The popularity of the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concept cars at the North American International Auto Show are proof that rear-wheel drive is rolling again.
It seemed like an aberration that the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, Dodge Charger and Ford Mustang rear-drive models were runaway successes.
After all, for the last 30 years everything in America has been moving toward front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, especially in the Snow Belt. Only luxury cars and sporty European models could get away with using rear-wheel drive, which is generally conceded to deliver much better performance on dry roads than front drive or all-wheel drive.
But now, thanks to technology that enhances the handling capabilities of rear-wheel-drive vehicles on good or bad road surfaces, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are each looking for new segments in which to use their rear-drive platforms.
GM can expand on its rear-drive architectures to include not only the Camaro but also new mid-sized sedans. The Pontiac Solstice and Cadillac CTS use rear-drive architectures. And as Chrysler demonstrated at the Detroit auto show, the Chrysler 300 platform can be shortened to handle the Challenger or lengthened to accommodate a vehicle as big and bulky as the Imperial concept.
The result is likely to be a bumper crop of good, old-fashioned rear-drive cars.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]