The 2014 Dodge HEMI® Charger with AWD | A Car for All Seasons … and Reasons

2014-Dodge-HEMI-Charger-AWD

 

By Steve Magnante

 

Please hover your cursor over each image in this post for more information on what’s happening in the photo.

 

No matter your age, sooner or later you’ll realize that life’s too short to drive a boring car. But just because many of us live in places where deep snow makes winter driving a hassle doesn’t mean we have to compromise. All hail the mighty 2014 Dodge HEMI® Charger All-Wheel Drive (AWD), a car for all seasons – and all reasons. With its spacious four-door body and cavernous trunk, it’s great for growing families and also for singles who want a bit more room than a pony car can offer.

 

Expecting there to be some type of on/off switch to engage the all-wheel drive, I was happy to learn that the system activates all by itself. Automatic triggers include ambient temperature, whether the windshield wipers are in use and wheel slip.

 

 

As the AWD nomenclature implies, the all-wheel-drive system delivers carefully measured power to the front wheels. I spent two weeks with a HEMI®-powered Granite Crystal metallic AWD beauty during the first half of a particularly brutal February and came away amazed at its ability to drive through snow-covered streets. And this on its standard-issue Michelin Pilot all-season radial tires.

 

 

The rear half of the AWD driveline isn’t much different than the regular RWD HEMI® Charger. The full dual exhaust system is tuned to provide a healthy – but unobtrusive – exhaust note during normal driving. At full throttle the sound is unmistakably HEMI®! The merged head pipes, mufflers and resonators are designed to dampen some higher-frequency notes caused when the 5.7 is in fuel-saver V4 mode and the MDS (Multi-Displacement System) is active. You really have to concentrate to hear the engine toggle between 4 and 8 cylinders on the highway – a transition that takes only 40 milliseconds (0.040 second) to complete.

 

 

 

The 5-link independent rear suspension and rigid-mounted differential housing are light-years ahead of the Super Stock leaf springs and live 3.23-geared 8-3/4 rear axle under my old ’68 Charger R/T. The AWD differentials (front and rear) get a specific 3.06 ratio that blends satisfying acceleration with good fuel economy.

 

 

While the regular rear-wheel-drive Charger is a great all-around package, Dodge engineers conjured the all-wheel-drive version to help when there could otherwise be a loss of traction in inclement weather. But don’t get the wrong idea that this all-wheel-drive system is a heavy, cumbersome affair. On the contrary, the AWD was thoroughly engineered and designed to be useful on summer days when fun is the name of the game.

 

 

The nerve center of the AWD system is the rugged yet light aluminum active on-demand transfer case connected to the output shaft of the 5-speed automatic transmission. My finger points out the forward drive shaft that routes power to the front tires as needed. A proprietary feature offered only in Charger (and certain Ram and Jeep AWD packages) is the ability to automatically disconnect the front drive axle from the running engine to help fuel economy.

 

 

Where RWD Chargers use simple wheel spindles, the AWD version powers the front tires via articulated half shafts. When the intelligent all-wheel-drive is not engaged, the clutches within the transfer case are decoupled, allowing the half shafts to turn freely and greatly reducing parasitic loss. Back in the sixties, Dodge Charger R/Ts came with the biggest brakes in the industry – massive 11x3-inch drum brakes (power disc brakes were optional).  If you activate the windshield wipers for anything more than a normal wash-wipe cycle, the Charger knows you’re driving in rain and responds by adjusting the brake pads closer to the spinning brake discs. This sheds standing water and reduces pad-to-rotor contact time for quicker brake engagement in wet weather. By contrast, 1968 HEMI® Charger buyers were forced to buy the optional three-speed windshield wipers. The standard two-speed wiper motor protruded outward too far and interfered with the HEMI®’s large air cleaner lid. The three-speed wiper motor sat flush with the firewall and cleared the “chrome dome.” And so it was.

 

 

AWD has long been a component available to super car designers looking for optimized road course performance. Most of today’s top exotic cars have it, and the Charger’s system is calibrated to be helpful on a road course where the application of power to the front tires delivers neutral handling characteristics and makes powering into, through and out of sharp corners a quicker occurrence than with RWD alone. The intelligent on-demand transfer case uses multiple sensors to direct a portion of the engine’s power to the front tires seamlessly, without the need for driver activation. It’s always there, ready to serve. Best of all, an automatic front axle disconnect feature neutralizes the front drive system when it isn’t needed.

 

 

Snow, rain or sun, the optional AWD sets Charger owners free to enjoy HEMI® (or Pentastar V6) power year round. Chrysler Group Axle, Driveline & Manual Transmission Engineering Chief Mike Kirk tells us, “The AWD system is meant for folks who love the way a HEMI® Charger feels to drive but are afraid of getting stuck in snow during the winter months. The optional AWD system is meant to remove that fear. We designed it so the customer never feels like they’re driving a rear-wheel-drive car in the snow, and on the other hand, they won’t feel like they’re driving an all-wheel-drive car in the summertime.”

 

Because my personal experience with all-wheel-drive vehicles is thus far limited to pickup trucks, I was curious to see how Dodge driveline engineers packaged all the nifty bits beneath the Charger’s sleek body. Beyond that, as the former owner of a classic 1968 HEMI® Charger R/T (one of 264 built with the 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission), I wanted to see how far we’ve come since the old days of leaf springs, live axles and drum brakes. I took the car over to the good folks at Brookfield Motors Dodge in Brookfield, Mass., where the Kruzewski family has been selling new Dodge vehicles since 1958 – including a real-live 4-speed HEMI® Charger back in 1967. Let’s take a closer look and see what makes the new AWD 2014 Dodge HEMI® Charger stick – hover your cursor over each image in this post for more information on what’s happening in the photo.

 

Steve Magnante

 

 

Yep, there’s snow in the background of this March 1988 photo of the author and his semi-restored ’68 HEMI® Charger. The rubber smoke pouring off the rear tires proves there’s no all-wheel-drive system on board. The small rectangular HEMI emblem on the door was the only warning to would-be contenders. The same “walk softly and carry a big stick” strategy is used on today’s Dodge Charger.

 

 

 


  • TBird100636

    It’s too bad the 2015 Charger won’t offer an AWD HEMI, just the V6…