There’s nothing quite as satisfying as sliding a car around a snow-filled parking lot. And while the primary motivation may be sophomoric, the real-world application of understanding how a vehicle reacts in “low friction conditions” can be immensely beneficial. Modern cars are wonders of engineering and technology. Computers help us start moving, keep us moving, and slow us down. But there isn’t a computer in the world that can defy the laws of physics. So when the friction of the four tires fails, it’s up to the driver to fix the situation.
Chevrolet invited us to Winter Driving School at Lime Rock Park to brush up on our low-friction driving skills and learn some helpful tips that can be used out on the street. They provided us with a 2018 Chevrolet Traverse to serve as transportation and testing. We couldn’t resist the offer to spend some time on Lime Rock’s snow-covered autocross course. But first, we had to get to the track. Nestled in the small town of Lakeville, CT, Lime Rock Park is a 90-minute ride from Limited Slip Blog HQ. The scenic byways of New York and Connecticut are a driving joy in good conditions. But conditions were not good, as we awoke to several inches of fresh snowfall. Our Winter Driving School adventure, ironically, began with some winter driving.
The all-new 2018 Chevrolet Traverse is a true three-row crossover. With the capability to seat 8 comfortably, this is as close to a minivan as Chevrolet will sell you – without the social stigma. Our well-equipped 3LT model featured leather interior, stylish 20″ wheels, and a suite of driver assistance equipment as standard. Powered by a 3.6L V6 making 310hp and 266lb-ft torque, the Traverse is surprisingly peppy and agile. The new 9-speed automatic transmission does a fantastic job in all situations. Also new for 2018, and the highlight of our day, is the new Traction Mode Select dial. Standard on all Traverse, the driver can change between FWD and AWD in real-time.
The lessons started in the classroom. Before we even discussed the basics of car control, Chevy had several tips on how to make winter driving safer. The most basic requirement, removing the snow from your vehicle, sounds like common sense. But think of all the cars you pass that look like mobile igloos. Not only does this likely impair vision and cover vehicle lights, it can also become a hazard to the people behind you. Surprisingly, only 11 states have laws requiring you to remove snow from your car before driving. New York is not one of them. Other simple actions like, taking your jacket off and changing out of your clunky boots, make it easier to react quickly and accurately to situations on the road. Your car isn’t the only thing that needs to be prepared for winter driving.
Finally, it was time to get out on the autocross track. With fresh snow coating a base layer of snow and ice, the conditions were ideal for sliding. A closed course with plenty of runoff area and no fixed obstacles helped ease the fear of mistakes. The Traverse struggled to get underway in FWD mode. In AWD, all four wheels clawed forward, helping push though the snow. We called the Traverse agile, and I’m not sure I’ve driven a more dynamic full-size crossover. Smooth, controlled inputs are the key to winter driving. Do anything too quickly or too much and you overwhelm the available traction. With minimal grip, you can only ask your tires to do one thing at a time. If you’re braking, they can’t turn. If they’re turning, they can’t accelerate. When you find yourself sliding, it’s usually because you’ve tried to do too much.
Lap after lap, we built confidence and began to pick up speed. Mistakes were made, but panic and overreaction were replaced with calm and measured management. With the basics mastered, we began pushing boundaries. We plowed snow with the front air dam, packed its wheel arches with snow, and did our best Walter Rohrl impressions trying to slide out of every corner. I can’t say I’ve ever broken out into giddy laughter while driving a crossover before. The Traverse held up spectacularly as the abuse began to increase. The great on-road steering feel came in quite handy to tell just where the grip was ending.
Chevrolet let us have our fun, but taught us a thing or two in the process. First, AWD is not a solution. It’s great to get you moving, but it’s what you do as the driver that will keep you on the road. Second, being comfortable in the car and being comfortable with the car are the best two ways to remain confident and safe behind the wheel. Finally, Chevrolet proves crossovers don’t always have to be boring. At the end of the day, it’s important to prepare yourself for winter driving just as much as it your car. With that in mind, we’re ready for our next snowstorm.
|2018 Chevrolet Traverse 3LT
|Dual Skyscape Sunroof||$1,400|
|Black Currant Metallic||$395|
|Front License Plate Mount||$40|
|As Tested MSRP||$46,580|