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Have You Ever Wondered What Testers Look For In a Good Winter Vehicle? Here's the Answer

Winter vehicle testing takes many forms. Veteran auto testers explain how they evaluate a vehicle with winter in mind.


RPM News Weekly interviewed members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) this past month as they gathered to do some final testing and to cast their votes for the Best Winter Vehicle Awards.

Each year the members of NEMPA test dozens of vehicles in the toughest winter weather. Most of the testing is done on-road in real winter weather, but the members have also conducted tests on closed courses as well. There are no firm rules as to what is or isn't a good winter vehicle. That is left to the professionals' opinion and it can vary from person to person. However, as our attached video shows, there are many creature comforts that most testers look for.

Rather than a specification-driven test protocol, the members mainly rely on real-world testing in real conditions around the six New England States. The region gets meaningful snow and ice six months of the year, and the members test vehicles with both stock tires and sometimes winter rubber added by the manufacturers.

One constant in the group's opinions is all-wheel drive. That is no surprise. All-wheel drive enables forward motion in slippery conditions. However, the story certainly does not end there. Traction while turning and stopping is key as well. This year Ram introduced a truck that comes standard with winter-rated tires. It is moves like these that catch the attention of the NEMPA testers.

Beyond the handling characteristics of the vehicle, its usability is also a big consideration. Heated seats have been around a long time, but heated steering wheels were once rare. That is changing, and a heated steering wheel is now common in the $30K price point. Finding a heated steering wheel in an affordable vehicle is the kind of the thing that can gain votes. A luxury vehicle that does not offer this popular feature can easily lose the vote of a tester.

Other features that can make a vehicle more likely to earn a best winter vehicle vote include waterproof floor mats, heated windshield elements, heated windshield washer nozzles, and the ability to see over snow banks. Check out the RPM News Weekly video below to hear from testers what they like to see in a great winter vehicle.