By on February 5, 2019

2017 Genesis G80 winter mountains - Image: Genesis Motors

Last week’s ball-shattering polar vortex flash froze much of the U.S. and Canada, sending Netflix viewership soaring and no doubt spurring a mini baby boom in nine months’ time. While it may have been toasty in your home (sorry, Michigan gas customers), your car’s engine block found itself in a climate POW camp.

Hailing from the Great White North, I know all too well the prayers muttered while twisting the ignition key, knowing all too well your oil’s as thick as fudge and hoping with all your might that good wishes can be converted into cranking amps. Now, let’s say you succeed in firing up that ice-cold engine. What next? (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2018

2013 Scion FRS navy winter - Image: © Timothy CainI’m beginning to worry that many vehicles I once fervently desired to own will never again appear on my shortlist of possible daily drivers.

These vehicles, from the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta ST to the Audi S4 and Porsche Macan and numerous others in between, possess one of two common traits. Their internal combustion engines send power either to the front or all four wheels.

I don’t want to be that guy; I don’t want there to be any hint of sounding like this. You know the kind of guy I’m talking about: a real, living, breathing version of the 14-year-old forum addict who, never having driven any car of any kind, suffers all manner of teenage angst over the very notion that BMW sells all-wheel-drive M cars while scolding Ford for emasculating the Mustang GT350R with electronic aids.

But a hard-hitting winter manifested itself early on Prince Edward Island, and I’m worried that the fun quotient exhibited by a 2013 Scion FR-S could never be replicated by a front or all-wheel-drive car. (Read More…)

By on November 20, 2018

Despite redesigning the 1500-series for 2019, Ram’s leaner, meaner, and more economical pickup was already in danger of being overshadowed by the parade of special edition models pouring out of the factory. While many emphasize style over substance, the inverse is sometimes true — which happens to be the case with the 1500 North Edition.

Visually, there’s not much going on here. It’s definitely the new Ram 1500, but lacks some of the bolder designs that typically epitomize a special edition model. Based on the Big Horn, the North Edition focuses entirely upon adding equipment that might be useful in the snow. Presumably, Fiat Chrysler realized that bold graphics and bright colors lose some appeal when covered in road salt.

Unveiled to the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) members Monday evening, the truck will eventually be shipped to dealerships across America — so long as they see snow every winter. The North Edition Ram 1500 comes standard with winter-rated three-peak mountain snowflake (3PMSF) Falken LT tires, one-inch factory lift, 4×4 transfer case (with auto, high and low), electronic locking rear axle, and engine block heater.  (Read More…)

By on November 14, 2018

1994 Audi 90S in California Junkyard, RH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Wintery weather gripped many parts of North America over the past week, as the snowman arrived earlier than expected. Seeing all the accompanying gross photos got me thinking about driving in winter, which is of course where we all shine … and everyone else is awful.

Except for when we’re actually awful ourselves. Let’s talk about winter weather driving experiences.

(Read More…)

By on December 22, 2017

Snow Driving

In addition to being needlessly stressful, obligatory holiday travel poses an elevated risk of roadway mishaps. Inclement weather, congested highways, and overtaxed drivers traversing long distances is an exceptionally bad formula. We don’t have to spell it out further; you’ve likely seen seasonal roadside tragedies firsthand and been thankful it wasn’t you.

However, depending on where you’re making your holiday pilgrimage this year, the associated risks could be much higher or lower than someone traveling a few states over. Not all regions are created equal, and some parts of the United States appear to be particularly susceptible to road fatalities during annual festivities. (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2017

waymo-michigan

There’s something we don’t often hear about when companies discuss the glory of the autonomous car: the lack of functionality of specific hardware during inclement weather.

Camera systems can be rendered ineffective when covered with ice and snow cover of an inch or more can easily obscure lane markings, leaving self-driving cars at a serious disadvantage. LiDAR, which operates using light beams, can be severely thrown in fog or whiteout conditions. Even if a blizzard doesn’t knock out the vehicle’s sensor array, its computer will still have to know how to mitigate slippery road surfaces.

Whether you’re human or machine, winter driving is extremely taxing. But technology companies hoping to build a self-driving car eventually have to move into snowy regions to advance testing. Some of the bigger automakers already have. Ford, for example, has begun extensive regional mapping — hoping to give cars handicapped by poor visibility a leg up.

Waymo has also decided it’s time to throw on a parka and winter tires. It’s heading to Michigan to start cold-weather testing next week.  (Read More…)

By on October 13, 2017

Our 1985 Nissan Maxima was heading south on 219 from Niagara Falls at 70 mph. The Falls are beautiful in winter, but of course traveling through New York at that time of year can mean bad roads. My dad was behind the wheel and, with no snow in sight, he was confidently chauffeuring us home to the Carolinas. That’s when he turned to my mom and said, “I wonder if this is black ice we’re driving on? Let me tap the brakes and see.”

“Dad! WooHoo!” I grabbed onto the silver metal posts holding his head rest up with both hands. That tap of the brakes had sent the tail of our Maxima suddenly passing the front of the car for the lead. Of course, as a kid I was safely buckled into a child seat. That is, if by child seat you mean we had the seats folded flat and sleeping bags spread out so we could lay down and play. Oh, the 1980s.

“Daaad!” I was still convinced at this point in my life my dad could do anything, which would include throwing our family sedan into a 360-degree spin on the highway on purpose. As cool as the first spin was, I was ready for it be over. What with the semi truck barreling towards us from behind and all.

(Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

winter driving snowy road (public domain)

Quick now: Just how full is your refrigerator at this precise moment? I mean, it is kinda full, is it sorta full, is it totally full, is it almost empty, does it have the bachelor’s portion of beer and Cretaceous takeout? The reason I ask is because when I visit my more successful friends I’m simply bowled over by the amount of empty refrigerator space they have. Double and triple Northlands or Vikings with nothing in them. Deep stacks of empty shelves. Sometimes they have empty sections, doors behind which the air is chilled to 33 precise degrees but where nothing is stored.

My friends tell me that they need the space for the parties and gatherings they are going to have. I refrain from pointing out that in the modern suburban era nobody ever goes to anybody else’s house unless it is on pain of death/shunning/shaming. That gregarious age documented by Updike and Cheever is long gone. My friends won’t be hosts. Nobody’s coming to the parties that they won’t really have. All of that empty fridge space will always be empty. They spend most of their nights on “foodie adventures” anyway, spending massive amounts of money to avoid being trapped in their homes with only Netflix to fill the gaps in their meaningless conversations. And it’s only the two of them anyway, plus one designer baby after the wife turns 38 and panics.

I feel very virtuous, almost Spartan, because I only have a single-width Sub-Z from about 15 years ago. And my fridge is relatively full. But still there’s empty space. Sometimes Danger Girl goes through and tosses a half-ton of expired food. Still more fridge than we need. Compare that to the fridge at my grandmother’s house. She had four boys living in the house. Six people to my three. And her fridge was under six feet tall. With two cramped compartments. How did she do it, particularly given the fact that she cooked a real dinner, a real lunch, and a real breakfast every night? How did she survive on one-fifth the frosted space available to my DINK foodie friends?

(Read More…)

By on December 29, 2016

Winter city snow

Boston, the city that gave us both the New Kids On The Block and Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, placed dead last on Allstate’s 2016 America’s Best Drivers List. With the weather in Beantown turning blustery and cold, the Car Talk slogan of “don’t drive like my brother” has become hauntingly sound advice.

However Boston isn’t a singular example of a city with overzealous insurance claimants and certainly isn’t only location about to get hit with seasonally inclement weather. There are plenty of places where you’ll want to look out for other drivers just as much as you will icy patches of road this winter.  (Read More…)

By on January 5, 2016

1998-2000_Honda_Accord_sedan_--_03-16-2012

Pete writes:

I find myself in a situation uniquely suited to seek out the counsel of the wise and insightful folks at TTAC (Sajeev, Mark, and the B&B).

I have been a long time resident of Tampa, Florida, where my ’98 Honda Accord and my wife’s ’04 Honda Accord perfectly suit the needs of my family (which includes our two boys, ages one and three). The ’98 has about 175,000 miles on the clock. I am just handy enough to do all required maintenance and repairs myself.

My employer has offered me the opportunity to relocate to Ottawa for the next three years. My wife works as a CPA and all of her clients are here in Tampa or greater Florida. The plan for now is for her to spend the tax seasons in Tampa with the boys while I enjoy the Ottawa winters solo.

(Read More…)

By on January 3, 2014

I’ve never quite understood why snowstorms in winter are news, but I noticed Diane Sawyer talking about it on the evening news today so I guess if you live in the eastern half of North America, you’re probably experiencing some winter weather. Living in Michigan, where we discuss the finer points of materials science when it comes to snow shovels (my personal preference is laminated hardwood but those are no longer imported into America from Austria), dealing with snow is just part of life here. Now there are plenty of people around here who stay indoors when the snow emergency announcements start getting broadcast, lots of people hate driving in winter conditions, and I’ve had more than a couple of white knuckle experiences due to poor traction caused by snow or ice, but to be honest, I flat out love driving in snow. Do you? (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2011


I moved to Denver over the summer and am now experiencing the joys of proper snow driving for the first time in the 29 years since the State of California saw fit to give me my first driver’s license. With just a ’92 Civic and a ’66 Dodge A100 in my personal motor pool, I figure it’s time for me to start shopping for something with four driven wheels. In fact, I need something that can do four-wheel burnouts on dry asphalt! (Read More…)

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