Want to find out about the best vehicles to drive in snow, sleet, and winter road conditions?
Preparing for a winter driving trip means equipping yourself and your vehicle. Just as you pack warm clothing, waterproof boots and wool socks, you should be sure your vehicle is ready for snowy, slippery driving.
You already know to check your tires, antifreeze, and brakes, but what about the vehicle itself? It turns out some are just better for winter driving than others, thanks to new technologies available in recent models.
You can find many gently used pre-owned cars with this tech on automotive sales sites like DriveTime. When looking for a good winter car, consider the following features to keep you safe:
Say Yes to Better Traction
It’s generally agreed that snow tires raise winter driving performance on all cars, even all-wheel drives. In fact, your average ho-hum car with snow tires performs as well or better than an AWD vehicle with all-weather tires, according to Forbes. In addition, Consumer Reports explains that snow tires provide extra braking power, which is something you want if you plan to drive to ski resorts or to snowy mountains. However, AWD will get you out of snowbanks.
Safe driving in ice and snow is more than good tires and traction, though. Beginning in 2012, vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds are required to include electronic stability control (ESC), which is a kind of advancement of antilock brakes. With ESC, additional sensors detect when a vehicle is pointing opposite of the steering direction and corrects this to prevent it from skidding sideways. It also reduces engine throttle in some models. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), ESC cuts the risk of a fatal single-car accident in half.
See Through Snow with Extra Lights and Cameras
ExtremeTech has a list of the top five tech cars for driving in blizzards and overcoming vision problems in snow. Here are just two vehicles and updated features from the list:
- In 2013, Altima added a rear camera that works through snow, rain and dirt. You can even squirt washer fluid on the lens like you do on windshields.
- The BMW X5 SUV has headlamp washers and optional torque vectoring, which helps navigate turning on snow and ice. An extra set of brake lights activate under heavy braking. Adaptive headlights swivel to help you spot objects that are in front of you sooner.
When Will the U.S. Welcome Full Adaptive Headlights?
IIHS is pretty excited about adaptive headlights. It claims these headlights identify pedestrians, animals and other objects about one-third of a second sooner than standard headlights. This is a lot of time when you consider your behind-the-wheel reaction time. Unfortunately, adaptive headlights are relatively rare in the U.S. market and appear mostly on luxury models.
Most car manufacturers want fully functioning adaptive headlights that turn on by themselves using light sensors. It’s a standard feature in Europe, but current U.S. laws only allow for high- or low-beam settings, according to Road and Track. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz joined a Toyota petition in 2013 to the Department of Transportation to update the rule. Until then, more drivers will continue to forget to turn on their lights at night, a phenomenon that has increased as dashboards automatically light up in the dark.