AWD power activate!

So our driveway is about 200 feet long and unpaved. We had it finished with hardpack, and it’s fine most of the year, but when we have prolonged cold spells, it can be tricky for a front-wheel car to get up the incline to our house.

Well, we currently have a cold spell like that. The temperature has been around 20 during the day and in the negatives at night for a week or so now. The hardpack has been covered with snow a few times, scraped and shoveled, and left with a thin layer of snow that has frozen and smoothed out into something that now resembles one of those Olympic luge tracks. I have to park the Grand Marnier in the spot at the bottom of the driveway because the front-wheel drive does not do well when the driveway is all ice. The UPS, FedEx, and Sears service trucks have all had to capitulate and park at the bottom for their deliveries and service calls for the last few days.

Today I went out with the kids for the weekly grocery run. When I got back, I had to park at the bottom of the hill again and haul all the groceries up through the snow on the path through the Forbidden Forest, bypassing the driveway, because it was so icy I fell on my ass three times trying to walk up it. Took me twenty minutes to get all the groceries into the house. I was utterly convinced that the wife would not be able to make it up the hill tonight to park in her usual spot right next to the house.

Well, she gets in past dark, I see the headlights coming up the driveway…and the Subaru just trucks up the icy incline like it’s freshly laid gravel in the middle of July. She said she never felt a tire slip.

The Grand Marnier is nowhere near on its last leg, but when it’s time to replace it, I want a frickin’ Subaru too.


26 thoughts on “AWD power activate!

  1. wordherder62 says:

    Subies rock … no question about it.

  2. Divemedic says:

    I love my Ford Escape for the same reason.

  3. B5K says:

    I questioned the value of Subaru and their AWD-claim-to-fame for the longest time. Then I worked on the North Slope of Alaska (Barrow, 330 miles above the Arctic Circle) for a year. Soon after arriving, I noticed that, while all the gov vehicles were Fords, all of the taxi companies ran Subarus.
    There was one time when it hit -60* outside….Most of the town was shut down, but the taxis ran all over the place.
    I’m on my second Subaru Forester (2011 this time), and it’s taken on everything with a voracious appetite: Blizzard in Eastern Washington, minor flooding in Oregon, hunting season in the mud and snow, etc. No problems.

    • Jingles says:

      “Minor flooding” as in the current situation in the mid-valley?

      • B5K says:

        Minor flooding as in about 16 inches that was flowing across some roads near Vale back in the spring…It was something to do with irrigation, IIRC.

  4. Dan says:

    The Honda Pilot rocks pretty hard too. Loved that truck until the wife totaled it. Built on the Odyssey frame it has some of that mini van utility (third row and dvd screen for trips with kids) and hauling capacity is better than any Subie.

    Course I’d love me a WRX as a suitable replacement for the out of production prelude.

  5. MadRocketScientist says:

    My wife & I haven’t owned anything but Subaru’s for the past 10 years. Bought our first in 2001 in WI and spent our first winter with it marveling at how we didn’t have to work to get around in a blizzard. Even out here in WA, where there are no plows & is no road salt, the Subaru does great (the only thing that keeps me off the roads are native WA drivers, who scare me).

    The real selling point was the safety. Our 1st Subaru died in 2006 when a drunk crossed the center line and hit us head on at highway speeds. My wife & I walked out of that bruised but OK. The drunk was killed. Tough cars.

  6. EmB says:

    Cheaper than a new car, you can also get a set of dedicated snow tires. You get more grip regardless of the number of differentials between your gas pedal and the wheels. This lets you stop and turn faster, which are two (very important) things AWD/4WD won’t help you with.

  7. LittleRed1 says:

    Had a ‘Baru, loved the ‘Baru. Only time I ever lost it on snowpack was when the pack had been coated overnight with liquid (’till it froze) pig-poo. I came around the corner at a mighty, oh, 10 mph and slid right into the bar-ditch. Dropped it two gears, tapped the gas and out she came, happy as ever. If the local ‘Baru dealership hadn’t gone downhill in terms of both sales and repair quality, I’d be driving one today.

  8. My road has the same “luge-run” characteristics. You know how long/steep it is; when the ruts get good & glazed, you can lock up the brakes & slide all the way to the bottom. Good thing having the ruts, actually, they keep you on course.
    Oddly, the truck in FWD or the Mrs.’ Rav cruise right up.
    UPS driver says he’ll see me in April.

  9. ravenshrike says:

    …Get a set of snow tires. While 4-wheel drive helps on patchy ice areas, if it’s snow then snow tires are much more useful than 4-wheel drive.

  10. yankeefried says:

    Yet another vote for snow tires. Studded snow tires are even better, and are allowed in NH with no restrictions.

    Keep on a cheap steel rims to make the change-over easy.

  11. perlhaqr says:

    I’m fond of my little Subaru.

    There’s an AWD version of the Grand Marnier, I believe.

  12. James Kelly says:

    I have a 2010 Outback and I’m loving it. Haven’t tested the off-road capabilities too much yet though.

  13. lenf says:

    Sand, Marko, sand. Two stripes of sand up that driveway. Get yourself two of those 50 gallon juice drums (about $15 each) cut the tops off and lay them on their sides in strategic locations alongside the driveway. Fill them with sand with a litlle salt mixed in to keep it from freezing and toss in a #10 can or something similar and when you reach the snow/ice pack stage, lay out a couple of light stripes of sand just so your tires will hit them. This is all you need. Yes it’s another chore, but the kids can help, and it’s cheaper than a new car. My drive is 350 feet and probably steeper than yours. For my current cars it’s not absolutely necessary but for the thirty years we’ve been here it’s been standard operating procedure.

  14. Dogzard says:

    Ever thought about just driving up the driveway in reverse?

  15. Larry says:

    Love my Subi Baja. I don’t know what I’m going to replace it with when it finally bites it, but living in NC means I don’t have to worry about it overly much.

  16. SGB says:

    I’ve wanted a Subaru. May have to try one.

  17. peter says:

    We had one of the last non-Outback Legacy wagons. Great car. Better handling than the Outbacks, a lower roof for easier canoe & kayak loading, and the lower ground clearance wasn’t a problem even in rural NH. The current Outback seems too bulky. I seem to be the only person left who wants a simple station wagon instead of a pumped-up SUV.

  18. Ritchie says:

    Heartily endorse studded snow biters. Had those on a VW Rabbit and the only thing that would stop it was snow too deep to drive over. Nowadays tire dudes will only sell full sets for a front wheel drive customer. There is also some sort of traction spray for tires, haven’t used it so can’t say.

  19. Will says:

    Snow tires won’t help on that type of surface. BTW, does your Grande M have traction control of some sort? If so, maybe it’s not functional due to a bad sensor.

  20. If you’ll pardon the prurience: I can’t stop giggling about all this discussion about the driving performance of a bottle of alcohol. 🙂

  21. douglas2 says:

    I’ve done the Subaru 4wd, and I’ve done a different Subaru that was identical in all respects except only FWD.
    I had never any problems with the 4wd, but after switching to the newer FWD Subie there were a few particular hills that gave me problems until I purchased some Nokian winter tires.
    Now, given the choice between 4wd with “All season” or “mud + snow” tires and FWD with newfangled arctic rated winter tires, I’ll take the FWD with the magic tires, thank you.
    Same model car, same driver, same winter. 4wd vs Fwd. The 4wd had new all-season tires. The Fwd had winter tires with the “snowflake on a mountain” rune on the sidewall, but no studs. The FWD was much better at getting up icy hills. There must be some really great power in that symbol…

  22. markshere2 says:

    Light little cars with proper ( narrow/ studded / all weather) tires and weight distribution do pretty darn good on ice / snow.

    Big heavy units with wide slippery tires .. meh not so much.
    4WD is pretty handy too hence the exceptional ability of the subarus.

    Daddy did right good with his 69 VW bug and studded snow tires.

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