These Are Jalopnik's Ideal Winter Vehicles
Photo: Steve DaSilva
This slideshow’s subheading poses a question: Front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive? Well, reader, I’m here to tell you that both are wrong. Rear-wheel-drive is the superior layout for winter driving, and I can prove it with experience.
The silver FR-S you see here was my own car, the one that carried me through the lake-effect snow of multiple Western New York winters. It was my grocery getter, my furniture hauler — hell, I moved in it. With a good set of snow tires on the factory wheels, I never found myself wanting more — or different — driven wheels. So why not?
Well, for starters, the Toyobaru twins have as many driven wheels as your average AWD vehicle. This sounds absurd, I know, but it’s true. Take, for instance, the BRZ’s bigger Subaru siblings. Despite the full-time-AWD layout, those vehicles use open differentials in the front and the rear. In a low-traction scenario — say, an icy road — all your power will go to the front and rear wheels with the least grip. The Toyobarus use a limited-slip rear differential, meaning they send power to both rear wheels all the time. That’s two driven wheels against two.
Now, before you say it, I’ll admit that plenty of front-wheel-drive cars have limited-slip differentials. The Civic Si, Type R, and Acura Integra all drive two wheels at all times. But asking your wheels to use their limited traction for both acceleration and steering — not to mention the majority of your braking — is a recipe for slippage. Send your power to the rear, and let your front wheels handle the steering.
But I’ve only sold you on rear-wheel-drive so far. Why these two cars specifically? Well, for starters, they’re relatively cheap. RWD has become something of a luxury exclusivity recently, from brands like Mercedes and Lexus, but you can still get your hands on a cheap Toyobaru. Beyond that, they’re easy to fix — letting your inner Takumi Fujiwara out carries lower risks when you can cheaply replace a broken wheel. Most of all, though, these cars are balanced, predictable, and communicative.
If you slide out on a snowy road in a Toyobaru, you’ll know exactly what’s happening. The steering wheel lets you know exactly how little effect your actions are having on the direction of the car, and the responsive engine tells you when your rear wheels aren’t putting the power down. Start to slip, and the car is incredibly easy to control while sideways. It’s like training wheels for drifting, teaching you the intricacies of weight balance and steering from the rear at low, safer speeds.
So, next winter, buy yourself a Toyobaru. You’ll have a blast, learn more than you ever dreamed about vehicle dynamics, and you’ll look great doing it. What more could you want?