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Winter Driving Guide

AWD is not a winter-driving feature. Sorry.

Published December 18, 2013

If there’s one thing Canadians know how to do (besides say “sorry”), it’s driving in winter weather conditions. This season is already off to a roaring start, with more snow on the way and a whopper of a storm coming on Sunday, which makes it a good time to share a conversation more like a polite argument, really I had with a friend recently.

I was driving a sporty BMW Gran Turismo 335i test drive. It was snowing heavily and the roads were a mess.

“It’s okay, you’ve got AWD,” my passenger said soothingly.

“All-wheel-drive is not a safety feature,” I huffed. “It’s a performance feature.”

“No, it’s both,” my passenger said.

“That’s a misconception,” I retorted.

“No it’s not,” he retorted back.

Clearly, this was rapidly turning into a silly argument and I needed to focus my attention on the road rather than on witty rejoinders. But I filed it under “look that one up later,” and when I got home, I did a little research.

And it turns out that just about every expert, from safe-driving instructors to the CAA, agree that it’s not the AWD that’ll save you in snowy, icy road conditions. It’s the tires.

The fact is it takes all vehicles longer to stop on snow-covered roads, which makes winter tires a must. AWD will indeed help you accelerate better in slippery conditions, but when it comes to slowing down, stopping, steering and tire grip — the key determinants in preventing most winter accidents — AWD won’t really help.

For a visual demonstration, see the video below, courtesy of AutoExpress.  And then maybe think about staying home on Sunday.

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