After a beautiful summer, the inevitable has happened. The place I call home, Northern Michigan officially has snow in the forecast. Cue the miserable cold, snow removal, holidays, and everyone’s favorite: slippery roads. Many people in what is affectionately known as the, “Snowbelt,” are probably freaking out. Not me though, I’ve got this “winter” thing all figured out. I have purchased a 4×4 vehicle with plenty of ground clearance, limited-slip differentials, and a huge American V8 that I can use to intentionally make my SUV spin around in an exciting fashion. Do those qualities really make up the perfect winter vehicle though? Would I have been just fine driving my beloved VW throughout the coldest, snowiest portion of the year? Today we will find out what makes the perfect winter vehicle and what you need to do to prepare to tackle the snowy hellscape that shows up every winter.
If you asked random people what they would want to traverse the roads during the winter months, many would just say what they have always been told and blurt out, “four wheel drive, duh!” And out of those people, some would require a real 4×4 powertrain, while others would be content with all-wheel drive. The first group of these people, the 4×4 fanboys, are terrified of modern engineering. They think that if you don’t have to pull a lever or turn a knob to engage 4×4 you aren’t going to have a chance driving through the half inch of snow many city commuters have to traverse to get to their workplaces. Friends, I’m here to tell you that if you insist your engine drives all four of your wheels you most likely don’t actually need to have a transfer-case (and if you don’t know what a transfer case is, you definitely don’t need one). True four wheel drive trucks and SUVs are best suited for those planning on doing some moderate to extreme off-roading, and don’t even pretend that you will ever do anything that even comes close. For the rest of us, an awd or even fwd setup will be just fine to help us find traction.
Are these so-called “people” correct though? Is 4×4 what you need to survive a winter in a place like northern Michigan?
If you are wondering why you are still reading this, you are about to get a bomb of knowledge dropped right onto the screen of whatever it is the kids these days are using the access the internet.
The perfect winter car, is literally any car.
I’ll save you some time by writing out some comments that I expect readers of this article will be saying.
“You idiot, the Bugatti Veyron is a terrible winter car.”
“You suck, SUBARU FOR LIFE, BRO.”
“I have a FWD/RWD car with cheap discount tires and I go in the ditch all the time, you know nothing.”
First, the Bugatti Veyron is a terrible winter car, for a climate that gets cold. But it’s the perfect winter car for a drug lord in Miami.
Second, tell me about the times you’ve had to replace the head gaskets in your Subaru, bro. AWD means nothing when your car is overheating in -25 degree weather, and third…
Proper winter or all-season tires will turn any two wheel drive vehicle into a snow conquering chariot.
The last two winters have been the two worst I have ever seen. It felt like the small mid-Michigan college town of Big Rapids was moved to a location right off the ice road highlighted in the History Channel show, “Ice Road Truckers.” So I definitely had a 4×4 SUV or truck because I never missed a day of class, right? Absolutely not, the car that got me through many blizzards, and whiteouts was a simple Volkswagen Beetle riding on some nice all-season rubber. I vividly remember driving around many-a-stuck SUV in my underpowered hatchback. With a set of winter tires, I could have probably driven to the North Pole. Tires are the only part of your car that touch the road, and a set of snow tires give you the traction you need to get moving. Want to go one step further and go from extremely capable to truly unstoppable? Put a set of snow tires on an AWD or 4WD SUV and tell me how many feet of snow you effortlessly drove though.
So friends, if you have no reason other than snow to purchase something with 4×4 or AWD, don’t! Get the car that you really want, and don’t get too bent out of shape over four months of the year. If an awkwardly tall guy in a VW Beetle can get where he needs to go, so can you in a Ford Fusion with snow tires.
As a little bit of inspiration, I will include many photographs of unlikely vehicles partaking in fun winter activities.