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BMW 3-Series AWD - Pros and Cons



  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    For a further improvement in cornering traction, disconnect your anti-roll bars.
  • akv25akv25 Posts: 42
    The TT in question had summer tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE040 225/45YR-17), as Csere says that they did not replace them with snows since the last winter was mild.
  • The key sentence is this:

    "The fact is that everything that makes a tire grip tenaciously when the pavement is dry and warm works against that tire in the snow."

    So it really doesn't matter if you have 10 Wheel Drive. It's about the tires, bottom line.

    I had an Old Toronado with oversize studded snows in Aspen Colorado some years ago---it was unstoppable. A good friend of mine works in Tahoe and he uses an Audi Quattro with 4 chunky snows. He does much better than the 4X4 SUVs unless they are chained.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,244
    I had a '77 Grand Prix that was tremendous in the snow with studded snows.

    It's all about the tires.

    At the end of the day, AWD is just that more of an advantage with snows as you have represented by your friend's experience in Tahoe.


  • sedmundsedmund Posts: 93
    Hi Shipo, appreciate all your info. Had a question though. Doesn't things get more complicated if one leases a 328i/335i and wants to swap out the RFT's with GFT's? Not only one has to swap the the RFT's with GFT's initially (and then back to RFT's at lease return time) but also would need swap between summer GFT's and snow GFT's every year in between. That's a lot of swapping :(
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    I leased my last BMW and bought a set of winter wheels and tires for it. When the lease was up I was able to sell the winter set for about 40% of what I purchased it for. By doing that you eliminate the issue of mounting and remounting the tires on your OEM wheels (except for dealing with the RFT issue). Make sense?

    Best Regards,
  • gordonwdgordonwd Posts: 336
    Just to weigh in on this, my experience so far this winter with my 325i after putting on a set of winter tires (Dunlop WinterSport 3D 205/55-16), is that it works at least as well as my previous Audi A4 1.8T Quattro with its standard all-season tires. This is in the Detroit area, where we admittedly have not had severely snowy winters for quite a while now.

    A couple years ago, I upgraded my 325i for summer use by getting some new 17" wheels & tires, and was swapping them with the original 16" wheels and all-season tires for the winter. I got along OK with them, but when the original tires wore out I ordered the Dunlops from Tire Rack and had them mounted for about $600 or less.

    I could do the swapping myself, but I really don't want to take up the room to store the other set. So I pay $50 twice a year for swapping and storing the alternate wheels.
  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    It's kind of uncanny just how much better winter tires are in the snow than all-season tires. For the Detroit area (I grew up in Royal Oak, Avon Township, and Troy), a good set of winter skins is all that you need. AWD need not apply (IMHO) in that area. ;-)

    Best Regards,
  • To those that are asking about choosing between RWD vs AWD, if you haven't already read through the thread titled "BMW 3-Series - AWD or RWD?",, I thought message #356 posted by redsoxgirl on 11 Dec 07 made a lot of sense.

    My takeaway from that is "The fact that I may be willing to trade off superior dry weather handling for very good dry handling and all weather versitility [sic] is my personal choice".

    I would also suggest visiting the 3 series and 5 series threads at Bimmerfest for additional thoughts and discussion on this subject. I happen to be one who chose AWD, and I tend to take note of postings that highlight AWD. Given that, there have been two postings there that particulalry caught my attention.

    One was from a person who had previously owned RWD BMWs and used winter tires in the winter season, and now owns an AWD BMW also with winter tires in the winter season. The gist of his post is that he never failed to make it home with his RWD cars, but the AWD car provides a more secure and less nerve wracking experience.

    The other post was from a person in CT with a steep driveway and two BMWs, one a 7 series with winter tires and the other a 335Xi with all season tires. He said the 335Xi did much better going up his steep driveway than his 7 series. This was in the context of discussing the Eagle F1 all season tires which he has on his 335Xi.

    I have no idea if these individual posts were 1 sigma or 10 sigma, but I found them interesting.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    There is zero doubt that an AWD car with all-season tires will accelerate and/or climb better than a RWD car with winter rubber. That said, describing the driving experience of a winter tire shod RWD BMW as "nerve wracking" compared to that of an all-season shod AWD BMW is disingenuous at best. The truth is that once you're going, the properly set up RWD car will have the advantage in turning and stopping compared to the stock AWD car, and if anything, I would think the AWD ride would offer the more nervous drive of the two.

    Case in point, back in 2003 I severely broke my right leg and partially tore my foot off, and as such I had to let my California born and raised wife drive my 530i 5-Speed (with winter tires of course) while I got the family minivan (which I drove left footed). That winter we had just shy of ten feet of snow in our area and her daily commute was some seventy miles. Even though she had absolutely zero RWD experience driving in winter weather (in fact, very little winter weather experience of any kind), she had no problems driving my 5er to and from work every day, and never once did she say that driving in weather was even remotely a concern (in fact, she threatened to break my other leg when the first one healed so that she could keep driving my car).

    Thinking about this further, I suppose the individual who "had previously owned RWD BMWs" could have been comparing a 2007 vintage AWD car with say a mid to late 1990s car that didn't have the sophisticated DSC that my two RWD BMWs have had. Once as a test, I turned off the DSC on my 328i while I was climbing a snow covered hill and the rear end immediately tried to pass the front end. There is little doubt that I would have called that car "nerve wracking" in the snow were it not for the DSC.

    Best Regards,
  • Shipo,

    I apologize if I wasn't clear in my wording that led to:
    describing the driving experience of a winter tire shod RWD BMW as "nerve wracking" compared to that of an all-season shod AWD BMW is disingenuous at best. That person had winter tires on both his former RWD cars and his current AWD car. There were no all season tires involved. Tires were the same in both cases. I do not remember if he indicated the vintage of the RWD BMWs he previously owned.

    The post regarding the 335Xi versus a 7 series, where all season tires were involved, was from a different person. I was intrigued with your comment: There is zero doubt that an AWD car with all-season tires will accelerate and/or climb better than a RWD car with winter rubber. I would have guessed the opposite, that the greater snow / ice traction of winter tires combined with the weight shift to the rear on an uphill, would have given the 7 the advantage.

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    In virtually every side by side test I've seen, the only category where an AWD/All-Season beats an otherwise identical RWD/Winter car is in acceleration and hill climbing. It kind of makes sense to me because with all four tires digging, the tractive advantage that the AWD cars has is just too great to overcome with just two high(er) grip tires in the rear.

    Not that it's exactly Apples-to-Apples, however, my neighbor across the street (the dude with the rediculous ~30 degree incline on his driveway) could occasionally climb his driveway in his all-season shod A6 Quattro when my winter tire shod 530i could not. I say occasionally, because even the A6 is challenged at getting up that driveway with pretty much anything more than a dusting of snow covering it.

    Best Regards,
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,244
    Here is an excerpt of a post from xeye:

    I shoveled my way to the 335xi door, climbed in and drove out like it was mid-summer. (This was over 10" of unplowed snow.) I have 225 45R17 all-season tires on all corners. It really was no problem. No slippage, no DSC warning.

    Then I tried my wife's 318ti. Even with the "dry" spot where my car was, the RWD 318ti slipped and spun (with Toyo snows at all 4 corners) like a wild-car. I had to rock it and rev it high between R and 2nd to eventually get it out, not without risk to person and property.

    This is just one experience. For me, the 330xi exhibits the purposeful edge over the rwd in traction-starved conditions. For dead nuts on sport driving, RWD is KING.

    Choose your weapons wisely, lock/load , drive safely and stay aware. The bottom line is these cars are both high end examples of excellent vehicles. There really are no mistakes here.

  • akv25akv25 Posts: 42
    Great to read such a spirited discussion!

    I lived in the UP of Michigan for four years. I've heard that Marquette gets upto 250 inches of snow every year, but I cannot verify the source. Car and Driver does their winter testing in parts of UP and I have seen manufacturer's vehicles, all cloaked up, being driven there. I drove a JGC for two years and then went and bought the 330i and drove it for the last two. The JGC shod with A/S tires handled excellent in snowy conditions, although I would lock differentials on occasion just to feel extra safe. It did slip once in a while starting from stop and taking turns.

    I've got Blizzak WS-50s (studless ice and snow) rather than a performance winter tire on the Bimmer. I moved out of the UP a year and a half ago and still drive in a lot of snow living in Wisconsin. I haven't had too much of a problem driving anywhere.

    While the comparison b/w a Jeep and a Bimmer is not exactly apples to apples, I would say that the Jeep's has an excellent 4 wheel drive. So if my Bimmer drives equally well on snow/icy conditions, I would say that it dispels all my fears of driving a RWD.

    I tend to think of Bimmers as sports cars that should be enjoyed for their purpose. But Porsches, Lambos and some other exotics now have AWD.

    Can I defintively answer the earlier post about the guy in Chicago trying to make up his mind? No. I can only say that, based on my experience driving in every snow/ice condition possible, a RWD Bimmer w/ snows will never let him down. Will I ever buy an AWD? Never! Let the rear wheels do what they're supposed to(push) and the fronts do what they're intended to (steer). That's my opinion and based on the responses I've read here, I am not counting on changing anyone's opinion.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,244
    The engineering changes yield what feels like a whole new 335xi. The 335i bobble-head front-end motion is gone; the handling dynamics reek of confidence. The steering is more communicative, with the front axle carrying an additional 200 pounds. Yank the wheel, and the nose dives aggressively for the apex while the tail hangs tight. Hammer the gas early to exit, and the front tires haul you forward instead of wide of the desired arc. No matter how you play the right pedal, the 335xi drives where it's pointed.

    Particularly in the snow!

    Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

  • Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I'm leaning towards RWD considering the price difference and can always upgrade the tires for the added piece of mind, especially since I'll probably not have that much snow to contend with in Chicago, just brutal cold.
  • cdnpinheadcdnpinhead Forest Lakes, AZPosts: 3,206
    A post based on actual experience in extreme conditions comparing both types of vehicle -- very helpful (especially since it reinforces my point of view). I spent a lot of years in snow country, but couldn't afford decent cars then. They were all RWD & I survived somehow, driving routinely among Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary & Regina. Go figure.

    Seriously, thanks. There's a lot of emotion in this board, much of which seems inversely proportional to the amount of data/experience presented.
  • circlewcirclew Posts: 8,244
    Here is a good read from Canadian Driver that sums it up nicely.

    It's the tires, stupid! Well, something like that. Of all the tests and exercises we conducted during Traction 2006, vehicles with winter tires stopped one-to-two car lengths before vehicles with all-season tires, and they provided better grip in the corners. What this means in practice, is that if you are approaching a stopped vehicle and you need to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision, your chances of not rear-ending the vehicle in front are significantly increased if you're riding on winter tires.

    In short, winter tires can reduce the distance required for you to stop on most icy/snowy surfaces. Of this we are certain.

    Similarly, if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes and you are emergency braking, you can still steer your car, and with winter tires you may have extra grip when doing so. On the road, if you're emergency braking, look where you want to go, and steer your car there - anti lock brakes permit this - whereas an out-of-control skid with your brakes locked, does not. On the other hand, anti-lock brakes don't do much on ice, although as I say, if you have grippy winter tires like the Pirelli 210 Snowsports on the Mercedes-Benz or the Blizzaks on the Subaru, these may give you the edge you need to maintain control.

    Winter tires don't necessarily translate into significantly improved traction under acceleration, however. They can help, but we found all-wheel drive was the best technology for that.

    With all-wheel drive, you can get going without fuss on pretty much any surface. The problem occurs when after easily reaching 60-80 km/h, you need to quickly stop or turn. Then you might find that the surface is slipperier than you thought, and you're going too fast for conditions. So all-wheel drive is no guarantee of control, either.

    At CanadianDriver, we like all the stability technologies available on modern vehicles. But in winter, on snowy or icy surfaces, your absolute best friend is the space between you and the vehicles around you. This means controlling your speed to maximize the space between you and everybody else, and driving slowly when roads are slippery and the weather is bad.

    Even on SUVs with all-wheel drive, winter tires will bring your vehicle to a halt sooner. They'll protect you, and the people in the small car you might have hit. Granted, on the west coast where winter conditions are milder, winter tires may not be required. In the Prairies and Northern Ontario with their continuous sub-zero conditions, they're a must. In Southern Ontario, people argue that you can get away without them, but when the weather turns bad, the same people are unprepared. In Eastern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, it's winter tires for sure.

    Note, however, that vehicles (and tires) will perform differently on ice, compared with snow or slush. All these surfaces are slippery, but hard-packed snow will give the best traction when you have a choice.

    Just the physics. AWD to start, winter tires to stop = xi with Winter Tires Wins. If that's not ultimate, I'll never know!

  • shiposhipo Posts: 9,152
    "Just the physics. AWD to start, winter tires to stop = xi with Winter Tires Wins. If that's not ultimate, I'll never know!"

    The ultimate? Yeah, I suppose, for the 18 days per year when there is actually snow on the road. The rest of the year RWD is the ultimate and since RWD with the proper tires is more than capable of getting around in the snow, that's all I can ask. Then again, RWD in the snow can be the "ultimate" too; especially when I turn the DSC off and go bombing around a parking lot or the end of our cul-de-sac with the tail hanging out slinging snow everywhere. ;)

    Best Regards,
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,011
    The ultimate? Yeah, I suppose, for the 18 days per year when there is actually snow on the road. The rest of the year RWD is the ultimate and since RWD with the proper tires is more than capable of getting around in the snow, that's all I can ask.

    Right, that's the situation I'm in. My wife prefers AWD in case she does have to drive in wintry conditions, and I keep the Wrangler around so I can take our German Shepherd to the vet and move stuff around around the farm. In any other situation I prefer my RWD 3 Series, even in the -SHUDDER- rain. And I take the Mazdaspeed if I want to experience the automotive equivalent of a Doberman on crystal meth... :surprise:

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

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