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  #1  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:15 PM
pbbth pbbth is offline
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Best car for driving in ice and snow?

Due to some amazing life changes (and a series of unfortunate events) my husband and I are preparing to move our family from NYC to a suburb of Boston in the next couple of months or so. We are doing all the things you do to get ready to move (job interviews, acquiring boxes for packing, etc.) but one of the big things we are going to have to do is buy a car.

The last time I owned a car was 7 years ago and that was in Dallas. A car's ability to handle ice and snow was about as important as whether or not it could double as a submarine so I'm not tons of familiar with how a car handles inclement weather. I've done some research on what cars are best for icy/snowy weather but the lists I've found have all talked about BMWs, Audis, and other very pricy vehicles as the best cold weather choices and we really don't want to spend that kind of money for a car. The most affordable cars we've found reviewed as good winter vehicles are the Subaru Outback and the Ford Edge. I've driven the Outback and it was okay, though nothing special, and I've never driven a Ford at all, let alone the Edge specifically.

By the time we get around to test driving and buying a vehicle it is going to be spring weather without an hint of ice or snow on the ground. I don't want to test drive something and buy it only to find out 6 months from now that it doesn't really function well on the ice. At the same time, I'm also afraid that a car salesman is going to tell me all about how awesome a car functions on the ice only to discover that the car itself doesn't matter much as long as you have the right tires or something. I'd hate to go in demanding a Subaru Outback or other specific vehicle when we could have purchased a car that is $8,000 cheaper and just put winter tires on it instead.

Before we set foot on a car lot I thought I would check here and ask if anyone has any recommendations for a car that handles winter weather well or if people can tell us if we are concerned about something that doesn't really matter at all. For those of you who currently live in snowy areas, what car do you drive and how does it handle the ice and snow? What car would you recommend for someone living in a cold weather area?
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  #2  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:20 PM
Gary T Gary T is offline
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I have a 2001 Subaru Forester. The All Wheel Drive system works splendidly.
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  #3  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:30 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Subarus are good although a little lesbian in stereotype. I live in the immediate are where you are moving and I have a 2010 Toyota Rav4 Sport 4wd. I have never had any problem whatsoever driving here even during our epic snowstorms that occurred this year. I have good all season tires but not snow tires and I don't think I have ever needed the latter.

If you want a family vehicle, most vehicles in the smaller SUV or Sport Wagon class will work. Traction control plus ABS has made driving in snow much easier than it used to be. 4wd is recommend however if you can afford it You don't need it that often but it will save your ass when you do. Most people don't use snow tires here although they certainly help. The roads get plowed very quickly during storms. It is Boston suburbia, You aren't talking about Maine or New Hampshire rural roads here. You can always get to the store in most cars and it gets warm enough during the winter during the day so that ice doesn't stay on the road for long.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 03-23-2013 at 11:33 PM..
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  #4  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:34 PM
echoreply echoreply is offline
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The best car for snow is one with good winter tires, and a driver who slows down when conditions are poor. Here in Colorado, the majority of cars which have run off the road in snowy conditions are heavy SUVs and trucks with four wheel drive. Four wheel (or all wheel) drive can be very deceptive, in that it helps a car go in slick conditions, but it doesn't help a car stop, and this leads to overconfident drivers going too fast for conditions.

A skilled, or at least disciplined, driver is probably going to be better off with four (or all) wheel drive, but I don't consider it necessary for driving in snowy conditions. I get by with a front wheel drive car and all season performance tires (worse than regular performance or all season tires). When I let the tires get bad the car was terrible in snow, but as long as the tires are good, the car is fine.
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  #5  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:35 PM
TreacherousCretin TreacherousCretin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
I have a 2001 Subaru Forester. The All Wheel Drive system works splendidly.
Subaru here too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
Subarus are good although a little lesbian in stereotype.
Here in NW Idaho (COLD snowy winters) Subarus are everywhere, and the stereotype is "liberal."
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  #6  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:45 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin View Post
Subaru here too.



Here in NW Idaho (COLD snowy winters) Subarus are everywhere, and the stereotype is "liberal."
I live where she is moving and a Subaru is like one of those hankercheif signs that you may not be part of the mainstream. I hear they excellent in the snow though. The Metrowest Boston area generally isn't that bad for snow driving because they clear the roads so quickly. I drove around it for 6 years in a 3 series BMW that was about the worst car you could have in the snow but I made it.

However, there is real risk. We had a snowstorm last week and there was ice on a stretch of I-495 South when I went to work. I didn't notice anything in my vehicle but there were 8 separate wrecks within two miles with cars that had gone into the (very wide) median or into the trees to the other side. There were 4 more within the next 10 miles. I don't think anyone got seriously hurt but some of the cars were destroyed. The only thing they had in common were that they were all just plain vanilla sedans. The rest of us in small SUV's and sport wagons didn't feel anything. We just went slower than usual.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 03-23-2013 at 11:50 PM..
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  #7  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:45 PM
Gorsnak Gorsnak is offline
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Any front-wheel drive with real winter tires is entirely adequate unless you expect to need to regularly traverse deep snow where clearance is an issue. I get by perfectly well with a Honda Fit and I live in the land of eternal winter (or so it seems at the moment).
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  #8  
Old 03-23-2013, 11:58 PM
Dano83860 Dano83860 is offline
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You need good snow tires on an all wheel drive vehicle. Stick to the big three in the US. Foreign cars can be expensive to maintain as your service options are more limited than domestic car. Chevy, Ford and Dodge all have good options. You don't need to buy new, certified used cars get you the warranty without the new car cost.
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  #9  
Old 03-24-2013, 01:25 AM
fifty-six fifty-six is offline
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Although I live in an area of Alaska that sees at least 5 months of mostly ice I am afraid I can only offer limited help as I live in a largely rural area. I share what I know and take what you want form it.

In our parts Subaru is a lesbian or hippy car. But they work great and our unusual abundance of cabs and cab companies almost exclusively use them. Our town of about 5-6k has usually 4+ Cabs on the road at any given time 24/7. Part of the reason is the price performance ratio is good and the parts availability at the local parts stores are really good due to the number on the road. Their down time is kept to a minimum.They are also roomy and can hold a good deal of luggage and other strange thing people haul about in cabs up here.

In rural areas your own skill is paramount. There are not so many cars as to have a major worry about the other drivers so much. If I was living in Anchorage I would actually spend much more effort and time outfitting myself with a great winter car. We have moose and ditches. The first thing most people put in their car up here when they get one is jumpers and towing rope. Those two thing cover most mishaps. A shovel, bucket of sand or salt gets us out of alot of other trouble.

That being said you might would be surprised at the number of ratty regular old 2 wheel drive cars that make it just fine. Even on the side roads.

Like mentioned up thread tires probably give you the most bang for your buck.
My wife drove an old Pathfinder for 12 years and it was a great car. One of the better winter handling cars I have driven. I have no idea about the newer ones. Avoid trucks till you get some experience on the ice.

Snow is easy. Ice is the problem.
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  #10  
Old 03-24-2013, 07:28 AM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Definitely having a set of winter tires is more important that specific vehicular choice, barring some sort of overpowered RWD muscle car. One secret I'm suprised everyone in snow country doesn't know is that winter tires don't cost anything-- if you get them mounted on an extra set of rims most good tire shops will change them over for free (assuming you bought them there) and every mile you put on your snows is a mile you don't put on your summer tires, so they last twice as long.

That said, there's nothing this side of $30k that performs as well as a Subaru in the snow. They used to be driven by people who really needed the AWD system and were willing to put up with their sub-par reliability and lackluster gas mileage, but those have both massively improved over the past 5 years or so to the point that they're decent choices even if you don't ever leave dry pavement.

(Also, where I am in the Northern Rockies, they're still laughed at as hippie cars, but everyone drives them. I often see deer strapped to the top of them during hunting season.)
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  #11  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:01 AM
QuickSilver QuickSilver is offline
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I'll throw in my hat with the "how you drive is more important than what you drive" crowd. A good set of winter tires (on all 4 corners!) is just as important as your winter driving skills. Good luck and let us know what car you end up getting. So we can come back and tell you that YOU CHOSE THE WRONG ONE!.
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  #12  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:28 AM
lazybratsche lazybratsche is online now
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You don't need AWD to drive in a Boston winter. I've lived and commuted from the Boston and Providence suburbs for the last several years in a little Ford Fiesta. The vast majority of people drive ordinary FWD cars. Unless you're moving somewhere that's remote and not plowed in the winters, any car is adequate.

Essentially, in a Boston winter you won't be driving on snow very often. The roads are well-plowed and salted. A few times a year, there will be big snow storms that dump 6" or more of snow in a short amount of time. After these storms, most employers and schools will cancel for a day or two until the roads are plowed. And frankly, everyone should stay off the damn roads. Lots of overconfident AWD SUV drivers decided that they can drive after a big snowstorm, and manage to get stuck on the road and block the snowplows.

In short, what you really need is practice driving in a few inches of snow, when the roads are slick but passable. Snow tires are very helpful and definitely a good idea if you can afford them. Traction control is also nice.

AWD is only helpful if you need to drive through lots of snow -- i.e. if you work in an emergency room and cannot take a day off for a big snow storm it will be useful a few days per year. The only situation where I would consider AWD necessary is if you are moving to a remote area that isn't plowed by the municipal plows. But there aren't many such areas within commuting range of Boston.

Last edited by lazybratsche; 03-24-2013 at 08:29 AM..
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  #13  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:44 AM
lazybratsche lazybratsche is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
Definitely having a set of winter tires is more important that specific vehicular choice, barring some sort of overpowered RWD muscle car. One secret I'm suprised everyone in snow country doesn't know is that winter tires don't cost anything-- if you get them mounted on an extra set of rims most good tire shops will change them over for free (assuming you bought them there) and every mile you put on your snows is a mile you don't put on your summer tires, so they last twice as long.
I was under the impression that winter tires didn't last very long, either in terms of miles or years. I was researching them recently, and off the top of my head I recall that a set of snow tires would only last for three or four winters. That's less than 20k miles, versus 60k-80k miles for the longer-lasting all season tires. So by my estimates, a $600 set of snow tires would only save $200 worth of wear on your summer tires.
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  #14  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:56 AM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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car doesn't matter. Tires matter. My little SRT Neon claws through snow while it's wearing Blizzaks.
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  #15  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:04 AM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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Originally Posted by lazybratsche View Post
I was under the impression that winter tires didn't last very long, either in terms of miles or years. I was researching them recently, and off the top of my head I recall that a set of snow tires would only last for three or four winters. That's less than 20k miles, versus 60k-80k miles for the longer-lasting all season tires. So by my estimates, a $600 set of snow tires would only save $200 worth of wear on your summer tires.
they don't; winter tires have thick tread blocs but a very soft compound. They typically don't even carry a treadwear rating. You also don't want to drive them in temperatures above 50F or they'll wear faster. But IMO it makes way more sense to have a set of winter tires on cheap wheels ready to go than worrying about what kind of car is "good in the snow."

The other key thing is that winter tires will do something that no AWD or 4WD system can do, and that is help you stop more effectively. with winters on my car, on snow-covered roads I can stop at a normal braking rate without ABS kicking in.
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  #16  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:06 AM
Bullitt Bullitt is offline
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What also matters is having the engine located over the drive wheels. That means either front engine & FWD, or mid/rear engine & RWD. AWD counts here, too. The older American front engine & RWD cars would frequently get stuck, wheels spinning, because there wasn't enough weight over the drive wheels. I used to own a Fiat X1/9, a tiny 2-seater mid-engine & RWD car. Even with all-season tires, not Blizzaks, I'd get through snow where a lot of SUV drivers were wiped out in the snowbanks.
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  #17  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:11 AM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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Originally Posted by echo7tango View Post
What also matters is having the engine located over the drive wheels. That means either front engine & FWD, or mid/rear engine & RWD. AWD counts here, too. The older American front engine & RWD cars would frequently get stuck, wheels spinning, because there wasn't enough weight over the drive wheels. I used to own a Fiat X1/9, a tiny 2-seater mid-engine & RWD car. Even with all-season tires, not Blizzaks, I'd get through snow where a lot of SUV drivers were wiped out in the snowbanks.
anecdotally, I think that's more due to SUV drivers being idiots than anything to do with tires or weight distribution.
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  #18  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:12 AM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Originally Posted by lazybratsche View Post
I was under the impression that winter tires didn't last very long, either in terms of miles or years. I was researching them recently, and off the top of my head I recall that a set of snow tires would only last for three or four winters. That's less than 20k miles, versus 60k-80k miles for the longer-lasting all season tires. So by my estimates, a $600 set of snow tires would only save $200 worth of wear on your summer tires.
With modern studless snow tires, it really depends on the climate. If the temperature stays below freezing and you do a significant amount of driving during winter conditions, they'll last a good five years/30k or so. If you get thaws and drive a lot on warm dry pavement, they won't last as long and that does tip the scales a bit.
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Old 03-24-2013, 09:16 AM
Bullitt Bullitt is offline
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Or if you live in an above/freezing, snowless area and drive a few hundred miles to your winter skiing vacation, that'll eat up those winter tires.
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  #20  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:17 AM
Count Blucher Count Blucher is offline
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I had an old Subaru & its worked great in snow. The new ones look nice too, but people tell me that they have 'belt transmissions" instead of the tried and true gear transmissions. This gets you better mileage but from what I've heard, once a belt goes, the car is *Done*.

My only issue with my old Subaru was clearance, as going down an unplowed street after a heavy snow left me beached once or twice. I actually bought an kept a flat-head shovel for the back for winter time just because of that.

I replaced that car this year with a Toyota-FJ. I like that it stands out (because its different from almost any other car on the road) that it handles bad weather really well, and it has sufficient clearance that it will never be beached. I drove through Sandy along the GSP at 8:30PM on October 29th as well as every snow storm around here since and I've never had a problem. There are lots of accessories that you can add-on, from over-head light bars to winches; you could even add a snorkle if you wanted to. (BYOV)

I'm sure that if you add front and rear armor-plated ram-bumpers, even the famed Boston rush hour would be a breeze.
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Old 03-24-2013, 09:43 AM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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Originally Posted by echo7tango View Post
Or if you live in an above/freezing, snowless area and drive a few hundred miles to your winter skiing vacation, that'll eat up those winter tires.
Ok, so what? I really don't have the energy to sit here and nitpick over contrived "But but what ifs" where winter tires might not be the optimum solution. But if someone is asking about what kind of CAR is good in the snow, it stands to reason that they live in an area which gets a non-trivial amount of snow. At which point I think it's reasonable to offer that spending a few hundred bucks on a set of winter tires which will last 3-4 seasons is better than spending a lot more than that on a specific car because someone thinks it's "good in the snow." Get the car you want, and have a set of winter tires for when they're needed. BAM, you've got a car that is good in the snow.

Tires are what connect the vehicle to the ground. Tires matter FAR more than the type of vehicle.

Last edited by jz78817; 03-24-2013 at 09:46 AM..
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  #22  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:48 AM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Originally Posted by Count Blucher View Post
I had an old Subaru & its worked great in snow. The new ones look nice too, but people tell me that they have 'belt transmissions" instead of the tried and true gear transmissions. This gets you better mileage but from what I've heard, once a belt goes, the car is *Done*.
The old Subaru Justys probably set the CVT back 20 years in the US, but the newer CVT-equipped Subarus seem to be thus far no less reliable than a conventional automatic. You can also still get everything they sell except the Tribeca with a trusty old manual.
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  #23  
Old 03-24-2013, 10:26 AM
Desert Nomad Desert Nomad is offline
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I grew up in the Lake Tahoe area and still maintain a home in the Sierras. I have a Subaru Outback and love it. Great snow car.

Last edited by Desert Nomad; 03-24-2013 at 10:26 AM..
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  #24  
Old 03-24-2013, 10:38 AM
The Surb The Surb is offline
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Stick to the big three in the US. Foreign cars can be expensive to maintain as your service options are more limited than domestic car. Chevy, Ford and Dodge all have good options.
This is so wrong. All of my four Hondas were made in Ohio. Subarus are assembled by Fuji Heavy (formerly an Isuzu plant) in Indiana. Some of the Toyota Camry's were assembled in the same plant.

The Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe were made in the same assembly plant at the NUMMI plant in California.

You may want to review your "Made In America" definition.

Back to the OP, I've never had a Subaru, but I'll echo the sentiment that there sure are a lot of them in Colorado. Someone must think they're good in the snow.

Last edited by The Surb; 03-24-2013 at 10:39 AM..
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  #25  
Old 03-24-2013, 11:07 AM
pbbth pbbth is offline
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Wow, lots of good information here! We will keep all of this in mind while we search for a car.
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  #26  
Old 03-24-2013, 11:52 AM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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A guy I know in Boston owns an R8, and he says it handles really well in bad weather conditions. He said because it is a racing car, it is designed to handle well and maintain traction while driving.

So I wonder how AWD racing cars or sports cars hold up in winter when they have good tires. I am not a winter driving expert, and wonder how the high torque and horespower would affect handling.

For anyone who is interested, TireRack is having a clearance on winter tires. The tires are discounted about 30%, plus there is a $70 rebate if you buy a set of 4.
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  #27  
Old 03-24-2013, 12:19 PM
Mdcastle Mdcastle is offline
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AWD might not be necessary, but is sure is nice. I have what Jeep calls "Quadra-Drive", which means limited slip. So if one of the wheels is hung up in snow and spinning uselessly the power is directed to the wheel that is not. Nice not just in the winter but when one of the wheels starts hydroplaning in the summer.

I've never had snow tires. I generally split the difference with "All Terrain" tires. They're marketed for people to do light off-roading, which they're capable of, but functionally they split the difference between "All Weather" (summer tires) and winter tires, so you don't have to change tires twice a year. AFIAK they only come in sizes for vehicles that can in fact off-road.

Generally:
Big tires/ high ground clearance=good, Small tires = OK
4WD / AWD= Best (part time 4WD is absolutely the best if you want to go absolutely nuts, but most people don't know when to use it correctly) ,FWD= OK, RWD= Bad
Snow tires= best, All terrain=good, standard= OK

Whether you want something more than a standard front wheel drive car with standard tires depends on how desperate you need to get out right after it snows, how well they plow the roads, if you'll trade gas mileage for better winter performance, personal preference, and such. My Jeep is extremely nice, but I'm not under any delusions that I actually *need* it. My Jeep takes premium fuel and get about 20 on the highway under ideal conditions so it's not exactly economical to drive, a Subaru wagon or a crossover might be a good compromise.

Last edited by Mdcastle; 03-24-2013 at 12:21 PM..
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  #28  
Old 03-24-2013, 01:23 PM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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It's not the car, it's the driver.


YOU need to learn how to drive on ice and snow. Having AWD or big nobby tires or some huge thing that looks like a tank will do nothing if you don't drive properly for the conditions.

SLOW and STEADY.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:04 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
That said, there's nothing this side of $30k that performs as well as a Subaru in the snow. They used to be driven by people who really needed the AWD system and were willing to put up with their sub-par reliability and lackluster gas mileage, but those have both massively improved over the past 5 years or so to the point that they're decent choices even if you don't ever leave dry pavement.
I'm not sure what you mean about "sub-par reliability": With the exception of a few low end models and the SVX grand tourer back in the early 'Nineties, Subaru has consistently ranked at the top of reliability and total cost of ownership. Subaru models as a rule have ranked at the top of crash test ratings as well, which is another consideration, albeit one you hope never has to be used, for driving in inclement weather. (You may be able to control your own driving, but you can't account for the idiot who blows down an icy highway at 80 mph in his Firebird.) Gas mileage on Subarus, however, is unimpressive given engine displacement and car weight.

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Originally Posted by Count Blucher View Post
I had an old Subaru & its worked great in snow. The new ones look nice too, but people tell me that they have 'belt transmissions" instead of the tried and true gear transmissions. This gets you better mileage but from what I've heard, once a belt goes, the car is *Done*.
Please make the effort to understand what you are talking about before offering a poorly-informed opinion based upon what "people tell me". What you are talking about with 'belt transmissions' is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which uses a flexible belt and conical sheeves which allow the transmission ratio (the ratio between the engine speed and the rotation speed of the tires) to vary in order to maintain engine speed in the optimum range for efficiency or power. This differs from clutch-driven synchromesh "manual" transmissions, or planetary gear style "automatic" transmissions; however, most Subarus with exception of a couple of models use one of these types of transmission rather than a CVT. Early CVTs on all makes of vehicles had various reliability problems, often related to the belt or sheeves, but these issues have been mostly resolved in modern CVT. If the belt were to fail, it can be replaced just like a clutch in a manual transmission, or a torque converter in a planetary-style automatic. This is obviously a major, >US$1000 repair, but the car is not "*Done*".

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Originally Posted by Zebra View Post
It's not the car, it's the driver.

YOU need to learn how to drive on ice and snow. Having AWD or big nobby tires or some huge thing that looks like a tank will do nothing if you don't drive properly for the conditions.

SLOW and STEADY.
This is absolutely true, and should be kept in mind; while all wheel drive and snow tires or chains can help improve performance in inclement conditions, the true safety is with the operator driving within both their own and the car's capabilities. Too many people throw on snow tires and then drive like they are on dry pavement, ignoring the fact that while the tires may give some additional traction, if you lose grip you are still going to slide.

That being said, I've driven an Subaru AWD through icy and snowy mountain passes with just all-weather high performance radial tires (chains for backup, but I've never used them) with no problems, just being cautious and measured in my driving. Personally, I think the Subaru AWD system is one of the better ones out there (along with the Audi quattro Gen IV and newer and the Ford system used on the Fusion. AWD certainly does help with maintaining and regaining traction authority even without a traction control system. But no traction system or tire is going to magically stop your car if you get into a free slide on black ice; the only solution is not to get yourself in that situation to begin with by driving with appropriate caution.

Stranger

Last edited by Stranger On A Train; 03-24-2013 at 02:07 PM..
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  #30  
Old 03-24-2013, 02:11 PM
onemind onemind is offline
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I am on my third Forester (first two destroyed in Sandy) I guess I'm a lesbian.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:23 PM
Minnie Luna Minnie Luna is offline
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Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
A guy I know in Boston owns an R8, and he says it handles really well in bad weather conditions. He said because it is a racing car, it is designed to handle well and maintain traction while driving.

So I wonder how AWD racing cars or sports cars hold up in winter when they have good tires. I am not a winter driving expert, and wonder how the high torque and horespower would affect handling.
We have an Audi S4. It is amazing in snowy conditions. I would say it is better than some AWD SUV's I've driven.
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Old 03-24-2013, 02:27 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is offline
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We drive in Calgary all winter on a Toyota Corolla and a Ford Mustang - both with snow tires. And about 100 years of driving winter experience between the two of us.
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  #33  
Old 03-24-2013, 02:38 PM
chela chela is offline
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But when you've see the things I've seen...

it can change a man

QUATTRO!!

Ripping it up, making the snow fly, quattro owns the road.

Last edited by chela; 03-24-2013 at 02:40 PM.. Reason: i think it's mocking me
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  #34  
Old 03-24-2013, 02:50 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is offline
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
I'm not sure what you mean about "sub-par reliability": With the exception of a few low end models and the SVX grand tourer back in the early 'Nineties, Subaru has consistently ranked at the top of reliability and total cost of ownership.
I don't know if there's any way to find old car reliability ratings, but I think you are misremembering.

Subaru certainly had a reputation for reliability, largely due to riding the coat tails of the other Japanese makes and their highly vocal apologist owners*, but that was not actually reflected in the reliability figures at the time. They were roughly on the level of the big 3 in those days-- they certainly made some okay cars, but they also had occasional serious and persistant internal engine problems all through the 80's and 90's, into the early 2000's. Not just on obscure models either, but on the flat-4 workhorses that were in the bulk of their cars.

(*I've seriously had someone tell me how great their old 80's Subie was because it made it to 250,000 miles.... on three engines and about five head gasket replacements.)
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  #35  
Old 03-24-2013, 02:52 PM
TreacherousCretin TreacherousCretin is offline
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Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
Definitely having a set of winter tires is more important that specific vehicular choice, barring some sort of overpowered RWD muscle car. One secret I'm suprised everyone in snow country doesn't know is that winter tires don't cost anything-- if you get them mounted on an extra set of rims most good tire shops will change them over for free (assuming you bought them there) and every mile you put on your snows is a mile you don't put on your summer tires, so they last twice as long.

That said, there's nothing this side of $30k that performs as well as a Subaru in the snow. They used to be driven by people who really needed the AWD system and were willing to put up with their sub-par reliability and lackluster gas mileage, but those have both massively improved over the past 5 years or so to the point that they're decent choices even if you don't ever leave dry pavement.

(Also, where I am in the Northern Rockies, they're still laughed at as hippie cars, but everyone drives them. I often see deer strapped to the top of them during hunting season.)
The only thing I would quibble with is your comment about older Subaru's "sub-par reliability."
For 30 years my wife and I drove Toyotas (2WD truck, 4WD trucks, 4WD 4-Runner, Camry) and we always swore we'd never consider any other brand. But eight years ago we moved up here to NW Idaho, and needed an AWD "station wagon" (what are they called nowdays?). Subaru was the obvious choice, and "everybody else" was driving them, so we got a three-year old 2002 Outback. Eight years later, that car has proven to be just as dependable and trouble-free as our revered Toyotas. The handful of Sub owners I've spoken to report similar satisfaction. And although I do not have complete faith in Consumer Reports (far from it, in fact), IF I remember correctly they've usually rated the 21st-century Sub's reliability as being very close to Toyota's and Honda's.
Of course, my opinions are not facts, and I reserve the right to be wrong.

Last edited by TreacherousCretin; 03-24-2013 at 02:53 PM.. Reason: typo error
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  #36  
Old 03-24-2013, 03:36 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chela View Post
it can change a man

QUATTRO!!

Ripping it up, making the snow fly, quattro owns the road.
I spent the 11 years before moving to Oregon in Alaska. During that time I owned two Wranglers, a Honda CR-V, a Chrysler 300 AWD and a Saturn Vue SUV. They were all fine, but then much of that was in how I drive and the rubber. But I have to say that my colleague's Audi Quattro wagon put them all to shame. I've never ridden in a car that treated snow as if it wasn't there. I think he had Blizzak tires on it, but still. . .the goddamn thing cornered like it was on rails.
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  #37  
Old 03-24-2013, 07:25 PM
Declan Declan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pbbth View Post
Before we set foot on a car lot I thought I would check here and ask if anyone has any recommendations for a car that handles winter weather well or if people can tell us if we are concerned about something that doesn't really matter at all. For those of you who currently live in snowy areas, what car do you drive and how does it handle the ice and snow? What car would you recommend for someone living in a cold weather area?
I live about 50 miles north of Toronto, and weather goes year by year. Some winters are mild, and others are interesting. I would say to start with canvass your neighbors for information on snow clearance. In my neck of the woods, the primary highway and secondaries get plowed or bladed depending on snowfall, on a regular basis. The tertiary and side roads might not get plowed for up to about 12ish hours, again depending on snowfall.

In practice, that means that while you can drive on the road, getting out of your drive way and then getting out of your street is not possible in some storms. This for vehicles with a really low ground clearance. So for me, it would boil down to , is your commute pretty much urban, in which case I would get a car with all weather tires, or a highway commute, in which case an SUV would be my choice, (I drive a ford escape) with snow tires, and chains if legal, just in case.

Boston drivers on the other hand are somewhat legendary, from what we have heard and may have to be taken into account as well, for winter hazards.

Declan
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  #38  
Old 03-24-2013, 07:37 PM
Tapiotar Tapiotar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin View Post
Subaru here too.

Here in NW Idaho (COLD snowy winters) Subarus are everywhere, and the stereotype is "liberal."
Another very happy Subaru Forester owner. I've driven on mountain roads in the west through snow 8 inches deep with it, no problems. It's perfect on the steep snowy and icy roads in Upstate New York, too, where it is practically the state vehicle. I've heard that said about Vermont, as well.
I haven't heard the lesbian stereotype about Subaru drivers in about 8 years or so. Outmoded, I think.

As someone said above, a driver with snow and ice experience, who doesn't drive too fast for road conditions, most important. So take a winter driving class when winter comes round again, and good luck with your move.
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  #39  
Old 03-24-2013, 07:59 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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I've lived in New England all my life, greater Boston area most of the time and AWD certainly isn't needed. Good tires, patience, and some good driving skills will certainly be sufficient to get by. Occasionally it's nice to have 4WD for pulling into or out of a snowfilled parking spot or going up a nasty hill, and on rare occasions the extra ground clearance comes in handy.

I have a Subaru Outback but I spend a lot of time in northern New England skiing and hiking so I use the AWD and ground clearance fairly often. But for years I drove a Honda Accord and a Saturn SW2 in Boston and NH without problems.
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  #40  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:11 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
they don't; winter tires have thick tread blocs but a very soft compound. They typically don't even carry a treadwear rating. You also don't want to drive them in temperatures above 50F or they'll wear faster. But IMO it makes way more sense to have a set of winter tires on cheap wheels ready to go than worrying about what kind of car is "good in the snow."

The other key thing is that winter tires will do something that no AWD or 4WD system can do, and that is help you stop more effectively. with winters on my car, on snow-covered roads I can stop at a normal braking rate without ABS kicking in.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
anecdotally, I think that's more due to SUV drivers being idiots than anything to do with tires or weight distribution.
I emphasize: AWD or 4WD will not help you stop. AWD will help you move forward under certain conditions.

Therefore AWD will not make your ride safer. That quality is dependent upon proper driving.

Admittedly antilock brakes will help you stop, but even that requires some skill to use effectively.
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  #41  
Old 03-24-2013, 08:24 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is offline
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My Subaru Outback is a '96 Legacy, and I'm extremely happy with the way it handled this winter.

Don't know a thing about stereotypes in this area, though....
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  #42  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:31 PM
Kiros Kiros is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
I've lived in New England all my life, greater Boston area most of the time and AWD certainly isn't needed. Good tires, patience, and some good driving skills will certainly be sufficient to get by. Occasionally it's nice to have 4WD for pulling into or out of a snowfilled parking spot or going up a nasty hill, and on rare occasions the extra ground clearance comes in handy.

I have a Subaru Outback but I spend a lot of time in northern New England skiing and hiking so I use the AWD and ground clearance fairly often. But for years I drove a Honda Accord and a Saturn SW2 in Boston and NH without problems.
Quoting this one 'cause it was nice and convenient near the bottom of the thread, but several other people have come up with the same sort of wisdom, and I'll say it again: there is absolutely no need for a SUV or other large car if one otherwise wouldn't fit your driving needs. If you have other reasons to get one, sure, it can help a little bit, but don't think that just because you get a $16k compact instead of a $30k SUV you're dooming yourself and your loved ones to an icy death. I have spent most of my driving life in suburban-or-less-plowed New England, and all of it with small cars: Saturn SL2, Toyota Yaris, and my wife's Corolla. I've had one minor weather related issue, and the root cause wasn't the tiny car, it was "seventeen years old and driving like an idiot".

Drive slowly, make sure you have at an absolute minimum all-seasons with healthy treads (and winter tires are a definite plus, and as others have mentioned, not much more expensive), let the plows do their job before you get in their way, and drive slowly. Anecdotally I would say that overconfidence is what causes the most accidents, whether that's because someone has lived with the snow their whole life and believes they're skilled enough that the rules don't apply to them, or whether someone thinks that driving whichever new SUV is approaching the size of a M1 Abrams will let them ignore the laws of physics.

New England drivers are just as terrible as drivers everywhere else, and millions of us make it through each winter unharmed. That you're even thinking to ask about it and will consider the responses means you'll be fine!
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  #43  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:32 PM
gigi gigi is offline
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I'd kill for a Subaru in these conditions -- up here it's just part of the LLBean Merrill NorthFace skiing biking rich but make it look casual stereotype.
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  #44  
Old 03-24-2013, 09:50 PM
Precambrianmollusc Precambrianmollusc is offline
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How do you spot someone from Colorado?
They are driving a $3,000 Subaru with a $5,000 mountain bike on the roof.

I live in a Utah ski town and can reccomend a Subaru Outback, I have all season M+S rated tyres ( so not snow specific tyres thet need to be changed in spring) and they work fine in the storms we get. The CVT seams reliable and gets 30+ on the highways. The increased ground clearance that came with the 2012 model is also good.
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  #45  
Old 03-25-2013, 03:35 PM
Phrozen Phrozen is offline
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Living in interior Alaska, I can vouch for the winter reliability of Subarus. Here, aside from pickup trucks and larger truck-style SUVs, Subarus are probably the most common car on the roads.

But whatever car you buy, get good tires, learn to drive on ice, and SLOW DOWN.
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  #46  
Old 03-25-2013, 04:11 PM
HipGnosis HipGnosis is offline
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I'll just add that if you look, many cars now have an all wheel drive version that didn't use to.
For examples:
Honda Accord (Crossover)
Ford Taurus
And this;
kbb.com top-10-winter-cars-2013/
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  #47  
Old 03-25-2013, 06:24 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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Having just driven in a snowstorm last night I can fully say do not get a Lincoln Town Car. They are RWD, which means they get no traction. I couldn't even drive up a hill. Minivans and economy cars were passing me while I was stuck, so the car does matter. I don't have winter tires.
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  #48  
Old 03-25-2013, 06:28 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
I don't have winter tires.
You've identified the problem, and it's not the car. Lincoln Town Cars work fine in the snow with the proper tires. You can drive in the snow with RWD, a Town Car is plenty heavy enough to have traction on the drive wheels with good tires.
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  #49  
Old 03-25-2013, 06:34 PM
Gorsnak Gorsnak is offline
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It can't be emphasized enough. Tires, tires, tires. My Honda Fit with Nokians performs better in ice and snow than my previous ride - a Subaru Legacy with all seasons.
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  #50  
Old 03-25-2013, 06:43 PM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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Originally Posted by Gorsnak View Post
It can't be emphasized enough. Tires, tires, tires. My Honda Fit with Nokians performs better in ice and snow than my previous ride - a Subaru Legacy with all seasons.
But, but, but, I want a Subaru so I can be different like all those other people.

I don't get it. people will sit there and obsess over a multi-thousand-dollar car because one might be "better in snow" yet balk at a few hundred bucks for proper winter tires. talk about "penny wise, dollar fucking stupid."

Last edited by jz78817; 03-25-2013 at 06:46 PM..
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