Every neighborhood has one. The guy with the monstrous SUV and a driveway covered in ice. No matter how shiny their brand new snow-blower is (they usually have a snowblower), when the white stuff starts to accumulate, they hop in their Suburban, step on the gas, and let the 4-wheel drive do the rest. The machine specifically designed to clear driveways never even gets primed — why let your hands freeze pushing that contraption around when your SUV isn’t even really stuck?
Why do you need winter tires? The fast answer is handling. Well-designed winter tires have deeper treads than summer or all-season tires. (The latter, by the way, are really three-season tires if you live in the snow belt.)
Winter tires’ deeper treads help them deal with snow and the icy precipitation that creates slush. An interesting side benefit of winter tires is that they improve traction by packing snow in those treads for better grip on snow.
Also, winter tires are designed with tiny slits in the treads (or as Bridgestone calls them “snipes”). These provide biting edges on ice that help with acceleration, deceleration, and stopping.
Winter has set in across the United States, which is something of which the people of upstate New York need no reminder.
When winter snow and ice make their annual return, websites like to give advice on how to deal with the effects on cars. Advice on everything from driving through blizzards to de-icing your car with onions can be found with a simple Google search.
Some of the advice, though, is just dumb and you’d be better off using some common sense instead of random produce.
For the first 10 or so years of my winter driving career, my cars were equipped with nothing more than a slow-working heater and, maybe, a rear defroster.
That made for some cold driving experiences and often required some extra time outside scraping the windows clear before hunkering down in the driver’s seat wearing a down coat and puffy gloves. (It’s amazing what a 10-degree snowy night will do to a car!)
In the years since, I’ve moved up in the world to the point where I now have a garage, which I believe is the most essential piece of the winter driving puzzle. Incredible inventions, those garages. I also discovered heated seats, which back in the day I would have said I would never need. Now I can never not have them.
I was reminded of all this while reading a piece on MSN called “5 Techie Features for Winter Driving.” Are these overkill, pointless gadgets or the next things we won’t be able to live without? Read on and leave your opinion!
I’ve driven a lot of cars in the snow and am surprised at how much difference I’ve seen even in vehicles that otherwise are comparable to each other.
As winter begins to set in across the country, we figure it’s a good time to create a list of the best cars, trucks and SUVs for plowing through deep snow and easing over slippery ice. Here are my top ten, but feel free to drop a comment and let us know what you drive in the snow and how it does.
Throw any weather situation at either of these Toyotas and you’ll make it through just fine.
Audi A6 Quattro
I had a boss once who loved his A6 so much he’d take me out on snowy mornings and speed through the twisties, trying to make his car come unstuck. He succeeded only once, and broke an axle for the effort.
I chose this over the Pilot because it’s lighter. The Pilot gets a little top-heavy, which makes going down icy hills a heart-racing experience, while the smaller CR-V crawls easily to the bottom.
A low center of gravity and all-wheel drive combine to make the Forester a winner in the snow and cold.
If you’ve got a hard top and doors on your Wrangler, nothing should stop you from reaching the top of the mountain.
Lots of ground clearance, lots of weight, but a low center of gravity make the AWD version of the XC90 a great winter car.
Being a 2,500-pound small car, this thing stays planted. And with the ability to choose AWD or lock it into 4WD, the SX4 is a great commuter car for snowy highways. Just don’t take it on the trails.
As long as you’re not running low-profile 18-inch summer tires, this little Lexus will serve you well through any winter storm.
This is for those who want a little extra flashiness in the their snowy commutes, plus the added benefit of the residual heating function, which will keep the Cayenne heated for up to 20 minutes after shutting the engine off.
BMW 328i xDrive
With dynamic stability control and intelligent all-wheel drive, what else do you need in a winter car? Oh… headlamp washers? Okay, you get those, too.
What do you drive in the snow?
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