driving or acceleration, or temperatures below -4 degrees Celsius, it keeps it in all-wheel-drive. When it does flip between rear-drive and all-wheel-drive, the transition is seamless.

Now, 300 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at, and if you wring it out the Challenger does perform decently for a car that weighs over 4,000 pounds. Sport suspension, big brakes and all-wheel-drive control means that the Challenger GT can be quite a lot of fun through the twisties and delivers a sporty driving experience when summoned.

The big let down is the Pentastar’s infamous lack of low-end torque. The motor really does need to be spooled up before it starts to deliver enough torque to get the job done, and while may be fun in a manual roadster like an MX-5, it’s not in-line at all with the Challenger’s muscle car character. Siting behind the wheel it feels like it should be able to fry the tires (AWD limitations aside), and this particular V6 just doesn’t get the job done there. It goes without saying, but the V6 doesn’t sound like anything you’d want to hear either.

Where the Challenger does do well is out on the open highway. At speed the car has plenty of passing power, and the 3.6-liter is a very refined motor with that wafts the Challenger along with ease. The car is very well suited to highway cruising and would make a very competent American grand touring car. The car’s heft does come with a penalty in terms of fuel consumption. It’s rated at a respectable 12.8L/100 km in the city, 8.7L/100km on the highway, and 11.0 in combined driving. Our test came in higher at 14.5L/100 km with a lot of city driving.

Where the Challenger costs at the pumps it makes up for, at least a little bit, in value. You can get into a base SXT model for $38,360 or the AWD SXT for $41,760. The GT RWD starts at $40,760 or you can have the GT AWD for $43,960.–The GT trim offers some really upgrades over the SXT such as a functional hood scoop, front splitter, 20-inch wheels, performance seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters.

At anything under $50,000 the GT AWD is really a strong value when you think about the fact that you’re getting a 300-horsepower performance car. The only place you’re getting anything comparable on that level is from one of the German options at a hefty premium. Our tester came to $52,150, which represents a fully loaded model with just about every option box ticked off. Big options on our include the Plus Group which decks out the interior with the larger touchscreen, Alpine sound, heated steering wheel, ventilated seats and more.

The other pricey option is the power sunroof at $1,495 and a Driver Convenience package which adds HID headlamps, blind spot monitoring and power folding heated mirrors. There are also a number of sub-$1,000 stand alone options; between those and a couple other omissions you could easily keep it under $50,000 for a very well-equipped car.

Is the Challenger GT AWD a car that’s exhilarating as it looks? No, but it’s still a competent performance car that also happens to be extremely easy to live with every day – even if you happen to have children in the house. It may not be an ideal family hauler, but as a ‘dad-daily’ it’s fantastic, and so much more enjoyable and charismatic than a dull crossover. It’s time we stop evaluating every car on specs and focus on how it makes you feel, how many smiles it inspires and how many memories it’ll make. On this criteria, the 2021 Dodge Challenger GT AWD kicks-butt!

See Also:

2020 Dodge Challenger 392 Scat Pack

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Coupe

2020 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Zack Zeraldo

Staff Writer

Despite his relatively young age, Zack has owned more cars than most people will own in their lifetimes. From F-Bodies to pickups and Corvettes, he is a GM enthusiast through and through. When not writing about cars, Zack can be found in his garage messing with one of his eight vehicles.

Current Toys: ’11 XKR, ’85 Trans Am, ’07 DTS Luxury, ’84 Camaro, ’01 Sonoma, ’06 Escalade, ’96 Firebird, ’78 MGB