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FWD vs RWD & modern technology in the snow...

 
Old 01-14-19, 01:12 PM
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SW17LS
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Default FWD vs RWD & modern technology in the snow...

So, we got about a foot of snow in the DC area yesterday. Last night we drove up to western MD to have dinner with some family, believing the worst of the snow to be over, they were calling for another .5-1" where we were and where we were going. We took the Pacifica which is FWD. When we left the restaurant about 6:00 we found that in the time we had been there, it had snowed about another 3-4 inches and was still coming down hard. The drive back including 3 mountain grades was...interesting. We made it fine, and the Pacifica did well. We were in stopped traffic along a portion of I-270 with inclines and declines, and without AWD my concern always is getting going again on an incline when forced to stop by traffic...but the Pacifica did fine. When we got home, our neighborhood has a street you come in on which has a steady incline, and the Pacifica struggled up it but we got there. Towards the top we were throttle down, constant skid flashing and about 9 MPH but we made it up.

Just for grins, I figured I would take my RWD LS out on some of the same roads and compare how it did, and I was surprised to find that the RWD LS actually handled BETTER in the snow than the FWD Pacifica. The LS has a SNOW transmission mode, which helps, and the traction control did a great job of keeping wheelspin to a minimum and the skid control made it basically impossible to get the rear end to slide out. I found it much easier to keep the LS going in a straight line when accelerating up a hill being able to steer independently from the drive wheels which is a plus for RWD, although the inability to get going has always negated that for me. On that same hill I found the LS struggled less to get up, and I didn't have to back off the throttle to keep it from sliding sideways like I did with the Pacifica, since I could control the direction of the car independently from the drive wheels. I even got the LS out in a school parking lot that had about 6 inches of snow in it, even in high suspension mode it was dragging the ground. Incredibly, the LS got in, up the inclined parking lot, and back out.

All you had to do to see how effective the traction systems are was to turn if off. Once off, the RWD LS was immobile, the Pacifica was much more drivable with its traction systems off.

So it really begs the question, what is a better snow car? I would have to say based on this little experiment I prefer the RWD with effective traction and skid systems to the FWD...

Thoughts?



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Old 01-14-19, 01:17 PM
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FWD wins over RWD. Tires, have a huge influence. Overall, AWD or 4WD wins all together.
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Old 01-14-19, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by LexsCTJill View Post
FWD wins over RWD. AWD or 4WD wins all together.
I agree FWD wins over RWD absent modern skid and traction control technology. The point of my experiment and my post was based on what I experienced last night, the modern traction and skid control technology negated all of the drawbacks RWD has compared to FWD in the snow, without negating the positives RWD has, mainly being able to control the direction of the car independently of the propulsion of the car. To me, that made the RWD the easier and more stable car to drive.

When is the last time you drove a RWD car in the snow? This technology has come a long way, my old LS430 and LS400 were terrible in the snow even with the VSC and TRAC tech Lexus had at the time. My LS460 with more modern technology is way better.

I have dash cam footage I'm going to try and upload.
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Old 01-14-19, 02:04 PM
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Here is the dash cam clip. You'll see as I turn into the bus lane, that is pretty flat, but when I tun right and come into the parking lot, that is uphill all the way to the top where I come around. The car struggles at the top, but the traction control never lets the wheels set into a spin, and the stability control keeps the rear from coming around, and I have no issue controlling the car. I drove the same lot in the Pacifica (no dash cam on the Pacifica) and while it also made it up the hill, I had much less control over the car and the car would slide to the left if I left the throttle down, even with the traction and skid systems working. So, in all I had much better control of the RWD Lexus than the FWD Pacifica.

Without the modern traction and skid control, the RWD Lexus wouldnt even make it up 1/4 of that way.

At 1:40 you see I stop and I actually give it 3/4 throttle, as you see the skid control and the traction control don't allow any side sliding or drama at all. Very impressed.


Last edited by SW17LS; 01-14-19 at 02:08 PM.
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Old 01-14-19, 02:07 PM
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That is interesting. I'd intuitively think the Pacifica would be easier to drive in the snow, if nothing else, due to the lack of power-oversteer being an issue. However, as far as handling ability goes, I am not surprised. Though I am sure the electronic systems have a lot to do with it. Heck, even in my AWD IS, if I turn of traction control and VSC, it'll still kick the rear out rather easily.
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Old 01-14-19, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by arentz07 View Post
That is interesting. I'd intuitively think the Pacifica would be easier to drive in the snow, if nothing else, due to the lack of power-oversteer being an issue. However, as far as handling ability goes, I am not surprised. Though I am sure the electronic systems have a lot to do with it. Heck, even in my AWD IS, if I turn of traction control and VSC, it'll still kick the rear out rather easily.
I thought exactly the same thing, that the Pacifica would be easier to drive in the snow. With traction control and skid control off on each, it is much easier to drive, but with the systems on the RWD Lexus is easier and more confidence inspiring to drive.
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Old 01-14-19, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by LexsCTJill View Post
Tires, have a huge influence.
^^^^^This^^^^

Did they have the exact same tires? I doubt it.

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Old 01-14-19, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bagwell View Post
^^^^^This^^^^

Did they have the exact same tires? I doubt it.
No, but they both have grand touring all season tires with about the same mileage on them (the LS has 2,000 miles more than the Pacifica, 15,500 on the Pacifica 17,500 on the LS). Its hardly a scientific test, but its certainly enough to draw a conclusion that with modern technology many of the drawbacks of a RWD car in the snow are negated.

I almost took the LS up to that dinner last night, and driving back I was so thankful I hadn't. After this little test though, I would take the LS in that situation with no hesitation.

Having had the LS460 in both AWD and RWD, honestly...I think the RWD is just fine for getting me around here. Of course the AWD gives you a much higher level of confidence.
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Old 01-14-19, 02:45 PM
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thanks for sharing your thoughts and dashcam video!
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Old 01-14-19, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by SW17LS View Post
This technology has come a long way, my old LS430 and LS400 were terrible in the snow even with the VSC and TRAC tech Lexus had at the time. My LS460 with more modern technology is way better.
Well, of course, since I wasn't there, I'll take your word for it that the latest RWD LS with traction-aids can handle slick roads as well as a FWD minivan. But you have a point that, at least in the past, RWD usually s**ked under those conditions. I also had an older RWD Lexus (a 1Gen IS300) that wasn't too bad in slushy snow, but, on a truly slick or icy road, even with all-season tires, regular traction control, and a SNOW mode transmission (it lacked a vehicle stability system) was about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. I had had RWD cars before (back in the 60s and 70s)...but that car, for winter driving, soured me on RWD once and for all. After five years, I sold it and got an Outback....which never so much as even spun its wheels, in some of the worst imaginable conditions. I once had it in ice-pellets (sleet) five inches deep....if that isn't a test, nothing is. If you have to go in the winter, it's hard to beat an Outback...they are just amazing.
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Old 01-14-19, 04:28 PM
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I would never drive on snow without winter tires.
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Old 01-14-19, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Och View Post
I would never drive on snow without winter tires.
Winter rubber undoubtedly helps, but a good AWD system (and, in some cases, even a well-designed FWD system) takes them unnecessary.

I had my Lacrosse out, today, after the foot-deep storm that Steve was taking about....it also affected me. Most of the roads had been cleared, but I hunted out a couple of still-slick spots and/or lots to sample its FWD. No problems.....never even spun the Continental Contipro Contact all-season tires. One thing that helps is that it is a relatively large heavy car by today's standards (though it lost 300 pounds in the last 2017 redesign...and the V6 helps keep a fair amount of its weight (and stability) on the front wheels.

Lacrosses, BTW, on upper-trim models, are available with AWD, but I turned it down. for several reasons. Since I don't commute regularly any more in the snow (except, if necessary, to church on Sunday), most of the time I don't need it....even those services are cancelled if it gets really bad.

Last edited by mmarshall; 01-14-19 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 01-14-19, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by mmarshall View Post
Well, of course, since I wasn't there, I'll take your word for it that the latest RWD LS with traction-aids can handle slick roads as well as a FWD minivan. But you have a point that, at least in the past, RWD usually s**ked under those conditions. I also had an older RWD Lexus (a 1Gen IS300) that wasn't too bad in slushy snow, but, on a truly slick or icy road, even with all-season tires, regular traction control, and a SNOW mode transmission (it lacked a vehicle stability system) was about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. I had had RWD cars before (back in the 60s and 70s)...but that car, for winter driving, soured me on RWD once and for all. After five years, I sold it and got an Outback....which never so much as even spun its wheels, in some of the worst imaginable conditions. I once had it in ice-pellets (sleet) five inches deep....if that isn't a test, nothing is. If you have to go in the winter, it's hard to beat an Outback...they are just amazing.
Actually I said it handled them better. I totally get where you're coming from, our 98 LS400 and 04 LS430 were quite difficult to drive in the snow, and they had skid control. I will say the stability control system does a ton because it keeps the rear end from coming out when you're accelerating, cornering, etc. The modern systems have come a long, long way though.

I only got this car in RWD because it was the end of the model run, and the only way to get one the way I wanted it. I will say though, for all the driving it will ever do in the snow its going to be totally fine. In fact, I will choose to drive it in the snow now over the FWD Pacifica.

Originally Posted by Och View Post
I would never drive on snow without winter tires.
They just don't make sense here in our climate. This was the biggest snow we've had since January of 2016, and our temps are all over the place. For instance Tuesday, it was 60 degrees, and Sunday we had a foot of snow. It just doesn't make sense here to have two dedicated sets of tires.

Originally Posted by mmarshall
Winter rubber undoubtedly helps, but a good AWD system (and, in some cases, even a well-designed FWD system) makes them unnecessary.
Uh, no. You still have to stop, and turn. AWD systems don't do you any good there, and FWD systems make that more difficult if anything. Winter tires have rubber compounds designed to grip better in low temperatures, and tread patterns that are equipped to keep snow from building up in their tread blocks. If I lived somewhere that we got more winter (such as NY) I would absolutely run winter tires.

All you have to do is drive even a really good 4WD vehicle on all season tires in 3 degree temps and its immediately apparent you need winter tires in that sort of situation.

Last edited by SW17LS; 01-14-19 at 05:35 PM.
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Old 01-14-19, 05:38 PM
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The LS does get quite a bit of praise for its winter driving abilities, especially with winter tires. I recall my 2GS430 would get stuck at the slightest mention of a rumor about winter. Once it got going it was better but it was a RWD nightmare in deep or slushy snow at the freezing point.

That said, AWD>FWD>RWD. More wheels being driven helps and putting more weight on the driving tires also mitigates the disadvantage of traditional RWD. There's a sort of "ground hugging" effect on the LS due to its sheer weight which puts a certain amount of pressure on the tires and helps them not only dig through snow but also push through mild winter conditions like these in the video. The other thing to mention is that the video also shows SW driving in the ruts in the snow that other drivers have already made.

It would be more interesting to see how the car does in the deeper snow to the right of the ruts in the video. Or in much colder temperatures with much more packed and thaw/freeze/snow conditions. On sheer ice, even an AWD will have problems getting going and of course the other part of winter conditions... stopping.

I would never go without winter tires in Canada or the US deep winter snow belt.
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Old 01-14-19, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by SW17LS View Post
They just don't make sense here in our climate. This was the biggest snow we've had since January of 2016, and our temps are all over the place. For instance Tuesday, it was 60 degrees, and Sunday we had a foot of snow. It just doesn't make sense here to have two dedicated sets of tires.
Agreed. The D.C. area is a true Jack-of-all-Trades climate. Winters are completely unpredictable, not only from one year to the next, but one month, (or even one week) to the next. In February, I've seen it vary from 80 degrees to -15....and, in March, from 90 degrees to 5 above. In the (Snowmageddon) winter of 2010-2011, we got over 45 inches of snow in one week alone, from two back-to-back 20-inch-plus storms spaced just a few days apart (I was praying that our condo roofs didn't collapse)...and several other crippling snowstorms that hit that same winter. Other years, we will see barely a snowflake all winter...it will be almost like Florida.

Last edited by mmarshall; 01-14-19 at 05:46 PM.
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