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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Bringing up the rear: The birth of Chrysler's rear-wheel-drive LX cars | Hagerty Media

Fiat-Chrysler's rear-wheel-drive LX cars-the Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Chrysler 300-remain a fixture at the company, particularly at Dodge, even as mainstream rear-drivers become an anomaly in the industry. Their continued popularity begs the question: How did the LX cars arrive in the first place?
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/bringing-up-the-rear-chryslers-rear-wheel-drive-lx-...
7 REPLIES 7
OldCarMan
Advanced Driver

Yeah, answering a question no one cares about, like how many kw the motor has. This is nothing more than BS, PC, product planning.

The High Command killed the cab-forward design, because it out performed and provided greater value, than any dumb MB architecture. They couldn't let lowly Chrysler out do them faster, better, easier, or cheaper!
drm101
Intermediate Driver

I remember the first time I saw an LX. It was a 300 in the pilot plant at CTC. I thought it was the weirdest looking car I had ever seen. It looked like something Batman would drive. Not long after that I drove a V6 AWD version down to West Virginia and back. I was hooked. It was a great car then and is still a great car. Every time I drive one, I wonder why I have never bought one. Tim's comments make it sound like the car is better in a straight line than in curves. I think it's a great track car. I had the opportunity to do an SRT Experience day at MIS and was again impressed. The SRT Charger is very predictable and easy to drive fast. The Challenger was a bit more tail happy, and more fun. Give me a track pack with the 6.4L and a 6 speed. The supercharger adds too much weight, though I admit there is nothing like a Hellcat!
Beignet-Beach
New Driver

I was with a group of Chrysler Instructors when we saw the 1st "mules", made from FWD 300ms, with hemi V8s and converted to RWD., and since the wheel base was a bit different, there was about a 10-11" piece of sheet metal pop riveted from the A-pillar to the extended front fender. Out back there were FOUR exhaust pipes making a WONDERFUL mechanical symphony at both idle and full chat. We got to drive the masked up mules....3rd gear with the Mercedes NAG transmission mated to the HEMI at full throttle...NIRVANA... and we ALL said the same thing.." we are gonna sell the living stink out of these things!!"
Rider79
Instructor

I like the Challenger and Charger (the 300 looks like a brick), and the "Hemi" engines. I have driven two 6-speed ScatPack Challengers, and they are a blast. But, the Charger and 300 sedans never matched the low, sleek good looks of the "cab-forward" cars. The RWD cars are a throwback, but obviously, they have sold quite well. One wonders how long they can keep repackaging the same cars and sell them, though.

Electrification? If you mean hot hybrids, like the cited Ferrari, maybe so. Pure electrics? I doubt that the particular buyer who is buying the hotter MoPars now would even consider a full-electric version; I certainly would not.
Fast392
New Driver

I think you would if it had 1500hp and great retro styling, I know I would and I am a former SRT owner.
kyree-williams
Pit Crew

What you didn’t highlight—perhaps for brevity—is the fact that the LH cars weren’t just normal, transverse front-wheel drive. They were longitude FWD. The engine sat way ahead of the front axle, mounted north-south, as in a traditional RWD car. The transmission sat over the wheels, and half shafts came out of either side of the bell housing, to meet each wheel (as this assembly also included the front differential, this made it a transaxle).

This wasn’t a Chrysler-first layout. GM had the longitude-FWD Unified Powerplant Package that was similar (and was used in some/most GM’s personal luxury coupes through 1985), only the engine sat *beside* the transmission. Honda did it on its high-end products between the late eighties and early 2000s, and Rover/Sterling borrowed it. But Audi was probably the original purveyor of this layout...and various Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley products continue to use the most recent version, which is designated as the Volkswagen Group MLB platform. It’s also similar to what Subaru does, although their cars use flat engines.

Aaaanyway, the thing about the Subaru and Audi setups is that they make it very easy to turn this layout into AWD. You see, the transmission is the bell shape of a traditional RWD car’s, and is mounted north-south as well. So all you really need to do is run a prop shaft off the back of the transmission to feed the rear differential and rear wheels. Subaru and Audi do this for most of their AWD cars.

The lore in the Mopar community is that, sometime in the late nineties, Chrysler experimented with doing the same. They allegedly built some LH prototypes that had AWD and even plain RWD (just by removing the halfshafts to the front wheels). There were supposedly some Chrysler cars in the 90s TV show “Viper” that had funny looking wheelbases and were in fact RWD LH prototypes.

Why Chrysler did not follow along with this path, I’m not sure. Given the different engine placements and completely separate rear suspension designs, I feel confident in saying that if LX was based on LH, it was probably only in the loosest sense. I suspect that Chrysler realized LH might be a dead end or too expensive to develop...and with new performance variants on the horizon (the SRT cars, and the return of the HEMI), borrowing from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin (I’m not criticizing here!) was a better way to go.

One particular example of how using a traditional longitude-RWD layout helped Chrysler is that they were straight up able to use the Mercedes-Benz 5AT; they would likely not have been able to do so (or would have had to specially adapt it) if they’d kept the engine-forward LH platform. What’s more, Chrysler was able to turn around and use Mercedes-Benz’ same transfer-case supplier, Magna Steyr, who supplied the LX cars with basically the same unit that the Mercedes-Benz AWD cars had. The R&D for making such a part that would fit onto the back of the Mercedes-Benz 5AT had already been done. That gave Chrysler’s LX cars an AWD option without a whole lot of development investment. That basic AWD system, I believe, lasted until the 2015 facelift of the second-gen consumer cars, where the Mercedes-Benz 5AT was retired in favor of the ZF 8AT. And you can still get it in the Charger Police Interceptor HEMI AWD (which retains the Mercedes-Benz 5AT).
Billthecat707
Intermediate Driver

As an owner of a Charger R/T and a Challenger Hellcat I am very happy Chrysler made the change from LH to LX. Despite the bones being 15 plus years old they are both a pleasure to drive and do not feel dated at all. RTSO!