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Old 08-09-2007, 06:35 PM
28 posts, read 125,083 times
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Would an AWD or a SUV be recommended for snowy driving conditions? I may be moving into the area between Denver and Black Hawk( for daily work commute to Black Hawk) Coming form a person who's only owned front wheel drive smaller vehicles... any recommendations for me..specific vehicles from experience?

Thank you!
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Old 08-09-2007, 06:53 PM
Location: New Zealand
1,872 posts, read 5,651,685 times
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AWD is better for traction (especially when starting out), but an SUV is better for higher clearance (not sure if you'll need to be driving through foot-high drifts of snow or not). I would personally choose an AWD over a 2WD vehicle.

But regardless of whether you get an AWD or an SUV, the best thing you can do for winter driving is get good snow tires on all wheels. The difference between all-seasons and snows in the winter is like night and day, especially if you'll be driving a lot in snow. I know many people in the high country who drive 2WD sedans with snow tires (granted, they also don't live at the end of a remote dirt road).

All the other, usual common sensical advices apply: go slow, brake early (AWD doesn't mean you'll stop faster), don't brake on a curve, and keep your distance from the car in front.
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Old 08-09-2007, 07:45 PM
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my vote is for car-based platform AWD vehicles.

the biggest concern on the winter mountain roads is not deep snow, but "black ice" slick surfaces.

your best all around control will be with an AWD car type vehicle ... subaru, volvo, audi, mb, bmw, etc., on these slick icy surfaces. Real winter hydrophyilic snow tires are good for an extra measure of traction and safety, too.

Around here, our postal workers deliver the daily mail quite well with Subaru station wagons. We're in SE Wyoming, on dirt county roads. If snow conditions are so deep that the Subie's aren't getting around, you can pretty well count on nobody getting around until the snowplows clear the roads or if somebody has put together a specialty high road clearance monster 4x4 truck or a Uni-mog (which are most unsuited for daily driving or icy road use). For the most part, ground clearance will not be the issue in being able to get around for your commute.

My vehicle prior to the '97 Subie wagon was an '86 Audi 4000CS Quattro with the standard 2.3 liter motor/5 speed manual. An excellent balance of (nasty road conditions) power, handling, and comfort. Too bad Audi doesn't make that combination in an affordable and simple vehicle anymore. I got almost 300,000 miles out of mine before the body/chassis simply rusted away to an unsafe structural condition.

As I use my cars to commute to our second home in Vail, they've seen a lot of Colorado nasty weather road conditions. Prior to using the AWD cars, I used BMW 2002's and a number of MB diesel cars for my winter driving. While they did well, the dramatic increase in slick road control and safety was worth the change to AWD.
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Old 08-09-2007, 07:49 PM
Location: IN
20,170 posts, read 34,480,827 times
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The AWD cars tend to work very good in snowy conditions. Snow tires are a must if you live in the snowbelt or mountain areas. AWD cars tend to get much better gas mileage, have good safety, and a lower center of gravity compared with 4WD cars for the most part.
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Old 08-09-2007, 09:08 PM
8,317 posts, read 25,095,377 times
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Unless you plan to use your vehicle in deep snow, or to go backcountry 4-wheeling, an AWD car should do everything you need. As others have posted, good snow tires can make a huge difference, too. Truth is, a front-wheel-drive car with traction control and good snow tires will do almost as well as an AWD car.

The most important thing is the skill of the driver. My father (who taught me winter driving) grew up driving the horrible winter roads in the rural Dakotas. He could drive over any mountain pass in Colorado in a rear-wheel-drive car in conditions where everyone else was chaining up. He did that for over a half-century and never had a weather-related accident. He never got stranded, either.
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Old 08-10-2007, 08:32 AM
Location: Colorado Springs
9 posts, read 60,852 times
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I love my Subaru Outback Sport, has the same clearance as a Ford Explorer but gets 26 mpg. Only complaint is the standard tires they are sold with need to be replaced asap with good all seasons or snow tires.
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Old 08-11-2007, 01:09 PM
28 posts, read 125,083 times
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Thank you all for the good information...you are on the same page as far as suggestions were concerned, and that's exactly what I was looking for. I have my answer.
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Old 08-12-2007, 07:33 AM
Location: Mesa
3,766 posts, read 8,238,024 times
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I take it snow tires and snow chains are not the same thing? Can snow tires be used all year round? (sorry for the dumb questions, but it's all new to me)
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Old 08-12-2007, 07:58 AM
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yukon ... "snow tires" are just that, tires especially made by rubber compound and tread design to be more effective on snow. The tread is usually a more open shape so as to "bite" on the snow surface.

"chains" are an accessory item that are temporarily secured on the outside of a tire for additional traction and control. They can be made of chain or cables which stretch across the tread surface. They can enhance the grip of the tires in extreme conditions, but do limit the speeds you can drive, too. This becomes significant as the roadway you're traveling on is not always uniformly bad ... you may have a short distance where the chains are beneficial, and then a distance with almost no surface conditions requiring the chains, and so forth; you become limited in your road speed on the areas where the chains aren't needed. It's a real pain to put them on for a mile or two, take them off, then stop to put them back on again for another short distance.

While you can drive on your snow tires all year 'round, it's not a good practice as the specialized tires tend to wear very quickly at the higher speeds/temperatures of clear weather driving. Also, if you have "studded" snow tires, which have short spikes set into the tread, they are damaging to the road surface and ... in addition to the wasted wear expense you have ... are banned by law in many states during clear weather months.
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Old 08-12-2007, 08:11 AM
Location: New Zealand
1,872 posts, read 5,651,685 times
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There are three types of snow tires/equipment. Chains, studded snow tires, and studless snow tires.

You really shouldn't need chains unless you're driving a big rig and/or driving in DEEP, DEEP snow regularly.

Studded snow tires are the original snow tires, and still offer the best traction in icy conditions. However, studded snows offer pretty poor traction and ride in dry weather. If you're commuting to the mountains from Denver (which is mostly dry and snow-free most of the winter), studded snows may not be the best choice.

Studless snow tires are very popular and common. In snow, they don't give up much to the studded snows. You can drive studless snows on dry roads and give up just a little bit of traction/handling. These are probably your best choice for driving between the plains and the mountains.

Usually if you're in Denver, you put snows on around November or so, and take them off around April. Once, for various reasons, I ended up keeping my snows on through several months of a summer -- they performed fine on the dry roads. Unless you're really racing everytime you drive, you shouldn't notice much difference in dry-weather performance for snows.

Check out The Tire Rack - Your performance experts for tires and wheels for info, prices, and reviews on all snow tires -- very useful resource.
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