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!)