By on November 12, 2019

Image: Ford

No, we’re not talking about the long-gone Honda Element today, but perhaps one day we will. As bad as vehicle design was in the 2000s, the Element at least offered buyers a quirky choice in their family hauler.

Today we’re talking about that fun, exciting, aspirational ride you bought to cruise the warm, sun-baked streets of Anytown, North America back in late spring or early summer… and what happened come November.

Last night, after paying my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I saw a man whose night wasn’t going as planned. He was behind the wheel of a black, current-generation 5.0-liter Mustang shod with what looked to be 19-inch rubber, wrapped around bitchin’ aftermarket black wheels.

If you’ve kept yourself abreast of the weather forecast, you can probably guess what climatic conditions were occuring at the time. It was frigid, and about two or three inches of snow had already fallen. This fella was attempting to make it up the mildest of inclines in the middle of a four-lane downtown road… and couldn’t. Traffic came to a halt as his rear end broke loose and stayed there, his enviable summertime machine rendered impotent by the weather that a Chevy Cruze with all-season rubber (I got caught off-guard by the unseasonal weather!) handled easily with a small measure of knowledge and skill.

Eventually, the Mustang driver gave up and changed course, finding that driving down the barely-a-hill was the easier path to take. It was probably an interesting ride home.

This incident calls to mind something no one wants to think about when they take ownership of a new sports car under clear, 80-degree skies. Winter. While tire manufacturers have a great selection on hand to allow owners of RWD machines to make use of their vehicle in those frosty months, not many take them up on the offer. Our own Tim Cain garaged his MX-5 Miata during its all-too-brief stay, but decided to make his follow-up Scion FR-S a snow machine. Seems like he had fun doing it.

We took note of Mazda Canada insinuating, via an ad, that its MX-5 was no good for winter, but the reality of North American lifestyles is that most people have a better-suited vehicle to tackle the tough stuff between fall and spring.

Have you ever bought what most would consider a sports car? What did you do when Mother Nature showed you her bad side? And, if you decided to persevere through the winter, was that a one-and-done/never again decision?

[Image: Ford]

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55 Comments on “QOTD: Doing Battle With the Elements?...”


  • avatar
    afedaken

    My Solstice is a 3 season car, but that has far more to do with salt than with road conditions.

    Winter vehicle is a YJ wrangler with snow tires.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Lol, everyone knows that a powerful RWD car with little weight in the back, like a Mustang, is terrible in snow and ice. If you’re going to have a car like that you need to have a winter beater to go along with it.

    With me it wasn’t a summer car it was a Honda 750 motorcycle that I just loved and rode all the way until November when reality struck and I hurriedly found a $100 Chevy beater to drive that winter. Turned out to be a pretty good car and come spring my Honda 750 motorcycle was ready and waiting for another summer of fun

  • avatar
    Jon

    When i battle the elements, the only thing i fight is the temperature gauge in June-September.

    This weeks forecast highs in Phoenix, 81, 81, 83, 84, 82, 83. Boomers are out in their convertibles. Gen Xrs are out in their RZR’s and buggies. Millennials are reading their books outside at starbucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Right now it’s 9 degrees F here in lovely Chicagoland, but you can have your 115 degree F summers in Phoenix, ugh!

      • 0 avatar
        Jon

        Those days suck. I try to work from home when its 110+ and generally avoid going outside. Sometimes a dip in the pool does not help to cool down. Luckily, i can drive 2 hours north for the weekend and find temperatures 25 degrees cooler (and rain, glorious rain).

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As someone who lives in south FL I just laugh at all these winter car related problems. I drive my C7 year round on summer tires. We just have to survive the occasional hurricane each summer. Love this time of year as I can finally remove the targa top and enjoy those below 75 degree days. No wonder Nov thru April is tourist season down here, by May temps will be climb back into the 80s.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Ditto – summer finally loosened it’s grip on SW FL this week. I had lovely back drives from and to the airport in Sarasota Sunday and Monday top down in my Fiata.

        Back in Maine, winter tires make all the difference, but avoiding it all-together is even better.

        Currently in GA with a rented Camaro SS and praying the current rain doesn’t turn solid. But the rain is supposed to end before the temps plunge overnight. I’ll be back by the airport before that happens anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          “Currently in GA with a rented Camaro SS and praying the current rain doesn’t turn solid”

          That’s what they always say in Atlanta just before the crippling ice storm hits, good luck ;-)

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    For Fort Wayne Indiana the city pampers its citizens by keeping the roads clear. If the snow catches them by surprise nearly everything shuts down. In a lot of cities mayors have been kicked out for not keeping the city streets plowed

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    If you live where the weather can get sporty, snow & Ice, and own a Vette’, Mustang ETC you kind of plan one of three things.

    A. Work from home so their is no need to attempt driving in the garbage weather, where I live the roads clear within 24 hours typically.
    B. Have a proper set of winter tires AND weight for the back to provide some traction to those tires
    C. Winter car.

    In my case, I take the family Suburban on the days the Vette’ is not a wise choice. But, in the past when all I owned was a 2WD pick up. Tires and weight solved my winter woes very quickly. A properly equipped RWD in the snow is just fine.

  • avatar
    Dale Houston

    I’ve driven our 1990 Miata once in the snow – as my regular Mazda had been hit hard while parked and was in the shop.

    Six inches of snow fell when I was at a friend’s house. Drove the Miata home sideways. It was fun, but once was plenty.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      On the way to work after the 6″ of snow we got in October there were tracks all over the road where I thought several people had spun off onto the shoulder and into driveways. A few miles later there was a little NA Miata with summer tires trying to make a slight incline like the Mustang above. I then realized it was he that had left the tracks I had seen. His was lowered and had autocross tires. The fronts were easy to make out since he was going roughly .5mph. They looked like a Hoosier A6 or similar tire.

      I have driven the Cobra replica in November. A friend was visiting from Oklahoma and she wanted a ride. There was 4″ of snow on the road and still coming down. It wasn’t bad as long as you stayed out of the gas.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      I have a 94 Miata I’ve owned since new. Driven it in all kinds of bad weather. Once drove from Texas to Chicago (without stopping) on Christmas Eve. Weather was good until I was about 70 miles from my destination. Snow falling and roads iced. With the LSD if I let off the gas the back end would kick out in one direction, too much throttle and it would kick out the other direction. Constant balancing act I finally lost, spun 360 and wound up in the median, thankfully missing the reflector posts. Good samaritans stopped within a few minutes and pushed me back onto the road, which was the very nicest Christmas present I got that year. The Miata is so short that when it changes directions it does it RIGHT NOW and you need to be paying attention. My CR-V makes driving in the snow boring.

      • 0 avatar
        Dale Houston

        As far as driving in the snow goes: Boring is good.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “My CR-V makes driving in the snow boring.”

        I love taking my Escape out before the plows clear the road and have a bit of winter fun. Yesterday we had about 6″ overnight and I was out in the morning just having a great time. Hey, winter for the most part sucks, get your fun where you can :)

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I haven’t had the pleasure of testing the AWD in the TourX yet. Should be entertaining since some power is being sent to each end at all times combined with the torque vectoring.

          I’ll have to find an empty parking lot that doesn’t have any of those pesky poles in the middle.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Mud is always fun if you don’t have snow, but I’m guessing you don’t have much mud down your way either

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            We get mud – during monsoon season. My part of NM get’s roughly 10 in of precip per year it’s just in bursts.

            Wet from late July into mid September and then in winter you might get a dusting of snow or you might get one storm to drop 14 in.

            If you ever visit and don’t like the weather, just wait 24 hours its bound to change.

            I have had a good time with the AWD burning up on ramps and ONE trip down a gravel road (bad day at work… was letting off steam.) In gravel – “drift mode” is possible.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    10+ cm of snow overnight in eastern Ontario. Focus ST on Toyo G3 ice handled my 40 km commute with no issues. Others not so lucky, inevitably saw a few in the ditch this morning.

    I’ve driven an old not so powerful fox body mustang through a winter as a teenager. It was an 85 GT. Yes V8, but still not so powerful. It functioned fine on snows, but I did knock a curb once on a turn and had to source a replacement 10-hole wheel from a wrecker. Lucky find.

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    Given the incredibly lousy tires that initially came with my 2013 Genesis coupe (reviews on Tire Rack are both scathing and hilarious) I was lucky I could get up my driveway on a foggy day, let alone drive in winter, and so it was garaged for first few years. Now I have top-end summer and winter tires on their own rims and can go any time the snow isn’t 2 feet deep. Ground clearance is now the limiting factor. Just did the winter swap party on Sunday for my wife’s SUV, my son’s car, and mine. RWD in winter is the most fun you can have out of bed!

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Must be Goodyear Eagle LS tires? Worst set of tires I ever owned for traction below 50*. Above 50* they were livable, but the BFG Radial T/A from the early 90s were better tires all around. Come to think of it, the Flintstone’s mobile probably had better traction.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    The GTO got the battery disconnected and the cover put on the weekend before Halloween. Since I’ve owned it, it has never seen salt or snow and I have only ever driven it in the rain three times or so – including the 900 mile drive home with it when I bought it. It came from Florida so I’m pretty sure it’s never been in the snow. It’s just not a fun car to drive in non-ideal conditions.

    I have the Subaru and now Lexus for winter duty. I just put the winter wheels/tires on the Subaru this weekend.

    I had a Dodge Dakota R/T back in the mid 2000s and I tried taking it to work one time when there was the slightest dusting of snow – as in the pavement was still black. I couldn’t make it out of my apartment complex parking lot and when I eventually made it back to my parking spot I got 50% into the space and it stopped. I opened the door to see what it was stuck on and the rear tires were spinning in place at idle. That was the last time I ever tried to drive a vehicle in winter without making any preparations.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The GTHA (Toronto area) received a record amount of snow and low temperatures yesterday and today.

    Mass chaos with over 400 collisions recorded in less than 24 hours. One of the major problems being that the salt/snow removal contracts that most municipalities have don’t start until November 15th, as we do not usually get large amounts of snow prior to that. So some of the major arteries/roads are still a mess this morning although the snow stopped around 1:00am.

    The first snowfall generally sees many Mercedes/BMW’s sliding sideways or through intersections. That tradition remained yesterday.

    Over the past 40+ have driven all types of vehicles through Toronto winters. Until 2006 none with snow/winter tires. In the 1970’s often with 4 mis-matched bias ply tires. Big block V8 RWD PLC’s, nearly every type of air-cooled, rear engined VW’s, mini-vans, CUV’s and SUV’s. The absolute worst was my fullsized ‘cargo’ van done-up Disco Era appropriately. The rear engined VW’s were decent little snow machines.

    One thing that I believe is that weight matters. The heavier the vehicle the better its performance on deep snow.

    And either my X-Ice treads are getting low or their performance on snow is even worse than I remember.

    Thankfully I never drove my ‘Vette in the snow. But then I don’t think very many ‘Vettes or Miatas are regularly exposed to salt.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      When we bought our first BMW in 2002 the salesman must have mentioned a dozen times that the car we wanted was rear wheel drive and were we sure we were OK with that. I reckon they must have had complaints hahaha.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Loving the slide, riding my S-10 like Steve Kinser on the cushion at Eldora.

  • avatar
    PM300

    Back in 2011 I purchased a 2012 Mustang with a manual and the 3.7 V-6. Made it through 2 metro-detroit winters no issues using 2 Goodyear ultragrip ice WRTs on the back and about 100lbs of sand bags in the trunk. Had some good times with the car even driving on 5-6 inches of snow. As I got older/wiser, I did a proper set of 4 winter tires on 2 cars that followed, a 2013 Ford Focus Titanium, and a 2016 RWD Chrysler 300S. The Focus was on Blizzaks and was unstoppable. The factory 20s on the 300S made it impossible to find a good set of non-performance snows. I ended up with some kind of Pirelli model that did okay but made for some fun on icy roads. Long story short, RWD is awesome in the winter :)

  • avatar
    detlump

    The Detroit area was blanketed by its highest snowfall ever for November yesterday. I saw a number of cars struggling, like a Hellcat Challenger and many RWD trucks (or 4wd trucks not able to use 4wd). I think it just makes sense to have a winter car if you have a Hellcat, or get winter tires at the very least.

    I still have yet to put winter tires on my 05 Highlander 4wd but with its 3 season Goodyear Assurances it was doing fine. Still with winter tires on it is much better! I would recommend a Highlander of that vintage as a winter/second vehicle. I see many still on the road, much more than the subsequent generation. Mine has the V6 (Limited model) with stuff I would not order but it was bought used.

    The problem with a winter “beater” is that it still needs to be reliable, maybe more so than your daily driver since you don’t want to get stranded in sub-zero weather. A $500 beater is likely to need thousands to make it reliable enough to count on.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @detlump: Thank you for posting that last paragraph. How can people think that it is logical to use their least reliable vehicle when the weather is at its worst, visiblity and traction are limited and the most strain is put on the cars operating systems? That is exactly the type of conditions/trip when you want the most solid and reliable vehicle that you can afford. Instead some people are out in a rusted out ‘beater’ that may not even pass safety standards, and probably does not have modern safety features, while they have an expensive ‘garage queen’ sitting at home.

      I have and would do the reverse. Use my ‘best’ vehicle in bad weather and have a ‘project’ car that I run in the good weather only.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    I think the real question is why the mustang doesn’t have all wheel drive. It’s real world value would increase immeasurably.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    When we lived back east, my wife’s 135i was a year round car. We did a -1 size winter wheel and tire package. It hurt the ‘performance’ aspect of the car, but that’s not really an issue in foul weather anyway.

    On days where there was any ice, or snow greater than say 5-6 inches on the road, , though, she took my Q7 with the quattro and winter tires rather than drive her RWD car. I insisted on it.

    We didn’t do anything different otherwise. Never had any issues.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Same with all my RWD Volvos and BMWs in Maine. With proper tires, no issues in any reasonable amount of snow. All I did was make sure the gas tank was full for a bit of extra weight in the back.

      Certainly my AWD Land Rover Disco and previous P38a Range Rover were better in snow. But while they were better at GOING, and they could certainly go through MUCH deeper snow, they were worse at stopping, even with winter tires. All that road-hugging weight is a double-edged sword…

  • avatar
    mikey

    I live a east of Arthur Daily in the GTA..Yes indeed, we had a record breaking snowfall for early November.

    I managed 4 winters with a 15 EB Mustang. The first year was a nightmare, however I was housebound that year. I only went out if the roads were clear. In the fall of 16 I bought Michelin Ice X tires mounted on OEM matching wheels ..Expensive, but well worth it .

    In August I traded the Mustang in on a 19 Impala premier package . Of course the all seasons only have 6000 Klms (3600 miles )… Yesterday I took it for a spin in the now abandoned GM parking lot . The big Chevy performed quite well ..I’ll see how it goes as the tires wear???

    My 15 year old GT 5 speed, drop top has never seen a snow flake .. I covered it and parked it in the garage till spring

  • avatar
    relton

    My wife has driven a Mustang GT convertible (2006, 2017) for 15 winters with good winter tires, Blizzak or Continental. ever a problem in snow. Just this morning she drove through 7 inches or more in the driveway before the guys came to clear the driveway. Both Mustangs spent their life outdoors, never garaged.

    Winter does put a damper on putting the top down, though.

    I’ve used winter tires on my own cars since the 90s, all RWD, and never had a bad moment. Cops used to use almost exclusively RWD Fords, and, with winter tires, they never seemed to have a problem. One cop told me that you can tell people with AWD because they get stuck farther from the road.

  • avatar
    Boff

    I had no problem in Southern Ontario with a 944S2, RX-8, and 2 different Mustang GTs. All with winter tires of course. One needs to drive prudently, stay away from the deepest snow, and manage momentum, but driving in snow is actually easier when you have a well balanced car with good feedback responses. (By way of comparison I also had a TJ that I never felt all that confident driving in the winter). I’ve garaged my ND Miata for the winter just because I don’t need to drive it in the winter. Otherwise I would.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    It’s all about them tires. I had a Challenger R/T that was useless in the snow with the factory Goodyear RSAs but with a set of Toyo Observe winter tires was a tank and would plow snow with the splitter.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    I drove a 95 impala ss through several Boston winters on the oem BFGs. First know your limitations, second pay attention and third think 2 moves ahead.
    Now I don’t worry about it regardless of car. Snow events are infrequent (Maybe 12 days out of 365?) and the roads are blasted with salt and cleaned up pretty quickly. So the actual amount of time to worry about road conditions is minimal.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    As several people have pointed out, RWD cars can work fine IF they have the right tires and are driven with some level of prudence.

    The flip side is, AWD cars with rubber-band summer tires are BAD in the snow and ice. The Audi stuck on an icy street, each wheel spinning one after the other, is something I witnessed, and has become almost a personal parable for me.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve driven 2WD trucks, RWD barges, and yes, even muscle/sports cars in all sorts of nasty weather. Back in de olden days, I used to have a 1994 Nissan truck with 2WD and all season tires. I added 200 pounds of sand out back which helped but for the steepest hills.

    A 2004 BMW 325i with only RWD and I became a winter tire guy. A set of Blizzaks and that car could not got stuck, provided I stayed on the road! I even was out in the country, caught in a blizzard and managed to make t out alive. The car drove a little funny with ice and snow stuck everywhere in the suspension!

    I’m currently driving a 2014 Mustang V6 with a manual, modified with 3.55 gears and a MPT tune. It’s a little tricky but I managed to survive last winter with a set of Ice-X tires.

    I got caught short though yesterday – a few inches of snow with a dollop of ice underneath meant I was going nowhere in the Mustang since it is riding on some bald all-seasons right now. I took my wife’s Infiniti M35x which was never short on traction, but the Eagle GT tires were bad for stopping and steering! Will have to get some winter tires for that too, especially since my wife has to often drive for her job.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    “Last night, after paying my respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier…” What are you, Russian or something?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The answer really is a winter rat. My vette stays in its heated lair on a battery tender and does my Probe. The thing is not only the poor traction but the beating your car takes from road salt and sand. If you really want to preserve your car’s appearance then exposing it to corrosives and abrasives has to be eliminated. A good winter rat can be yours for a few thousand dollars. This cost can be partially offset by the better resale value by protecting your “good” cars. A reliable car can be had pretty cheap if you select a depreciation machine instead of something like a 4Runner or a Wrangler.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Good beaters include pretty much any ordinary domestic sedan that hasn’t accumulated a terrible reliability record. If I had to buy a beater tomorrow I’d probably look for something like a first-generation Fusion or a 2008-2012 Malibu.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    On the (maybe) one or two days a year when we have snow, I’m not going anywhere by car. It’s too hilly and usually too icy, since snowy weather here usually means temperatures that continually bounce in a narrow band around freezing, quickly forming multilayered ice.

    “The elements” here means drizzle, and long enough wet periods in the winter to result in moss and mold. Reasonably frequent cleaning inside and out, and quick addressing of any leaks you see, take care of those problems.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    My Mk III Supra Turbo was pretty undrivable in the snow, and could even catch you off guard in the wet.

    Since I switched to AWD Audis 20 years ago (TT, then A5), I have had no problems.

    Of course winter tires would be better, but the cars are only driven on the weekends, so we are generally talking about one snow event a year I have to drive in here in Philly.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    – Empty deserted parking lot in winter is an excellent place for teens (or anyone) to learn about traction, loss of traction, recovery, braking, counter-steering, vehicle dynamics.

    – Suggested bucket list item: Borrow a tractor in winter. Unlink the left and right brake pedals. Road gear on a packed-snow road. Engage right brake, turn wheel to left; you can crab down the road all day. Engage left brake, turn wheel to right. Pick your crab angle. (It’s not drifting, but give it a try.)

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      We used to go to the local mall (made sure that there were no concrete bollards/etc) at night or on Sundays (there was no Sunday shopping in Ontario then) after a snowfall and practice donuts, drifting, fishtailing, etc in mostly RWD D3 cars.

      Doing that multiple times will soon teach you about driving dynamics.

      And the police never discouraged it.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I don’t have any personal experience driving a sporty car in terrible snow conditions, save the Focus ST that I had on Michelin X-Ices. That did its thing and was fine.

    However, a couple years ago I was behind a guy driving a Camaro after an ice storm that was made worse by additional falling snow that plows hadn’t been able to deal. The temperatures were such that chemical treatments would have been ineffective.

    Anywho, Camaro guy (circa 2014 model) was trying to climb a freeway off ramp/entrance ramp right outside of the Maul of America. He’d build up a head of steam only to have the vehicle lose traction seconds later. Each time he would be able to get going I’d start tacking to make the best use of clear portions (in my Mazda6). No sooner would I get up enough steam that he’d lose it again. It was the most frustrating 30 minutes I’ve spent on that ramp.

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