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It's the nut behind the wheel
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Posted by Ari [Email] (more from Ari) on Fri, 2 Jan 2009 17:21:19 Share Post by Email
In Reply to: It ain't about the, Mike Lynch [Profile/Gallery] , Fri, 2 Jan 2009 16:15:18
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Everybody seems to be worried about getting going. I worry about stopping - is it under control, or with the help of a tree or another car?

I've got two friends that are astoundingly good snow drivers. Back in college, one guy drove a Datsun B210 - rear wheel drive, lousy tires, the works. He could go anywhere, anytime. And when he wanted to make it dance, the Italian Job had nothing on him.

My other buddy drove an old Chevy Nova - again, RWD, lousy tires, 2 speed automatic. I remember a very bad snowstorm, 6 inches of unplowed snow, and we passed Jeeps going up hill. Part of that were poor Jeep drivers. Put this guy in a car with FWD and decent tires, or an old RWD van with slicks, it didn't matter.

A lot depends on the driver. For many people, a good snow car is one with AWD, four snows, LSD, and every stability gizmo known to man or beast. They let the hardware do the work, and simply point the car. Great up until physics beats hardware. If you're very comfortable with the car, then you want a little more communication between the tires and the driver, and some of those things can get in the way.

What makes a good snow car for me?
Good visibility. I'm amazed at the number of cars that can't stay defogged. Maybe it is operator error, but I see a lot of Hondas that can't keep the windows from fogging up. If you can't see where you're, going is a bad idea.
Comfort. The heater should work and not require a lot of driver input. Heated seats - I want to be able to drive without a bulky coat, and be comfy. Less work.
Good handling. The car should communicate to you, you should get feedback from the tires and steering, and the car needs to respond to your inputs. Basically, the same thing for a dry road.
ABS. I like ABS.

OK, what about AWD? Nice, but not critical. Weight over the driving wheels? Again, nice. FWD is good, but one has to be careful not to do too much - the tires only have so much traction; you need to split that between steering and acceleration, or deceleration. RWD has an advantage - the rears just need to make you move; the fronts can just steer.

I have a gripe with AWD, TCS and the like. In the Good Old Days, if you didn't have the skill set to actually get going, you stayed put. This was Nature's driving test. You needed some level of skill to get moving. Nowadays, all it takes is pushing the loud pedal - with AWD and TCS, any goat-roper can get two tons of steel, glass, and cupholders moving at 60 mph. Unfortunately, we've always had four wheel braking - AWD doesn't improve braking (I'm not talking about engine braking), and the Electronic Nannies can only do so much if you overcook a corner. So in the old days, folks that didn't know what they were doing either stayed home or stayed in the ditch. Now, they can all get up to speed - but they still don't have the skill set to keep out of trouble. And they've got the idea that they're driving on dry roads. That's one reason why I see so many 4WD beasts stuck in the ditch on snowy days.

I've never had trouble with traction - a good set of tires and a careful right foot do the trick. Getting stuck isn't a big issue, in any car. It's once you get going that's the issue. I think any smaller car with good tires and decent handling will do the trick. I like my 9000 - comfortable, good visibility, heated seats, and secure handling. I like my VW Jetta - very tossable and control-able. And heated seats and defogging.

And I agree with Mike - a good snow car should be one that you're willing to lose. You can be the best driver in the world, but if Grandma's got her Escalade sideways and it has your name on it, I'd rather be in a beater. That's why we drive our Jetta in the snow. It doesn't handle any better than the 9000. But they're still making Jettas - but there are fewer and fewer 9000's, and I don't want to let go of mine any sooner than necessary.

posted by 76.221.218...

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