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What vehicle for snowy driving?
Old 01-07-2019, 12:18 PM   #1
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What vehicle for snowy driving?

This must be "Car Talk Monday" or something- -- currently, I see my two threads, this one included, and the windshield one.

I'm looking for vehicle recs for snowy driving.

Person has never driven in snow (mere flurries here shut the city down for days).

Person currently has a sedan and is considering a small SUV (Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX5, etc) thinking it's probably safer than a sedan.

Also looking for recs on 2wd vs AWD vs 4WD and anything else I don't know about for snow. ("Snow" meaning Chicago, Maryland, places like that)

Having never driven in snow, DH and I can offer no advice so I'm turning to my internet friends for opinions.
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What vehicle for snowy driving?
Old 01-07-2019, 12:29 PM   #2
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What vehicle for snowy driving?

Jeep Grand Cherokee with a v8 and full time 4wd
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:29 PM   #3
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I'm partial to my GMC 4WD pickup truck. It seems the thing will darn near climb a telephone pole but I haven't actually tried it. I know for a fact that it will go in 2.5 feet of snow because I've done it, but that was definitely pushing the envelope.

The downside of something like that (and probably any 4WD vehicle) is that it doesn't stop worth a darn in the snow. In part because of the extra running gear for 4WD the thing weighs 5,200 lbs. empty and that mass simply will not come to a sudden stop in the snow or even wet roads. This means the driver has to be mentally "ahead of the vehicle" in snow and anticipating stops, and leaving much more distance between you and the vehicle you're following.

The takaway with 4WD is that "It goes great in snow. It doesn't stop worth a damn." People who forget that are the ones who end up in ditches.
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:42 PM   #4
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Four good snow tires will already go a long way to safely drive on snow even with a 2WD car. I was recently shopping for a 4WD though and the final contenders were the Mazda CX-5, the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, the Subaru Outback, and the Audi A3 Quattro. I went for the Quattro (purely because it was the most fun to drive). But even with 4WD, the first thing I did was to have 4 new snow tires installed.
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:44 PM   #5
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Yep, good tires first than AWD.
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:45 PM   #6
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:47 PM   #7
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Love my new Jeep Cherokee, previous Liberty and another Cherokee before that. With the 4WD system and locking differential it will way outperform AWD systems from Honda, Toyota & Subaru. To be fair, if its only snow on good roads Subaru AWD would be adequate. I like the look of the Mazda and would have went with it except its underpowered (towing capacity) and not really good for offroad excursions. But it drove well on sunny, dry roads when I tested it.
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:52 PM   #8
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Good tires are the #1 factor. Depending on where exactly you are talking, you could go with all season tires, or get some steel rims and dedicated snow tires like Blizzaks. The latter would be for some place where there quite often is snow to deal with, rather than an occasional snow, because they aren't all that good on dry pavement, I'm told. Anyway, get good tires, and replace them before the tread wears too much.

I like my Subaru a lot for snow. I think it's a bit better than the CRV and Pilot I've had in the past. I especially like the X-mode on snowy/icy downhills. The Crosstek would be a good small SUV (higher clearance than the Impreza, or Outback or Forester if you want larger.

Bigger trucks probably do better, if that's what you want.
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Old 01-07-2019, 12:57 PM   #9
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An awd car or small awd SUV will do what you want. Second the recommendation for good snow tires can make a big difference. But unless you live in real cold, and get serious winter, snow tires are not good if temps are over 50 degrees, they will wear fast. So some decent M&S rated all season tires on an awd vehicle will get you where you want to go, even in Chicago or Maryland. Not as good as dedicated snow tires, but you will not have to change the tires out with the change of seasons.



I am not sure a smaller SUV or a sedan is any safer than the other. A larger vehicle is typically safer than smaller.


As to if fwd, awd or 4x4? A fwd with good tires will go a lot of places. AWD will get you more and less chance of getting/being stuck. The beauty of most awd is they run as fwd until they detect slipping and then kick in the awd seamlessly and without any direct driver input. It's all automatic. A 4x4 is usually where the driver will need to put the vehicle into 4wd. Most newer 4x4 have a mode where you can drive in 4wd without being locked transfer case to allow better driving and still have the 4wd when needed. True off-road 4x4 have a low range in the transfer case that is for low speed real off road conditions and the transfer case is locked.


One big point - just because you have awd or 4wd, that gets you going better. But it does not allow you to turn or stop any faster. So you still need to drive with care and have caution for any fast acceleration, braking, or turning.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:03 PM   #10
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We get a lot of snow(100"?) in good years . The vehicles most used around here are: Jeep Wrangler, Toyota FJ(used), Subaru(any model), and 4x4 pickups. We own a 2d Wrangler and a GMC 1500 4x4.

AWD is good for some conditions and easy to use, make sure you rotate your tires. I believe 4x4 is the better for the absolute worst conditions. If you get in heavy snow your tires will matter at some depth, so will ground clearance.

Any vehicle that goes has to stop, you get a little braking from the engine but your brakes don't stop as well. If you get in ice a 4x4 can slide really well! If you get in an ice storm, park your vehicle.

First snow go to a big empty parking lot and play around. You don't want your first experience to be real.

We just had snow for the last ~36 hours.
This morning I took the Wrangler to pick up breakfast, there was about a foot that wasn't plowed. No problem with traction but there were a few deep ruts that throw it around a bit. No big deal till you get thrown off the road.

One big thing is vision! When it's grey, snowy and still snowing it's a challenge. One issue I've seen is people who are very courteous and give the road up to other vehicles. They end up in the ditch, or worse.

We keep yak trac, tow strap, shovel, jumpers, blanket, and water in the vehicle. Boots and proper clothes for winter and a phone. Good luck.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:19 PM   #11
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I agree with a medium suv with awd. I have a Chevy Equinox with awd. That thing will get through just about anything. So far, for me, it has gotten through everything. I live in southeast Michigan. We had a really bad snow a few years ago. Many vehicles were having trouble getting up a freeway ramp that had basically iced over (packed slick snow). I went slow and got through with no problem.

Of course, I’d rather have had my 4x4 full size pickup with aggressive tires, but the mid size suv with awd will do the job very well. Not sure about snow tires. I’m too cheap to get them and don’t have the space to store them. I get good all season tires and they work well. FWIW, you can get all season tires that are better rated for the snow. The last ones I bought were rated almost as good as snow tires. I’m guessing the compound is softer and you give up some mileage, but they do work well for me.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:21 PM   #12
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:26 PM   #13
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Given the avg driver (not a car person) my recs are:

SUVs are easier to get in/out of than a sedan. Better driving visibility.

Newer AWDs are pretty good in snow and some ice. The downside is even if you rotate tires periodically if you damage one tire (sidewall puncture etc), most likely you'll be (forced to) replacing all four or burn up the drivetrain long term. The upside is you don't have to keep a spare set of snow-tires/wheels for winter use and deal with swapping them out. So pros and cons.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:35 PM   #14
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Dedicated winter tires help you stop and turn. Those things are important.
Modern winter tires aren't just about deep snow. They use specialized compounds that improve traction on ice and packed snow.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:38 PM   #15
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Jeep Grand Cherokee with a v8 and full time 4wd
+1; and 4x4 Gr Cherokee with V6 is also very good for snowy roads.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:40 PM   #16
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Dedicated winter tires help you stop and turn. Those things are important.
Modern winter tires aren't just about deep snow. They use specialized compounds that improve traction on ice and packed snow.
+1 Winter tires are 100X more effective than vehicle choice. I spent 8 winters with a RWD BMW and never had an issue. Blizzaks or Hakkas make all the difference.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:57 PM   #17
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i have a lifted forester with studded snow tires and it's bulletproof in ice/snow (so far)
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:59 PM   #18
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Dedicated winter tires help you stop and turn. Those things are important.
Modern winter tires aren't just about deep snow. They use specialized compounds that improve traction on ice and packed snow.
I agree with this too. However, based on the fact OP metioned that some flurries shutdown the city makes me think winter tires would be overkill and an AWDs with traction control can handle the basic garden variety snow/rain etc really well these days.
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Old 01-07-2019, 02:07 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dvalley View Post
I agree with this too. However, based on the fact OP metioned that some flurries shutdown the city makes me think winter tires would be overkill and an AWDs with traction control can handle the basic garden variety snow/rain etc really well these days.
I'm guessing the OP is not asking for themself or at least not for their current area, but it's tough to say since they are being unnecessarily vague.
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Old 01-07-2019, 02:10 PM   #20
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if it's just for scooting around in a light snow, subaru with all seasons would work.

I'm actually running all seasons now....

We had about 8 inches a few weeks ago and I went out in the all seasons just to test it out - no issues!
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