By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – One foot of snow and a rear-wheel-drive sedan makes for adventurous driving that is not fun. That is exactly what happened during the week-long test drive of the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus. Worse, was that it was bitterly cold, like below zero, and it stayed that way for days.
One of the characteristics of cold weather and snow is that salt is not really effective in bitterly cold weather that is below 16 degrees. Thus, the main streets here, despite snow plowing, remained slippery with this dry mush-like combination of snow and ice that looked like saw dust. And even worse, the side streets didn’t get plowed at all.
In other words, getting out of even a snow cleared driveway was easy but once in the street it got difficult. On more than one occasion, the Dodge Charger SXT Plus got stuck backing out of the driveway and onto the street. Not that it got stuck in a snow bank, but it needed to be pushed to get free. The irony is that while the test vehicle was rear-wheel-drive, the Charger can be equipped with one of the most advanced all-wheel-drive systems around. It is rear-wheel biased sending 38 percent of the torque to the front wheels during normal application. However, it can send more than 90 percent of the car’s torque fore or aft as needed.
The system activates in temperatures below 40 degrees. If it is warmer than that, it will disconnect the front axle, making the car truly rear-wheel-drive and more fuel efficient. If you live someplace where it is possible to get serious snow, say more than four inches at once, then the peace of mind you’ll maintain with Dodge’s all-wheel-drive system is worth its extra cost.
Without that all-wheel-drive system it was difficult to enjoy the many amenities that the 2014 Dodge Charger SXT Plus offered. The car had remote start that was invaluable on mornings when the ambient temperature was 10 below zero. Heated seats, front and rear, meant that every passenger could be cozily comfortable.
And the heated steering wheel meant that after a couple of minutes the driver could take his or her gloves off. It’s a lot safer driving without gloves, especially on slippery streets. Gloveless driving meant that what the car was doing could be felt quicker and driver reactions to the car could be applied faster. That heated steering wheel really made a difference in controlling the Dodge Charger in frigid weather.
The test Charger had a 3.6-liter V6 that made 300 horsepower. It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. During normal driving conditions, this combination got 19 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway. Even in molasses slow driving on slippery streets, the Dodge Charger SXT RWD ran smoothly and quietly. The transmission’s low gears didn’t drag the car and the rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist steering provided much needed feel to the driver and excellent response to input.
Inside, the 8.4-inch touch screen was clear and sharp. The power seats were comfortable and the rear seats were spacious. The Dodge Charger also had a slew of options. In addition to its heated seats all round, one option package included LED lights. A second package included blind spot warning and cross path detection, rearview camera and rearview parking assist. The car even had power adjustable pedals.
The test car was equipped with a navigation system, satellite radio, voice controls as well as Bluetooth. The car had auto adjustable reverse sideview mirrors and automatic high beam headlights.
Dodge’s 2014 Charger SXT Plus was just chock full of stuff. And for $35,375, it was a real bargain.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com