It seems like every year someone posts a message asking about how to make
their 2WD car make it through the snows of winter, how much snow tires help,
and the discussion veers to the supposed benefits of AWD vs. 2WD (front or
rear) in such conditions. (Somebody trying to justify their purchase of an
Anyway, so here comes the March 2006 issue of Road & Track, page 71. R&T has
done testing of summer tire, all-season tire, and snow tire equipped cars in
summer/winter conditions. There opinion is credible. Here is what they say
as part of a comparison test of mid-size all-wheel drive sedans:
"Which is better, one of our AWD competitors on all-season tires, or its
front- or rear-drive counterparts on dedicated summer or winter rubber?
Summer is a close call; but winter isn't. All-wheel drive has its benefits,
but not the 28-30 percent offered by dedicated snow tires. And AWD won't
help at all when it comes to stopping in snow. Of course, the best choice
for winter conditions is all-wheel drive and snow tires."
The 28-30% figure comes from comparison testing of all-season and winter
tires on snow - snows are 28-30% better.
I come away pleased from this as it confirms my experience in driving a 2000
Yukon XL AWD with all-seasons and now a '92 LS400 on winter rubber through
Michigan winters. I felt the LS was doing every bit as well and even thought
it might be doing a wee bit better in all but very deep (say, 10") snow, but
the latter seemed counter-intuitive.
Just wanted to make sure this gets into the Google memory banks in time for
All things being equal 4WD will be better than FWD will be better than RWD
and snow tyres will do better than regular road tyres.
IMHO essential for any winter driving is ABS, and if you do have a RWD BMW
get one with snow mode on the gearbox.
My experience is contrary to your. In emergency stopping situations the
ABS works well in snow or slippery conditions. It can be disconcerting
until you get used to how it works, but it does allow the maximum
available braking while still maintaining steerage.
Yeah mine does too. It's called 3rd gear (it's a manual trans) ;-)
The problem with ABS in snow or icy conditions, with varying levels of grip,
is that it does not allow different braking techniques to be used in line
with how much grip there is at any particular moment.
At times it may be better to lock the wheels to slow down or stop At other
times, it might be better to cadence brake. Varying the rate to give the
IMO and experience, basic ABS is not sensitive enough in very slippery
conditions. It doesn't give any feel to the brakes. They're either on or
off, with virtually nothing in between.
I'm not against ABS per se. It's made a good contribution to road safety. I
just wish sometimes that I was able to switch it on and off as required in
the winter months, without pulling the fuse.
It seems to me, and from my experience, the ABS is actually able to
react to the varying traction conditions much faster under these
conditions than even the most adept human driver. In dry road
conditions I think that your analysis may be correct...
My experience tell me the opposite.
If there is any grip, ABS is fine, and does react very quickly.
It doesn't cope very well if grip is very low, or almost non existant.
In such conditions IME, driver controlled braking can be more effective.
It is never better to lock up your brakes on any surface except, maybe,
loose gravel where a plow effect can come into play. Lock 'em up on any hard
surface and you will increase your braking distance and also loose steering
control. A very good driver on the right surface may be able to beat an ABS
car's stopping distance by constantly holding the tires on the verge of lock
up. But there are few such talented people around.
The only conditions where ABS iis counter-indicative is deep fresh snow
(rare) or pebbles.
From first hand practical experience it is, although an experienced driver
with a a manual box wuold do quite well by comparison. OTOH even a top rank
rally driver would be likely to better anything but a novice with ABS on wet
/ icy roads.
What is "snow mode"? Some kind of automatic tranny thing where the car
starts in 2nd gear? I just have traction control on our LS400 and
never have any trouble (with snow tires mounted).
I find that the combination of snow tires and traction control on a RWD
car (unless it is ridiculously nose heavy, like say an original
Hemi-Cuda) results in no worries in any amount of snow that your car
can go over and not turn into a plow.
R. Mark Clayton wrote:
Mark, Mark, Mark... we've been through this before.
All things are *never* equal, and that is the real point here.
For one thing, when was the last time you saw a 4WD or AWD vehicle
equipped with *real* winter tires? Where I live (Northern New England)
people with 4WD or AWD just fit them with all-season tires year round.
Why? beats me... but that is exactly what they do. Maybe they figure
(like you) that because the AWD provides superior acceleration in the
snow they will not need them. Well, as GRL's evidence supports, they
are just wrong. Dead wrong. Stupidly dead wrong.
Case in point: It happens to be snowing like gangbusters here today.
10"+ of fresh. The plows (being a Sunday) are not making too much
effort to get things cleared up and not too many people are heading out.
Probably mostly due to the news reports, stirring up paranoia, etc.
Well I needed to get to the pharmacy, so passing up the AWD SUV (It is
my boat hauling machine) equipped with all-season tires and I jumped
into my E36 325i with the Michelin Arctic Alpins mounted. Needless to
say it went through the snow with NO problem whatsoever and I got the
required meds. And yes, I feel much better now ;-)
Of course, on the way I passed some fool in the ditch on the side of the
road being assisted by the local cops and winched out by a tow truck.
Oh yeah... it was one of those cute 4WD mini-SUVs. Want to guess what
kind of tires it had on it?
So that is the point that GRL is making, and the same one I have made
numerous times before. A RWD BMW with Snow tires is better than ANY
other vehicle (FWD, AWD, 4WD, or obviously RWD) with "all-season" tires
I live in England UK, and fortuitously it snows not a lot.
1963 when I lived in Scotland we had maybe -25C & 15cm snow ... worst winter
in my lifetime (in UK), but OTOH no 4WD BMW's then.
Maybe us Brits should duck out of discussions of winter driving in the
perhaps so... less than 6 inches is a "dusting" by our standards in the
Northeast. OTOH, it's enough to cripple some of our more southern
cities (where incidentally they do not believe in winter tires)
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