Driven Like The First Snow

An experiential look at driving in the snow – featuring the 2012 GMC Terrain

Déjà vu? Perhaps…

In the past, V&R (well, MotorGeek) had occasions when vehicles previously reviewed on this site were written up again when opportunities presented themselves. Sometimes, it's good to revisit a vehicle, look at it from another lens and see if anything had changed or not.

In some cases, a vehicle may have received a not so glowing review. Perhaps I may have missed the point…or, something may not have been clear the first go round? There had been vehicles where the initial experience was negative, but all was resolved the second or third time around.

Maybe, there's some karma involved when another 2012 GMC Terrain SLT-2 showed up at my doorstep. Originally, there was another General Motors vehicle scheduled for that timeframe. Instead, I was informed via E-mail that I was getting something else instead: A Quicksilver Metallic version of the same Carbon Black Metallic Terrain SLT-2 that I took down to Madison and Chicago in September.

Easily, I could have skipped doing a full review of the Terrain. Not entirely.

Then, I had a thought! I know there are other things one can do with a shiny silver GMC Terrain. After all, the fall colors are past peak and we should be getting snow soon enough…

Christmas Eve 2009 8

Um, snow?

Oddly enough, the Twin Cities experienced some swirling flakes already in the past couple of weeks. No accumulation to speak of – which is rather strange around here.

For us who live in the northern climes, we need all-wheel drive. We need maximum traction and grip to get through the snow and the cold. We need to know that we can handle our vehicles when the roads ice up over the dead of winter.

Over the past 15 years away from California, I've seen my share of snow driving. Perhaps enough at the start to avoid taking to the powder and ice for my first few years living with winter snow. I realized that if I were to stay in parts of the country that had these climatic hazards present, I'd better buck up and manage these roads.

After 10 years of dealing with these conditions, I am grateful to driven safety and surely on this stuff. The secret of being successful on snow and ice is to hate these surfaces. Literally, I have to detest their presence – and the freezing air that causes these conditions to occur. Then, I settle into a "grin and bear it" mode. Once I feel better about being on these surfaces and simply breathe through each bad spot as I carefully use what the vehicle provides me to handle them.

It also takes an understanding of your vehicle. Are the tires designed to handle snow? Better still, do you actually have winter tires shod on your vehicle? Which wheels is the power being driven to? Is your vehicle in good shape overall? Lastly, how do you feel? Your emotional state is always a good indicator of how you will ultimately manage your time behind the wheel.

2012 GMC Terrain 29 - Fun in the Snow 1

That was put to the test during the Twin Cities' first snowfall of the season. I had some errands to do, including donating the final print copies of my two chapbooks of poetry to the Quatrefoil Library in St. Paul. In my mind, I was hoping to beat the snowfall en route to the local LGBT lending library that stores books and videos of interest to the community. Luckily, I succeeded in beating any accumulation to that location – even at a more cautious pace and less trafficky route. When I came out of their building, all I saw was little pebbles of snow.

Then, it fell. I was in the hardest hit area of the snow band (or, so it appeared). One plow in sight on Highway 36 headed towards Stillwater, but the accidents and stuck cars were racking up left and right. It was a bit challenging out there since I was amongst those rediscovering our snow driving abilities after a seven-month reprieve from the white stuff.

It took a while to get to my second-to-last destination in Lake Elmo before heading back to the grocery store on the other side of the Twin Cities and home. I decided to avoid the freeways as much as possible. That lost its luster somewhere in St. Paul. I gave in and found the freeways much better to navigate. After all, they get plowed first during a snowstorm.

Let me step back a bit…driving in the snow is not exactly fun unless you have the ability to manage it with your vehicle. Conversely, your vehicle should be able to manage these conditions with everything in mechanical order. Both the driving and the vehicle maintenance parts are your responsibility. A vehicle is only as capable as long as it is ready for it to tackle these conditions.

There are also some other things to consider about snow driving. Survival is utmost. There are plenty of tips abound on how to manage a snow emergency with your vehicle – in case that happens. Google is your friend, and there's plenty of sites out there to guide you before taking on a weather-related situation. Perhaps my best tip to deal with a snow emergency – or being stuck somewhere – is to simply find a way to stay warm, safe and in communication with emergency response teams. Common sense, really.

In all, I should be thankful it wasn't the blizzard that hit last year with about a foot snow coming down at a rate of a foot an hour. That would seriously challenge the Terrain's ability to get home. This kind of snow, the Terrain did fine in getting through the unplowed stuff. It responded to the driver's reticent right foot with enough brake and throttle not to create a mess.

Compared to its previous experience, the GMC Terrain redeemed itself where it truly needed. The all-wheel drive system is always on sending power to all four 18-inch Michelin Latitude tires for the grip needed to get through the aftermath of lightly plowed surfaces – i.e. caked and iced over roads. Add anti-lock brakes and traction control on top of the front-drive skewed AWD system and you can see why the Terrain (and it's brother, the Chevrolet Equinox) have been the best choice amongst GM products this year.

2012 GMC Terrain 28 - Live at The Guthrie

After all, the Terrain is one 27 nominees for V&R's 2011 Vehicle of The Year (and, if it doesn't win this year, it will be nominated for the 2012 VOTY).

All this needs now is a proper finish. I think karaoke should do the trick.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by General Motors.

All photos by Randy Stern

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