It’s a bit unusual for me to drive in a blizzard.
For starters, I can usually work at home and not get caught in the snow and ice. One quick glance at the weather app on my phone and I can avoid most storms.
I say “most” storms on purpose. Recently, I drove across town in the exceptionally well-appointed 2023 Jeep Wagoneer (one of the best and most high-tech full-size SUVs I’ve driven in many months). I thought, there’s no way there’s going to be any bad weather, since the sun was shining and I was just going to make a quick trip to go shopping over the holidays.
I didn’t intend on lingering at Barnes and Noble so long, or feeding my book addiction by visiting the library as well and checking out a few extra books. I planned to get home in plenty of time and well before dark, but then I glanced at my phone. Oops.
A winter storm was already pummeling the west side of town and heading my way.
It’s crazy to think after all of these years (over a decade now) that I haven’t been caught in that many storms. There was the time I had to avoid an oncoming bus on a wintery road while driving an Audi A8 (sadly, the review is not online anymore but at least I mentioned the experience in an Audi A6 review way back in 2011). I’ve had quite a few times when I was testing traction control in review cars, but very few of them during a blizzard.
As I headed out of the parking lot of the library, I noticed the winter wind was picking up, moving horizontally on the road. That’s never a good sign. The 2023 Jeep Wagoneer is a massive SUV and feels sure and stable on the road no matter what, but I was really curious how the vehicle would handle when there were icy roads, raging wind, and snow flying everywhere.
Here’s the curious thing about all-wheel drive on icy roads. You can actually feel when it works. I’m not sure how the human body knows this, and what keen senses are at play, but I do know how it works from a technical standpoint in the vehicle. As I drove, the tires sensed slippage and would auto-correct my driving, making sure I didn’t slip or go into a fish-tail.
That means, as I was driving, the Wagoneer would actually throttle back power to a specific tire to make sure the vehicle was still driving straight. It almost felt like skating — the tire would get more power or a little less power, like my leg swinging out with skates to stay upright.
This happened maybe a dozen times on that drive home, each time with that sense of sure handling. Jeep does a great job of explaining how it works: “Toggle through the Selec-Terrain Management System and get dedicated control over different driving conditions. This legendary system adjusts shift patterns, engine performance and torque distribution for maximum traction on tough roads.” Okay, Jeep — will do. I had selected the Snow mode before I left the library, and what I was sensing was exactly that — adjusting the shift patterns, engine performance and torque distribution. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to understand or explain it in order to use it, and I was impressed with how capable the system worked for such a large SUV.
By the time I got home, I wasn’t even thinking about the blizzard, or the tires, or even the technology in the car. That’s the best compliment you can give a safety feature. It just worked. Driving up to my house, I was only thinking about my pile of books.