Article and photos by Justin Pritchard

Originally posted February 5th, 2013
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Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars

Every week, I spend over 2,000 kilometres driving one of the most important new cars on the market through real-life conditions to report back to my viewers and readers on the experience.

I’m likely the Canadian auto writer with the longest regular commute by a landslide. I’m not aware of any colleague who regularly puts the miles on a test-car that I do. Good thing I like driving.

Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars
Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars”. Click image to enlarge

My weekly trips in each test car start at the northernmost point of Highway 69 in Sudbury, Ontario. Then, (after a trip to Timmies) it’s down to the speedy highways of central Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area, and back again to Sudbury for a week of in-town driving in the next tester.

Repeat times about 50 weeks in a year. And for the past 8 years, uninterrupted. Holy cow, that’s a lot of miles.

For many months of the year, part of this weekly travelling often includes several hours of driving in really lousy weather.

One stretch of Highway 69 passes through what’s called the ‘Snow Belt’. Catch this length of road on a bad day, and it’ll treat you to heavy, blowing snow, rampant temperature fluctuations, ice pellets, and some of the most relaxed snow-plowing standards in the province.

The Snow Belt is, additionally, exempt from weather forecasts. You can encounter an hour-long blizzard here on days where the rest of Ontario is clear and sunny.

Recently, a number of cars I’ve taken on this trip stand out for various reasons when the going gets wintry. A great AWD system, for instance, shows itself here—especially when accelerating back up to speed after pulling over for photos. A good lighting system also stands out in these conditions, primarily for keeping me confident that I won’t have a close encounter of the ‘moose’ kind after dark. A nicely calibrated steering system can make a car feel ‘locked-on’ and surefooted on the slippery stuff. The list goes on.

Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy cars I’ve tackled the Snow Belt with recently. Note that all comments are made of test cars wearing winter tires.

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