By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
The 2-door, 5-passenger 2017 Dodge Challenger blends classic muscle-car flavor with modern safety and technology including a 5-star crash-test rating from NHTSA and available all-wheel drive. Its long-hood/short-deck style links back beautifully to the timelessly appealing Challengers of the early 1970s, and under-hood choices range from a 3.6-liter 305-horsepower V6 to three versions of Dodge’s legendary Hemi V8; a 372-horsepower 5.7-liter, a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter and a supercharged 707-horsepower 6.2-liter in the SRT Hellcat. No Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro has ever matched that lofty peak. Fourteen trim levels are available, including the base SXT, the all-wheel-drive Challenger GT, the retro-flavored R/T, T/A and R/T Scat Pack and the most powerful American muscle car ever, the SRT Hellcat.
Although the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro are smaller and lighter than the new Challenger, their strongest engines won’t crank out 707 horsepower. Still, they too offer big power and retro styling, as well as a choice of coupe or convertible body styles. The Challenger is available only as a coupe.
There are several new trim levels this year including the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Challenger GT, which is the first all-wheel-drive Challenger ever and the only American performance coupe to offer the all-weather traction advantages of AWD. The system works with the standard 3.6-liter V6. Prices start just under $34,500.
All 14 versions of the 2017 Dodge Challenger are good-driving cars, with solid handling, strong power and plenty of comfort. The 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat, however, is beyond verbal description, with...
... acceleration that is essentially impossible to experience on a public road. The one to get, however, is the 485-horsepower 6.4-liter in the R/T Scat Pack, 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, T/A 392 and SRT 392 trims. It’s the best combination of price (especially in the R/T Scat Pack), power and daily drivability. Don’t misunderstand; the Hellcat Challenger has to be experienced to be believed. But it’s extreme and expensive and only makes sense for a few. The two non-supercharged Hemi V8s are as strong as anyone could reasonably want. Put the Hellcat and 392-powered Challengers into Track mode, and you get sharper throttle response, harder upshifts from the automatic transmission and a firmer suspension setting. Then hang on.
The 2017 Dodge Challenger GT is the first all-wheel-drive American muscle car offering all-weather traction for skiers and buyers in snowy climates. It’s the same AWD system found in the Dodge Charger sedan and it can be paired only with the standard 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6.
One of the best automotive infotainment systems, the new fourth generation of Uconnect is also one of the easiest to use. The new system’s larger 8.4-inch screen also allows for phone-style navigation gestures like pinch and swipe. Maps are supplied by Garmin, and the Bluetooth connects your phone almost instantaneously.
Inside, the new 2017 Dodge Challenger is pleasant, comfortable and functional. In the center of the instrument panel is the touch screen that we've liked in other Dodge and Chrysler vehicles. The retro-style gauges look fantastic, and there's a large driver-information screen nestled between the tach and speedometer. Some find rear visibility to be an issue, but there's plenty of room in front, and the rear seat can accommodate three people, although they might be snug, making the Challenger the only muscle car deserving of that claim. Even the trunk is surprisingly large and useful, despite a pretty high liftover.
From its long-hood/short-deck proportions and wide stance to retro details like hood scoops, badging and optional stripes, the 2017 Challenger bears an unmistakable family link to the Challengers that scorched boulevards and racetracks back in the day. This is a cool-looking car, one that successfully fights the urge to be overly old-fashioned and remains sleek and modern with a timeless appeal and the masculine swagger of an MMA champion. And if that swagger isn’t enough you can also get some of the bright colors with the fun names from back in the day, like TorRed, Go Mango and Green Go.
The 2017 Dodge Challenger base SXT model has a V6 engine, Uconnect infotainment with a 5.0-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, a USB and auxiliary input, six speakers, 6-way-power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start and a host of additional convenience features. With 14 different trim levels, there are really 14 different lists for “standard equipment,” and the higher-up models are quite generously appointed. Hounds-tooth cloth seats are standard on SXT, R/T, R/T Shaker and R/T Scat Pack models. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard on V6 models and optional on V8 models.
Most of the 2017 Challenger’s options are grouped either by the 14 trim levels or into the 13 packages. One significant stand-alone option is the Uconnect 8.4 with Navigation, with an 8.4-inch touch screen, navigation, AM/FM/HD radio, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, SiriusXM Traffic and SiriusXM Travel Link and Uconnect apps; this is a feature we heartily recommend. Other options include the R/T Classic Package, Cold Weather Group, which adds heated front seats and steering wheel, Technology Group, three Sound Groups, a Super Sport Group, a Super Track Pack Group and the Scat Pack Appearance Group, complete with Bumble Bee rear stripes.
Standard on 2017 Challenger SXT is the 3.6-liter V6, making 305 horsepower in both rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and AWD models. Next up, the 5.7-liter Hemi in R/T and T/A models makes 375 horsepower with a 6-speed manual transmission or 372 with the 8-speed automatic. The R/T Scat Pack, 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, T/A 392 and SRT 392 share the same 485-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. Then there's the SRT Hellcat, with its supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 putting out 707 horsepower; if you want horsepower bragging rights in any crowd, and particularly under $100 grand, nothing beats the Hellcat. Available with all V8 engines is a 6-speed manual gearbox, which will be a favorite with 3-pedal drivers, but the 8-speed automatic is a quick-shifting delight that doesn't shortchange on performance.
305 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm
268 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/30 mpg (RWD), 18/27 mpg (AWD)
5.7-liter Hemi V8
372 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (automatic)
375 horsepower @ 5,150 rpm (manual)
400 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm (automatic)
410 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm (manual)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg (automatic), 15/23 mpg (manual)
6.4-liter Hemi V8
485 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
475 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/25 mpg (automatic), 14/23 mpg (manual)
6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8
707 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
650 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/22 mpg (automatic), 13/21 mpg (manual)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The base 2017 Dodge Challenger SXT has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $28,000, including $995 for destination; we consider that to be a lot of car for the money. The V8-powered and well-equipped R/T starts at about $34,000, while the R/T Shaker, with the cool retro Shaker hood scoop, starts around $38,000. The new T/A model starts around $38,500 and the R/T Scat Pack with the 392 starts right around $39,000. Nearing the top, the SRT 392 is over $50,000; pricey, but not bad considering the content of the overall package. But one of the strangest things to call a “bargain” is the 707-horsepower Hellcat, with an MSRP of about $63,500. Be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com to see what others in your area are paying. While Dodge resale values have not, historically, been wonderful, we expect the 2017 Challenger to hold its own.