Although the current iteration of Chrysler's all-wheel drive (AWD) system began appearing on vehicle ordering guides as early as 2011, we just recently had an opportunity to see how this performance-oriented drivetrain fares in winter driving conditions. Rather than testing within the confines of a closed-course winter testing facility, we hopped behind the wheel of a 2013 Chrysler 300S AWD and set out on what would prove to be an enlightening 500-mile road trip from Houghton to Detroit, Michigan.
In the days leading up to our drive, a wave on unseasonable warmth had washed over the Midwest. Nonetheless, every stretch of asphalt we encountered was coated with snow, sleet, rain, or a mixture of all three. Is all-wheel drive mandatory for such conditions? Certainly not. But all things being equal we'll take it every time in such conditions.
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On twisty, rain-soaked roads, the Chrysler 300 AWD felt truly in its element. Grip was tenacious at all four corners, even while exiting wet corners under hard acceleration. When pulling away from a stop, the 300 AWD demonstrated inspiring composure in the face of very little grip. But despite the fact that virtually every modern car equipped with all-wheel drive is capable of replicating this level of performance, the true strength of Chrysler's system lies in its versatile framework.
Unlike the majority of competitive offerings, the 300's all-wheel drive system has a rear-biased power split, which helps to provide the more athletic feel of a rear-wheel-drive sports car. Factors such as wheel slippage, cold outside temperatures, and continuous usage of the windshield wipers will prompt the system to direct up to 38 percent of available torque to the front wheels. In normal driving situations, the transfer case will fully disengage the front axle, making the 300 AWD essentially a rear-wheel-drive car. And since the system is completely automated, there are no dials to twist, buttons to press, or switches to flip.
All told, if you live in an area where the snowplow comes through regularly, the standard rear-wheel-drive 300 fitted with a set of snow tires should suffice. That being said, rear-wheel drive is far more demanding of the driver's attention, meaning reflexes will need to be set on Defcon-4 at all times. Overall, we think snowbelters who have set their sights on a 2013 Chrysler 300 will likely find the all-wheel drive system well worth the $3,000 to $5,000 premium.
If you'd like to learn more about the 2013 Chrysler 300, take a look at our full review.
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