New tech in a muscle car gives new meaning to the phrase “spinning your wheels.”
I’ve been testing the 2017 Dodge Charger with AWD tech, the same vehicle that — for as long as muscle cars have existed, anyway — has used rear-wheel drive. The commercials show this model driving fast in heavy snow. In my area, with the weather this week, the last thing you’d want to do is drive around with a car meant for summer road trips.
Dodge introduced AWD in the Charger a few years ago, but this is the first time I’ve tested it — in any muscle car. There’s some interesting technology at work. First, all Dodge Chargers use All-Speed Traction Control, which manages tire slip electronically. If there is any slip, the car sends more power to that tire or applies light brake pressure. It’s been around a while, but the technology has improved to the point where you may not even notice it is engaging.
Similarly, electronics in the car also send power from the front axle to the rear and vice versa. The idea is to adjust power to all four tires to make sure you don’t start sliding around a corner.
In my tests, the roads were slick enough that a muscle car with only rear-wheel drive should have spun out multiple times. Around one corner, the tires planted down and I could sense the technology kicking in to adjust tire slip on the fly. I had to ease off the accelerator only because I wasn’t used to a heavier car like this, with a V6 engine and plenty of power, not pulling out from under me and sliding off into the ditch (which was a good ten-foot drop).
Then there’s braking distance. Most cars these days use an antilock brake system to make sure the tires don’t lock up, but the Charger never felt like it was going to slide to stop. I never had occasion to experience it, but there’s also Advanced Brake Assist in the Charger that can sense an emergency braking situation and cause the car to slow down more quickly by applying maximum brake power.
I was also impressed with some of the other tech in the Charger. There’s a new version of the Uconnect system, now in its fourth generation, that is cleaner and looks more modern. It’s similar to what Ford did with their touchscreen display — improving the look and feel to match what you might see on an Apple iPad. You can now pinch, tap, and swipe, and the display supports multitouch. The entire system feels snappier and faster for most actions.
I came away impressed by the AWD system because that’s totally new to me — the Charger felt more responsive on slippery roads in my area, and it was surprising to not feel like the car was going to slide off the side of the road. Most of my previous muscle car tests have been in summer — I don’t ever try to test them in snow, knowing that usually leads to fishtailing.
This time, the AWD kicked in, the snow tires hugged the road, and the car stayed firmly planted.