If you live anywhere in snow country, you may have been asking the same question I have been... “do I really need to plunk down more hard-earned cash for snow tires?” I know I’ve been anxious to feel my own Smart (with only the standard issue Continental tires) on snow before I would be able to say with confidence that I was comfortable with its handling.

Well my Chicago suburb provided the perfect proving ground this morning. We got 3 or 4 inches of icy snow overnight, so before making a decision about what car to drive to work this morning, I took an early spin through an unplowed parking lot near our neighborhood. The yellow warning light went on a few times as I lost traction on really icy patches, but the car performed well. I made the decision to give it a go for my day’s commute. I am happy to report that the handling was totally solid, and at no time did I feel even the slightest sense that I wasn’t in complete control. (Granted, there was not 8" of snow, and it was not zero degrees out.)

If I had to guess, I’d say that the car’s light weight plays a big role in its performance. Less mass equals less inertia? So even though the standard tires do not create as much friction as snow tires would, they are able to handle the Smart’s mass? I have intentionally punctuated the previous sentences with question marks because I never took physics, not because driving a Smart has turned me into an adolescent female from the Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley. (“And then I went to band camp? And I met this boy?)

Any physicists out there to explain the science behind this? (The Smart’s performance on snow, not the regional dialect!)

Views: 953

Tags: Handling, Performance, Snow

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Comment by Jack Tire on December 14, 2009 at 6:20am
Hi! All ....

Tire chains improve traction on ice & snow.
if installed properly...
n here i found a new place where you can buy good quality of tire chains
for more tire chains
Comment by DLP on December 30, 2008 at 4:10pm
Mine handles very well in snow. I had planned to buy snow tires but now that I have been around in the snow and ice, I changed my mind. Unless I am getting studded tires, I don't know what I would gain. It does very well without the tires. Of course, there are days I don't go out if the weather is too bad. I was a cautious winter driver even before I owned a Smart. I owned a Volkswagon beetle many years ago and it handled very well in snow also. I was told by the dealer to expect a similar experience with this Smart and I have tgo say he was right.
Comment by Theresa McSpedon on December 19, 2008 at 6:29pm
I am in Connecituct and we just got our first real snow storm of the season. So far about 8", predicted to be more. It was the first time I had my smart (a yellow/silver cabrio) in the snow. It was GREAT!!! I had to drive up this steep hill to get home. A minivan, a small 4x4 SUV and a big old taxi all spun out in front of me (we were all going slow and it was local road). My smart just hung on to the road as I weaved my way between them all and just kept on going! You should have seen their faces, especially the SUV, when they all lost control and I just went on by them. It was a lot of fun. I did not have tire chains on. My SMART held the road well. I was a bit nervous, I have had 4x4 cars for over 15 years and before that front wheel drive. So it had been over 25 years since I drove a rear wheel drive car in the snow. Fortunately, my first car was a VW beetle and I am born in December. When I learned to drive it was winter with lots of snow. I learned to drive in my VW Beetle (a small rear wheel drive car with the engine over the wheels). That experience came rushing back to me and the SMART handled a lot like my 1968 VW beetle. Yes, I am old. ;> but that doesn't stop me from loving my SMART car. I was on the waiting list almost 1.5 years before I got my SMART this past April. It was worth the wait, and now that I know I can use it in winter I am thrilled. My biggest concern when buying the car was winter driving. I will buy tire chains, just to have them, just in case. I probably won't need to use them, but they give me peace of mind. Anyone else out there who is going through today's storm who has a story to share?
Comment by Anna E. on December 5, 2008 at 3:45pm
From WI -I just got an orphaned smart car last night and the salesperson took me out for a quick spin to show me somethings that are a little bit different on the '09 than the '08 I'd test driven in Aug. Part of their parking lot had a big, nice patch of packed down ice-snow and she insisted that I slam on the brakes to see how it responds. Boy, does it handle nicely!! My boyfriend tried it out later and said it was very similar to his Nissan 350Z Track Edition vehicle dynamic control. So no bigger worries than a 'normal' car.
Comment by John Stump on December 3, 2008 at 4:18pm
I am looking forward to driving my smart (when it arrives) in the snow here in New Hampshire. I have a 4WD plow truck, a FWD car and have RWD cars at work. Before the anti-skid and traction features were available, I felt that there was better control in snow with RWD because if there was any slipping easing off the gas usually brought everything in line. With FWD, any excess gas could cause the front end to slip sideways which could be trouble especially if you are in a turn. However, with all the electronic controls on smart and many other cars this really isn't an issue anymore as long as you respedt the conditions and adjust your speed. When I am plowing, the vehicles that I pull out of snow banks most often are 4WD and AWD SUVs because, while it is easier to get moving, they will not stop on a dime in snow and ice. Just take it easy and you will get where wou are going.
Comment by Linda Diane Feldt on December 2, 2008 at 11:47pm
I had the chance to drive on unplowed roads, with a couple of inches. Also in Michigan. I felt best in manual and was thrilled at how well the smart did. Reminded me a bit of my old VW bug, but much better. I didn't like the feeling of automatic in slippery conditions. But I've also pretty much driven only manuals in my life. The only problem was the main road was a two track -- and I was too narrow to fit! Funny...
Comment by Rick Leedy on December 2, 2008 at 7:58pm
I am in Michigan and while we received 3-4" of the wet sloppy snow the other day, the roads were mostly plowed when I got out of my subdivision. So, I am still waiting for a really good Michigan snowfall to know for sure, but so far so good in the smart. The short wheelbase and having most of the weight over the drive wheels helps with the traction.
Comment by Judy on December 2, 2008 at 6:58pm
I live in Springfield and was wondering about this as well. So far, our snow hasn't "stuck." Thought I'd just convert to the paddles and keep the gears in the lower range. Your thoughts?
Comment by Wally Gullang on December 2, 2008 at 8:08am
Alan like you I live in northern Illinois and if one would just drive with care and use some common sence, you should make it from point (a) to point (b) with no problem.
Comment by Jim VW on December 2, 2008 at 1:30am
It truely depends on how you drive. Most people are used to 4wd or at least FWD and the Smart is a RWD car. the front end does not pull around corners, and slower speeds are best. The best advice is to 'Take it easy"

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