Since Sergio Marchionne has taken the helm at Chrysler (now FCA US), his plan has been to change Dodge from a mainstream brand to the performance brand of the FCA US lineup. While it has caused endless arguments between the brand’s fan base, there is no doubt that Dodge has become the American performance brand.
Last year, Dodge released the long awaited 475 horsepower all-wheel drive (AWD) Dodge Durango SRT which was a huge hit. The Dodge brand has been pushing the SRT cars unique looks across the lineup, even including the SRT performance looks on the V6 powered SXT STP (Super Track Pak) model Chargers. Durango R/T got it’s big brother SRT’s styling cues and V6 powered Durango GT models are even running the SRT looks for a limited run this summer on the GT Rallye package.
In 2016, Dodge introduced the Challenger GT AWD. It was the first two-door muscle car to have an all-wheel drive system. It has helped push the Challenger in a sales battle with the Ford Mustang for several months over the past year and half. But even with the Charger GT AWD joining the lineup and Dodge boasting commercials of the only brand with AWD muscle cars. There is still something missing from the Charger and Challenger lineup that the Dodge brand doesn’t have, but enthusiast have been asking for since 2014. That is AWD HEMI powered Charger and Challenger models.
Dodge offered the Charger from 2006 to 2014 with a 5.7-liter HEMI AWD model. However, in 2015 the Charger R/T AWD model was dropped in favor of maintaining only the 3.6-liter Pentastar powered AWD Charger. This was a big blow to Dodge fans. Dodge said it was because of weak sales for the R/T AWD model and that the vehicle only made up about 10% of the total AWD sales for Charger.
Later that year, Mopar teased Dodge fans with the 2015 Dodge Challenger GT AWD Concept at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. The concept was powered by a 5.7-liter HEMI equipped with Mopar performance goodies like the Scat Pack Stage 3 kit which boosted output to 440 horsepower.The car also featured the 8-Speed TorqueFlite automatic from the standard Challenger R/T, however this was the first time it had ever been paired to the 5.7-liter HEMI and AWD system in a car. The car was easily the biggest hit in the Mopar booth that year at SEMA. However when the production model hit the market, it was only available like it’s Charger sibling with V6 power.
Dodge still does offer the Charger with a 5.7-liter HEMI in AWD form for law enforcement in it’s fleet sales, but those models are only equipped with the older 5-speed automatics from the R/T AWD cars last ran in the 2014 model year for average customers.
The 5.7-liter HEMI powered Charger R/T AWD is the greatest all-round muscle car Dodge has ever built for people living in areas where it has seasons of heavy snow. The AWD system only activates with the temperature is under 38°F or 3°C, when their is tire slippage or when the windshield wipers are on. In all other conditions, the car has a clutch that deactivates the front drive shaft and the car then runs just like a normal Charger R/T with rear-wheel drive.
For Dodge being the performance brand arm of the FCA US lineup, the 305 horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is not enough. Charger and Challenger owners both alike, buy the cars because on their muscle car pedigree. Some automotive journalist have said that the 2018 Charger and Challenger GT AWD models are not muscle cars, simply for the lack of V8 powerplants.
As an owner of not one, but two 2014 Dodge Charger R/T AWD cars I feel that its the niche that Dodge has abandoned in an era where gas prices have stayed steady and it could even make more sales of their beloved muscle cars. Especially since the genre of the sedan and car in general is dying in North America. The only thing that has solid numbers for sales for the Dodge twins, is performance. It maybe just what the brand needs for those of us, who want a true V8 powered muscle car but can’t afford to live without AWD.