PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- We're going to say this as quickly as possible first and then get to the meat of the issue: Just about any car on the road will handle the snow better with snow tires.
With the flakes falling in higher elevations and light flurries already greeting residents of the nation's colder climates, it's time to start thinking about how to tackle the snow. The folks at the winter driving school at Michigan Technological University's Keweenaw Research Center in Houghton, Mich., say that while they may not make you take off like a dragster, snow tires provide great traction on curves and grades and should help keep you out of trouble.
The brand doesn't matter, the variety doesn't matter: If you put a good set of snow tires on your car, it'll improve your odds once the snow piles up. The folks at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo., performed an experiment a few years back to show a group of law-enforcement professionals who used his course that Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros don't need to be packed away in the winter in favor of SUVs. The school put a police SUV, a Ford Crown Victoria cruiser and a high-performance pursuit vehicle on a snow- and ice-strewn track and watched the SUV get smoked and the Crown Victoria lag behind the sportier models in new shoes.
While many drivers are put off by the extra $1,000 to $2,000 it costs to buy and maintain an extra set of wheels or tires, it makes a lot more sense than just splurging for an SUV with four-wheel drive. That drive system may dislodge an SUV from a snow pile more easily that a rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive vehicle would, but good luck stopping it without snow tires.That said, there are a whole lot of folks out there who believe that all-wheel drive, headlight de-icers and seat warmers make a big difference in winter driving. If you're one of those folks who just can't believe that the paupers may be onto something with that stack of tires they keep in the garage or storage unit until just before the first snowfall, the folks at Kelly Blue Book have a selection that may interest you. We culled their Top 5, but excised a Ferrari FF wagon from the list. Of all of the stories about folks in red braving the snow around the holiday season, that bit about a Ferrari tooling around the Rock Salt Belt in a set of Blizzaks may be the least believable: 5. 2013 Nissan Pathfinder (NSANY)
Starting price: $28,650 It took the Pathfinder a long time to forget its early '90s SUV heyday, but a huge revamp helped it catch up to competing crossovers. As recently as a year ago, the Pathfinder was truck-based and still being built to compete with the Chevy Blazer and Ford Bronco. It was still getting a paltry 18 miles per gallon and still firmly believed a 4.0-liter V6 is something anyone wants in a family vehicle. This year it finally joined the rest of the modern automotive world by switching to a car-platform crossover, trimming to a 3.5-liter V6 and cutting fuel economy to a combined 23 miles per gallon. It still has seven seats, nearly 80 cubic feet of storage room with the two rows of rear seats down. The second row moves up five inches for easy rear-seat access and there's three-zone climate control to go with an available three-zone entertainment center. A lockable four-wheel drive makes it a great pick for the cold and snow, as does a heated steering wheel.
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