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Advice regarding AWD cars

I am trying to decide on what kind of AWD car might suit me best. We get a good amount of snow and being in the country, the roads do not get plowed that often (and not immediately) and the drive to my house from the main road is steep and can get extremely slick.

From what I have read, a rear wheel drive AWD system (ATTESA-ETS for Infiniti G/M37x or a BMW x drive) is less desirable than a quattro or sh-awd (which I believe are front wheel systems), given my driving conditions. Is this true? Even if I get a Infiniti G/M37x, will chains make it better? What might be some of the brands that would be beneficial for my driving conditions? I am essentially looking for a sedan and not a SUV.

Thank you so much?in anticipation.

Un-plowed deep snow ?
Car ?

not both in the same sentence.

Yes, AWD will be a plus, yet for deep unplowed snow an SUV with the right tires would get you through.

An AWD car with the right gripping tires will help some but the snow gripping tires are not the same ones you’d want to cruise at 90 mph on.
Between car choices, the one with most ground clearence.

Quite an oxymoron there.
TIRES being the biggest key for all.

Thank you Ken…you are right un-plowed deep snow and car is quite an oxymoron!! However, I have slid down with my SUV so many times that I want a sedan. Some how I have the feeling that if I am closer to the ground, I’ll be safer. In that regard, I was thinking of the different types of AWDs - rear and front-wheel based.

My personal experience is with SUVs ( 80 Bronco, 91 & 92 Explorer, 08 Expedition, and 06 Escape hybrid. ) currently have the 06 & 08.
The Escape hybrid is car based and primarily FWD with the rear added as AWD is engaged.
It is not for digging through deep snow, has somewhat aggressive yet merely street tires, but has been a godsend for my wife and her lack of adverse weather driving abilities.

The 92 Explorer was the go-getter. With it’s great tires I’d rarely even need 4x4 ( electric shift Warner 1354 t/case ) and when I did it’d blast through most anything.

I have gotten the Expedition stuck, but never the Explorer. The Escape would not venture into the same conditions. THIS, of course, is the driver’s decision based on vehicle knowlege and conditions.

I think you are getting too logical and rational. Any AWD or 4WD will be ok, what you need to do is put winter tires on whatever car you decide upon. The tires are what will give you the traction to make the AWD work, whatever type of AWD it is.

The tires are more critical than what type of AWD you buy. It is not all about starting and moving, it is about stopping too. Winter tires mean you can stop as well as go.

Thanks UncleTurbo. Based on the two responses I received (yours and kengreen’s) I believe I was ignoring something important - good tires.

At one point I was into riding sport touring motorcycles. On bikes you live or die based on your tires; traction is everything. While in a car you have more latitude, in the winter you get back to traction is everything just like on a bike. So, tires come first.

I had a Volvo V70XC wagon ('98 and a '00) equipped with 4 winter tires. With the winter tires and AWD it was an awesome snow car. One on occasion a truck ran me off the road through the deep snow bank and into the median which had a steep slope. After coming to a stop and getting myself mentally back together I put the Volvo back in gear and with much spinning, sliding, and luck I got up the slope and had enough momentum to crunch back through the snow bank on onto the highway. Unfortunately the Volvo’s were hugely expensive cars to maintain and fix, but in snow they work great.

The Outback Subaru models have a bit more ground clearance and that helps in deep snow. But you should really be fine with any 4WD or AWD with dedicated winter tires. The tires SUV’s and Outbacks come equipped with from the factory are not good tires, and especially not good winter tires.

UT is right. There are distinctive advantages to the awd system in a Quattro as some models incorporate three Torsen, torque sensitive differentials which are difficult to beat in all round use. But, even the vary simple Honda CRV system benefits so much from the mandated traction control, the difference is not worth noting in normal use and tires become the really important issue.None of these systems mean anything if they are not augmented by the traction of appropriate tires.

Which ever you decide, I would buy from a noted reliable car manufacturer and use CR ratings to help in that choice. Volvos, VWs and Audis may have a slightly better traction system than some from Ford ,Honda, Toyota or GM, but not Subaru. But, there overall reliability would put them on the bottom of my list.

As equally important is GROUND CLEARANCE (and a locking feature). Keep that in mind. A neighbors Audi A4 had an excellent system but was swimming and useless in little more than a couple inches of snow and any drift or plow leavings it seemed.
With ground clearance being so important, a sedan may be out of the question. Subaru used to make a sedan version of the Outback, but no more. The best bang for the buck ? A Legacy AWD IMO for a sedan if you must.

I’ve been looking at AWD sedans as well (though it sounds like I had somewhat different criteria). I ended up deciding it was a tie between Infiniti G37x and Audi A4. The Audi Quattro system is generally regarded as one of the best AWD systems available. The Infiniti has a less distinguished system but is still supposed to be good. One possible advantage to the Infiniti is it has “snow mode” which is supposed to help with low-speed traction in winter weather (I haven’t had the opportunity to try it myself). Also, I believe both Infiniti and Audi have a 60:40 rear:front ration by default (though I could be wrong on that - been looking at too many different cars).

Subaru, anybody?

The difference between the systems you mention is a small fraction of the difference that good winter tires will make. I’d choose the vehicle that best meets your needs, get winter tires, and you’ll be fine.

You CANNOT worry about front:rear torque split. That stuff is what they use to advertise vehicles, not what is important.

“snow mode” is a sales gimmick. It’s either a locking feature or a near lock torque restricting mode. Others just call it by it’s name.

Thanks all for your replies - truly appreciated.
Two more queries: Do chains harm the AWD system? If I do decide to use chains, should I put them on rear wheels (i.e. the drive wheels) in case of a rear wheel AWD (like Infiniti/BMW) or the front wheels?

P.S.: Thanks dagosa, clearance is definitely something that I have to think of!

I have to agree with Uncle Turbo. My Volvo XC90 did great with snow tires. The ground clearance was a little low though. We now have two Subaru Outbacks (?08 & ?10) that do better than any other car we?ve owned. Newer models are more SUV-like with more ground clearance than the old Ford Explorers. We live 7 miles off the pavement on a so-called seasonal road in Northern MI and I have yet to get stuck in either outback or manage to spin out (and believe me I?ve tried). My only complaint is that they don?t really like mud. If you?re willing to wash your car weekly I?d go with the Outback. If you have snow they?re probably common and easy to find parts for. The stock tires are horrible though!

If you use chains, use them on the drive wheels, i.e. ALL the wheels

On an awd system, I would not consider using chains because of clearance problems on cars of this type. I would use cables though in very severe conditions. Make sure you use them on all 4 wheels. It would be hard on the system otherwise.