Snow and Sports Cars
On New Year’s Day, my wife and I were in Park City with Todd and Paul. Not expecting snow, we drove our Porsche Boxster over the 7,200 ft Parley’s Summit to get there. Then we were hit with one of the biggest snow storms of the year. Paul offered us to stay the night at his place, but stupidly, we turned him down and headed home. It was slow going and we got a lot of funny looks when passing someone in their SUV. The Boxster just settled into its winter tires and trucked through the un-plowed mountain pass. The entire drive I kept thinking, I am so glad to be in a car where I can feel everything through the chassis. We made it home without any issues.
Many people shudder at the thought of daily driving a sports car through a snowy, Utah winter; I on the other hand, embrace it. There is so much fun to be had on slick roads. In fact, I believe everyone should try driving a sports car at least once in the winter with proper winter tires. It isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. In fact, I survived daily driving my 1967 Ford Mustang through winter, without winter tires, traction control, anti-lock brakes or a working heater. I managed but don’t think I’ll try that again, not without winter tires anyway.
I’d rather drive my BRZ or Boxster this time of year than a typical AWD/4x4 snow machine. Both these cars offer such good road feel that I can practically feel every snowflake on the ground. Every little slip of the tires is amplified by a thousand, letting the driver know what is happening long before things get out of control.
Too many people think they need an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle to get around in the snow. Many of the people driving them have a feeling of invincibility, but the heavy weight of many AWD vehicles makes stopping and discerning road feel more difficult.
Having a good set of winter tires helps more than having all-wheel drive alone. The winter tires on my BRZ and Todd’s FR-S have given us traction where all-season tires won’t. Attentive driving is still required, but they give you more time to react when things get hairy. Winter tires aren’t a cheap investment but a lot less expensive than balling up your car.
Then there’s the added benefit to driving a RWD sports car in the winter: empty parking lots. Snow covered parking lots offer endless sideways entertainment at relatively safe speeds. You can also learn about your car and yourself. Perhaps during the first snow fall of the season, instead of grabbing your snowboard and heading for the slopes, find yourself an empty parking lot and play around a little. Doing so will be a good reminder of how your car drives in the snow and on slick surfaces. It serves as good practice and may help you control your car in any weather conditions.
It was snowing as I left the house this morning and my wife said to me, “I hear it’s slick out there, so be careful.” I smiled. The main road near my house was plowed, but not very well. As I rolled up to the stop sign in my BRZ, I turned traction control off and waited until there was no traffic. I then proceeded to leave the neighborhood completely sideways. A perfect day for a sports car in the snow!
Photos: Chance Hales