What sporty car is the most reliable and still capable in snow & ice?

I am thinking about buying a new car next summer and it has to be manual. I do not know how to drive a manual car, but I am fairly certain I can learn. I cannot spend more than $40,000 and I prefer to keep my purchase under $30,000. I was going to buy a new Mustang GT which matched all everyone of my needs, but my job relocated me to Maine and Mustangs are not great with heavy snow. I do not want more than one car, which means it has to be able to handle Maine winters. I heard Subaru is releasing a new WRX which will finally have a 6 speed manual and both the WRX and STI will have improved 2 liter engines. However, WRX and STI have questionable reliability. Can someone who owned a WRX or STI tell me about their experience with it? Hyundai and Ford are about to release the Veloster Turbo and Focus ST which are front wheel drive, but I am concerned about ground clearance of these cars. Does anyone know how well the Veloster and Focus currently on the market handle snow and ice? These are not the only cars I am considering and I am willing to consider any car as long as it is functional in Maine winters, manual and relatively fast such as a GTI / Golf R, Mini Cooper S / JCW or Mazda Speed3.

Thank you for any advice,
John Smith Not 1882 :slight_smile:

Glad you said sporty car and not sports car. I feel that “good in snow” has less to do with the drive system these days as it does tire width ( floatation ) and ground clearance. Every car has traction control now which helps emensely, and theoretically, good handling should help good ice traction. Unless you’re made of money, “fairly certain you can drive a manual” while spending $30 k on one seems too extravgent to me.

A BMW SUV can go trough a handling course as well as it’s 3 series sedan. I would cast my vote for either one of these used or…the lowly Subaru sports sedan with the six cylinder. …IMO, think Subaru and used BMW in Awd and the BMW SUVs. Even a new turbo Frorester for Heavy snow. My daughter’s father in law and bro. In law each had one…it seemed to do it all along with reasonable deep snow Performance,W/O the BMW premium price. Tire change over for winter, is a necessity for optimal overall performance. The way autos perform, you may actually give up some performance with a manual in a higher powered car.

Now a lift kit on a Vette…just dreaming. BTW, where in Maine ? Anything would have handled this winter south of Bangor.

The one with the best driver.

While there are differences in the cars, the bigger issue is the driver. Does the driver keep the car in good condition by keeping the maintenance up to date? Does the driver make sure the tyres are in good condition and a good choice for the local driving conditions. Does the driver maintain their car properly and does the driver have the knowledge and experience for driving under the conditions?

Both of your questions (snow capability and reliability) are more related to the driver than the car. 

John you are wise to ask about other's experiences and to seek advice, but don't underestimate the your importance in how and when you drive any car. 

No car can make a poor driver good.  Be sure to use good judgment when choosing to drive in poor driving conditions or how you drive in poor conditions.

I learned how to drive in the snow belt of upstate NY primarily in a '67 Mustang with V8 and manual transmission. I had snows on the rear and wide oval tires on the front. Not the best tires, but I got up lots of hills and I used the car to go skiing all the time.

A new Mustang with traction control and 4 winter tires would be much better than my '67. You can drive a RWD car in Maine in the winter. There might be better cars for winter driving, but I’d have no problem with a Mustang, and I think it would be a fun car in the winter. You will have to learn to be comfortable with spinning the rear tires, and drifting a bit but that is what makes a RWD fun in the snow.

I’d buy the Mustang and 4 winter tires on some aftermarket wheels. Do not buy the same “wide” tires as the car comes fitted with from the factory. Wide tires are not better in snow. Buy the same width tires that a standard (none GT) basic Mustang comes equipped with. Get Blizzack, or equivalent, tires that have a softer rubber for grip on ice. I don’t like studs, but you have the option of studs if you want.

I have an '04 T’bird with 4 Blizzack winter tires. I don’t drive it much in winter to reduce the exposure to road salt, but it stops and turns great in the snow. Getting going I can turn off the traction control and allow some wheel spin or leave it on to reduce the spin and keep the back end from sliding out. It has a posi-traction differential so both drive tires can get bite in snow, but the driver needs good touch on the accelerator (or to use trac control) to dial in the amount of power and wheel spin you want depending on the situation. To me, that is fun. Others who haven’t driven in snow and practiced in a large parking lot might find it scarey.

Since you want a sporty car and to drive a manual trans I think you’d find it a challenge at first, then an accomplishment as you get skilled, and then fun.

well , I learned to drive in snow with an open differential pickup and manual trans-learned the value of ballast and tire chains.It was generally accepted the automatics were better in snow(particulary if you had a snow gear) there are many fine AWD’s around now-look for the most clearence on the diffs or what have you-and if the are calling for a noreaster’ you would be well advised to stay home.On the manual trans deal not that hard ,but some people are hard on clutches-Kevin

When the request is made to suggest a car that is good in snow and ice, it makes it real difficult to generalize, especially in Maine where conditions are so variable. . That is why we give differences of opinion. Good on snow and ice to me, includes steep un plowed dirt road hills with ice under the snow and occurs every day of the winter from Dec to April. For someone else, it’s occasional snow that disappears after the plow goes by on a hot top road and the steepest hills are always plowed and sanded. If the second is true…anything works. If it’s the first case, you need awd with ground clearance and studded snow tires. Anything else is a waste of money and sporty cars are just a dream.

If you are in Maine already, what are other people driving?

2008 Audi S4

brand new Speed 3 can be had for under $30k

I’ve heard some like the Mitsu EVO better than the STI, so I guess you could look into that one as well.

Euro brand cars aren’t known for their long term reliability, so avoid them if you plan on having the car longer than the warranty period.

I’d also consider the WRX, no worse reliability than any other car mentioned here, and no need to spring for the STI, the WRX is very capable.

Thank you for all of the responses. I currently live in Ellsworth and frequently commute to Canada through Calais and to Bangor for shopping.

(1a) as you know to Bangor/Brewer has recently been widen and is well maintained in the winter. That’s fine for any car though the Dedham area around the lakes where we live can get feisty. Headed the other way to Canada frequently, I would opt for the State car, a Subaru 3.6R or Impreza CVT auto with a manual override, and excellent mileage, in case you end up not liking to shift all of the time. You have a nearby Subaru dealership with a decent rep. for service. That’s a huge consideration for me if I lived in Ellsworth, not having to drive to Brewer or Bangor for factory service.

I get what you say as it can be a fun drive wtih a sporty car. But a reliable awd appeals to me for both good handling and commuting. Other then that, I would stay with the other choices of the dealerships in Ellsworth. With awd along the Calais route to Canada, you won’t be as tied to a forecast or as fearful getting caught on a coastal route with unexpected winter events.As you well know too, there are loooong wide open, unprotected stretches with nothing going on, unless you like stopping for blueberrys. ;=)

Btw, Harmon Tire in Ellsworth sells winter Nokians that are excellent on ice and snow without needing to be studded.