To some people, purchasing a RWD car to daily drive in a snowy state may be a daunting thought. Having daily driven my 335i in Colorado for over 3 years now I intend to share my experience driving in all different types of snowy conditions.
When I was looking to purchase my 335i for Colorado, I knew AWD was not an option with my future goals for the car. This left me searching for a solution that would enable me to drive my 335i in all conditions. All season tires were also not an option, as I knew I would need a high performance summer tire for the dry months to put down the power. Although, even if traction is not an issue for you with all season tires, I would not recommend them for snowy conditions in a RWD BMW.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80
After doing a lot of research on tires I narrowed my search to the Michelin X-Ice 3 or Bridgestone Blizzak WS-80’s, two of the top rated studless snow tires. Due to my love and bias for Michelin’s PSS tire it was tough to opt for the alternative. However, the Bridgestone’s slightly better reviews and the significantly cheaper cost made this an easier decision. I ordered a set of cheap 17x7.5” rims with 205/50R17 Bridestone Blizzak tires through TireRack.
I will write an additional review down the road tailored more specifically to the tire and rim set up that I opted for. For some brief background, I wanted a square set up that I could rotate the tires each season. Additionally, a thinner tire with a larger sidewall is ideal for snowy and icy roads. With that being said, lets dive straight into my experiences with my 335i in winter conditions.
My 335i in the Snow
As winter rolled around we got our first light dusting of snow that stuck to the roads. This was the ideal test as living in Texas my whole life my experience driving in the snow was non-existent. I lived in an area of Boulder, Colorado known as “the hill” and as one may expect it was a pretty hilly/mountainous area. The first thing I noticed upon exiting my neighborhood was that it didn’t even feel like I was driving on the snow. Finally as I found an open road I was able play around a bit and really test the traction.
I slammed on the brakes from 60mph and the result was incredible; the ABS kicked in immediately as the car leaned forward and the Blizzak’s effortlessly bit into the snow. The stopping time and distance was much shorter than I initially expected it would be. Now at a dead stop, I applied a generous amount throttle and the traction control light was continually flashing as the car struggled to accelerate quickly. This was when I began to notice the 335i’s advanced traction control system was a little bit too aggressive; it didn’t allow for nearly enough slipping.
Driving with DTC Engaged
After mustering up a bit more courage driving in the snow I clicked the DCT button once; this allows the car to slide around a bit more and the traction control will interfere less often. Again, from a dead stop, I applied heavy throttle and the car accelerated with ease. The car slid a little bit with the traction control only engaging briefly if the DTC system recognized the tires were losing too much traction. Given the 335i’s lack of a Limited Slip Differential (LSD) I was impressed with the acceleration. It was now evident that driving with the traction control half engaged was ideal for my 335i; I must note that this also made the car much more enjoyable to drive.
As I came up to a sharp corner the turn-in was excellent; I eased onto the throttle around the corner and amazingly the car did not under-steer or lose any traction at all. My first experience driving the 335i in the snow was a great one; I couldn’t find any flaws with the Blizzak tires. Acceleration, braking, turn-in, and cornering stability were all impressive. The grip was immense and I was now confident that my BMW would handle any snowy or icy conditions with ease.
Over the Years
Throughout my last 3 years in Colorado I had the opportunity to drive my 335i around Colorado in all different types of road conditions. I had driven through blizzards with 10” of snow on the ground. I drove up and down the steepest mountain roads in icy conditions. The studless snow tires continued to amaze me with the amount of grip they managed to gather up even on the slipperiest, steepest roads.
Straight-line acceleration and cornering under acceleration are definitely the weak points of the 335i due to the lack of a LSD. However, there was still plenty of grip to get me through whatever nature threw at the car. After riding in my various friends AWD cars (most of whom had all-season tires) it was evident that my 335i was just as capable, if not more so. Since AWD does not help with braking this is definitely the strong point of a RWD car with snow tires. Braking is arguably the most important aspect of driving in the snow or ice. As the saying goes, AWD will simply get you to places you cannot get back from (i.e. It will get you up the steep icy hill, but will not help your car successfully brake down the hill).
Before I bought my 335i I did extensive research about the benefits of snow tires and understood that my car would likely get me through anything. However, it was hard to truly believe that until I experienced it for myself in the 335i. For ultimate safety and traction an AWD car with snow tires would clearly eclipse my 335i, but I’ve noticed that most people who purchase AWD cars don’t equip them with snow tires. The advances in tire technology and compounds have made it possible for RWD cars to grip through almost anything. My 335i with the Bridgestone Blizzak’s have allowed me to adventure throughout Colorado without putting me in any situations where I did not feel safe.