Brought to you by Toyota
Whether you’re a regular at your local hill or like to road trip from mountain to mountain, car troubles are the last thing you want to deal with on your skiing adventures. From snowy and slippery road conditions to struggling to fit all of your gear in, winter driving presents many unique challenges that you’ll want to consider when buying a new car that’ll be your ride to the slopes. To help out, we’ve rounded up some of the most important factors to consider, along with our top recommendations from the 2023 line for all of your skiing needs.
Safety Essentials for Traction and Control
First and foremost when it comes to safety on the roads in winter, we need to talk about the importance of winter tires. No matter what vehicle you end up with, purchasing winter tires in addition to all-season tires is the best way that you can protect yourself and others. The unique tread pattern of winter tires is specially designed for gripping onto snow and ice, but more importantly, winter tires are made from a softer rubber compound than all-season tires, preventing them from stiffening up in the cold and losing traction. However, the soft rubber of winter tires will also wear out with significant use on dry roads, which is why changing your tires out between seasons is the best way to maintain the effectiveness of your tires. Even if you’re not buying a new car, if you don’t have winter tires yet this is the number one upgrade to make to your winter driving set-up.
Setting aside winter tires, the first feature you need to look for in your new car is the right drivetrain system. In slippery conditions, the amount of power your vehicle has is secondary to how effectively it is distributed to the wheels to control traction. If you’re looking at two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicles, front-wheel drive (FWD) will perform better than rear-wheel drive (RWD) in the winter because the weight of the engine over the front wheels will increase traction. However, for an optimal winter driving experience, all-wheel drive (AWD) systems are undeniably the preferable choice over either 4WD or 2WD vehicles. In contrast to 4WD which splits power evenly over all four wheels, AWD systems continuously monitor the traction of all four wheels and use a torque vectoring differential to automatically optimize traction by supplying more power to the wheels with the best grip.
Other factors that can improve your vehicle’s traction and maneuverability include a slightly heavier weight (or packing lots of gear!), a low center of gravity, and a long wheelbase, but these are just helpful bonuses. If you can snag a good set of winter tires and an AWD system, then you’re already prepared to tackle most snowy days.
If you live in an area where you often have to tackle snow drifts or unplowed roads, then the last basic factor you’ll want to keep in mind is your ground clearance height. The higher your vehicle is off the ground, the less likely you are to get stuck in the snow, so for areas with high volumes of snow ideally you want around 7+ inches of ground clearance height. And if you’re going to be headed off-road into deep snow, then a Toyota Tacoma (2022) with a standard 9.4-in. ground clearance could be for you!
Toyota Safety Sense™ and Star Safety System™
In icy conditions, drivers have even less time to react to hazards because of the increased time needed for braking or maneuvering the vehicle. Luckily, Toyota Safety Sense™ (TSS) is standard on almost all new Toyota models and includes powerful driver-assist technology. Depending on the version, the TSS package is equipt with active safety features like:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
- Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Lane Departure Alert
- Automatic High Beams
- Lane Tracing Assist
- Road Sign Assist
- Proactive Driving Assist
In addition, every new Toyota vehicle comes with the Star Safety System™ as standard, which provides six key driver-assist systems for additional peace of mind: Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Smart Stop Technology®, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Anti-lock Brake System.
When it comes to fuel economy, smaller cars will have better mileage, but if you opt for an SUV or truck you still have good options for fuel-efficiency since Toyota now offers hybrids for many of its vehicles. The electrified Toyota line has vehicles for every type of powertrain and includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell electric vehicles, and all-electric vehicles. Plus, since electric systems are able to accelerate instantaneously, they pair incredibly well with AWD vehicles in winter conditions, maintaining traction so you’re never left spinning your wheels as you try to get going.
Here are some additional features that you might want in your perfect ski car:
- Cold Weather Package: Some Toyotas have the option to add a Cold Weather Package for some additional comfort and security. The package typically includes front heat seats, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, and heated outside mirrors.
- Interior Floor Mats: If you want to transport your ski gear but keep the interior of your car clean then interior mats are a great investment and can be easily removed and hosed down at the end of the season.
- Winter Safety Kit: This is actually more of an essential than a bonus, you always want to have a winter safety kit with you on the road, including things like a shovel, scraper, flashlight, whistle, first aid kit, extra clothes, food, water, tow rope, jumper cables, etc. So don’t forget to add this to your new car before you hit the road!
- Roof Crossbars and/or Tow Hitch: Using a ski/snowboard rack is a great way to optimize your storage space, so make sure you have the right attachments if you plan to add a top or rear-mounted rack to your set-up.
- Remote Connect app subscription: Toyota’s new Remote Connect functionality allows you to remotely control many features of your vehicle directly from your smartphone, smartwatch, or even smart speaker. Of particular relevance to skiers, remote start and climate control can be very helpful on cold mornings so you can start warming your car up before you even leave the house.
- Snow Mode: Some Toyota models (eg. RAV4, Highlander) include a special driving mode specifically for snowy conditions, which gives the driver more control and stability by increasing traction control and decreasing power to reduce the likelihood of the wheels spinning out.
Our Toyota Recommendations
Visit buyatoyota.com for more information on the entire Toyota fleet.
2023 RAV4 & RAV4 Hybrid – The classic choice, perfect for anyone.
- The RAV4 has firmly held onto its position as the best-selling SUV in the United States for many years, and the 2023 models live up to the same stellar reputation. Perfect for smooth everyday drives and ready to jump into the wilderness with a push of the SNOW mode button, the RAV4 is reliable, powerful, and well-equipt for everyone from the casual weekend skier to the backcountry adventurer. Standard for the RAV4, AWD with Rear Driveline Disconnect will boost your fuel efficiency by only directing power to the rear wheels when needed, or for maximum fuel efficiency the RAV4 Hybrid is the way to go.
2023 Sienna (Hybrid) – For getting the whole family to the slopes smoothly.
- You may not have expected a minivan to be on our list of the best winter vehicles, but the new Sienna with AWD and winter tires is a rockstar in the snow. In fact, an AWD Sienna hybrid easily beat out a Toyota GR Supra sports coupe in a snow drag race in 2021, and they’ve only gotten better since then. With an EPA-estimated 36 combined mpg, a Sienna is a great option for a safe, comfortable, and fuel-efficient ride to the hill.
2023 Tundra & Tundra i-FORCE MAX – For the toughest trips and most extreme conditions.
- The 2023 Tundra and its hybrid counterpart, the Tundra i-FORCE MAX, are both powerful monsters, perfect if you need to tow anything or take on particularly rough terrain. Keep your eye out for the Tundra Trailheader coming soon as well!
2023 Highlander Hybrid – For the adventurous skier who’ll follow the snow anywhere (AKA the Roadtripper)
- Available with Electric On-Demand AWD for extra traction and multiple driving modes to maximize traction, electric-only driving for short distances, Eco efficiency, or sport acceleration, the Highlander Hybrid is fully equipt for whatever you throw at it. Additionally, its impressive fuel efficiency and sound-dampened cabin for a smooth ride make it perfect for an extended journey on the road.
Bonus:The All-Electric 2023 bZ4X
- Available in AWD or FWD, bZ4X is Toyota’s first all-electric vehicle and has an EPA-estimated range of 222-252 miles (depending on the powertrain and grade). For skiers, an AWD bZ4X has an exciting new feature that’ll come in handy for hitting the slopes: X-MODE, which has both a SNOW/DIRT mode and a DEEP SNOW/MUD mode that can be activated to improve traction by optimizing throttle control and wheelslip.
Coming Soon:The First-Ever Corolla Cross Hybrid
- AWD, fuel-efficient (42 mpg combined), powerful (194 horsepower), sport-tuned suspension, Toyota Safety Sense™ 3.0, folding rear seats, what more could you want?
Got any other tips for choosing your perfect winter vehicle? Share them in the comments below!