A lightweight, rear-wheel-drive roadster – sounds like a terrible choice to drive through a snow storm, right?
Wrong! If the vehicle in question is the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, then it’s a fantastic choice to navigate slippery, winter roads. Despite the reputation it may have gained over the past few decades, the Miata is genuinely a sure-footed, blast to drive when the weather gets messy outside. Here are five reasons why.
1.With Proper Winter Tires, It’s Perfect
For starters, it’s all about the right tires. Winter tire technology has come so far in recent years that almost any car can now conquer the snow with the right set of winter rubber installed. Drive the MX-5 carefully in the snow and ice, and it behaves like just about any other small car.
2. The Balanced Chassis
But this is a sports car, and driving it slow is never any fun. That brings me to the next reason the MX-5 excels in wintery conditions – the chassis. With just 2,332 pounds split almost evenly front to rear, the Miata is easy to control when it comes to weight transfer. With quick reacting steering, brakes and throttle, it’s easy to control where the MX-5 should go at all times. It’s just so effortless to maneuver, even in slippery conditions, without losing control.
3. Rear-Wheel Drive
A large reason the MX-5 is so controllable on slippery surfaces has to do with the next point, rear-wheel drive. Conventional wisdom says that rear-wheel drive is no good in snow and ice, but really, that’s because most people don’t know how to use it properly.
If a corner is entered too fast in slippery conditions with a front-wheel drive family sedan, only the brakes and steering can help get the car through the corner. Hitting the gas will do nothing other than send it straight into a snow bank. With rear wheel drive, the throttle can be manipulated to coax the rear wheels into helping turn the car when needed. It gives the driver a third level of control.
4. Limited-Slip Differential
And to ensure there is predictable, constant traction, the MX-5 Miata Club comes with a standard limited slip differential (LSD) in the rear. Not only does this help the car negotiate corners, but it also helps with traction.
From a complete stop, the LSD will send power back and forth between the rear wheels as it hunts for traction. If one tire begins to slip, more power will be sent to the other wheel. If it begins to slip, power will be sent back to the original wheel. By doing this, the MX-5 can drive away from some fairly deep snow piles without getting stuck.
5. A Lack of Torque
Finally, one of the things people complain about the most when it comes to the MX-5 is actually a huge a benefit in the snow. It’s the car’s lack of torque. By not unleashing a mountain of torque at low rpms, the MX-5 doesn’t overwhelm the rear tires in slippery conditions. Drivers can fully modulate the throttle to ensure just enough torque is used to get underway without spinning the tires widely.
Many will still prefer front-wheel drive and, of course, all-wheel drive cars in the winter. But for some of us, driving a rear-wheel drive sports car and grinning like a fool is the only way to go.