In the end, it all depends on your perspective.
If I were to tell you that the new Hellcat will come with 900 horsepower or that the next Camaro will feature a blower, nobody panics because it’s all according to plan. But if I say that one little Challenger will get all-wheel drive, then everyone loses their minds! Dark Knight memes about the Joker aside, it’s funny how one simple alteration to a car’s drivetrain can have such a far-reaching impact on the community of car lovers. To them, the Dodge Challenger is more than just a machine, it’s a symbol.
In a time when the American blue collar worker feels repressed by safe spaces and elites with college degrees, seeing the symbol of freedom (a provocative orange two-door with two hunks of rubber at the rear turning out smoke) become sophisticated only stands as a signal that social gentrification is here. However, while some will see Dodge’s proposal for an AWD Challenger as blasphemy, another group of enthusiasts will stand up in applause. In either case, the muscle car is changing, but is that a good thing or is it bad? As with anything, it depends who you ask, but in either case, it’s important to look at the facts. Some alterations are intended to actually make the car preform better.
Others are to ensure that the muscle car will remain competitive in foreign markets, and that’s what can polarize some by making them feel as if their values have been compromised. Unfortunately, the process has already been happening. It was the 6th generation of Ford Mustang that started it all. Ford did some soul searching because despite hanging onto the past, it had to evolve the Mustang ahead into the future without compromising the car that had earned it worldwide recognition. Adding buttons made of real metal helped to give the Stang a refreshed image, as did some less obvious additions of plastic. Still, the interior vibrated and heat came off the transmission tunnel. This was still a muscle car after all.
The real refinements didn’t come until one looked at what was under the skin. A turbocharged engine and independent rear suspension greeted those curious enough to take a peak, and even though drag strip homebodies protested at the loss of the solid rear axle, the majority voiced approval with open checkbooks. The result of these changes is that the Mustang now meets the demands of power-hungry American consumers, the EPA, and European buyers who are gobbling up Mustangs as fast as Flat Rock, Michigan can churn them out. On the other hand, the Camaro is a bit behind on sales, but no less sophisticated. If the 5th generation Camaros were the shock paddles that restarted the pony car’s life, the 6th generation was intended to win.
Based off of the proven Alpha platform, the Camaro could now tout a level of sophistication that previous models couldn’t keep up with. And that leaves us with the Challenger. In terms of performance, the Challenger’s weight and size keep it from being the performance car that it could be, and to Dodge fans, that’s alright as long as the car still keeps the iconic look. On the other hand, Dodge executives don’t agree. In hopes of higher sales numbers, Dodge pulled a move out of Lamborghini’s playbook and added a body kit to the Challenger SRT and called it a special edition. In order to keep sales of the V6 Challenger strong or to snag the last of the holdouts in the snow belt, the muscle car will be getting an all-wheel drive system.
To save costs, Doge will likely snag that from the all-wheel drive Charger. Curiously enough, Dodge didn’t add the AWD system to the two cars that could benefit from it the most, the Challenger SRT and the Hellgato. Not only would having four anchors help the two cars stay on the road when driver confidence outweighs skill, but it would rip drastic amounts of time off of the Challenger’s acceleration time. If all goes well with the GT AWD, we can expect the drivetrain setup to migrate to the Giorgio platform-based Challenger where hopefully, it will get to the Hellcat and do some real damage. At that point, we can decide whether an AWD muscle car (like Ken Block's Hoonicorn) is a travesty or a leap forward in evolution.