Colorado Ice Driving | We compare 8 vehicles in snow and ice
WINTER PARK, Colo. — The thermometer on the dash reads 3 degrees, and yet, the sun is shining. This kind of weather isn’t what this Detroit native is used to. Neither is the scene before me. Eight vehicles, all but the one I’m sitting in, a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, are wrapped in snow tires. In front of me is a parking lot covered with 18 inches of snow, and orange cones outlining a slalom course.
A green flag waves, and I push the pedal to the floor. The all-terrain tires, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder — dubbed the Hurricane — struggle to grip the slick snow. After the first turn, things get a bit sideways, but the Jeep makes it through the course, if not a bit slower than I had hoped.
I am in Winter Park, Colorado, a ski town just above 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, where Rocky Mountain Redline has brought a fleet of all-wheel-drive vehicles to compare their winter performance, everything from a Dodge Challenger GT to a Mercedes GLE 450 to the Toyota Rav4 Adventure.
First was a winter autocross course. One at a time we floored it, take off on the slick snow weaving our way in, out, and around cones until we slammed on the brakes, letting the ABS guide us into the stop box.
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After going through the entire eight-car lineup, the course was switched to a start/stop drag race, the goal of which was to not only beat your opponent off the line, but to stop within a certain amount of space without sliding through. The latter proved to be more difficult for me, and I slid through the box nearly half the time (every time with the A/T wrapped Jeep Wrangler).
The next day we woke up and made our way down the mountain to Lake Georgetown, where the day’s slalom course is on over three feet of ice and, due to the 50 mph gusts of wind, was ever changing.
Most of my time driving in the winter is spent avoiding the kind of sliding that happens when ice covers the road, but not with a wide open space like this. The day’s runs echoed the snow-covered attempts of the day prior, with, as you’ll see in the video above, exaggerated results.
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The biggest surprises of the event came from two different ends of the spectrum. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, the only vehicle not outfitted with snow tires, instead wrapped in OE all-terrains, had a hard time handling the snow and ice, even when utilizing the automatic 4-Hi mode that is only available on the Sahara.
With multiple terrain modes, as well as a sport and normal setting for each, the Rav4 Adventure offered the most control over driving experience. Put the vehicle in Mud/Sand mode and you can have a blast, getting sideways and drifting around corners, and yet, with one turn of a knob to snow mode, control comes back, along with the confidence necessary on snowy mountain hairpin turns.
It was easy to see the differences between each of the vehicles driving modes, as well as the impact of having winter tires (or not having winter tires) can have when the temperatures near zero. Check out the video above to see all of the action.