We won’t beat around the bush: The all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger is not a brand new car. This generation launched in 2011, AWD models and all. But for 2013, Chrysler has added an optional sport package to the AWD model, available with both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 or the sweet, sweet 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The upgrades for this new sport pack are mainly cosmetic; a gloss black grille, new 19-inch alloy wheels and body-colored rear spoiler make up the list of exterior changes. Inside, there are new sport seats and paddle shifters, and the eight-speed automatic transmission has been reflashed for better performance.
But because vehicles like the Dodge Charger mainly stick out in our minds as being rear-drive bruisers, Chrysler wanted to give us the opportunity to test out the LX platform’s foul-weather prowess. And perhaps no place more appropriate to test such a system was way up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the dead of winter.
- It’s not a new formula by any means, but we still adore the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 under the hood of the Charger. 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque are more than enough motivation to get this hefty (4,450-pound) sedan up and moving with a quickness, even with all-wheel drive.
- The new eight-speed automatic ‘box is really slick here in the Charger, and unlike other eight-cog units, you won’t find the transmission frequently jumping back and forth between gears.
- Even with eight gears to keep the engine revving for efficiency, fuel economy isn’t anything stellar. Combined with all-wheel drive, the Charger R/T AWD Sport achieves 15 miles per gallon in the city or 23 mpg on the highway. Still, that’s about par for the class – a two-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis with the 5.0-liter V8 achieves 16/25 mpg.
- On our drive through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we mostly encountered long stretches of two-lane backroads that, while throwing the occasional curve our way, were mostly straight and flat. This is ideal Charger territory, as the big sedan is perfectly poised to be a solid, comfortable highway cruiser above all.
- We had the chance to pilot the Charger AWD Sport around a few handling courses in the snow, and there, the car offered safe amounts of fun. The Charger uses a rear-biased AWD system that only sends power to the front wheels when moments of slip or poor traction are encountered, but this means enthusiasts who like a bit of tail-wagging hooliganism in the snow will be very happy.
- Even with that rear bias, the big Dodge never failed to snap itself back into line when we intentionally tried to break its butt loose. And since we were able to drive the Charger on a number of snowy, icy test courses, it was easy to see that this AWD system works well in all types of road conditions.
- After so many years of lackluster cabins, it’s nice to be able to praise Chrysler interiors. Here in the Charger, we found both the sport cloth and leather seats to be immensely comfortable, and the overall fit and finish to the interior is quite nice. We especially like the carbon fiber-look trim pieces added to the Sport model for 2013.
- Perhaps the best thing about the Charger’s interior is the Chrysler UConnect system – there’s a reason why it’s an award-winning piece of technology. The 8.4-inch screen is super easy to navigate, but this system’s biggest win is just how responsive it is to touch commands. Other automakers really should take note.
- What’s great about this whole package is that the fullsize, loaded sedan tops out under the $40,000 mark. That’s comparable to fully optioned midsize sedans these days (like a Ford Fusion Titanium, for instance). Yes, those smaller cars are no doubt better on fuel economy, but for bang-for-the-buck performance, the Charger is really something special.