BimmerFest BMW Forum banner
1 - 20 of 70 Posts

·
HUFINGTON
Joined
·
923 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First Drive Impressions of my 535i RWD in Snow

I wanted to get a RWD F10 and chose not go in the direction of xDrive like almost 99% of people do here in the NE area. I had my reason for that.

The first reason for that was that I have owned and driven RWD cars for almost 25 years now and I love the way they handle.

Secondly, I already have two AWD cars (’12 MB S550 4Matic and ’10 Infiniti G37x) so I am pretty much covered in case of heavy snow emergencies.

Third and most important reason was that I know first hand that all-wheel-drive doesn’t mean too much if you have summer or all season tires on the car or the snow is very deep or there is a slippery type of accumulation. Besides, from experience I also know that the AWD does not affect your ability to stop in slippery conditions at all. Most people are being misled by the marketing strategies started by SUV manufacturers and then used heavily by Audi for Quattro followed by other manufacturers and therefore have a false sense of safety with 4WD cars in snowy/icy conditions.

I have lived in Germany for many years during college and drove in snowy/icy conditions often with my RWD cars and also participated in 3 winter driving/snow/ice driving courses to learn better how to drive in less than ideal conditions.

Alright, back to my impressions. I was treated like a lunatic by most BWM CAs during my search for the best deal in December when I told them that I did not want an xDrive but prefer a RWD 5 Series. 95% of them said that it is impossible to drive w/o AWD during NY/NJ/CT winters and 5% of them did not say anything buy gave me the look.
As no dealer had any RWD cars in the region with the accessories I wanted, I ordered one and took delivery 2 weeks ago.

It is a solid car, great piece of German engineering and very nice to drive. My first BMW was an E30 M3 in 1989 and since then I love BMWs.

Yesterday, it was snowing quite bit and I decided to see how the car handles with RWD and Continental all season RFTs in those conditions. I drove my G37x all day and I had no problems despite the all season tires, which have 18K miles on them and are not as good as they were when new. The snow was packed in most areas and the car came to stop by a little sliding and the ABS was kicking in. When accelerating, there were slight grip problems for the first couple of feet until the car got going. Turning off the VDC of the Infiniti helped with that a lot. Around corners, when you were not on the gas, the car had a tendency to slide sideways (just a little) and over-steer shortly.

So, I took out my 535 and here is what I felt while my short 10-mile drive in snow.

1- The car feels very solid on the road surface and gives you a lot of feedback as to what is on the surface and how slippery it is.
2- I like the ABS system as it was not as obtrusive as the Infiniti system.
3- Since the Continental tires are practically brand new (210 miles on them), they had decent grip while accelerating and braking despite the packed snow.
4- The car has a longer stopping distance than the Infiniti even with better brakes due to its higher weight.
5- Cornering traction was okay, with the tires providing average front-end authority to maintain directional control while the back is more out of shape. The car has a tendency to quickly over-steer (more than Infiniti), which is expectable but it also follows the steering inputs better than the Infiniti.
6- When a slide did occur while cornering, there was a greater tendency to get some initial under-steer followed by instant over-steer, especially when the car crossed icy patches in some of the corners.
7- When stopping driving uphill, you need to be very light on the throttle to be able to drive off from standstill. A little too much gas and the rear wheels spin very easily.
8- The car felt extremely stabile in slush and wet pavement.
9- The Continental RFTs are good for a short drive in snow but as they get colder they get harder and non-responsive in some situations. It is dangerous to have a long commute with a lot of stops in snowy conditions IMHO.

I believe that the car would have felt better in Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires as they have an advanced silica-based, high-grip, all-season tread compound with an asymmetrical tread design.

But so far, I am very pleased with the basis that my BMW provides. I am sure that the car will drive through up to 8 inches of snow and come to a safe stop w/o any major problems when I put on a set of dedicated winter/snow tires like the Bridgestone Blizzak or Michelin X-Ice. The width of the current tires (245/45-18) is a little too much for snowy/icy conditions so I would definitely go for a smaller diameter rim and narrower tire.

I love that I have a RWD BMW that is fun to drive in dry conditions and can be a beast in winter conditions with the right set of tires. I am also happy that I did not pay the extra $2,300 for the xDrive. I rather spend it for a set of dedicated winter tires, which in my opinion makes the car safer to drive than a 4wd car on average OEM all season tires.
I know that there are advantages of the xDrive, it is 0.1sec faster off the line, has better traction when compared to RWD with the same OEM tires, etc. and I appreciate those as a 4WD owner, however, I prefer my current configuration. It turns out, that you CAN drive in winter in the Tri-State area without xDrive.:thumbup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
I have driven in snow for over 20 years and I am amazed by how uninformed many people are about a couple of key points that you emphasize.

"Third and most important reason was that I know first hand that all-wheel-drive doesn***8217;t mean too much if you have summer or all season tires on the car or the snow is very deep or there is a slippery type of accumulation. Besides, from experience I also know that the AWD does not affect your ability to stop in slippery conditions at all. Most people are being misled by the marketing strategies started by SUV manufacturers and then used heavily by Audi for Quattro followed by other manufacturers and therefore have a false sense of safety with 4WD cars in snowy/icy conditions."

All cars have "all wheel brakes" and most accidents happen in snow when people are trying to stop. I would rather drive a rear wheel drive with snow tires than AWD with all season tires and forget it if the tires are badly worn like I see a lot of folks driving around on.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,695 Posts
Amen. I have a rwd 335 with dedicated snows in ny and have no regrets. Actually have driven rwd carsin the norrheast for 15 years now. I agree -its annoying how uninformed people make condescending comments. Makes you realize how brainwashed everyone gets by marketing. I'm sure I'm the same when it comes to products I'm not as familiar with.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
77 Posts
I have Michelin winter tires on my 550i (manual transmission) and it is wonderful in the snow. Drove many hours on unplowed roads in a blizzard in Minnesota on a ski trip and had complete control. Also had an opportunity to drive a 3 series X drive with standard all-sseason tires and, in my opinion, it was significantly worse in snow & ice than my rear wheel drive with winter Michelins. My salesman is 100% on my side - a separate set of rims with dedicated winter tires is the way to go.
 

·
cor door sedan
Joined
·
1,161 Posts
If you have to drive hills in the snow then you will appreciate AWD.
 

·
Everything's Bigger in TX
Joined
·
7,121 Posts
I would take a RWD with snows over an AWD with all seasons any day.

I drove my RWD 535 with Conti DWS's through snowmageddon. I was very impressed with the car as a whole except for the defrost. Then again, I grew up driving in RWD cars in the snow with snow tires before AWD was prevalent.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
346 Posts
If you have to drive hills in the snow then you will appreciate AWD.
100% agree. Tires are very important, however, keeping tires constant AWD is superior to RWD. The xdrive defaults to the 40:60 torque distribution when slowing down, therefore, you have a significant advantage slowing down the car in the snow with the engine (engine braking). You also have a significant advantage in recovery if you start slipping. Obviously if you have crappy tires on any drive set up, then you don't stand a chance regardless. I do agree people get a false sense of security with AWD systems and more readily overlook the tires, however, the stock all seasons work very well for me...at least so far.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
883 Posts
LukeS has it right! You can make do with RWD and winter tires in the snow, as I did with my E39. However, when it comes to hills (like my driveway) the AWD even with all-season tires is superior. You pay acquisition cost and gas mileage penalties with AWD, but it's worth it for me. You also pay performance penalties. I can no longer slide around corners in the snow and I suppose on the track AWD limitations would be very apparent. But, I certainly don't care on an F10.

There is no question stopping is better with winter tires, but if you have to drive in snow like you're on dry pavement, then your best bet is AWD with winter tires. Even then stopping performance will still be considerably less than what you can achieve on dry pavement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,270 Posts
For 42 year before my F10, I had driven RWD cars almost exclusively - and believe me, I know where the fun is.

But I have grown older and [fun] has grown colder
And nothing is very much fun any more


So here I am with the 528xi, and must tell you this: xDrive just makes your trips more convenient and easier, but - unfortunately - not necessarily safer! At some circumstances, there is this awful understeering factor you cannot do much about but wait... wait..wait...

Like the moment when your breaks lock
And you slide toward the big truck
And stretch the frozen moments with your fear


Beware!

PS. Sorry, I couldn't resist - I'm a Roger Waters type of guy :)
 

·
HUFINGTON
Joined
·
923 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·

·
HUFINGTON
Joined
·
923 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
100% agree. Tires are very important, however, keeping tires constant AWD is superior to RWD. The xdrive defaults to the 40:60 torque distribution when slowing down, therefore, you have a significant advantage slowing down the car in the snow with the engine (engine braking). ...
As I mentioned in my original post, the traction of a 4WD car is nearly doubled compared to a two-wheel-drive layout and it is superior to a RWD configuration on less than ideal surfaces with the same tire setup. My point was that the RWD car is a more drivable and relatively safer car with a winter tire setup in comparison to the xDrive in all season tires, which most owners use even during harsh winters.

Having said that; the rate of the negative acceleration (slowing down) depends on the force of the brakes and the mass of the car. The braking distance is changed as the mass of a car changes it means that the braking distance of a car increases as the mass increases. The 535 xDrive has an additional 143lbs on the 535i and this means more kinetic energy at any given speed. This increases the braking distance on any surface (especially in wet and slippery surfaces) as it is harder to slow down.

The RWD setup also has a better weight balance (50.9/49.1 as opposed to 52.9/47.1). As we know that by properly balancing the front and rear of the car you can improve the handling, acceleration, and braking. Because of the better balance, the RWD should-in theory-brake slightly better. I cannot validate this but I believe it is not far from the truth. When you stop, the extra weight of the xDrive in the front of the car increases the force on the front tires more than the RWD. That means, when stopping, weight will transfer to the front in both rear and xDrive cars but there is more weight left for rear braking action in the rear drive car and this more even weight distribution helps prevent lockup from the rear wheels becoming unloaded under heavy braking.

I definitely agree that the 4WD car has a better engine braking by default, however, in my experience, the 4WD cars that I currently drive do not stop any faster with their all season setup than a RWD car with winter tires as the compound of the tires is not suited for a cold climate use as much as a dedicated winter tire and gets very stiff and thus reducing the grip drastically.

I have compared the braking of my S550 4Matic on all season tires to a friends S550 (RWD) on Blizzaks, my stopping distance was almost 50-60% longer on snowy roads although he had 2 more passengers in his car.

I wish everyone had the means and intentions to switch to a winter tire setup no matter what type of traction their cars have.
 

·
HUFINGTON
Joined
·
923 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
for 42 year before my f10, i had driven rwd cars almost exclusively - and believe me, i know where the fun is.

but i have grown older and [fun] has grown colder
and nothing is very much fun any more


so here i am with the 528xi, and must tell you this: Xdrive just makes your trips more convenient and easier, but - unfortunately - not necessarily safer! At some circumstances, there is this awful understeering factor you cannot do much about but wait... Wait..wait...

like the moment when your breaks lock
and you and you slide toward the big truck
and stretch the frozen moments with your fear


beware!
+1
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
382 Posts
Nice writeup!! Similar experience that I had when tested my 528i in a snow covered empty parking lot.. Oversteer - yes, but the car is quick to control itself.

and similar reactions from CA's and colleagues (mostly females) :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
346 Posts
I always engine brake to a low speed in the snow and use the brakes just to bring the car to a dead stop. I believe most experienced snow drivers would do the same.
With the xdrive the point I was making is when slowing down with the engine, the surface area against the road exposed to torque to slow down the car is greater then 2x a RWD. Therefore, the fictional forces to slow down the car are greater then 2x. Extra weight would only increase those fictional forces. That is why some people add weight to the car or pickup trucks to drive in snow (sand bags in trunk). I would suspect the additional kinetic energy from the weight would offset the additional fiction but by only a negligible amount except for maybe on a sheet of ice. So personally I would choice an xdrive with all-seasons without question to drive in snow conditions. However, I would also be comfortable with a RWD with snow tires.

I think the biggest problem (and I think this is your main point) is all seasons will wear through annual use and be less, less effective from one winter to the next even though they "pass inspection". People assume tire performance remains constant until the tire "fails inspection"...this is where a false sense of security originates from IMO.

Interesting comment on your 550. My wife has a GL450 4matic and she is scared to take it out when it snows. I took it out once and she has valid concerns...it was down right scary in the snow. I changed tires and the improvement was marginal at best. AWDs aren't created equal I assume.
 

·
BMW's Since 1989
Joined
·
382 Posts
LukeS has it right! You can make do with RWD and winter tires in the snow, as I did with my E39. However, when it comes to hills (like my driveway) the AWD even with all-season tires is superior. You pay acquisition cost and gas mileage penalties with AWD, but it's worth it for me. . .
I agree with radarguy. Lots of excellent comments -- all valid for the situation they describe. My RWD 2006 530i was amazingly good in snow, for a RWD car. But when it comes to snowy/icy hills, my AWD 2012 535xi is superior.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
62 Posts
I've said this many times but here in the northeast you don't need AWD. If you need to get around in bad weather during the winter get yourself a set of dedicated winter wheels. It will be cheaper in terms of cost ($2000 difference between RWD and AWD) and gas. If it is truly that terrible outside you probably shouldn't be out in the first place. I'm thoroughly annoyed at how many xdrive vehicles bmw throws into the northeast.
 

·
BMW's Since 1989
Joined
·
382 Posts
. . . . and one more thing: the AWD BMW's don't have "numb" electric steering.
 
1 - 20 of 70 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top