The groundhog promised spring was coming, but the weather has proved him a liar. Below average temperatures across much of the U.S. and a series of snowstorms have everyone longing for warmer weather. In the meantime, we all need to drive through this mess, which is why all-wheel drive is so important.
It’s optional on some cars, standard on others, but if it’s not available at all then it can be a dealbreaker for many buyers. No matter how nice the sedan or how much you love that crossover, a lack of all-wheel drive sends buyers elsewhere.
Nissan aims to keep those buyers with the introduction of all-wheel drive on the all-new Altima. This is the first Nissan sedan in the U.S. to feature all-wheel drive so Nissan gave us the chance to put it to the test in Montreal in the middle of winter.
Along with the Altima, Nissan brought the Murano, which is their upscale SUV with a nicely refreshed exterior this year. Our trek took us several hours north to Mont-Tremblant, so we got a good taste of winter in Canada.
This is a place where all-wheel drive is not an option and winter tires are required from December through March. What better place to put all-wheel drive to the test?
Our trip included sections of highway and narrow and twisting country roads with monstrous snowbanks that made turning in and out of parking lots a bit of a challenge. What wasn’t a challenge was keeping our cars under control as we drove through the countryside.
While some of the roads were clear, much of the trip featured pavement covered by a thick, packed layer of snow and ice. The road surface was liberally coated with sand to help with traction, but it was still messy. From moment to moment the surface beneath the wheels changed, which made the all-wheel drive work to prove its worth.
Whether it was slick patches of straight-up ice, slush, or packed snow, both the Altima and Murano kept their composure. Although we’re from New England where snow and ice are common, may of the drivers in our group were from Texas and places south where snow is an anomaly. Even without experience, those drivers still said they felt confident and in control.
As if that wasn’t enough, on day two we went to an ice track where we could push things harder to see just how well each vehicle recovered when it lost traction. Imagine driving the way your parents warned you not to when you were a kid – taking corners too quickly and driving too fast – and you get the idea.
The thing about driving a closed course like this is that it lets you do those things safely without the fear of getting into an accident. It lets you push just hard enough to lose traction so you can see how easy it is to recover.
Not every all-wheel drive system is created equal and they won’t all keep you in control as well or let you get control back as quickly. Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is one of the more responsive we’ve had the opportunity to test. Yes, as with any car, if you push it hard enough you will slip, but both the Altima and Murano recovered easily.
If you live where there’s snow, no matter how experienced and how cautious you are, there will be times when you lose traction. A sudden stop as someone cuts you off or a poorly-timed stop light can have you hitting the brakes too hard and losing traction. Regaining control in the Altima and Murano was easy.
Winter isn’t over yet and once it does give way to spring, it’ll be far too soon when winter makes its return. When it does, the Nissan Altima and Nissan Murano with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive are ready.