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4 X 4 versus sedan in winter BC?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
We're driving in British Columbia in December/January between Vancouver, Silver Star and Big White and were thinking of hiring an SUV - cherokee or similar.
Do we need an SUV (heavier vehicle and 4 X 4 capacity) , or would a sedan be o.k (less propensity to roll over etc) on the winter roads?
Any comments on the plan to drive appreciated, too. We are very experienced drivers, but not a lot of time in snowy, icy conditions. Thanks.
post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lizzy101
We're driving in British Columbia in December/January between Vancouver, Silver Star and Big White and were thinking of hiring an SUV - cherokee or similar.
Do we need an SUV (heavier vehicle and 4 X 4 capacity) , or would a sedan be o.k (less propensity to roll over etc) on the winter roads?
Any comments on the plan to drive appreciated, too. We are very experienced drivers, but not a lot of time in snowy, icy conditions. Thanks.
I would recommend an SUV.
post #3 of 17
In 36 years of driving in the mountains I've never encountered a situation in which I had to have 4WD. Others will tell you that you must have it. You could hit almost any conditions you can imagine on the trip you are describing, from white out and ice to sunny dry and clear. The roads are well plowed and maintained where you're going.

If it was me, I'd take a front wheel drive sedan or station wagon, or maybe an AWD like a Subaru Outback. I'm biased because I have a real dislike for SUVs. Take that for whatever it's worth.
post #4 of 17
Subaru Legacy sedan or wagon. Great ice & snow handling, half decent gas mileage and much easier to drive around town.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
We drive a Subie Outback in Australia - love it, but have not seen Subies available as rental cars.Thanks for your replies!
post #6 of 17
If it matters at all, my wife has a 2000 Olds Bravada and I drive a '97 Dodge Ram. Both 4 wheel drive, both have never got stuck. The Bravada shifts in and out of 4 wheel automaticly...I never know if we're in 4 wheel or 2 wheel because it shifts in/out so smoothly when it senses a slip. We drove the Bravada home from the dealership in 8" of snow and it never slipped a wheel that we felt. We discussed replacing the Bravada with one of the Hyundia SUVs for gas milage reasons...the Bravada gets only 15-17 city and 20-22 highway. The Ram, well, it's the "Ram". It was my work truck when I owned a small business and is my "beater/everyday ride" now. This thing goes anywhere! I've driven it through 3 ft of water and about 2 ft of snow, both in one trip. Regaurdless of what you get keep in mind, 4 wheel drives will get you moving, but, it doesn't mean you can stop. I see it every winter here(and we don't get bad winters), some one who thinks that because they can "go" in the snow, they can stop in it just as easily. Once moving, a 4 wheel drive stops just like any other car. There are a lot of nice SUVs poping up now that have "good" gas milage(20+ city/27+ highway out of 6-cylinder engines), so they are not as hard on the pocket book as they used to be. We love ours for vacations, shopping trips, or just moving anything comfortably. We'll probably always have one since they so versatile. Good luck.
post #7 of 17
I think you should evaluate your capacity needs and go on that. With decent tires, both should handle adaquately. Get the SUV is you need the additional space; get a sedan or wagon if you don't.

-TT
post #8 of 17
I drive awd Audis with dedicated snow tires in the winter. I routinely go past 4X4 vehicles that have slid off the road. I have a 4X4 Suburban and have had several Jeep pickups. The Audi is a much more stable and comfortable ride.
post #9 of 17
Hi Lizzy,

A few years ago I did a loop trip out of Vancouver through BC (hit Apex, Whitewater, Fernie, Panorama, Sun Peaks). The return leg took me near where you intend to go. I used a plain old fwd compact rental and had no problems. But then I went in April and had only light dustings in the passes to deal with. There are places I went through that I would not advise to be in bad weather no matter what kind of vehicle you have.

If I recall correctly, the passes you need to go through are not that bad. If go up through Kamloops, it's major highway most of the way. The first big secret for successful winter driving in the mountains is to not drive through the teeth of a storm. If you keep an eye out on the weather and can adjust your timing, you can simply leave early or wait until the roads are cleared. The second big secret is to just slow down. Use those secrets and you won't need 4wd.

Although I agree with the comment about 4wd not being necessary for winter driving, it certainly makes life easier. There've been times when I've driven other peoples "stuck" 2wd out of trouble simply by knowing what to do. In similar conditions I've simply used 4wd because it was easier. One time I was on the road to Alta, UT when a slide split and trapped us front and back. I was in a compact rental. The slide was 2 foot high across the road. If we were the only ones, we would have had to dig to get out. Instead we simply pulled into the down lane and let the other (4wd) vehicles punch through first. When you've traveled out West enough, you can see the big problem with 4wd rentals. They are invariably the ones that slide off the road. If you've got the extra money to spend on convenience and can drive slow even when you don't "need" to, then by all means go for it.

BTW - gas is even more expensive in Canada.
post #10 of 17
It's not like Lizzy's going to get to pick out the tires on her rental. Sure you could probably make it in a FWD sedan, but 4WD or AWD is nice, especially if you’re not an experienced winter driver. I like FWD or better, AWD mini vans; they handle well in the snow and have tons of room.
post #11 of 17
If you are not experienced in driving in winter conditions, your biggest problem is going to be your mindset.

Your current mindset may be that I am used to going where I want and when I want. That may not happen. You have to be at the Hotel for check in by 6:00 pm right? Wrong! You have to make it to the hotel sometime .... same with the airport for the flight home. The important thing is that you get there.

A 4X or an AWD can go pretty quickly on a slick road. The problem here is that it can't stop any faster than a Yugo.

I guess that my point is that you don't want to get in over your head and think that the machine is going to be able to do everything.
post #12 of 17
I drove a Mustang (read: RWD doughnut king) all year in Michigan for several years. I put snow tires on the back, and it would at least move. It wasn't great, but the point is it 'worked' around town and on the highway. I have since sold it and bought a 4x4 F-150. 9 times out of 10 I don't need to use 4x4, but it certainly helps, and also eases the mind. But in a bind, the 4x4 can save you. And while 4x4 won't help it stop faster, the tires that come with it will. I put BFG All Terrains on the truck the first winter and it dug in and stopped with no problems. The stock tires had 60K on them and were equivalent to car tires at that point. I slid into the shop, even in 4x4. With the new treads on, I could gun it or stomp the brakes with very little wheel spin or lock. That was in fresh snow though, not ice. Ice is the devil and it doesn't matter how many wheels you have or how many of them are driven.

Now with the truck, if I'm up in northern Michigan headed to the trash dump...err ski hill...I don't worry about the fact I'm the only vehicle in sight on a remote road.

Point being, sure a FWD sedan CAN do it, but for the peace of mind and convenience, 4x4 or AWD can't be topped. If its not going to break the bank, I'd say go for the SUV. If you need it, you'll be glad.
post #13 of 17
Any time the passes are unpassable by a typical front-wheel drive sedan, the highways will be closed anyway.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lizzy101
..have not seen Subies available as rental cars.
I know I was able to get one in Idaho quite a while back. You might call around directly to companies in Vancouver and see what they have. In the states Enterprise often has a pretty broad selection of cars. You would also save yourself some serious money if they are pricing SUVs up there like they do down here.
post #15 of 17
Unless you are planning on going off-road an SUV is completely pointless. Get yourself an AWD Subaru to get the best of both worlds, you get the traction of 4wd but without the terrible handling of a SUV.
post #16 of 17
Take this info as you want. Any rental car or mini van you get will have all season tires. All season tires are mostly fine for all the seasons of the year except winter, spring and fall. An SUV should have an M+S tire but not overly aggressive, however they will be a legal winter tire. Rental cars are not equipped with chains, nor do the rental companies allow the use of them. They fear damage to the vehicle from improperly mounted chains. If you are in an accident without proper winter tires, all blame can be put on you regardless if it was your fault or not.

The roads from Vancouver to the Okanagon in the winter can be severe. Both the Coquihalla and the Hope-Princeton have passes over 1200 meters which can have plenty of snow. The base of the ski areas (Silverstar and Big White) are over 1600 meters, and can have lots of snow on the roads too.

I'd take the SUV for the legal and safety reasons, plus the extra space on the inside for the gear. Unless the vehicle has a roof box, I don't like putting gear outside.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your balanced views and arguments for and against. The winter tire point is a good one - any further comments appreciated.

I think also the post about 'mindset' is an excellent one - erring on the side of caution will be always in our minds. We have flown from VAN to Kelowna before, but would really enjoy seeing more of BC so hence the rental car idea to give us the flexibility with travel (plus love road trips!).
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