Snow­ball fight!

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - WAR­REN BROWN

While the Subaru Out­back ck beat the bliz­zard, the Du­rango Crew would have ve fared bet­ter with a shovel. el.

The post-Christ­mas snow de­scended with mil­i­tant ur­gency, wind-blown at 37 mph. By the time it ended, our travel plans were re­drawn.

The 2011 rear-wheel-drive Dodge Du­rango Crew sportu­til­ity ve­hi­cle, with its 290horse­power V-6 en­gine and com­modi­ous, com­fort­able cabin, would re­main parked in the drive­way here.

The 2010 Subaru Out­back Limited 2.5i wagon, with its small 170-horse­power four­cylin­der en­gine, and its rel­a­tively tight-fit cabin, would be the fam­ily’s trans­porta­tion work­horse for the rest of the hol­i­day sea­son.

The dif­fer­ence was all-wheel drive. The Out­back Limited 2.5i, usu­ally garaged at our Corn­wall house, had it. The ver­sion of the Du­rango driven here didn’t.

Big, rear-wheel-drive sportu­til­ity ve­hi­cles are great in places such as Louisiana and Mis­sis­sippi, where snow re­mains a for­eign con­cept. But Corn­wall, 55 miles north of New York City, lo­cated on the western shore of the Hud­son River, is Subaru ter­ri­tory.

Brag­ging rights here go to ve­hi­cles that can keep mov­ing with agility and con­fi­dence in se­vere win­ter weather. Subaru, hav­ing de­vel­oped one of the world’s best func­tion­ing, most re­li­able, sym­met­ri­cal all-wheeldrive sys­tems, is leader of that pack.

We drove the Du­rango here from our North­ern Vir­ginia homestead be­cause we needed a ve­hi­cle with haul­ing abil­ity. The five-door Du­rango Crew has lots of that. It can carry 1,300 pounds on­board and haul a trailer weigh­ing 7,400 pounds.

There were heated fam­ily ar­gu­ments about the Du­rango Crew’s po­ten­tially lousy rear­wheel-drive per­for­mance in snow. But in the man­ner of a politician push­ing through a last-minute amend­ment in homage to rank self-in­ter­est, I ar­gued that we’d “ be all right” be­cause the Du­rango was fit­ted with “all-ter­rain” tires.

It was baloney cooked up to save gas money.

Ve­hi­cles with only rear-wheel or front-wheel drive gen­er­ally use less fuel than those with all­wheel-drive, in which drive power shifts to wheels that grip from wheels that slip; or mod­els with ded­i­cated four-wheel drive, in which drive power flows to all four wheels si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Putting “all-ter­rain” or “allsea­son” tires on rear-wheeldrive or front-wheel-drive ve­hi­cles is a time-tested mar­ket­ing scam, em­ployed to sell “peace-of-mind” to res­i­dents of tra­di­tion­ally mild cli­mates who the sell­ers ex­pect/hope will never ex­pe­ri­ence a close dance with ice or snow.

Res­i­dents of tra­di­tion­ally frigid cli­mates know that reardrive or front-drive cou­pled with “all-ter­rain” or “all-sea­son” tires usu­ally means slip­pery go­ing, or no go­ing at all.

Am­ple ev­i­dence of that truth was on dis­play in sev­eral trips to New York City, where pub­lic Take the Out­back in the snow; keep the Du­rango, left, parked. of­fi­cials ap­par­ently mis­took the term “ bliz­zard” to mean “non­emer­gency.”

In­cred­i­bly, many of the streets in the world’s great­est fi­nan­cial cen­ter were un­plowed and un­treated. Large city buses were stuck in the snow. Big, rear-wheel-drive de­liv­ery trucks were ren­dered un­de­liv­er­able. One be­nighted soul ap­par­ently thought the $341,000 price tag of a rear-wheel-drive Bent­ley Brook­lands coupe was a mea­sure­ment of the car’s prow­ess in snow.

All were stuck, as was the rear-wheel-drive Du­rango Crew sport-util­ity ve­hi­cle frozen in snow and ice at our house here in Corn­wall. But the Subaru Out­back Limited 2.5i kept go­ing. It did not slip, get stuck or in any other way fal­ter on the un­be­liev­ably snow-clogged streets of New York City.

Thank you, Subaru. We love this car.

SUBARU

A.J. MUELLER/CHRYSLER

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