Originally published January 13, 2015
If you’re travelling, winter is stressy. Crappy weather will make you late for things, slippery roads will make you whack into pieces of highway infrastructure, and reduced daylight and plenty of grey, overcast skies will make you feel tired and lousy and miserable and stressed and crappy in the process. Plus, your ride will probably be all dirty and salty inside, which sucks, and you’ll have to regularly scrape the windshield before sitting in a rolling ice-box for 5 or 10 minutes before it warms up.
Screw you, winter. You’re just the worst. I’m moving to California and getting a convertible Lamborghini. Just kidding, I’m not rich.
If you’re stuck here in Canada and plan to hit the roads in a new car this cold-weather season, be sure to consider the following list of favorite features, commonly available, that can take the stress, discomfort and crappiness out of wintertime travels.
I carefully honed this list of favourite winter-busting features, just for you, during hundreds of thousands of kilometres spent highway driving in Northern Ontario winters, divvied up between hundreds of cars. You may have your own list of favourite new-car winter-busting features. Here is mine.
Note that my list assumes you’ll be a good Canadian and kit your new ride up with winter tires to avoid high-fiving fellow motorists with your quarter panel. Good winter tires, not cheap ones. Do your skimping on toilet paper, or the beer you bring out when your buddies come over, not the tires that attach your ride to the road.
Anyways, here we go.
High Performance Lighting
Great visibility at night is a must—especially in inclement winter weather. Nowadays, a high-performance xenon lighting system is available in more vehicles than ever, and you should get one. Once reserved for high-dollar luxury cars, xenon lighting provides superior output compared to a conventional halogen setup.
The light is crisp and white and bright as a welding flash. This helps keep your eyes from straining to see up the road, meaning eye fatigue is minimized on road trips that last late into the evening. You’ll see details farther up the road, meaning advanced warning of potential hazards.
I can’t say this enough: if you’re driving many hours after dark, a high-performance lighting system is an absolute must, and your retinas will thank you. What about LED headlamps? In your writer’s experience, the power and output of xenon is just plain bigger and better, with a few exceptions (like the Audi A7).
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
This sort of goes without saying, but if the ride you’re considering has available AWD, go for it. Sure, it’s mostly about off-the-line traction and AWD does less for you when you’re cruising at speed, but having it on board means you’re less likely to get stranded or hung up, or stuck, if you pull too far off the side of the road and wind up down a culvert. Been there, done that. Having all-wheel drive also means you’ll be able to evade certain types of accident situations more easily, too.
You’ll find your own reasons to appreciate having it on board, especially when your neighbour is stuck in a two-foot deep snowplow hump at the end of his driveway, and you drift sideways through yours with the traction control off, like a total boss.