Each year, Subaru hosts a winter driving school in northern Wisconsin. The event is called the Subaru Winter Driving Experience, and the curriculum is unlike anything you can find in Oregon. This year, we went to school as Subaru's guests, and learned what it's like to drive on ice.
The Winter Driving Experience uses two of Subaru's sportiest vehicles, the rear-wheel-drive BRZ sports coupe, and the powerful WRX and STI sedans with all-wheel-drive. Both vehicles are equipped with studded winter tires to give them a chance of maintaining traction. The event is held on a frozen lake near Eagle River, Wisconsin, and temperatures were in the low 20s for the day.
The school begins with a chalk talk by professional rally driver Patrik Sandell, covering the basics of driving on a slippery surface and discussing how we would experience the capabilities of the Subaru vehicles. Each group of students would cycle through several exercises using the full traction and stability control that comes standard on all Subaru vehicles, then we would turn the controls off to really show how much those technology devices add to our ability to keep the cars moving in the right direction.
Unsurprisingly, the Subaru models such as the WRX and STI with the brand's signature all-wheel-drive system made short work of the ice and snow. With a set of good winter tires and Subaru's traction and stability controls working for us, we could drive almost normally on the ice. If we went too fast, the systems cut engine power to bring us back under control.
The rear-wheel-drive BRZ sports car was more fun, but only because we were in the middle of a lake with nothing to hit. With traction and stability controls engaged, the BRZ was a perfectly acceptable winter car, but if you turned them off it was a challenge to drive safely. If you learned to drive before the advent of stability controls, it was a perfect illustration of how far the technology has come over the years.
Subaru's school is mostly booked up for this year, but there are a few spots left if you hurry. If it's too far to go on short notice, they plan to be back in Wisconsin next February, so you can plan a mini-vacation around this time next year if ice driving sounds like fun to you. Learn more at www.subaruwinterexperience.com.
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