Unlike all-wheel drive systems, most four-wheel drive (often referred to as 4WD or 4X4) systems are “part-time”, requiring the driver to activate them. In contrast to AWD systems, 4WD systems send power to all four wheels equally, regardless of their traction. They’re often found on pickup trucks and large SUVs designed for extensive off-road driving. Four-wheel drive works well for people who live in rural areas and encounter unplowed roads, deep snow, and uneven terrain. Many truck-based 4WD systems also have a low gear setting which can be useful for tackling steep hills. For those off the beaten path, the combination of four-wheel drive with winter tires, high ground clearance and low-range power delivery to all wheels provided by 4WD pickups or large SUVs can be crucial to winter mobility.
Most passenger cars and crossovers are designed with front-wheel drive (FWD). This can be a good option for driving in snow since most of the car’s weight is above the two driving wheels which aids in traction. Because the drivetrain in a FWD vehicle is essentially pulling the vehicle along, it is less likely to experience oversteer, which is the rear of the vehicle sliding out when cornering and causing a much sharper turn than desired. When coupled with a set of good winter tires, these vehicles can perform even better on snow and ice.
Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is common on sports cars, trucks and truck-based SUVs. RWD is less common in modern compact cars and car-based SUVs. RWD usually allows a more even weight distribution and better handling in ideal driving conditions as the front wheels are responsible for steering while the rear wheels are tasked with sending power to the road. Rear-wheel drive is often less ideal for driving in the snow. In most situations, RWD vehicles have less weight over the driven wheels than a FWD, AWD or 4WD vehicle, so they will have more difficulty accelerating on icy roads and a greater possibility of losing control of the rear of the vehicle. A good set of winter tires can be a tremendous help to giving these vehicles secure traction and handling in snowy and icy conditions.
Best Car/Tire Combination for Tackling Snow
Where you live should determine the type of drivetrain you look for in a vehicle. If you live in an area that sees heavy snowfall, the best option will be AWD or 4WD coupled with good winter tires.
● City driving with moderate snow and ice – FWD or RWD with winter tires will suffice. This won’t be the best option for deep snow, but it will be the most economical option since AWD vehicles are usually more expensive and use more fuel due to the extra weight of the AWD system. AWD vehicles with all-season tires may be acceptable if the roads are plowed frequently.
● City driving with heavy snow and occasional rural driving – AWD with winter tires is your most versatile option. You will be able to handle winter’s worst conditions and still maintain performance on clear, dry roads.
● Rural driving on unplowed roads and deep snow – If tackling steep hills on rutted, unpaved roads is a necessity, you may need 4WD with a low gear settings. Otherwise, AWD with winter tires should do the trick as most AWD vehicles also provide sufficient ground clearance.
Bridgestone Winter and Snow Tires
As multiple independent tests have concluded, winter tires are the greatest differentiating factor in a vehicle’s performance on snow and ice and only make an AWD or 4WD vehicle even more capable in winter weather.
Bridgestone winter tires offer the latest technology in tire compounds and tread design to help you drive confidently in winter’s worst conditions. The Blizzak line includes a variety of studless, performance, and truck/SUV winter tires to match your driving needs.