Cars for the rest of us.

Man up, Sissies

Oct 21, 10 • by Craig Fitzgerald • New Cars, Tires2 CommentsRead More »

I’m driving a 2011 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. I’ll post more about it in the coming days. The comment I’ve heard thus far: “Nice car, but you can’t drive it in the snow.”

Really? When did we all become a bunch of old ladies?

In 1978, my dad drove his ’76 Camaro home from the Burlington Mall during the worst blizzard to hit the region. Did he run out the next day and buy an International Scout? No. He drove that car for the next seven winters, until I took the car and drove it through snowstorms and crappy weather until I finally wrecked it during the summer.

People now have the belief that if you even attempt to start a rear drive car in the snow, you will immediately explode, or that a meteor will strike you.

My wife and I own two rear-drive cars at the moment, a 2002 BMW 5-Series wagon, and my trusty 1983 Pontiac Parisienne. Both are shod with four aggressive snow tires in the winter months.

I’ve driven both cars — while it was snowing — west on Route 9 into southern Vermont. With packed snow on the road surface, both cars capably and comfortably scaled Hogback Mountain and neither has ever left me stranded beside the road.

My experience with front-wheel drive, on the other hand, has been less than stellar. I never felt comfortable driving my Saab 900 in the snow, and I remember a horrible white-knuckle drive on the Mass Pike in our 2001 VW Jetta wagon that convinced us to eventually sell the car.

I do remember one experience, though, while scaling Route 7 in Sunderland, Vermont. I was driving my $1,500 Saab rather capably in a snowstorm. In the climbing lane was a new Subaru Forester; so new, in fact, that it still had its paper temporary license tag.

As I eased out into the passing lane with my snow tires mounted on steel wheels, the all-wheel drive Forester with its factory equipped “All-Season” tires was crab-walking up the hill, unable to maintain any traction on the snowy road surface. Lesson to Subaru Guy: You’d have been better off investing in snow tires.

Back to the Mustang: Ford has invested a lot in developing its AdvaceTrac system, with both traction control, stability control and an a neat “Sport” mode that allows a little more wheelspin and more yaw movement so you can drift the car a bit without getting too far out of control.

I’m sure those big P235/50ZR18 A/S Pirelli PZero Neros aren’t going to get you 20 feet out of the driveway, but a quick look at Tire Rack reveals that a set of 17″ Firestone Altimax Arctic studded snow tires, along with a full set of alloy wheels, runs about $968 shipped to your door. Those tires would make the Mustang claw through the winter at least as well as any front drive car on the market. You should be running snows on a front drive car anyway, so what’s the difference?

Let’s man up and embrace rear drive for its advantages, provided we’re willing to buy the set of snow tires we should be buying anyway.

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2 Responses to Man up, Sissies

  1. Timothy Wade says:

    I have to say, I’ve driven both RWD and FWD in the snow, and in the right hands, both are capable. My father never purchased snow tires, we ran what was on the car until they were out of tread. I was taught how to handle a car in the snow. Above all else, that is what is lacking today – proper drivers education.

  2. AP says:

    So here we are almost two years after the original rant by Yankeedriver, in the middle of the summer and now I’m going to continue the rant. Damn internet.

    So maybe many folks are lacking drivers education but I don’t care if you’re Mario Andretti, you can’t get up a steep hill in more than a few inches of snow without snow tires. Especially if the bloke in front can’t get up the hill and stops you from getting any momentum. Also 4 or “all wheel” drive might help you get moving but nothing will stop you like proper snow tires. Here in New England, a snow storm of any magnitude can be crippling if it arrives at rush hour. Which is odd because there are more and more people that work from home or leave early when a storm is forecast. So why is it so hard to get home from work during a snow storm? Because too many people think their FWD or AWD vehicle doesn’t need snow tires or that they are good drivers and can drive in the snow. They get stuck on a minor hill and we all have to wait while they take too long to figure out that they should abort. If they had snow tires I wouldn’t be ranting and we all would have a couple dozen hours of our lives not lost.

    In fact there would be no need for SUVs. How many people do you know that mention they like the security of having an SUV for our “New England” winters. Really. In the greater Boston area when was the last time the roads were un-plowed for more than 3 hours?

    So my point is this. If someone drives in winter weather, or thinks they are going to drive in winter weather, they should have snow tires. They will never ever be stuck and they can go to the home depot during snowstorms, or get a gallon of milk or whatever because god knows what would happen if they had to wait a couple hours for the roads to be plowed.

    So I agree with Craig and one day I would like to meet him for a cup of coffee during a blizzard in my RWD Dodge Magnum with a 5.7 liter and snowtires. I’ll even turn the traction control off to make it like the old days.

    Cheers