Chrysler 300 Glacier - $36,845
Dodge Charger AWD Sport - $32,690
Engine: 3.6L Pentastar V6 or 5.7L Hemi V8
Power: 300 hp or 363 hp
Torque: 264 lb-ft or 394 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 18/27 mpg or 15/23 mpg
The American auto industry used to be all about big, V8 powered, rear driven sedans. That is what made it awesome. During the first gas crisis (in the early '70s), when fuel economy started to become a big deal, these classic automobiles started dying off. When Ford (finally) discontinued the Crown Victoria last year, we were left with the Cadillac CTS, the Chrysler 300, and the Dodge Charger. The Caddy is well out of the price range of the average American, so that leaves the somewhat cheaper 300 and the much cheaper Charger as the only options for the car shopper wanting a classic American whip that was made in this century.
Rear-wheel drive makes up a huge portion of what makes the 300 and Charger what they are, so the addition of all-wheel drive seems, at first, a little like it will defeat the purpose of these cars. Of course, rear wheel drive can be nothing short of terrible on snow and ice for the average driver. A skilled driver with snow tires won't have any trouble, but most drivers are frightfully unskilled and have never even thought of snow tires, even though they really, really should have.
It's not an old school American sedan if you can't do a bootleg turn with 20 gallons of illegal moonshine and a dame or two on board.
What Chrysler did was create a system that does almost the same thing as the Ferrari system, but on a car that doesn't cost $295,000. The brilliance lies in the fact that when all-wheel drive isn't needed, a clutch in the middle of the system disengages the front wheels entirely. On a dry road, the 300 and Charger are both still RWD vehicles, and they aren't wasting horsepower spinning all that heavy equipment up front. When foul weather is detected, however, the front wheels kick in. While I wish there were a button for RWD-only hoonage mode, there is not. Don't worry, few tears were shed.
It was, honestly, mostly grins. We were at a cold weather testing facility in Marquette, MI, which was surprisingly precipitation-free, considering that it is the third-snowiest city in the contiguous USA, and we were allowed to really thrash the cars. I put both through their paces until the smell of cooked brakes grew offensive, and what I found is that these two cars are the cure to the endemic of milquetoast full-size sedans; there's no compromise here. Both cars are sporty, spacious, comfortable, efficient (given their bulk), good on the snow, and capable of handing over control to the driver. With the traction control on, it's quite difficult to get into trouble, but with the traction control off, you can easily get the back end out with a quick stab of the throttle, hold an extended drift, or perform a bootleg turn. It's not an old school American sedan if you can't do a bootleg turn with 20 gallons of illegal moonshine and a dame or two on board.
While the AWD system that has now been thoroughly doted over can be had on regular Chargers and 300s, the models we were testing were the Dodge Charger AWD Sport and the Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition. The AWD Sport package costs $1,195, and adds a bunch of aggressive blacked out trim items, 19" aluminum wheels, sport seats, paddle shifters, and a Beats by Dre audio system, which is nothing short of fantastic, and a $995 option on its own.
The 300 Glacier, starts at $36,845 and comes with body color fascia accents, gloss black details, and an optional gloss black roof, over the white, silver, or 'Glacier' blue pearl paint. It rides on 19" aluminum wheels, features and understated and luxurious interior, and a Beats audio system.
Both are available now, and would be a great choice for the person who wants a big, practical car that can handle some seriously foul weather and isn't absolutely miserable.