QOTD: Much Ado About Winter Aesthetics?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd much ado about winter aesthetics

If you’re living at low altitudes in the Southeastern U.S. or a partial day’s drive from the Gulf Coast, this Question of the Day is not for you. Barring exceptionally wacko weather, denizens of these temperate climes needn’t worry about traction loss caused by the solidification of moisture below 32F. In other words, snow, slush, and ice of both the regular and insurance-hiking black variety.

For those of who who do live in regions where Mother Nature delivers an annual cold shoulder, we’re getting close to decision time. What’s your style: turn your beautiful, meticulously upkept vehicle into a cheap-looking rig for the duration of winter with a set of bare steelies and meaty donuts, or keep style and handling alive with a snazzy set of low-profile winter tires wrapped around sporty aluminum hoops?

If you’ve already guessed what this cheapskate’s solution is, well, you’re bang on. Go collect that bet. Glamor needn’t enter into the equation when you’re freezing your ass off, I say. Parkas generally don’t expose the midriff.

In the years since this writer finally bit the bullet and invested in two sets of rubber, the prescription has always been the same — buy steel wheels an inch smaller than the summers, shod them with a mid-range-to-good compound and enjoy the extra bite and cushioning. It’s an economical recipe that doesn’t break the bank and leaves you with a convenient (if style-less) full-size spare to toss in your trunk during the non-snowy months.

I laughed after taking delivery of a pseudo-sporty press car once in the dead of winter. As snowbanks turned into mountains beneath a sky that couldn’t stop falling, this fun little compact’s 18-inch alloys and 45-series rubber soon revealed a pair of Achilles heels. While the set provided great traction and control, snow is but one worry during winter motoring.

After having a blast with this rally of one, accumulated snow in the wide-open wheel design created generous ice clumps after the car sat overnight. Can you say unbalanced? Further discomfort came when the snow melted away, leaving potholes in its wake. The low-profile rubber offered about as much cushioning as a windbreaker in a boxing ring, and it wasn’t long before an almighty clunk left me listening for signs of real damage from the conked corner.

Sorry, but unless money was of no concern, I’d prefer to avoid both drawbacks and just go ugly. 60- or 65-series rubber on modest steelies, supporting a body that looks like it was pelted with a dozen chocolate Wendy’s Frostys. Having said that, a shorter winter with a decreased number of storms would definitely cause me to reconsider this plan. So would a swap of model nationalities.

What’s your take on this, Northerners? Are you a card-carrying member of the keeping-up-appearances crowd, or does practicality and price rule the day?

[Image: Genesis Motors]

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2 of 112 comments
  • Mark Mark on Oct 24, 2018

    I drive a '16 Chrysler 300S AWD with travels throughout the Midwest Region. Not gonna lie, I love my car alot, so the 'looks' do matter to me, no matter what time of year it is. I try to keep as simple as possible. Because I have the 300's awesome AWD system, after Thanksgiving, I just remove my custom 20" aluminum wheels/summer rubber and swap them out for the original OEM 19" wheels/AS-tires. Given the way roads are kept clear + AWD, this is all more about keeping all that salt from destroying the finish on my $$ rims throughout the winter months, than it is about extra traction, etc. Since owning an AWD model, I've rarely had an instance where I wished I had snows vs. the OEM all-seasons. When I had the RWD 300S and the BMW's, I ran bit smaller good-looking OEM wheels with modern snows.

  • Boozysmurf Boozysmurf on Oct 26, 2018

    I won't drive anything in winter without winter tires (nee snow tires). About twelve years ago, I ended up following the clone of my own car (a 2003 Acura RSX) south-west on the 401, just that side of Kingston. The only difference between the cars, including speed and lane position? I had winter tires, he had the OEM eco/all-seasons. I spent an hour with him waiting for the tow truck after he walled it on a patch of ice that I drove casually through/over. It ain't the go. If you can't go, you're effectively "safe". Stuck, but safe. If you can't turn or stop, you're a hazard. So, always winter tires. My '10 Genesis was a daily driver for years, in Ottawa, and I have OEM size tires (should have gone square) on OEM wheels for winter, but hi-performance winters. The '05 Subaru Forester had aggressive winters (Goodyear Nordic WinterTrac) on it, and they were an amazing combination with the AWD. Unstoppable, and thoroughly controllable. The '16 F150 that replaced the forester has 265/65R18's on steelies, and again, aggressive winter tread. So aggressive that last winter, I only had to go to 4x4 once, all season. So, the wheel choice depends on the vehicle. But the tires? If it's getting driven from November to May? Winter tires. I want all the stop and turn.

  • Teddyc73 Looking forward to this. Hopefully it doesn't succomb to the leftist agenda and only come as an EV. If there is a gasoline version and a decent sized bed I'll consider this to replace my Ram 1500 when the day comes. Please let it be available in colors other than the same boring ones Ram has offered for years.
  • Xidex i haven't even turned the dial to AM since the 90's I think at that time it was only because there is one station i liked was on the AM dial (it is no longer around) Someone had to point to the station otherwise i wouldn't have even scanned the AM dial. I still think the AM dial should be left on radios though, If no one listened to it then there wouldn't be any stations would there.
  • Kwik_Shift I have five AM stations preset, each different from one another in terms of content. Some politics, some day to day, some do it yourselfing or help. Focus is more on local news and events. FM is just about pushing crap music and djs pushing the MSM message for their corporate overlords. FM is about making radio sound exactly the same all over North America. I like ONE FM station that plays different varieties of country music and has an entertaining dj. Overall, to each their own.
  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.