When it snows it’s not about the car: how snow tires can save your life

Subaru Legacy GT damage 4

I didn’t bother looking at my tires as I accepted Roman Mica’s challenge to meet on a snowy mountain top for a Mashed-Up-Match-Up challenge. Why? Because I was driving a 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT with a turbocharged 265-horsepower H-4 bolted to a 6-speed manual and Symmetrical all-wheel-drive. At about $32,000 (base) it represents a superb GT car with the heart of a WRX and the ride of a Toyota Camry.

I was positive that (next to a high end Audi or a Mitsubishi EVO) I had the right car for any match-up. It turns out that Roman brought a long, heavy 2011 Mercedes Benz R350 wagon-crossover-van-doohickey. It also has all-wheel-drive (AWD) and betters the Subaru by three-hp (a total of 268hp). The 2011 R350 starts at over $50,000. I’ve driven the R350 before in snow and it was excellent. But – it’s over 1,700 lbs heavier than the 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and it’s normally aspirated.

We were meeting at about 10,000 feet – – – surely victory would be mine.

Then, as I ascended the snowy hills north of Boulder, Colorado – I began to have issues. The AWD system was working as hard as possible to keep the rubber to the ground, but the rubber had no intentions of listening. That’s because I was driving a car through the snow with SUMMER tires. I quickly let Roman know that there was NO way we were going to race.

Then it came to us – why not show you good people what the difference is between mud+snow tires vs. summer rubber on AWD vehicles? Some people are woefully ignorant as to the advantages of having the right tool for the job. I mean, you all know that AWD is great for foul weather – but do tires make a difference?

Indeed they do.

At the end of a road near Caribou, Colorado – we simply tried to ascend a road with a foot of snow on it. Even with all-season tires, the Subaru would have easily conquered the powdery stuff.

What you’re about to see was the end result.

Needless to say, I was less than pleased. Not only did the Subaru bog down, but the ice underneath and sloping road created a situation that I could not stop – sliding against gravity. Fortunately, the 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT is a stout vehicle as the culvert on the side of the road would have broken lesser cars. Once extracted, the Subaru had a few minor scratches.

So, to summarize: if you are serious about driving in the snow – buy snow tires – even IF you have ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE.

Nathan Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE.

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Follow on twitter @TFLcar or watch latest car review videos on YouTube.