February 5, 2013
Dodge Charger R/T
The Charger R/T shines in winter driving for a few reasons, but I appreciated the calibration of the rear-wheel-drive tester’s stability and traction assist systems the most. These feel expertly tuned, allowing a just-right amount of wheelspin in any situation, rather than a complete lock-down of the throttle at any sign of traction loss. Translation? Accelerating and driving in deep snow, you feel confidently in control, not like you’re in a fight with a computer. Rear-wheel drive can be great in the snow, and the Charger reminded me why.
Lights were powerful, too. And, with a great stereo, heated steering wheel and seats, and even a heated cupholder for your java, it’s easy to stay comfortable, relaxed and at-ease, even in lousy weather. Automatic lights, high-beams and wipers allow drivers to focus attention on the road more easily.
Even in thick powder, Charger cruises with a heavy, stable feel. Drivers can expect to feel like they’re in a vehicle that’s steady, planted and confidently able to tackle winter driving conditions, primarily because they are. I had no issue with a five-hour, late-night trip between Toronto and Sudbury in heavy snow in this one.
Dodge Charger R/T & Volvo S60. Click image to enlarge
The specifications of the S60 are the sort that get your writer excited to hit the roads when the rest of my Northern Ontario locale takes a “snow day”.
Traction is immense, seamless and drama-free with the ‘Instant Traction’ AWD system. This can shuffle power between and across the axles, and even overpower the outer wheels in corners to make the S60 feel more planted and agile. Driven sensibly (or even spiritedly), S60 spends less time plowing, less time tail-sliding, and more time going exactly where it is pointed.
The stability control system is lenient and helps enable confidently spirited driving—even with snow deep enough to drift over the hood.
Confidence is furthered by a heavy and locked-down steering feel, which eliminates the tendency for thick slush and deep snow ruts passing beneath the tires to ‘pull’ the wheel from the driver’s hands. Cruising at speed in deep snow, the S60 feels like it weighs about nine tons.
It’s a car engineered and designed in a country where folks go cross-country skiing on their lunch-breaks and relish being active outside in wintertime, and it shows. For a feeling of pure confidence and being backed up by winter-busting equipment, it’s also one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever driven in the snow.
Acura TL SH-AWD. Click image to enlarge
Acura TL SH-AWD
A slick, fast-acting AWD system and plenty of laid-back quiet in the cabin make this another noteworthy model when used on a snowy highway drive. Acceleration over surfaces with uneven traction is smooth and very seamless, and the AWD system allows plenty of throttle-steering when drivers request it. When they don’t, SH-AWD can even recalibrate its power split to help the car turn or stay straight, depending on the driver’s requests.
What most impresses me about the TL SH-AWD in winter is how seamless the AWD system is about moving drive power between the axles and wheels. It does this free of the gentle squirms and tugs you’ll notice with other systems.
A thick, chunky steering wheel and direct steering communicates what’s happening between the tires and the road to the driver’s fingertips. Steering wheel–mounted controls and voice command make it easy to keep attention focused on the road, and the lights are fantastic, too.
On a recent test drive of this rig during a nearly province-wide heavy snowfall alert, me and my photographer took an hour detour off of Highway 69 to try out the TL SH-AWD on Southwoods Drive—which is considered one of the best (and least travelled) driving roads in Ontario. We got to the road ahead of the plows (and all other traffic), and appreciated the sporty and stable dynamic of the TL’s driving experience—even in up to a foot of snow on a tightly winding stretch of pavement.
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