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Old 02-28-2019, 03:27 PM   #1
Driving Sports TV Staff
Member#: 15542
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Kirkland, WA
2004 WRX

Default RWD vs. AWD in Snow and Ice

How does driving technique differ between rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) on a frozen lake? We flew to Wisconsin to join professional rally drive Patrik Sandell of the Subaru Rally Team to get some tips and compare differences in technique for the best performance in slippery conditions.
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Old 04-11-2019, 04:41 PM   #2
Scooby Newbie
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Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Michigan
2013 Impreza 2.0
Silver gray


This is good stuff for people in the midwest
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:21 AM   #3
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Chapter/Region: RMIC
Location: New Mexico
2005 Baja
Atlantic Blue

Default Informative

and fascinating!
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Old 09-18-2019, 02:39 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Vancouver, BC
2019 STI SportTech


Pretty cool.

One of the things my buddies notice the most when driving with me on the WRX/STI is how much speed and throttle you can do through turns. Especially in snow, slush or rain. They typically go

I had a BMW before and it was downright scary in the snow, slush and rain.
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Old 09-25-2019, 06:29 PM   #5
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Chapter/Region: RMIC
Location: Idaho Falls, ID
2018 WRX


rear wheel drive can be fun in snow if you have good enough tires.
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Old 11-13-2019, 10:58 AM   #6
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To Wisconsin!
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Old 04-17-2020, 08:36 PM   #7
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Join Date: Aug 2016

Very interesting video. Funny to hear him say the fastest way around the track is with the ESC system on.
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Old 07-14-2020, 04:24 PM   #8
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Location: Shakopee
1995 Legacy Wagon


AWD is the only way to go, especially in northern tier states. Learned to drive in MN, and spent 20 years driving in AK, and would never own a RWD for a daily driver. Even on dry pavement and in a climes without snow, AWD is a safety benefit.

However, the drivetrain does little or nothing, especially on snow and ice, when braking. The only vehicles you see in the ditch in Alaska are 4WD/AWD!

Studded tires are essential on ice covered surfaces. The Swedes and Finns, however, have established that braking distance with studded tires on bare pavement is actually longer than all-season rubber.
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Old 07-14-2020, 05:03 PM   #9
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2005 2.5 SC OB


there is a reason why VT has the most Subaru registrations as a % of all registrations.
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Old 07-15-2020, 12:11 PM   #10
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Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Washington
2016 Focus RS
2002 WRX Wagon


I drove a Coyote Mustang through a Northern New York winter (90+ inches of snow a year). It wasn't by choice and I did not have snow tires on it. I could get around, and if I had put snow tires on it I would have been confident that it could tackle any conditions. But our Subarus blew the doors off anything else up there
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Old 04-02-2021, 12:18 AM   #11
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Chapter/Region: RMIC
Location: Castle Rock, CO
2002 Impreza OBS
Matte Silver


I just got my first Subie (02 Impreza OBS) after daily driving my 01 Eclipse in Colorado. Itís almost scary how well Subarus perform in the snow and ice!
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Old 04-05-2021, 03:16 PM   #12
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Location: Harrisburg, PA

RWD is a bunch of fun in the snow and ice, but if you have to be someplace, give me an AWD any day. Had my first experience with an AWD in a bad snow storm this year. It was great to be cruising down the highway watching all the FWD idiots white knuckling it in the right lane.
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Old 04-06-2021, 10:10 AM   #13
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So many I can't
remember anymore.


IMHO: RWD >fun than FWD in winter. AWD FTW.
However, above all else... good snows tires are the real answer. Traction is what matters most, even when your intent is to lose it. Makes its more controlable. Even "all-season tires" are just that.. better than a summer perf tire on snow, and better than a snow tires would be in dry hot roads. They're just mediocre, year-round. Balance.

Give me a set of Hakka's or Nordmans on a Subaru (their systems, pure mechanical or new-electric-nannery are some of the best out there.)
Gets me to work 60+mi each way on drifty hwys all winter and i can play all weekend if i want too. There's a reason i've owned over 20 subarus. Winter hits and Subarus shine.

Maximum safety, maximum fun.

Plus when the snow really piles up, its a different kinda traction you want under ya for fun anyway.

Last edited by neko; 04-06-2021 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 04-07-2021, 11:10 AM   #14
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2020 WRX STI


Over my experience with various cars, if you're in the snow, an LSD goes a long way on 2 wheel drive cars. I was able to drive my 350z on 275 rear summer tires in 3-4 inches of snow with its crappy LSD. It was not fun, and there were numerous times where I was driving at a 45 degree angle and almost landed in a ditch, but I made it home. I'm actually surprised what the car was capable of.

In my opinion, with RWD as long as you have anything other than an open diff and actual snow tires, not winter performance tires optimized for cold dry/wet grip, you're going to be okay. With AWD you can get away with less optimized tires, just need to be mindful of stopping distances and take it slow. But AWD with snows are tanks, especially Subarus.
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Old 04-15-2021, 04:30 PM   #15
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Chapter/Region: MAIC
Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania
2013 Impreza WRX
Charcoal Grey


What always bothered me about winter driving with rear wheel drive was not the snow it was essentially black ice. My last rear drive car was a 1989 Mercury and I remember a road trip to Kansas City in winter where we were encoutering spots on i-70 where the road had iced and been polished smooth. Things got real interesting a couple times but we were going straight so I kept the car pointed the right way. On another occasion when I had a ford Granada, very light freezing rain conditions, I had checked the road and it was okay at the stop light, but a mile later the car in a gradual curve it just snapped out from under me and I was looking at on coming headlights coming at me. I have never had an all wheel drive or front drive car try to snap spin like that in any circumstance I have encountered in 30 years with those.
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