The quintessential old-school Mopar muscle car for modern roads

Chalk this up to another racing homologation special. The 2017 Challenger T/A is a direct descendent of the 1970 Challenger T/A 340 Six Pack, a production car sold to customers that allowed Dodge to compete in that year’s SCCA Trans Am racing series. Only 2,399 were ever built and have become some of the most collectible Mopars of the era. Dodge is now paying tribute to that car with the Challenger T/A, offered both as the 5.7-liter-powered T/A and the 6.4-liter-powered T/A 392. I recently found myself behind the wheel of a Challenger T/A 392, with its matte-black hood pointed at the imposing hill of Turn 1 at the Circuit of the America’s Formula One track outside Austin, Texas. This technical racetrack would prove perfect for the T/A 392’s massive torque output and six-piston Brembo brakes.

Sure, the T/A 392 doesn’t grab headlines or turn heads like the Hellcat or Demon versions, nor is it new in some vast manner. The average passer-by probably wouldn’t even notice the homage stripe package or dual “Air Catcher” turn signals. But let an enthusiast anywhere near the Challenger T/A’s period-correct “Green Go” paint and optional hood pins, and watch as jaws begin to drop. Fire up the 392-cubic inch Hemi V-8 and the T/A-exclusive active performance exhaust will blast eardrums back to 1970.

Continue reading for the driven review.

First Impressions

2017 Dodge Challenger T/A High Resolution Exterior
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Dodge is offering the T/A in three versions: the T/A, the T/A Plus, and the baddest of all, the T/A 392.

While the Challenger is hardly new, the T/A package is new for 2017. Dodge is offering the T/A in three versions: the T/A, the T/A Plus, and the baddest of all, the T/A 392. Dodge brought the 392-powered version for the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Springtime Auto Roundup, which took place at the COTA track for the first time this year. As you’ve hopefully read in my other coverage of the event, there were plenty of flashy vehicles present, including the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GT S, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and Nissan GT-R Premium. But packing the most visual and auditory punch was the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392. Thanks to its “Green Go” paint color, matte black accents and graphics, and thunderous exhaust, the Challenger certainly stole plenty of attention from newer iron.

The old saying, “the devil is in the details” definitely applies to the Challenger T/A 392. Walk up from the front and you’ll notice the gaping hood scoop sitting atop the matte black hood. Optional (but oughta be mandatory) hood pins give the Challenger that old-school feel. A blacked out grille is bookended by the headlights at either end. Bend down for a closer look and you’ll see the turn signals are hollowed out. The driver side pulls air directly into the conical air filter that comes with the T/A 392 package.

The T/A and 392 graphics along the Challenger’s long front fenders leave no one guessing as to this car’s trim package and engine option. The same matte black color scheme is used on the roof and trunk lid, too, giving the Challenger a sinister appearance that stands apart from other trim levels. The italicized Challenger script and bold T/A logo adorn the spoiler for the final piece of throwback nostalgia.

Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392
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Powering the Challenger T/A 392 is, of course, Dodge’s 6.4-liter (392 cubic inch) Hemi V-8.

Powering the Challenger T/A 392 is, of course, Dodge’s 6.4-liter (392 cubic inch) Hemi V-8. The naturally aspirated engine cranks out an impressive 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. The engine is unchanged from other Challenger 392 models, but the T/A package does bring the “Air Catcher” turn signals and cone-style Mopar air filter. Unique to the T/A, however, is the new electronically controlled active performance exhaust system. The system features a computer-controlled valve inside the exhaust that opens under moderate to heavy throttle. The result is a deafening level of V-8 noise that’s impossible to ignore. Around town, the exhaust closes up to avoid noise violations and angry neighbors. It’s hardly quiet though, as the 392 still thumps along with a lumpy idle.

Exclusive to the T/A 392 package are the upgraded brakes from Brembo. Six-piston calipers clamp the front rotors and four-piston calipers cover the rears. All four rotors are vented for better head dissipation. The suspension geometry is also unique, with a 0.5-inch drop in ride height. The gloss-black, 20x9.5-inch aluminum wheels are exclusive to the T/A 392 trim, too. They’re wrapped in three-season, 275/40-series Pirelli rubber. Optional Pirelli summer tires are available.

Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 Exterior High Resolution
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Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 Exterior High Resolution
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And even though the Challenger T/A 392 recalls bygone glory days, it still comes with plenty of modern technology. Blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise controls, automatic high beams and windshield wipers, and an 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system are all available. The interior comes standard with cloth seats that are upgradeable to leather with the T/A logo embroidered in the seat backs. A power tilt/telescoping steering column and power seats are standard, as is the 8.4-inch Uconnect system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation can be added, too. Best of all, the T/A 392 gets Dodge’s Performance Pages in the Uconnect system. This allows for customization of vehicle performance parameters, including a three-mode stability control system with a full-off setting.

Needless to say, the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 302 is a bad machine. But how’s it perform on the track? Let’s see…

Behind the Wheel

Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 High Resolution Exterior
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Throwing the skinny pedal to the floor produces plenty of wheel spin and billowing white smoke

Hoping behind the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel, I’m greeted with a T/A-specific, white-faced gauges. Push the Start/Sop button on the dash, and the 6.4-liter Hemi fires up with a blat of authority. The high idle settles down into a low rumble as I shift the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic into drive. Purists can stick with the standard Tremec six-speed manual, just as I would. I rolled along pit lane at COTA past the Mercedes-AMG GT S and Nissan GT-R and found myself perfectly excited to be in the Challenger. The others may be faster by every metric, but the T/A 392 outmatches both in attitude. I pull up to the tech booth here I’m electronically checked out with the car. “She’s all mine now,” I thought as I gaze up the 130-foot-fall hill between me and Turn 1.

Throwing the skinny pedal to the floor produces plenty of wheel spin and billowing white smoke, so I only goose it to half throttle until the 4,232-pound car is moving. Giving it the full beans, the active performance exhaust cracks into “loud” mode and shoot up the hill with the exhaust reverberating off the concrete barrier walls. The noise, vibration, and g-forces are utterly intoxicating.

Hard on the Brembos into Turn 1 and the Challenger shows its weight. There’s no denying it’s a heavy car. All 4,200 pounds shows up again in the twisty section beyond Turn 2 at COTA. Body roll is present as the heavily weighted steering redirects the relatively skinny front tires. The car’s width also becomes clearly perceptible here, too, especially after driving things like the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF and Subaru BRZ. Nevertheless, the Challenger’s 485 horsepower makes up time as the track straightens out, it’s exhaust gaining decibels as the tachometer climbs toward its redline.

Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 Exterior High Resolution
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Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 Exterior High Resolution
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The Challenger’s 475 pound-feet of torque moves the car with plenty of authority.

Jabbing the fat pedal at TAWA’s makeshift braking zone ahead of the left-handed hairpin at Turn 7 shows just how well the big Brembos work. The Challenger hauls to a stop faster and with more control than anything from 1970 could ever dream of. Polyglas tires and rear drum brakes wouldn’t stand a chance. Back on the gas, the Challenger’s 475 pound-feet of torque moves the car with plenty of authority. Speed piles on quickly. Launch it just right and the Challenger T/A 392 will hit 60 mph in the low four-second range. Dodge says the quarter-mile happens in the mid-12s.

The Challenger’s interior is roomy yet rather cozy. The thick center console wraps around the driver, as does the dashboard. Controls are all within easy reach and the gauges are legible at a glance. The large TFT information display gives plenty of vehicle information, including a digital speed readout. The 8.4-inch Uconnect system is one of the best infotainment systems in the industry. And like other performance-oriented Dodge products, the Challenger T/A’s version comes with Performance Pages. Therein, the driver can dial in vehicle performance settings and view auxiliary gauges like oil pressure and the air intake temperature.

Quick Spin: 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 High Resolution Exterior
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Outward visibility is the Challenger’s only challenge. The thick C-pillars make it hard to glance rearward. Thankfully, blind spot monitoring and relatively large side mirrors help alleviate the hindered view. Otherwise, the Challenger is a complete pleasure to drive – and drive hard. I can’t think of another vehicle I’d rather have while exploring the old Route 66 or some lonely desert road in Nevada. The Challenger T/A 392 just has that old school, retro, Americana presence about it. And in many ways, no other muscle coupe currently found on showroom floors can replicate that as well as the Challenger. And for that, I’ll be forever in love with this classic American muscle car.

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    • * Heavy at 4,200 pounds
    • * Hit with gas-guzzler tax
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