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Old 10-25-2013, 07:31 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,148,227 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telzey View Post
SUV and AWD are not different categories, really. An SUV is a type of vehicle and AWD is a capability an SUV, sedan or sports car can have. That said, the answer is: NEITHER. The most important aid to winter driving is SNOW TIRES, no matter what type of vehicle you drive, and no matter if it's AWD, FWD or RWD. Also, good TIRE CHAINS.

A lot of people buy AWD vehicles thinking they will make them invincible in the snow, only to discover, as they wait for the tow truck by the side of the road, they were wrong.
"Actually," the distinction should be between "4-wheel-drive" and "all-wheel drive." The terms are often used interchangeably, but, in my lexicon, there is an important distinction. An "all wheel drive" is a vehicle with 4 driven wheels that is primarily designed for use on pavement or improved gravel roads. A "4 wheel drive" is a vehicle with 4 driven wheels--either part-time or full-time--that includes a transfer case with low-range gearing, sufficient ground clearance for use on unimproved trails, and sufficient suspension components to withstand severe backcountry use. Admittedly, the distinctions have become fuzzy, with some supposed 4WD vehicles having very little off-road capability (think the latest Ford Explorer), and some AWD's with at least some trail capability (think Subaru Forester).

I do agree that winter tires will make a lot of difference on any vehicle. Also, the most capable 4WD or AWD vehicle, equipped with the best winter tires, will fare poorly if driven by a person lacking winter driving skills. Experience counts, and there is no substitute for it.
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Old 10-25-2013, 10:04 PM
 
Location: Colorado
2,483 posts, read 3,362,047 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
in my lexicon, there is an important distinction. An "all wheel drive" is a vehicle with 4 driven wheels that is primarily designed for use on pavement or improved gravel roads...
Use whatever lexicon you want, but AWD is a very specific technology, pioneered (but not exclusively owned) by Subaru, in which a computer senses wheel speed, gearing and traction from each wheel and gives more power to the wheels that have more traction. That's why they do so well when slippage is the main challenge. 4WD, on the other hand, just means that a vehicle’s engine and transmission is capable of driving all four wheels at one time, which involves redirecting power from the transmission to the rear and the front wheels at the same time via a mechanical device called a “transfer case”. This is the preferred system for vehicles destined for a lot of off-road use, but that's mainly because the vehicles themselves are designed to appeal to such users with higher clearance, lower gearing, heavy duty materials and other features.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Experience counts, and there is no substitute for it.
Sure, 1-2 years of experience makes a big difference compared to none. But it's not like it takes a lifetime of knowledge just to drive over some snow. If it's really deep snow and harsh terrain, your 4wd won't do you any good anyways. You'll need a snowmobile or perhaps even a snowcat for that, which is a whole different technique.

Last edited by otterprods; 10-25-2013 at 10:21 PM..
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Old 10-25-2013, 10:51 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,148,227 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by otterprods View Post
Use whatever lexicon you want, but AWD is a very specific technology, pioneered (but not exclusively owned) by Subaru, in which a computer senses wheel speed, gearing and traction from each wheel and gives more power to the wheels that have more traction. That's why they do so well when slippage is the main challenge. 4WD, on the other hand, just means that a vehicle’s engine and transmission is capable of driving all four wheels at one time, which involves redirecting power from the transmission to the rear and the front wheels at the same time via a mechanical device called a “transfer case”. This is the preferred system for vehicles destined for a lot of off-road use, but that's mainly because the vehicles themselves are designed to appeal to such users with higher clearance, lower gearing, heavy duty materials and other features.
Most AWD vehicles operate in front-wheel-drive until the front loses traction, then some power is transferred to the rear wheels, as well. Subaru's system on their more recent vehicles is somewhat different and more sophisticated. Meanwhile, on most all newer vehicles, electronic traction control and vehicle dynamic control have essentially replaced the function of mechanical limited slip or locking differentials. The principle is the same for all--eliminate wheel slippage in low-traction situations.

The big difference between AWD and 4WD vehicles is their respective designed purpose. The bottom line: a well-designed AWD vehicle may likely outperform a 4WD vehicle on slick road surfaces, but an AWD is generally ill-suited for off road use. Joe Skibum driving from Denver to Vail will likely never need anything more than an AWD vehicle to get to the slopes, but Bob Oilfieldhand heading up a rough, snow-covered trail to check on a well-site is going to need a 4WD.
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Old 10-26-2013, 12:03 AM
 
Location: OC, CA
9,862 posts, read 13,243,632 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Yukon ... AllSeason tires are quite adequate for all but the few worst Denver area snowstorms, especially on AWD cars. You may go for years with this combination and never have a problem, but there's always the chance of one of those freak storms coming through and really dumping ... they're few and notable events. When that happens, it's best to just stay home until the roads are cleared.
Agreed. In the 10 years I have lived here, in Denver Metro we have had 3-4 full blown blizzards with over 1 foot of snow in 24 hours and I drive with FWD and all season no problem. If you go to the mountains add snow tire to FWD and you are good. If you want a feeling of more safety go for it. Get the Subaru or Audi they have the best AWD. Toyota 4 Runners and Jeeps do very well here too.
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Old 10-26-2013, 05:55 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,148,227 times
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People do like to dismiss or make fun of the "experience" part of winter driving, thinking that an AWD or 4WD vehicle is a substitute for it. I disagree. There are several parts to experience: knowing one's own driving ability, knowing one's vehicle's abilities and limitations, knowing how to properly react in adverse conditions, and being able to read road and weather conditions accurately. Here's the situation I encountered just recently. To set the stage: I was driving a FWD sedan with all-season M+S rated tires. There had been a brief overnight snowstorm on the mountain pass I was driving, only dusting a couple of inches, at most. Now, I've driven this road hundreds of times in all seasons, so I know its moods quite well. The road on the west side of the pass is mostly southern exposure and was bone dry, so driving it at regular speed posed no risk. The east side of the pass, however, has a lot of areas of northern exposure, where I know from experience that ice and snow melt slowly. When I topped the pass, I checked the outside temperature--it was between 30 and 34 degrees--just the temperature that ice is the slickest. The first few miles on the east side feature some straight-aways with southern exposure, those ending in some hairpin curves with north exposure. So, I was pinching down my speed long before I reached those hairpins. Good thing--right around the first one, the road turned into a skating rink of black ice. The best AWD or 4WD in the world would not have saved me from a wreck had I not known to slow down well in advance of that curve and had I not known to "read" temperatures and how slope and aspect would effect the road conditions. As it was, I just tiptoed over about 4 miles of black ice, eventually dropping enough in elevation that the road become just wet, then dry. For me, just another day of mountain driving without incident. That's where experience counts.

One other winter driving story. This time I was a passenger. I was riding in a 4WD Dodge Durango with winter tires along I-25 in Wyoming. The driver was an old Wyoming native, well-versed in the capricious moods of Wyoming highways in winter. The day was one of those nasty Wyoming days with intermittent snow, winds, and a lot of ground blizzarding. We were southbound, a WNW wind blowing across the highway. As we approached a gentle right-hand curve, the driver slowed down considerably and began drifting off of the right lane onto the paved shoulder of the Interstate, where the snow was several inches deep. I thought he might be falling asleep. I asked, "What are you doing?" He replied, "You'll see in a second." Two vehicles behind us by several hundred yards were wondering the same thing, and were gradually drifting into the left lane in preparation to pass us. "Bad mistake," said the driver. About then, we came around the brow of a hill to our west in the gentle curve. We were then hit it with a gale-force wind that pushed that heavy Durango from the right shoulder to the shoulder to the left of the left lane within about a second. After the buffeting, the driver calmly, but slowly maneuvered the Durango back to the right lane. The vehicles behind us? They both wound up stuck in the median borrow pit. "Learned that one the hard way some years back," the driver pithily commented. I drove that road numerous times after that myself, and always remembered his "trick" on that curve when it was blizzarding. Never got stuck there. Experience counts.
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