Do You Need AWD/4×4 In Winter?
AWD/4WD is not a requirement; rather just a performance feature. The drivetrain just helps you get going, but not stop. Tires are the most important for both deceleration and acceleration. Too often performance/luxury SUVs/trucks/cars end up stuck in the ditch because the owner decided to use terrible tires with uneven/worn tread, or improper tires to begin with. As for tire type, even the lowest quality winter tires will be better than the best all-seasons. We like to call all-season “no seasons” as they don’t perform the best in the dry and hot due to the lack of full dry-biased sticky compound, but lack of full cold-biased soft, snow-grabbing compound. In fact in many places in the west (especially many places in BC outside the lower mainland) all-seasons and summers are outlawed during October – March.
Don’t worry about spending extra money. Your summer/fall rubbers will last longer since you’re only using them half as much. If the rubber is used for their correct purpose, it also lasts longer (i.e. dry compound for hot, dry conditions. Soft compound for cold, wet.). In the long run, the additional spending is null.
If you’re really worried, carry a set of tire chains and a tow rope. These are saviours every driver should learn to use as there will be the odd time you’re stuck… and you will be glad you have them. In the trucking world, the higher-ups on site or at your company often will not help you out if they learn you had no tire chains with you and got stuck.
Every vehicle should have the following for emergency:
- Storable food and water
- Extra cellphone and charger(s)
- Scissor or other compound jack for emergency repairs/tire swap
- Basic tool kit w/ screwdrivers, wrenches/crescent wrench
- Spare tire (and check it periodically)
- Tire inflator, tire pressure gauge
- Jug of engine oil, jug of coolant, jug of washer fluid
- Tow rope
- Tire chains
Without widening your wallet for a vehicle with a splittable drivetrain (switchable between RWD, AWD) like that found on the newest BMW M5, Mercedes E63S AMG, the funnest daily driver while staying lightweight on a public road would be RWD with a LSD. The only time you’ll find yourself wanting more is if you need perfect traction flooring it from stop signs/lights in the wet/snow. I used to use my old beat front bumper (awaiting insurance replacement) on the 335i as a snow plow driving through this “shortcut” back road to work – which was RWD with a light chassis with no LSD.
However I sometimes wish for an AWD performance SUV because of the occasional offroad (ground clearance) driving I do. I drive to odd northern oilfield towns where many roads are unpaved, poorly maintained, and piled high with snow and ice. It is hard to find a “true” offroad SUV though now as the SUV market is catered to old farts and soccer moms who think anything not big, high off the ground, and has AWD = instant death. (The new GLE 63 comes with 275/35s??? … I wouldn’t trust bad pavement on that skinny tires to begin with). The trucks also like to hurl mud, gravel, and snow all over your vehicle on the roads, so being low you’re covered even more and blinded often. Then I drive like an idiot in the snow for fun. Sometimes at 120km/h+ I have a bad habit of trying to break my rear end loose in the M4 Cabriolet on an empty but lightly-snowed highway or some deserted road.