By on August 15, 2008

How does a Mustang fare in a harsh, North-eastern winter? More specifically, Canada. I only ask because last year, Montreal, where I live, was covered with over 200 inches of snow. I've already done the rear wheel-drive-in-winter thing in my first car. I was behind the wheel of a Chevette with about four hp and two ft.-lbs of torque (slight exaggeration). In other words, it came standard with engine-limited traction control. A buddy of mine tried to negotiate last winter in his Twin Turbo Supra. Fancy snow tires and 200 lbs. of gravel in the trunk still made it the worst winter car in the universe. He ended up buying a Hyundai Accent to get through the season (ouch). True fact: in my entire life, I think I can count on one hand the amount of winterized Mustangs I've seen, complete with ugly black wheels and skinny winter tires. So, do the other Mustang owners who leave theirs in the garage all winter know something I should know?

Porsche GT3 on snow

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80 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Should I Drive My Mustang in the Snow?...”

  • avatar

    I drove several Canadian winters in my fathers base model Ranger (4 cyl, 5 speed, 2wd) and I can tell you that they get stuck on anything (even with snow tires) due to a lack of weight over the rear wheels.

    On the east coast I do see quite a few mustangs in winter (almost always 6 cyl), but I have no idea how they handle the snow.

  • avatar

    rev0lver: Hence the gravel in the trunk.

  • avatar

    In my younger days, I drove several RX-7’s around Colorado and over the Rockies during the winter. Nothing like a set of chains and you’ve got a 4×4 sports car (well as long as the snow isn’t too deep of course). Although putting chains on a sports car out in the snow was never easy… LOL

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Yesterday, it rained. And the guy in front of me at the light, in his SVO Mustang, was making zero forward progress. The water under his Pilots may well have been in its solid, frozen state. Finally, he was moving down the road, being very cautious. Upon his shift to third, the back end snapped left into oncoming traffic sending people ducking for cover in the ditch.

    So from my perspective, I’d say you’ll be in for a whole nine months of puckered-up experiences in a Great White North pony car.

    From my own experience, I grew in the Black Hills driving a 66 Mustang with a 289. Perhaps because I didn’t know better, I lived to tell about it. But six rock-salt bags in the trunk and some snow tires and a set of chains (yes tire chains) in at the ready would get you through the worst stuff. And if it didn’t, one bummed a ride with my brother in his Bronco.

  • avatar

    In High school my brother had an 88 Mustang LX 5.0 (limited slip) with a set of snow tires on it and it was fine in the snow with 2 bags of sand

    When i was in college I had a 91 Thunderbird LX 5.0, limited slip. I had 4 blizzaks on the stock 15-inchers and it was dropped 2 inches on Jamex springs. I had that thing litterally plowing through 8- inches of snow and never once got stuck. I never even put sand in the trunk, just a full tank of gas.

    My 94 Crown Vic P71 was a b***h in the snow. It was an open rear with non-defeatable traction control. I got stuck everwhere with that thing.

    If you have a good set of snow tires, a little weight, and a limited slip in a RWD car you will be fine in most moderate snow storms.

  • avatar

    As I have strongly maintained ANY time someone brings up this topic–FWD is not better in the snow than RWD. The reason FWD is perceived to be better is because it has more weight over the drive wheels. The only reason MOST rwd cars are not as good in the snow are a) MOST rwd cars on the road today are trucks, which means NO weight over the rear wheels and b) most RWD cars have at least somewhat powerful engines, which means traction problems.

    A RWD car with less power, like a fwd car, and with lots of weight over the drive wheels, like a fwd car, is as proficient or moreso in snow. I’ve lived in Northern Ontario my whole life, and not only have I driven many RWD cars in the snow, I’ve never once had a single accident, ever.

    I maintain that the ULTIMATE winter beaters are cars like the Chevette, or the 4 Cylinder Mustang, or Volvo 240s, with just the right amount of weight in the trunk, and SNOW TIRES (easily the most important thing you need.) I’ve outdriven many a fwd shitbox on winter roads all over Canada with my 2.5L S10 with a load of sand in the back.

    To answer Samir’s question, the car will be fine to drive in the snow, with snow tires. You just have to know how to meter your right foot properly. As to whether or not you SHOULD drive it in the snow, it comes down whether or not you like your car–no matter how good an undercoating you get, no matter how much you clean that car during the winter, the road salt, snow and slush WILL eventually cause rust and rot. It’s a fact of automotive life in Canada. That’s why I’ve ALWAYS had a cheap POS car for the winter, to put my nice summer car away. It’s up to you.

  • avatar


    My father is a land surveyor and had a box which fit into the very back of the bed by the tailgate filled with rebar.

    It didn’t help much.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    And on a different note…

    RF, how can you not love the tone of this Porsche in the video? This also must be in your iPod — a flat-six, reverberating through the forest as its insane conductor throttle-steers around ice bends.

    Snort, bark! Growwwwwl…it’s like a mad beast!


    Spectators at rallye events amaze me, though. They’re crazier than the drivers, standing at the road’s frozen shoulder as a wide-open Porsche screams by balanced on the edge of control.

    Nutters, they are.

    Forget the Mustang, Syed. Put the engine weight over the rear wheels, no sandbags necessary, and race around Canada in a 996 or 997.

  • avatar

    Unless you are completely inept…you should be able to handle a RWD car in the snow. I have never been stuck in the snow in my car…

  • avatar

    When it comes to RWD cars, weight distribution is paramount. My MR2 got me through two winters with no incidents; I did have to buy a set of winter tires, though, because my current summer tires turn into plastic when it’s cold out.

    On the other hand, the Miata wants to make doughnuts even in the rain, as soon as you turn off traction control. When winter comes, it’s gonna stay under a cover – heated seats are great, but a formerly-25K-pile-of-scrap isn’t. Remember, you’re not the only one having trouble in the snow, you are far more likely to get ran into when the weather is bad.

    Hence, the best solution is a rusty crusty beater for the winter. $500-1000 buys you a decent late-80’s compact with a nasty exterior, a couple dents, and broken A/C. Here in MD, you can even register it as historic, and not be obliged to do safety inspection or emissions. Moneywise, it’s perfect. If you kill it, you get back 300$ for scrap. If somebody else kills it, you get a jackpot of $1000-1500 from the other guy’s insurance. If you don’t kill it, you can safely sell it comes spring for about as much money as you paid to get it in the first place.

    Of course, nothing is more fun than a front-heavy RWD car in the snow – as long as you can afford to loose it.

  • avatar

    With the right tire combo, traction control, and some additional weight it is definitely do-able. But why would you want to do that to your new shiny sports car? Rocks, road salt, worry about sliding into something – that’s no fun.

    Consider picking up a beater SUV if you have the extra parking space. With this market there are tons of deals. I picked up a used Jeep for slightly more than I would have paid to properly winterize my car. When I added up the cost of winter tires and rims plus the insurance savings from having the other car off the road those months AND the peace of mind – it just made sense. The Jeep is a beast in the snow; it’s also a great vehicle for home depot runs.

  • avatar

    I used to drive my Rx-7 and then my Miata year round (in New England), and a good set of snow tires makes all the difference in the world. I don’t know how much worse it is in your neck of Canada, or if the extra weight on the Mustang would make a big difference, but with snow tires I never had a problem, and felt like I was in better control then 2/3 of the people on the road (especially most SUVs with ‘all season’ tires).

    Also, I don’t know if this is a Miata thing or not, but we never put extra weight in the trunk. The thinking was I’d rather have problems getting started, then have problems getting the rear end at the back. Or maybe we just didn’t have the trunk space.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    One (Finnish) word: Hakkapelliita

  • avatar

    Step 1: Get good snow tires, emphasis on good. Do not use all-seasons, excessively wide tires and/or budget snows. I can’t stress this enough.
    Step 2: Put them on all four wheels, not just the rears.
    Step 3: Don’t drive like it’s a dry summer’s day.

    I feel it’s important to note that all the above apply to front- and all-wheel-drive drive cars as well. The only difference is that a front driver (and most AWD cars) will step sideways at the front, and will do so more gently, while your Mustang will snap a little more suddenly.

    Personally, I’ve found AWD the worst: not because of the outright ability of the car, but because the initial positive traction gives a false sense of security. Front-wheel drive lets you know things are going bad very, very early in the game; the steering gets light, the car pushes in turns or pulls when accelerating and you drive slower as a result. AWD makes you cocky because you don’t get those early warning signs. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven an RWD car day-in/day-out in the snow, but I recall that it didn’t give as much advance warning as FWD does.

    I don’t think putting more mass in the rear is a good idea. You’ll lose some steering control and upset the balance of the car. Better to just keep a tank full of gas (a good idea in winter regardless) and be gentle with the throttle.

  • avatar


    I agree. A beater SUV isn’t much more than a decent set of snow tires / rims for the Mustang.

  • avatar

    That is some amazing driving in the video, but the spectators standing along the curves are out of their minds.

  • avatar

    Grew up on Lake Ontario and drove V8 Pontiacs every winter. Part of learning how to drive was finding a big parking lot after a fresh snow and learning what the car would and wouldn’t do and how to recover when the back wanted to be the front. It was supposed to be serious, but damn it was fun. Put some snows on it and find a parking lot…..
    Hmmm, I guess a FOB 60’s Pontiac sedan probably had a less craptastic weight distribution, but it was no prize.

  • avatar

    Speaking from personal experience, the Mustang will be fine in the snow, provided you invest in the right tires for the job.

    My previous car -a ’99 Mustang GT w/ traction control- took on each Northeast Winter like a champ. I was using a set of Blizzaks which provided an added bonus: the ride improved!!

  • avatar

    I drove my C6 Vette through last year’s Boston winter with the (worn) summer tires (285/35/19 in the rear) still on it. I got stuck once (and it just required a push to get me unstuck) all winter. Granted, Boston doesn’t have as much snow as Montreal, but it’s not Florida either.

    The winter before I drove a Lex GS400 with 245/45/17 all seasons and I was fine.

    If you know how to drive, it’s not a big deal to pilot a RWD car in the snow. Especially if you live in/near a city and the roads are cleared on a semi-regular basis. A ‘Stang should be a lot easier to drive in the winter than my Vette was becuase it’s less powerful, and you’ll probably have better (i.e. not huge summer tires) on it as well

  • avatar

    I tried a 3000gt (FWD, base model – not too fast) in the snow in Omaha with A/S tires (I’ve never used winter tires here, but we get plenty of snow). It was a total disaster just like your friend there. A half inch of snow would make it nearly undrivable. I also now own a 2nd beater car just for that reason. I wouldn’t bother with the mustang.

  • avatar

    I drove all last winter in the snow with my 91 300zx. It’s rwd, no traction control and I have all-weather tires. It was a very sideways affair… I love driving in the snow however, so I’m not the majority. I drove from nyc to vt several times in blizzards. Was good, good fun. You should be fine with a mustang with winter tires. It’s got traction control. If you keep some chains in your trunk you will have no problems in any weather.

    Oh and practice makes perfect. I highly recommend finding a parking lot, turn your traction control off and practice sliding and recovering until you are comfortable. Then when you turn it on you should feel very comfortable. Then drink a 6-pack and practice some more (I kid).

  • avatar

    My wife has driven her Mustang GT covertible for 2 winters now. A set of Blizzaks, in the original size, on aftermarket wheels, did the trick. I’ve driven that car as well in the winter. There are no problems getting around. Neither of us has ever been stuck, in any of our RWD cars, since I started using Blizzaks in 1997.

    We live in SE Michigan, which, while not the worst winter spot in the world, has eniough snow, ice, and freezing rain to be a true test of inclement weather abilities.

    One caveat about driving with winter tires: you can stop faster than everyone else out there on their all-season or summer tires. This can get exciting.


  • avatar

    I drove a new Mustang GT through the Michigan winter last year… personally I don’t recommend it. Of all the production cars available today I imagine the Mustang must be one of the absolute worst when it comes to snow.

    I got stuck a few times; the car simply doesn’t have enough clearance over heavy snowfalls. Once I was underway it was OK though.

    Of course, I was on all-seasons and not snow tires, but unless snow tires raise your car I don’t think they would have helped.

    It is of course as many previous posters have mentioned, do-able, but not preferable. Especially when compared to say… an Evo IX. (Now that was a good winter.) Ultimately, owning a Mustang is all about fun. There’s simply no other purpose for that machine. Driving it in the winter is really the anti-thesis of fun, so why put yourself through that if you have a choice? Am I right?

  • avatar

    …Chevette with about four hp and two ft.-lbs of torque (slight exaggeration)

    True, it’s more like 2 hp and 1 ft-lb of torque….

  • avatar

    Must share this little anecdote re rear wheel vs front wheel drive cars. The Mrs had just taken delivery of her brand new 92 Accord and was as happy as a pig in poop. After several months of winter driving I asked her how she like the handling in the snow. “Oh it’s great now that I added some weights in the trunk!” Huh? sez I that aint gonna help dear. Oh yes she says her father told years ago in the winter you always carry additional weight for traction. Well, me never being right I let her carry on and it was almost two years later when I happened to open her trunk and lo and behold 6 40 lb bags of salt. Salt I say!
    Well I had to explain to the dear lady that now that two had broken open and who knows how long they had been there she could expect to be visiting a body shop before long. Why she queries –well you’ll see! 16 years later that mother is still sitting in the driveway refusing to rot away. Mind you there is a bit of duct tape in a few normal Honda weak spots but she still tells me it doesn’t handle like it did the winters she carried salt.
    Oooobladee obladaaa

  • avatar

    Out here in the PNW we get the worst possible driving conditions in winter: heavy wet snow, usually on top of ice, as the default winter weather is rain… which only becomes snow as the freezing-level drops in altitude. Therefore it starts out wet, then freezes, then layers snow on top for good measure. It rarely freezes hard (temps stay close to freezing and never get REALLY cold to add bite to the texture of the ice & snow)… roads turn into slick billiard tables here. Add to that virtually NO flat ground, everything is hilly.

    When this happens I park even the FWD cars in the garage and don’t venture out, despite a lifetime of snow and slick driving experience. The preponderance of morons on the road keeps me telecommuting. If pressed however, I’ll bring out the wife’s Jeep CRD, which works like a champ.

    In my youth, I spent part of my time in Montana, where it gets damn cold, and driving is actually much easier. My VW Rabbit did great, though it was a Diesel and really had to be “plugged in” all the time when off. I also drove an old VW Beetle here in Washington and it was an amazing snow car, even on our super-slick stuff. With the right tires, it went anywhere.

    A Mustang though? I guess it depends upon how precious it is to you. If you don’t want it getting beaten and salted, leave it in the garage and get a beater. SUVs can be bought for pennies right now.. just slap on a set of crappy-looking steel wheels and good snow tires. You’re good to go. If SUVs are not your thing, then any cheap car will do. The definition of a “beater” is a car you don’t mind getting beaten. ;)


  • avatar

    I am shocked, very very PLEASENTLY shocked, to hear that TTAC’s best and brightest aren’t brainswashed morons! SO MANY people still believe the 1970s propaganda about FWD being better in the snow… this discussion is bringing a joyful tear to my eye… excuse me.

  • avatar

    Heh, that’s sort of funny. When I read the title, before I clicked through to the article, my first thought seriously was “Maybe you should get a beater Hyundai Accent with winter tires.” Odd I picked that one exact car from the squishy parts of the mind.

    Seriously, FWD is better in the snow. Now, hear me out before you call me a moron. To get your RWD snow-worthy, you not only need the snow tires, you (as most people suggest here) will be adding sand or whatever in the back. Not only are you adding weight (- fuel economy) you’re taking away your usable cargo space. In a FWD car, it’s snow tires and go.

  • avatar

    I personally wouldn’t drive my mustang in the snow(not that i would ever own one), but as stated before with snow tires and a little weight you’ll be able to move around, except for on heavy snow days. If your snow comes 4″ at a time, you’d probably be okay, but if it comes at 10-12″ increments i’d look into a beater.

    Personally i’d stay away from SUV beaters as most older SUVs (unless you go old school) have vacuum operated 4wd units, they always fail when you want them to work. So avoid S-10 Blazers as tempting as their nearly free prices are.

    Nothing beats a heavy FWD car in the snow, really anything fwd with ground clearance does okay. I’d Recommend a Buick LeSabre for ultimate winter beatings, preferably late 80’s vintage.

  • avatar

    SO MANY people still believe the 1970s propaganda about FWD being better in the snow…

    In the 1970s, it wasn’t propaganda, it was true. It’s still mostly true today, but not for the reasons people think:
    * Front-wheel drive is more forgiving in a standing start, given all-season or summer tires and lack of traction control.
    * The default behaviour of a front-wheel drive car that loses traction at start (mild sideways pull or straight wheelspin) or in a skid (pushing straight) is safer, especially without electronic aids.
    * The default behaviour of a rookie driver (stop/slow/let off gas/turn) in a panic situation is correct for a front-drive car.

    I think people mix up “traction from a start” and “safe handling”: an AWD car with all-seasons can start off better than a front-driver with snows, but will have less grip and, thusly, weaker handling and stopping ability.

    Putting sandbags in the trunk doesn’t help handling (and can make it worse–you have less grip in the front, and thus less steering and braking) but it does help standing-start traction.

    Not being able to start is annoying. Not being able to stop or steer is potentially deadly. I think people place too much emphasis on the former because it’s what they notice first; unfortunately, it’s also what traction control and all-wheel drive mask; the second is only helped by stability control, snow tires and–most importantly–smart, cautious driving.

  • avatar

    Get a $500 beater for the really crappy days. You’ll not only save your car from yourself, but from others, and you’ll be stress free in the long run.

    Oh, and full-sized SUV’s are horrible in snow, they get just as stuck under their own weight.

  • avatar

    A high HP, RWD sports car is a cakewalk in the snow compared to pulling two empty 28′ trailers with a single drive axle semi-tractor in the snow. When you spend an hour plus on top of Donner chaining a set you have reached a true state of winter driving enlightenment.

    I’ve know people who have made it through the winter here in Reno with ‘Stangs rolling all seasons. It can be done but will be interesting at times.

    If you are going to get chains for the ‘stang, practice putting them on in your driveway. You don’t want to have to figure our how to get them on getting cold, wet and miserable on the side of the road. A cheap pair of pliers and dish gloves will make it easier to get them on.

    Or as others have stated, just get a beater SUV. A running Jeep Cherokee (XJ) can be had for $800-1500.

  • avatar

    When cars went the direction God Intended front power and balance..thats mostly history.The few surviving rear drivers ex Mustang are not balanced like the old rear drives.Extra weight in the trunk can move or dent-outward.
    The question is Do you have to?..if so Can in a huge storm?
    I have a retired Z56 Police Tahoe that goes through pretty good. (2wd).AWD is the safest in the worst weather.
    If this is a Y/N How on the hell do we know?

  • avatar

    Firstly, why oh why are you talking about snow??? Its mid August, 29 degrees Celsius, I’ve got beers in the icebox and a barbecque planned for when I get home tonight. The last thing I want to remember is the winter and snow about to descend upon my Canadian city months away.

    To answer your question, yes, absolutely. I kept my car a garage queen for the first 3 winters of its life, but last year I decided, screw it, the car’s meant to be driven. Despite my pampering and detailing OCD, my car still attracted the dings, rock chips, scratches and normal wear and tear. And with car-seat kids, I gave up trying to keep the interior pristine.

    So with skinny snow tires mounted, I enjoyed a completely uneventful winter on ice and snow. My E46 M3 had no issues traversing snowy roads, icy intersections and avoiding pot holes. However, as others have said, you need to make adjustments in how you drive. Drive cautiously, ensure smooth steering, brake and accelerator inputs, give yourself plenty of space and time, and steer clear of all other motorists as much as possible as they scrabble around with their all-seasons. Of course with a sporting car, your car becomes a snow plough when the inches pile up.

    Brrr, back to sunny thoughts…

  • avatar

    I drive all winter long in my mustang here in Central Illinois. I have a V-6 with the 5 speed and I have a set of bridgestone blizzaks mounted on stock mustang alloy rims. I have learned you can buy sets of stock 16″ mustang rims all day long with everyone upgrading to 17 and 18’s. The only time I have ever been stuck in the snow with this combination is when the snow is high enough to reach the floorpan of the car. I also do not place any weight into it. I figure if I am making payments on it I am going to drive it in any weather.

  • avatar

    I drive my G35 with snow tires through Chicago winters without a problem. It drives better then my wife’s Accord with A/S tires.

    Drive wheels are important for acceleration, but for stopping and turning, tires are key – snow tires make all the difference. Use smaller wheels with higher profile, thinner tires (think ice skates) for the winter set.

    Lastly, the best part of snow tires in winter – they allow you to get a nice set of rims and performance tires for the summer.

  • avatar

    In my experience the best snow/ winter cars are FWD cars equiped with a nice heavy v6 over the front axle. With a decent set of A/S tires you will have all the traction and control you will need.

  • avatar


    Lastly, the best part of snow tires in winter – they allow you to get a nice set of rims and performance tires for the summer.

    Your tires also last roughly twice as long, so the expense evens out, and it makes passing state inspections easier (slap on the ones with the most tread).

    I moved back into snow country last year. Tire chains are the great equalizer for when things are too icy for even winter tires. The only time I got stuck (in a Protege) was when I was pushing snow.

    That said, I wouldn’t put chains on a mustang. Now’s the time to shop for a winter beater.

  • avatar

    Both a 240sx and an old MK2 Supra were just fine for me in some pretty terrible conditions. More powerful cars would require much more delicate operation of the throttle and a complete avoidance of the cruise control.

    I like RWD, it gives you some warning you are going too fast before you fly into the ditch. You need to be easy on the throttle but steering with one set of tires and pushing the car forward with a different set makes sense to me as far as safety goes.

    edit: When you lose traction going around a corner with a fwd car the car points you toward the ditch, so when the front wheels do get traction back you have to steer the car back into the corner or fly off the road. A rwd car doesn’t do this, when the back tires lose grip you get pointed into the corner not out of it, apply a bit of clutch or back off the thottle and you have much less to worry about when the tires grip again. It’s even kind of fun once you get the hang of it.

    Weight distribution and tire size and type all make a big difference though. Also, a stick shift makes a world of difference for getting moving and lets you cover the clutch for when the back tires do go squirrely.

    They stop the same whether they are RWD or FWD or even 4wd, and that to me is the important part. The worst vehicle I ever owned for driving in the snow was an old Toyota 4×4 pickup, it could go anywhere but good luck trying to stop it.

  • avatar

    Several years ago I had a 95 Mustang Cobra (no traction control back then) and left work at 7pm in 3-5 inches of fresh snow on unplowed roads in Wilmington, De. My trip home was about 7 miles over fairly hilly roads including my rather steep driveway. Fortunately I had almost new Michelin Pilot all seasons on the car and by using very light throttle and keeping up my momentum I made it home into the garage. I was actually surprised and fully expected to get stuck. The next few days I drove something else to work and left the Cobra in the garage.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I have driven rear wheel drive cars with rear snow tires only through decades of Canadian winters without difficulty. Never got stuck, even in a Mustang!

    Front wheel drive snow capability is overrated, spooky and treacherous. A slide-out in a rear drive car is corrected by releasing the accelerator, which most people do automatically. The appropriate response in a front wheel drive car is to keep on the gas and power-out; dangerously counter-intuitive.

    The November 2005 Consumer Reports points out significant winter tire disadvantages including greatly reduced performance on wet slushy roads.

  • avatar

    One word of advice:

    Blizzak. I have a set of four Blizzaks on their own cast wheels which go on the CTS every November. The last time I got stuck was the very morning I was trying to get out of my driveway to go to the tire dealer to get the Blizzaks. I will *never* run so-called “all-season” tires ever again. The Blizzaks turned the Caddy from a handful into a predictable handler in the snow and even on ice. I was amazed at the fact that the Blizzaks can get some grip on ice. What’s even more amazing is that they are the same size as the summer tires.

    I wish I had had them on my RX-7 and Mustang GT that I owned when I lived in Boston. Those cars were a nightmare with summer tires in the snow.

  • avatar

    Get some real snow tires, preferably narrow ones with studs, and definitely not the wide V-rated sort-of-winter tires that are compromised for handling and noise on dry pavement, and you’ll be fine.

    Gardiner, have you ever driven a FWD car? They’re definitely more forgiving of incompetence than RWD. You’ll never have dangerous oversteer on a FWD car unless you have better tires on the front than the back (which all tire manufacturers recommend against doing). Any car is dangerous with that setup, but especially a FWD car where the driver is used to understeer. A FWD with snow tires in back and all-seasons in front is safe, but you might get stuck. Snow tires in front and all-seasons in back should be illegal.

    I also don’t believe you that winter tires are dangerous on slush. Most winter tires will outperform most all-seasons in wet, slushy snow. Winter tires even do very well in terms of dry and wet summer traction, though without much tread life. You either read something wrong, or CR has once again shown its incompetence in testing anything automotive-related.

  • avatar

    You will pay a price to drive the Mustang in the snow. Whether it’s expensive snow tires (in a size smaller than your summer tires, hopefully), some bodywork, or sand all over your trunk when the bag eventually breaks, etc.

    You can go that route but eventually, I think, you will find that it’s too much stress to be worried every second you are on the road whether or not you are about to start sliding off of it. That’s when the Accent starts to look better and better.

    And if you ever misjudge a corner in the Accent, all that you’ll do is add some character to it. :)

  • avatar

    That car in this specific clip was actually my vote for best sounding passenger car, but I did not include it because of its modified nature as a rally car.

  • avatar

    Practice in a snow covered shopping parking lot..
    screw the rental whining here please
    “IT MIGHT BE ILLEGAL ” Like the courts are full of drivers who learned how…to ah drive on ice.
    Hang the tail out..steer the ass with the front end..and make sure you have full tank of gas and please wear your Sunglass’s now hit it!!!
    “it’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses …”The Blues Brothers”
    Have RWD fun…..

  • avatar

    The topic seems to have been covered magnificently by the best minds in the automotive world. But, I’m going to add just a little bit more.

    I’m also a Great Lakes driver. My area had record snowfall last winter.

    My 2000 Crown Victoria with nothing in the trunk and Nokian winter tires–on their fourth season– on all four rims–got stuck only once–reversing up an ice-covered driveway. I just drove down to the end, did a K turn, and drove out frontways.

    A Mustang with new winter tires will probably be OK, but learn the limits of the car on snow and ice at your first opportunity.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I agree with all the other RWD winter drivers here. I drive my Volvo 240 in the snowbelt here in Ohio with no issues. Snow tires, but no weight in the back as wagons have close to 50/50 weight. The only issue I could see you having is ground clearance.

  • avatar

    I drive my M3 in New England snow. No problems with good snows in the back. And I managed to get home (after being pushed a few times) through 12″ of fast falling heavy snow with bald snows. Of course the M3 is balanced much better than a Mustang and an E36 M3 costs less than a new Mustang. Also they have that great S50B32 321hp engine up in Canada….

  • avatar

    Yes, yes, yes.

    With dedicated snows on dedicated rims.

    I have a 3 series, RWD only. With a set of thin Michelin Pilot Alpins I have no trouble in even decent snow.

    Went to Vermont last year, and we got 18 inches of fresh over some frozen. My RWD car had no problems getting around (turning the traction control OFF) while a FX 35 with all seasons and 4Wd was stuck.

    If you put dedicated snows on your AWD, then you win, but snows on RWD beat All seasons on AWD.

    I love my 3-er in the snow.

  • avatar

    Why expose your car to road salt? Get a winter beater.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Gardiner, have you ever driven a FWD car? They’re definitely more forgiving of incompetence than RWD. – rpn453

    I have driven a FWD Acura for the past three winters. An otherwise first class car, it can’t get out of its own way in snow. When the time comes I will replace it with a RWD car, probably an Infiniti M.

  • avatar

    Drove an 89 stang, 5-speed with the 2.3L 4 for 10 years in Toronto. Biggest piece of crap but hardly ever got stuck. Always, always stuck the snows on mid November and took them off mid April.

    I wouldn’t have been able to do it with an 8… of course, knowing me, if I had an 8 I wouldn’t have a licence!

  • avatar

    It all depends on if you want to or have to drive in snow. If you can put the Stang to rest for bad days, why risk it. If you have to drive, a good set of winter tires will make a huge difference.

    As for merits of drive train;
    FWD is “better” AWD and 4×4 gives the driver a false sense of security. You can not stop
    A lot depends on tires, and driving skills. I live in the Boston MA area. I had a RWD Chevy S-10. If I could get out of my driveway, then I know I could get to work. While on 495, I would see the big SUV and the Suburu’s in the ditch. While us low tech drivers would be plodding along.

    For weight, I would add more sand/cinder blocks depending on conditions. The caveat to weight in back was that you had to allow more distance for stopping. I was crazy when it came to tires, I had a set of OEM Uniroyels that lasted 80,000 miles.

    I did trade the truck for a Ford Escape, this year. The Escape is FWD model, with traction control. (We haul stuff with and the Escape fits us well)

  • avatar

    Oh, and one other thing.. After getting the snows, go to a big empty parking lot that has not been plowed yet, and slide the car, both directions, with the stability control on and off for comparison.

    I prefer the ability to place both ends of the car, which you don’t have with FWD as much

  • avatar

    I drive a Miata in the snow. It works fine up till the snow is higher than the bottom of the car.

    Get good snow tires. Blizzaks are OK but only last a season. I’ve heard good opinions about Hakkas. My favorite is the Green Diamond. It’s a recap with carbide bits in the tread. This makes anything a total cheater car on ice. If they made a motorcycle tire I’d try it.

  • avatar
    Usta Bee

    I test drove a used 2000 Mustang that had seen 4 years of year round driving in Michigan. It was OK until I looked underneath the back end of the car, and about crapped my pants. The whole undercarriage was covered in rust, and the muffler was solid brown and looked like it had been down on the ocean floor with the Titanic. Even the aluminum bits of the engine were covered in white corrosion.

    Anyways, I drove a 1971 V-8 Skylark with non-power drum brakes and no positraction year round during college. It went OK in the snow with studded winter tires on it. The only thing that screwed me up was deep snow with ruts from other vehicles on it. Stay in the ruts and you’re OK, try to move out of them and you’ll catch a tire and spin out. I spun out from ruts on a 4-lane interstate one time at night. I came to a stop sideways in the middle of the road, took a look around to see if any other cars were coming, then proceeded to do doughnuts for fun before taking off again.

    Trying to ride a bicycle or motorcycle in the snow is even more fun than driving a car, at least in a car you don’t have to worry about staying upright.

    P.S. The audio of that Porsche sounded like someone farting in a plasic bucket.

  • avatar

    Get some blizzacks mounted on skinny Panther or Foxbody Lincoln wheels from the junkyard and you’ll never have a problem.

  • avatar

    I have driven a FWD Acura for the past three winters. An otherwise first class car, it can’t get out of its own way in snow.

    That’s surprising, because me Saab (2002 9-3, front-drive, the original from-1993 chassis) is an absolute demon in the snow, far better than anything I’ve driven with AWD. Granted it does have traction control and a winter-mode throttle/transmission/turbo program, but it’s nothing special

    That a front-drive Acura (I’m assuming a recent model, not an early-90s Integra) is worse I find surprising.

    And from your alias, you’re not too far from where I lived for the past ten years (south Etobicoke) and not much further than from where I am now, so weather can’t be much of a factor.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    I didn’t own any of my Mustangs until I moved to California from Massachusetts, but I have several times had to traverse The Grapevine during winter snowstorms in an SVT Cobra. I also drove British sports cars year round, right through the worst winters, including the Blizzard of ’78, when I lived in New England and Pennsylvania.

    You can drive a Mustang through winter, but you have to be an alert, responsive, competent driver who has reflexive understanding of rear-wheel drive motion dynamics on low friction surfaces. Get a set of winter wheels and snow tires. That certainly goes a long way to making a Mustang viable in snow. But the single best upgrade for a Mustang I found for rain, sleet, ice and snow — assuming good tires — is to install a Torsen diff in the pumpkin. It’s way better than the stock Ford disc-clutch limited slip diff, being an all gear torque-sensing power allocator. I consider a Torsen an essential upgrade to any Mustang. But I’d strongly consider getting a winter beater if I were in your shoes.


  • avatar

    That’s why I’ve ALWAYS had a cheap POS car for the winter, to put my nice summer car away…

    When I went to college, I was able to experience real winters (loved it too, I might add) and many people had a winter rat. I do the same now for my ride to the train station…just no rust holes this time!!

  • avatar

    Speaking of tires…

    The best winter car I’ve had was an 89′ Firebird Formula with an auto box and wide-ass summer tires. I took it outside when the town got snowed at for several days in a row, and the crews couldn’t clean the streets fast enough. Driven over the slushy snow-dirt, it would turn into a boat at about 30 mph, and get on the plane at 45, with waves, water everywhere, lifting front end and all. From there on, it was as good as a WWI triplane with a shot-off rudder – steer it all you want, it just won’t track straight. On the other hand, the car took turns like nobody’s business – I’ve never had anything that could be gas-steered so easily and so surgically. It was like flying a spaceship – you turn the steering wheel all the way in, give some gas, it turns in the direction you want to go, apply some more gas with straight wheels, and it catches on and slots into the correct lane just the way you intended. Absolutely fantastic.

    So, yeah, don’t beat on ’em summer tires, they’re great for winter sometimes ;)

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis


    you don’t say whether your pony has a slushbox or a real tranny. Other than the potential aesthetic issues covered ad infinitum by everyone else, I would just add: If you have an automatic ….put the car up.

    I have found that driving a heavy, rwd, high-powered car is possible with a manual, but with an automatic, you are at the helm of a vehicle with all the grace and agility of a rampaging rhino on a sea of oily ball bearings.

    My first car in life was a ’73 Mach I with the 351C and the requisite Muncie Rock Crusher 4-speed (ahhh, bliss) which, being a high-school burger flipper at the time, meant I had to drive my Hoss through a Detroit winter. (Next time you see someone from SE Michigan…ask them about their memories of the Thanksgiving storm of 1976, but I digress…)

    Anyway, driving a muscled-up pony on snow and ice is a far piece easier when you have a clutch to help regulate the power. Driving a rwd v-8 with a slushbox? Ummmm….exhilarating would be the kindest word.

  • avatar

    The only reason that a FWD Acura with all-seasons would be worse than RWD car with the same tires would be because newer Acura’s have ridiculously low ground clearance, especially the TL. All their stock tires are pretty bad for wet/snow as well. It has nothing to do with the FWD architecture of the car.

  • avatar


    FWD is only “more forgiving” in the snow to an idiot who doesn’t belong on the road. I would much rather have a car sideways in the snow and use my right foot and my hands to save it, than to understeer head-first into the ditch. FWD has the exact same disadvantages in snow that it does on dry surfaces–it’s a bastardized, piss-poor layout that never should’ve existed in the first place, and anything done to “make it better” is merely a bandaid.

    I’ve driven a half dozen different FWD cars and a half dozen different RWD cars in the snow. Consistently, the RWD cars were the better performers.

    EXCESSIVE weight in the trunk/box causes poor handling and removes weight from the steering wheels–the weight is always a delicate balance.

    Every winter with a new car, I go out to some back roads and parking lots and TEST the car with varying weights in the back, until I find the balance I like. And as far as traction off a standing start again, it depends on the weight on the drive wheels, the power the vehicle has, and snow tires. My ’85 S10 with 2.5 4cyl and roughly 200 lbs of sand over the rear wheels and snow tires would come out of the hole with a minimum of wheelspin even on hard-pack… FAR better than any FWD car I’ve driven in the snow.

    Your statements are, like most related to defending FWD in the snow, blanket statements about RWD sucking and FWD not sucking. Every car is different and the proper setup makes all the difference.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Snow happens, carry a shovel. Not one of those wimpy plastic/aluminum jobs either, but a real honest to gee whiz flat spade you can use to chop your way out of crusted snow banks.
    The ultimate best snow machine was a 60s VW bus. Lug the 40hp motor in high gear, just above stall. 2nd best was a bug.
    Revolver, tell your old man to load 4 surveyor’s bounds in the bed. That is what my brother did to rescue me during the blizzard of 78.
    Manual trans are best. AWD or 4WD is ok provided you realize that it doesnt allow you to stop or steer any better than 2 wd.
    Due to the layout of the 528e trunk, I can use 4 cement blocks directly above the rear axle and tight against the bulkhead.
    If you want your baby to last, garage it for the winter.Get a beater

  • avatar

    “My first car in life was a ‘73 Mach I with the 351C and the requisite Muncie Rock Crusher 4-speed (ahhh, bliss)”


    Are you sure that Mustang had a Muncie M-22? GM transmission in a Ford???

    I had a ’77 Camaro Z-28 with a Borg Warner Super T-10, (which was odd as that was usually found in a Mustang!) and it was hands down the worst car that I ever drove in snow as it was dangerous. Not much else you can do when it is all you have and you have to get to work anyway.

  • avatar

    Nova Scotia Canada

    1960s. Volvo 544 with skinny snow tires, pretty damn good in snow, not too bad on ice in trailing throttle “hope for the best will I make it round the next curve?” Much better than average Detroit car. 1965 Mustang – Surely you jest in snow. It was bad in rain let alone snow. Cart sprung rear axle not good.

    Austin 1800 Super Land Crab FWD. Amazing on snow and ice. After a storm during the day, Dad used to stop halfway up the final hill before home to pick up stranded drivers. Freaked out the locals, lemme tell you, mainly because SLC would start and go uphill from that stop, and with a load of folks and going uphill as well, the front was comparatively unloaded.

    Typical winter sound after a snowfall. Whirrrrrrr, whirrrrrrr, as average punters try to get their cars and trucks moving. Wheel spin city.

    1980s. Audi Coupe FWD. Seemed great at clogging the treads on snow tires. Not a great snow machine. So like everything else, there are varying degrees of competence between different makes of FWD in snow and on ice. Sideways engines=better generally, from my observation. But there’ll always be exceptions.

    General sounds after a storm. Fairly quiet except for those still driving full and mid-sized RWD sedans from GM and Chrysler, like the cops. And of course pickup trucks. Same old whirrrrr.

    More cars with FWD, and no doubt about it, easier for the average joe.

    Since then, as FWD and AWD proliferates, the sound is of shovels and snow blowers after a storm. Hardly ever have to help with a push anymore. Not much useless wheelspin, except for folks with 2WD trucks. And of course they load them up with sand and 3 feet of snow in the bed to get traction, along with abysmal gas mileage hauling the weight, ass end down and no weight on the front wheels. Great steering on ice — not. Many BMWs spun out here and there during the nineties, mainly on ice and before the good multilink rear suspension. Trailing arms only at the rear — meh. They’d snap sideways on asphalt in summer if you were a bit enthusiastic.

    Now, most of the drivers here on TTAC are probably pretty good and can cope with RWD along with a set of snow tires.

    Having a taxi ride in a Crown Vic with boinging suspension in the snow gave me white knuckles this year. Let me outta here!

    So I say, why bother with RWD in winter? Life’s too short to be adventuring that way as road conditions are bad enough anyway to be second guessing your car’s handling characteristics as well as everything else thrown at you, like poor visibility and idiots on cell phones.

    AWD and full snows since ’88 with Audi and Subaru. I’m not going back. Jeez. A Mustang in Montreal in winter? Zee mind boggles.

  • avatar


    As an owner of a 2000 Mustang GT living in the Boston area, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Mustang is not a winter vehicle, even with traction contorl, the best snow tires, etc. etc. A few years ago, I got stuck half-way up a very slight incline on a major highway during a snow storm. Tow truks at the top of the hill were charging $90 to pull you over the hill. I was NOT going to pay for that crap, so I backed down the incline against traffic, built up some momentum on the flats, and barely made it over the hill the second time, with the back tires sliding all over the place. I bought a used Subaru wagon later that month, and haven’t looked back. Save your Mustang – buy a junker. It’ll be the best investment you ever made for your Mustang.

  • avatar

    I live in Canada (Saskatchewan) and see plenty of Mustangs out in the winter snow. Most of them are older Mustangs driven by teenagers who have no idea how to drive in the winter, so I tend to cringe when I see a Mustang.

    However, there are definitely people who put proper winter tires on them and know how to drive them, and they seem to get around just fine.

  • avatar

    I lived in norther Canada for 20 years driving two different 2wd ’85 Ford Rangers, manual tranny. I never got stuck. Couple reasons: snow tires, kept the fuel above 1/2 a tank, never went looking to get stuck, and learned patience! Learned to drive in these northern climates with my mom’s ’89 Ford LTD. With all season tires. Never got stuck, but i wasn’t in a hurry either.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Wunch and Ambulance chaser. Cold dry snow is a breeze to drive in. The typical nor’easter drops 28’f stuff that is way more slippery.

  • avatar

    FWD is only “more forgiving” in the snow to an idiot who doesn’t belong on the road. I would much rather have a car sideways in the snow and use my right foot and my hands to save it, than to understeer head-first into the ditch.

    Well, bully for you for being an experienced driver. Most people aren’t so lucky as to be able to spend a few days on a slippery test track to learn the handling limits and behaviours of their sports sedans.

    For the average driver in his/her Grand Caravan, Accord or Corolla who has to go to work, schelp kids and run errands and doesn’t get to track-test their minivan, front-wheel drive does exactly what you want it to do in an emergency: the car pushes, the driver lets off the gas, which transfers mass to the front wheels, which aids traction and stopping power.

    With rear-drive, the tail swings out and the average driver is screwed. While I’m glad you have the consummate skill to deal with this, 90% of the drivers on the road don’t.

    Or do you think that only the privileged few who can afford a rear-drive sports sedan and get track training should be allowed on the road? That’s awfully arrogant: should only people who’ve been to culinary school and shop at Whole Foods be allowed to cook?

    FWD has the exact same disadvantages in snow that it does on dry surfaces–it’s a bastardized, piss-poor layout that never should’ve existed in the first place, and anything done to “make it better” is merely a bandaid.

    Front-drive allows better packaging, fuel economy and, in inclement weather and given an inexperienced driver, safer dynamics. For the non-sportscar driving masses, this is exactly what they need.

    The drive-wheel bigotry never ceases to amaze me. Just because at-the-track dynamics are of paramount importance to you, doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t entitled to prefer default-to-safe handling and better packaging or fuel efficiency.

    There has been, over the last twenty years, numerous opportunities for rear-drive to come back. But the public has voted that they prefer a car that gets good mileage, holds more of their stuff and doesn’t snap-oversteer. You can still buy yourself a track toy, if you want, but don’t assume that what you want is what everyone ought to use.

    People aren’t necessarily stupid because they don’t share your priorities. The sooner you can accept that, that happier you’ll be.

    I’ve driven a half dozen different FWD cars and a half dozen different RWD cars in the snow. Consistently, the RWD cars were the better performers.

    I’ll agree with you here, but the key word in this above paragraph is I’ve. You know how to handle a rear-driver in the snow; most people don’t. Heck, I don’t pretend to be a track star, and I happen to like the way my Saab manages in snow far better than my colleagues’ collective 3-Series, especially when it’s my wife driving it.

  • avatar

    I live in northern Michigan and see mustangs performing horribly in even moderate winter conditions every year.

  • avatar

    2 yrs ago I had my 82 Merc 126 300sd with a pair of almost new snow tires a trunk full of tools.
    I survived a bad snow storm day in Vancouver.
    Van doesnt snow much but should it snow u better to leave your prized steed at home, as most drivers have no clues of driving in the snow.
    U need weight in the trunk.
    Front wheel drive do gave u a false sense of security as it traction much better in the snow, but should it start to slip u will find your a** in the ditch without blinking your eyes.
    So driver beware.
    Growing up in Winnipeg snow is nothing.
    Limited slip differentials can be worse as soon as u take foot off the gas your both wheels stop turning, your back end will start to slide. Whereas ordinary diff, one wheel will be moving and keep the tail end straight.
    If you look at the Grey hound they have a pair of tag axle which has no power so it will keep the rear on track.

  • avatar

    Tires, tires, tires. It’s all about the tires.

    If you need to deal with snow, mount the snow tires. If you need to deal with ice and snow packed so hard it might as well be ice, mount studded snow tires if the law allows. I had a pair of studded tires for a 85 Buick LaSabre I used to own. They made a total night and day difference in how the car handled in the slick stuff.

    Regarding full-size SUV’s, if you don’t have at least a limited slip rear differential and tires with more bite than the standard all-weather fare please park the poser truck in the garage and leave it there until spring. You’ll just be in the way.

  • avatar

    I live in the Snowbelt of Rochester, NY

    I drove my BMW Z4 Convertible every single day in the winter. Just went to smaller diameter wheels (and thus more rubber diameter) with a thinner width contact patch – no problems. In fact, with my dedicated snow tires I demolished many all-season equipped SUVs in the snow.

  • avatar

    There is a lot of lack of rwd knowledge here.Normal for generations brought up on the fwd. I did the fwd thing for 10 years myself, hated them,as all the fun was gone,(and if you drive them u know what i mean)I will never go back!And I drove in real winter all my life!
    But, real snow tires and 200 lbs in the trunk and once you learn how to drive it,it will go anywhere the fwd will.Just like we did back in the old days.
    I drive mine every day ,40 miles up to a ski resort in BC and back,in real winter…. and the best feature about it, which doesn’t seem to come up here, is the ability to steer! Remember with fwd you cant turn the things once the tire breaks loose, and it will a lot quicker because you are asking it to turn, and provide traction. same reason real race cars don’t use it.Putter along and they work fine. The biggest factor in snow with a fwd is just the weight over the wheels, obviously. And yes on ice they won’t fishtail due to pulling you, instead you can’t turn, kind of a trade off..:)
    The biggest reason they went to FWD back when was they are cheaper to build. I need a car that will turn on a mountain road in a foot of snow, and the rwd works perfect with some weight in it and real tires, 4 of them. Don’t even bother with all seasons!They are junk for real snow and ice! And you are better with narrower ones than the fat ones on the car.The narrower sizes will bite much better. Extra weight in the trunk does not hurt the front traction one bit. Just put it on a wheel scale and you will see a couple hundred lbs doesn’t change the front weight. Also a good heavy v8 up front and you will have all the bite you need. The next best effect is being able to steer with the gas, making the back end come around when you need it. Knowing how much takes some practice obviously. I will never drive a awd or fwd again on these roads! much better to have trouble getting going than to not be able to turn! And seriously, with good tires and weight its as good as any stock fwd. Biggest thing out here is the lack of real knowledge of driving rwd from people who have grown up on fwd. Both work fine with the proper knowledge and equipment.If you don’t want to learn how, then just get the beater. As for me, our awd suv will never take me up that road again in the winter.No thanks! Its great puttering around the curves at a slow speed,yes it gets moving fine,and great for the wifey, but I like to motor and be able to steer and that thing has nearly killed me a few times cause it can’t! It stays in the ciy where its happy.
    Bottom line is a properly set up rwd is every bit as goodas the fwd if you know how to drive it! Stock for stock..of course no good in winter..:)

  • avatar

    I still don’t know if it’s ok/a good idea to drive my ’06 Mustang GT in the snow. Some people say yes and some say no.  Which is it?  I have traction control, but no snow tires nor any money to buy any right now.   =(

  • avatar

    I read the old string of replies above and duly noted all the ideas.  I’ll probably garage my stange and get a beater in WA.  My concern is getting to WA.  I will be moving to WA state from Florida close to the end of May – and crossing three mountain ranges – in my mustang 6 cyl.  The major highways even in the higher elavations will be kept clear, but black ice is my big worry. I’ve talked with people in WY and MT and they have had snow blow in up til the end of May.  Snow tires are not an option for me since most of the drive will be in warm weather, not to mention illegal, so do I just keep a pair of snow chains, cheap pliers, and rubber gloves in the trunk just in case? What is the best kind of tires to have for this type of combo weather driving? All Season Tires?  “S” type? I need a new set of tires anyway so looking for recommendations.  Do AST do well with chains if I have to use them? And why can’t chains go on the rear tires to keep it from fishtailing?

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