[Originally published March 2, 2015]
Event video courtesy FCA Canada
Mirabel, Quebec – Everybody’s doing it (all-wheel driving, that is). No longer is an all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicle a special order item. For most manufacturers, in fact, it’s odd not to find an AWD version of the car, truck, CUV or SUV you’d like. If customers aren’t fully committed to the brand or model, they may just switch alliances based on the lack of an AWD option.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) probably has you covered, though. Seventeen of 26 available vehicles come with AWD or 4WD and the option is offered on the base models of nine nameplates. Additionally, FCA manufactures 22 different systems ranging from the Chrysler 200’s full-time AWD with its disconnectable rear axle to the Wrangler’s rugged off-road system featuring live axles and electronic lockers.
As you may know, vehicle sales historically tend to decline during the winter months, but FCA Canada reports sales of all-wheel-drive vehicles increase in the cold weather. Having more vehicles available with all-wheel drive, therefore, is a good way to put life into a slow sales season.
We drove a representative sample of available FCA AWD and 4WD vehicles at Mirabel’s iCar performance driving centre in weather that began auspiciously but soon deteriorated. The circuit consisted of a power circle to test understeer and oversteer, a conventional slalom and a track with straightaways, chicanes and a mixture of constant and decreasing radius corners. We also had access to an off-road course for the Jeeps and Rams.
There was a virtual smorgasbord of vehicles from which to choose. The new Jeep Renegade, Wrangler Unlimited, Patriot, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, Journey and Charger (in street and Enforcer Police Package trim), Chrysler 200 and 300, Ram 1500 and Power Wagon. Basically (after a practice lap with a professional instructor) they just gave us the keys (or fobs) and directed us onto the track.