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I finally got to drive the Sti in the snow. I thought you might be interested in my observations. First, a little background, I’m originally from Montréal and now living in Denver where I drive to the mountains every weekend. About 18 years of winter driving experience.

I can also compare to another great all-wheel drive system, our other car an Audi A4. We have exactly the same tires mounted on both cars, the Dunlop Winter Sport M2. The only difference is that the Audi’s are at their third and last season.

I found an empty parking lot, with about 4 inches of fresh Colorado dry snow. I tried a few key maneuvers with different DCCD settings.

Acceleration: Interesting behavior between auto, lock and open differential. In lock, the car felt a little twitchy. I was getting maximum grip but had to make constant adjustments to my trajectory. It felt like if one of the wheels grabbed more, I was pulled in its direction. I’ve never tested a 4X4 vehicle but I imagine that it would behave pretty much that way. The car was much more docile with the DCCD completely open, the feeling was very similar to the Quattro system. In auto, the system was a little slow to react, it felt a little bit like the locked mode for a second and then more like the DCCD open mode. I much preferred the DCCD open mode although the auto is a reasonable compromise. Overall, the DCCD open mode was as good as Quattro. I can imagine how a rally racer may prefer the locked mode but I don’t think that it is optimal for most of us.

Cornering: That’s where the DCCD made the most difference. In locked mode, initiating the turn caused major understeer. In open mode is where I got the best corner entry. The auto mode behaved a lot like the locked mode. I guess that once you lose front-wheel traction, the car can’t do much to gain it back without you making some cool moves. The magic of our rear-biased setup makes it a charm to gain control back though. The system is very predictable when setting your own DCCD. Once you are in the curve, a little tap on the gas will immediately cause oversteers. For those used to drive in winter, major grin will occur. For those not used to drive in winter, you should really avoid this situation or practice in a safe empty area first. Overall, compared with the Audi, I feel you can get more performance out of the Sti if you know what you are doing. I do feel its safer for my wife to drive the Audi because she just wants to get from A to B without learning how to get the most out of the vehicle.

Straight line breaking: Most excellent. The Bosh ABS doesn’t kick in a early as the Audi’s. I always thought that ABS was inefficient in winter if you know what you are doing. The STi’s felt much better than the Audi’s. Maybe that the newer winter tires also helped but I’m convinced that braking was much more efficient. It felt like the STi didn’t dive as much as the Audi, probably because of the better weight distribution and stiffer suspension. Overall, the STi did an amazing job.

Curve breaking: We all know that we should slow down before the curve, not while in the curve. Obviously, this applies to the STi too. In real life, you sometimes need to break in the curve anyway. I was very impressed. There is no comparison between the A4 (without ESP) and the STi. The Bosh system is amazing. I felt like it could not do any better than it did. Of course that physics principles still apply, you won’t be able to turn into your driveway at 50mph… Once again, I was very impressed and the STi breaking in that situation, it was as stable as can be. If the Audi is equipped with the ESP, you will get similar performance.

Using the engine break to slow down: As you are coming down those hills, most people know that you don’t want to use your breaks to maintain your speed. That’s one of the reason why a manual transmission is a must for me when living in a mountainous area. Automatic transmissions allow you to downshift but are not as good to transfer engine-breaking power to the wheels. I tried a few abrupt maneuvers to see how our 35/65 system would behave. I found it to be more fun than the Audi’s. The Audi has a 50/50 distribution and is more likely to cause understeer. On the other hand, when pushed, the Sti may cause the back wheels to slide a little. Oversteer is an easier situation to fix in my opinion but it may be harder to detect in time. In a front wheel drive or the Audi, you feel the lack of traction in the steering wheel. With the STi, you may not know before you feel the car sliding around. So, I guess it’s a toss up. Do you like to be able to tell early that you are going to slide or do you like to be able to put the car back in line easier? In my opinion, at 80mph I prefer to know as soon as possible, at slower speed, I prefer the STi.

Overall, I think that the Quattro system is better for the average driver. I don’t think that STi drivers are typical drivers so I’m sure that you will enjoy the characteristics of the STi better than most cars you could drive.

Enough talk for now. Enjoy winter and be safe!

I have pictures of the my Winter tire setup at http://www.imprezawrxsti.com/postnuke/modules.php?op=modload&name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=4193
 

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Thanks for a real world review. I'm looking forward to doing the same kind of tests myself once snow hits.
 

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So Gangster It Hurts
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Hmmm. . . want to take the STi up to the mountains for snowboarding, but unless I get some "beater" wheels and snow tires, the girlfriend's hooptie Legacy will probably be doing the job, this season. :p
 

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Re: bov change as well

Same here, but when it does everything shuts down and it becomes a good day to find an open field or parking lot to play. I am looking forward to testing the AWD in the snow/slush that we get here in Dallas. :D
 
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