From icy-cool demeanor to impressive all-wheel-drive capabilities, the Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition is the ultimate all-weather athlete, a vehicle designed to impress on every level. What better way to prove that than in exactly the kind of territory for which the vehicle was made—the snow-packed winter landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Over the course of four days (January 8 – 11, 2013), a number of well-respected journalists will be set loose on a series of winter-weather test tracks in Houghton, Michigan, a city not far from Lake Superior and about as far north in the U.P. as you can get.
The goal of the driving event is simple: let the industry experts experience for themselves the capabilities of the Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition. While we can (and have) listed the individual components that add up to one high-performance vehicle—things like a segment-exclusive active transfer case and the front-axle-disconnect system—there is simply no substitute for time behind the wheel. And, when it comes to the Glacier, there is probably no better place to get that experience than the Michigan Tech Keweenaw Research Center (KRC), a research institute where automobiles and even military vehicles are tested for their ability to perform in less than ideal winter-driving conditions.
Chrysler AWD Event, Update 1: The Road to Houghton and the KRC Handling Courses
There are three things needed for a winter all-wheel-driving event: (1) winter conditions; (2) capable all-wheel-drive vehicles; (3) enthusiastic drivers ready to take to the course. Starting on Tuesday, January 8, 2013, those three elements converged at the Keweenaw Research Center (KRC), making for a successful start to the 2013 Chrysler 300 AWD Winter-Driving Program.
For the first group of journalists, the program kicked off bright and early Tuesday morning in Marquette, Michigan, a city two hours by car southeast of the research center in Houghton. Why begin in Marquette? In part, it was for the airport there, which provided the most convenient access to the area for the journalists who came in the night before from as far away as Los Angeles and Miami. But it also provided an excellent opportunity to spend time in all-wheel-drive (AWD) Chrysler vehicles while traveling in “real-world” conditions, i.e., public roads likely to be packed thick with snow.
Due to unseasonable weather, the road to Houghton was in near-perfect condition, dry and snow-free. While not ideal for testing AWD capabilities, the journalists enjoyed a scenic drive on a two-lane highway winding through the beautiful Michigan wilderness. In some respects, it was an excellent way to ease in to the purposefully poor driving conditions to come.
After arriving in Houghton, the journalists were briefed on the facility and paired up in teams. Each two-person team was given a Chrysler 300 AWD and then escorted to the handling courses, every foot of which was designed to isolate certain aspects of winter driving when roads are at their worst.
The circle track, for instance, was built with three concentric, snow-packed circles ranging in diameter from 300 feet to 900 feet, the goal being to let drivers experience nothing but high-speed turns on hard-packed snow. Speaking of packed snow, the area named Packed Snow VDA #2, or the “large snowfield,” was set up with cones to mimic driving in lanes, executing a Michigan left, braking at a stop sign, and maneuvering through a slalom course.
Composed of three paved hills, the Ice Grade offered journalists an opportunity to test the Chrysler Glacier on ice. Running up each hill was a strip of ice wide enough to fit one front and one rear wheel, the idea being to test performance and handling on steep inclines. For a different experience, drivers were set loose on a huge sheet of ice, as flat and almost as big as a frozen lake. With nothing close by to crash into, drivers could accelerate to speed then hit the brakes, fully experiencing the anti-lock braking system while not fearing an accident.
After spending a total of two hours on the handling courses at the KRC, the journalists were provided lunch and then drove back to Marquette.
Tune in tomorrow for more from the Chrysler AWD Winter-Driving Program in Houghton, MI. In the final update, we’ll take a close look at the advanced AWD drive system in the Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition.
Chrysler AWD Event, Update 2: AWD Technology at Work
Let’s recap. When the first group of auto journalists set out from Marquette Tuesday morning, the roads were unexpectedly clear. When they arrived at the Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) two hours later, they were greeted by a series of handling courses covered with snow and ice. In a way, this sudden shift from normal to hazardous (though controlled) driving conditions worked out perfectly for journalists, affording them the chance to experience firsthand the versatility of the Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition, a vehicle smart enough to automatically engage and disconnect elements of its advanced AWD system depending on conditions.
How does the system work? Central to its function is the capacity to completely disengage the front axle from its corresponding prop shaft and transfer all torque to the rear wheels. Rear wheel drive is the system’s default configuration unless conditions warrant AWD—say, when you’re maneuvering through the packed-snow course at the KRC or driving down a snowy road in your own neighborhood. In these conditions, the AWD kicks in seamlessly, transferring up to 38% of the torque to front wheels for superior traction and handling.
System disengagement and re-engagement is managed by control software that determines the optimal torque split based on a wide range of triggers. For example, if the electronic stability program (ESP) becomes active in icy or snowy conditions, as it most surely did for journalists on the KRC handling courses, the transfer-case drive coil will actuate the clutch to transmit driveline torque. When torque is applied to the front prop shaft, a signal is sent to the front axle actuator and the all-wheel drive is engaged. Disengagement is equally seamless, but triggered by different parameters such as dry roads and warmer temperatures.
Why disengage at all? It’s a matter of efficiency. This AWD system combined with the award-winning Pentastar® V-6 delivers an EPA-estimated 27 mpg highway, earning the Glacier a best-in-class fuel-economy ranking among full-size sedans with similar equipment (V-6 engines and AWD).
Of course, active transfer and front-axle disconnect mean nothing if the AWD system as a whole does not perform at a very high level. For the Glacier, we believe it does, and if the early, informal feedback we heard from journalists is any indication, that belief will be confirmed in due time, when stories about the AWD Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition begin showing up on newsstands.
The Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition is available now. For pricing information, please visit the Glacier page on Chrysler.com. Also, please note that the most advanced AWD system in its class*, featuring class-leading AWD V-6 highway fuel economy^, is available on the Chrysler 300, 300S, 300C and the 300C John Varvatos Luxury models.
*Based on the latest available competitive information and the Chrysler Group LLC Upper Large Car Segmentation.
^Based on the latest available competitive information and the Chrysler Group LLC Upper Large Car Segmentation. When equipped with AWD, 3.6L engine and 8-speed transmission. Based on EPA-estimated 18 mpg city and 27 mpg hwy.