When your writer was just a little car fanatic, his parental units drove a Dodge Aspen R/T. It was similar to a recently tested 2012 Charger R/T, in that it was big, American, V8-powered rear-wheel-drive, and a Dodge.
Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard rocked that Aspen all year round. Even in the snow. And with its bias-ply tires as wide as your hand.
The lost art of RWD in the snow
Times have changed, and nowadays, most Canadians think rear-wheel-drive cars are inferior, slippery, or even scary and unsafe to drive in winter. It's an unfounded perception likely aided by the flood of front-wheel-drive cars to our market over the decades.
But rear-wheel drive can be beautiful to drive in the snow, and the Charger R/T is one example of why.
Despite its 370 hp punch and rear-wheel drive, it moves around just fine. The tester wore winter tires, and yours truly noted no issues travelling through a week of Northern Ontario's nastiest winter conditions.
Iced sideroads? Deep snow? Major highways covered with slush-stripes? Check, check and check.
Lots of thrust, no fuss
With gentle throttle application, Charger R/T gets up to speed with no wheelspin or sliding. And just in case, the traction control system puts the kibosh on slipping the millisecond the rear wheels break traction.
You get up to speed with no fuss -- and then enjoy a planted, locked down and heavy feel that should inspire plenty of confidence.
And since the front wheels only steer, and the rear ones only drive, you're splitting up the Charger's dynamic efforts between the front and rear axles. In most every situation, it's more responsive, obedient and rewarding to use than a comparable front-drive model.
I had no traction-related issues to note after the course of a week and some 2,000 km in Northern and Central Ontario.
A little snow and ice, or even a lot of it, is no reason to give up parking a piece of HEMI-powered American motoring history in your driveway.
The new Charger
And that's a good thing, because the latest Charger is better than ever.
For its latest iteration, styling, inside and out has advanced considerably. Charger looks fantastic, modern and full of character. Those wrap-around LED taillamps are pure sexiness, too. Ditto the rectangular tailpipes. And that aggressive, all-attitude fascia looks like it wants to eat nearby children.
The cabin is trimmed nicely, assembled with attention to detail, and looks more cohesive and focused than the last-generation model. No longer constructed mainly of mayonnaise-jar plastics, it's now got chrome, soft-touch materials, stitched leather, contrasting colours and an overall modern and fresh look.
Ready to roll, 365 days a year
And since it's big, comfortable and remarkably quiet, it's ready for a family road trip. Plenty of room on board for four adults or a family of five, and plenty of storage at hand too.
The tester even came with a features list that could embarrass many a pricier machine. Push-button ignition, automatic lights, automatic climate control, automatic wipers and even automatic high-beams were all on board.
And for your winter driving pleasure, the cupholders are both chilled and heated, and so are the front seats. The steering wheel and rear seats are heated, too. And there's remote start.
Extra points for the slick infotainment system and Bluetooth streaming audio for wireless playback of your favorite tunes or internet radio station straight out of your phone.
Yeah, kids. It's got a HEMI
Oh, yeah, and it's got a HEMI. Namely, a 5.7L, 370-hp V8 that's smooth and quiet during gentle driving, and potent, snorty and rich in torque when hammered upon. It goes like all hell and sounds like the '60s.
Best part? The (somewhat dated) five-speed automatic transmission. Jam the right-most pedal to pass slower traffic, and the gearbox downshifts in the time it takes your foot to hit the floor. Then, the HEMI Charger positively leaps ahead with nearly startling levels of thrust.
Recent engineering tweaks and an enhanced version of Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system helped me average less than 12L/100km in the mileage department. With my lead food and only five forward gears, that isn't bad at all.
Complaints were limited mainly to the doors. They open so wide it's hard for those of average arm-length to close them again once they're seated inside. And the headlights could be a bit brighter and more concentrated. So, nothing major in the gripe department.
Charger RT is surprisingly comfortable, quiet, very powerful, family-ready and winter-capable. Toss on some snow tires, and you and yours can enjoy this ticked-off, modern-day muscle-sedan all year round.
Consider it alongside machines like the more luxurious and powerful Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec, and the AWD-equipped Ford Taurus SHO.