2020 Dodge Charger: Why There is No All-Wheel-Drive V8
Last week, we brought you the news that the Dodge Charger GT is available for 2020 with all-wheel-drive, joining the SXT package. Both of these trim levels are only available with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and they are the only all-wheel-drive models, meaning that you cannot get the Charger with all-wheel-drive and Hemi V8 power.
A great many people commented to voice their displeasure with the lack of an all-wheel-drive Hemi Charger, and this is certainly not the first time that we have heard of this complaint. There are often rumors that Dodge is working on a high performance all-wheel-drive system, but none of those rumors have ever been substantiated, nor do I believe them to be true. Some people point out the fact that the Charger R/T used to be offered with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 as a reason why Dodge “needs” a V8 AWD sedan, but in reality, the older Charger R/T AWD proves why Dodge really doesn’t need that package in the lineup.
Why No Charger V8 AWD
Prior to 2015, Dodge offered the Charger R/T with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and optional all-wheel-drive. It was a popular package with those folks who bought them, many of whom lived in areas with heavy winter snowfall. The AWD Charger R/T allowed these Dodge drivers to enjoy their Hemi-powered sport sedan all year long, but when the current models were introduced for the 2015 model year, the AWD R/T was gone from the consumer market. Since then, the only Chargers with all-wheel-drive that can be ordered also have the Pentastar V6. There is a police-only package for the Charger with the 5.7-liter Hemi and all-wheel-drive, but that is another system that isn't designed for high performance, nor is it available from the dealership for the average consumer. We aren't talking about buying used cars here.
All of the people who owned and loved those winter-friendly Hemi Chargers don’t understand why the package wasn’t carried forward to the modern generation. With both the Charger R/T and the Chrysler 300C, which was also available with the 5.7-liter Hemi and AWD, the option was discontinued due to poor sales. FCA representatives won’t provide actual sales numbers for the large sedans with V8 power and all-wheel-drive, but we were told off the record that numbers were so low that the company lost money on development of the package.
Keep in mind that with all-wheel-drive packages, the automaker has to conduct specific crash testing and emission testing, and that isn’t cheap. When you add in the facts that this unpopular package technically costs the company more in terms of development, engineering and production, only to sell poorly, there is little question as to why you can’t buy an AWD Charger R/T.
Also, in speaking with a member of the FCA team who asked to remain anonymous, the vast majority of people who buy a Dodge Charger with a Hemi want the rear-drive, muscle car feel. The all-wheel-drive system is really only helpful during the winter months in specific areas of the country. In areas where there is no snowfall, there is really no practical need for an all-wheel-drive Hemi, so few people buy them. In those areas where all-wheel-drive would be helpful in the winter, many people have second vehicles, such as trucks or SUVs. As a result, the narrow market of people who can make good use of an AWD V8 Charger don’t really want one, and with low interest and low past sales, Dodge really doesn’t need a vehicle that has lots of costs without many benefits.
Muscle Cars Lift the Front Wheels
So, let’s disregard the fact that the previous Charger with all-wheel-drive and Hemi power, and just focus on the fact that many people want to see a Dodge sport sedan that spins all four tires. Many people look at cars like the Nissan GT-R, the Subaru WRX STi or other all-wheel-drive performance cars and insist that the Dodge Charger would be a greater performance machine with all-wheel-drive. For example, they look at the fact that the GT-R dashes from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds and runs the quarter mile in 11-second flat with “just” 530 horsepower and they insist that the Hellcat Charger would be quicker if it had all-wheel-drive.
With street tires, the Hellcat Charger dashes from a stop to 60 in the mid-3-second range, covering the quarter mile in the low-11-second range. If you swap to a stickier tire, the Hellcat Charger can easily get into the mid-10-second range in the quarter mile, as the supercharged sedan is traction limited. Due to the traction issues, some people insist that the Hellcat Charger would be significantly quicker with all-wheel-drive, but there are several variables to consider.
Most notably, the all-wheel-drive system adds weight that is also there, while the all-wheel-drive system only adds a real advantage at certain points in the run. Sure, the car might get off of the line a little quicker, but through the mid-range and top end, the all-wheel-drive system is just extra weight.
The bigger issue is that the Hellcat Charger, its chassis and its suspension system are designed to allow for lots of weight transfer to the rear wheels. Putting more weight to the rear helps with traction and with the combination of enough weight transfer and enough grip, the Hellcat Charger lifts the front wheels off of the ground. Needless to say, launching with the front wheels in the air eradicates any advantage that comes with the all-wheel-drive.
This means that to make the most of the all-wheel-drive’s hard launching ability, the suspension and chassis systems would have to be retuned to help the car launch a little flatter.
The all-wheel-drive components in the current Dodge Charger SXT and GT are rated for 300 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque. The AWD Charger R/T offered up until 2014 had components designed to handle 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. If you used either of these systems with the Hellcat Hemi, the supercharged V8 would likely rip the transfer case in half right away. Even if these all-wheel-drive components, such as the inner workings of the transfer case, were upgraded, these are still low performance systems that would struggle to survive the impact of a big torque launch.
This means that for Dodge to offer the Charger with all-wheel-drive in Scat Pack or Hellcat form, the company would have to develop components that would handle the power and the weight of the vehicle. These parts would also have to fit under the Charger without altering the ride height, which seems to be the problem with the transfer case and front differential of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. The Jeep has lots of room under the chassis for the all-wheel-drive bits, but the Charger does not. To use the Jeep parts and maintain the current ride height of the Scat Pack or Hellcat, the chassis would have to be altered, and that gets expensive in a hurry – especially for a vehicle with a low take rate.
Basically, for Dodge to offer the Charger Scat Pack or Hellcat with all-wheel-drive, the engineers would have to develop AWD components that would be unique to this chassis. Unlike the V6 AWD parts, this system would need to be very heavy duty, but it would have to be as physically compact as the V6 parts.
It wouldn’t be easy and it would be expensive, and that cost would be passed onto the customer. An all-wheel-drive Charger Scat Pack or Hellcat would likely cost thousands of dollars more and in the end, the only benefit for most people would be on a hard launch. Yes, these cars would be a bit better in harsh weather, but the reality of the situation is that most people who would buy an AWD Hellcat Charger that starts upwards of $80,000 are going to be driving it in heavy snow.
In closing, those folks who don’t understand why there is no AWD Charger with a Hemi should understand that when it was available, it sold very, very poorly. Aside from that, the Hellcat Charger would only benefit a bit from the inclusion of all-wheel-drive, but it would make the car heavier and far more expensive.
Now, when the next generation Dodge Charger arrives in a few years, perhaps the chassis will be designed to better incorporate Hemi power with all-wheel-drive, but based on the slow past sales, the difficulties with developing a high performance AWD system and the costs associated with the entire idea – there is very little chance that the current Hellcat Charger will get all-wheel-drive.
Patrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Patrick has been sharing his automotive expertise in automotive journalism from Detroit for more than a decade covering the Big Three. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world. Follow Patrick on Youtube and Twitter.