Monday, July 18, 2011

You don't need AWD/4x4 for a snow car.

Everyone that actually lives in the mountains zooms around in little rusty manual transmission Civics with snow tires, blowing past all the tourists in their SUVs.

While Outbacks are better, anything between about 2000-2004 has head gasket problems. The Legacy is the lower Outback and still does great in the snow. Anything 4WD or AWD is not cheap to maintain, if you must get one, get a car with a completely mechanical 4x4 or AWD system. I live down in the plains and drive up to ski, and we figured in my buddy's AWD wagon we were in conditions that actually required the AWD (not "was nice", required as in "we would otherwise die") perhaps 4% of the yearly mileage, and we got in 60 days each.

Consider a manual transmission FWD wagon with 4 good snow tires (Blizzaks, Hakkapelittas, Green Diamonds) on steel rims. (Why steel rims? Because in winter you're a lot more liable to slide into a curb and ding your alloy rims/affect your alignment. Because steel rims bend, they absorb some of the impact that would otherwise go into messing up your alignment).

In the snow, the order of on-road capability goes: AWD with chains > AWD with snow tires > 4x4 with chains > FWD with chains > 4x4 with snow tires > FWD with snow tires > AWD with all season tires > FWD with all season tires > 4x4 with all season tires.

On all season tires, 4x4s are the worst car to drive in winter because of their high centers of gravity, solid axles, and unsophisticated differentials. Offroad, a 4x4 will own anything but on a road at high speed they are unsafe.

Even an AWD on all-seasons will be all over the road compared to a FWD on good snow tires.

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