Winter Driving

Lots of grip equals little slip: Answering your winter tire FAQs

If you live where it snows, getting snow tires for your car may help keep you safe this winter.

Photo by Getty Images

Whether you're new to driving in winter weather or a veteran in need of a reminder, we've taken the time to answer your winter tire frequently asked questions. Read below to find out the answers to common winter tire questions.

Why do I need winter tires?

All the four-wheel or all-wheel drive in the world won't help your vehicle stop any faster on snow and ice, and the features may actually be detrimental because of their tendency to make drivers feel invincible. Winter tires feature special rubber compounds and tread patterns that help them maintain traction and performance when temperatures dip and the weather turns.

Many vehicles leave the factory with all-season tires, which work well in a huge variety of conditions, temperatures, and weather. They don't, however, do as well in freezing temperatures and snowy conditions.

What's the difference between all-season and winter tires?

The rubber compounds in all-season tires tend to harden in cold weather, which can lead them to crack and fail to provide solid traction. Winter tires are made with special compounds that remain pliable in cold weather to provide the best traction possible. They also have deep tread cuts, which allow for better grip in snow and slush. According to Tire Rack, winter tires provide about 21 percent more grip than all-seasons in similar conditions.

Instead of all four, can I buy just two winter tires?

Owners of front- or rear-wheel drive vehicles may feel tempted to buy winter tires only for the two wheels that are being driven by the engine, but that's a mistake. While it may help with acceleration in snow and bad weather, installing only two winter tires can lead to instability and loss of control, because the two wheels without winter tires will have far less traction. If you're considering buying winter tires, wait until you can buy all four.

Do I need snow tires if I have all-wheel drive? Snow mode?

All-wheel drive is all about traction control. If your vehicle is equipped with tires that don't offer enough traction to get a grip on the road surface, it doesn't matter what the AWD system (or drive modes) get up to. You'll be slipping and sliding wishing for snow tires when the first few inches of snow get packed onto the roadway.

Can I drive on winter tires in the summer?

That depends. Some parts of the country that receive regular winter snow have limitations on the types of tires that can be used in warmer months. Many areas bad the use of studded winter tires outside of cold weather, due to the studs' tendency to damage roads and reduce traction when there's no snow on the ground. Beyond that, standard winter tires don't provide the same level of wet traction and grip that all-season or summer tires do, and they can wear more quickly because of their rubber compounds.

Can I use the same winter tires next year?

If you rotate between summer/all-season and winter tires, you should be able to get a few years out of your winter tires. As they wear, like other tires, they'll offer less grip and the rubber compound will become less flexible.

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The MBUX Hyperscreen is a leap forward in infotainment and driver's information display design for the company's next-gen electric automobiles.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has been lauded for the two screens, one housing approach to infotainment and driver's information in their latest vehicles. Then along came Cadillac's immense 37-inch three-screen approach to data and entertainment in the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. Mercedes is upping the game with its new MBUX Hyperscreen, which will debut in the EQS all-electric sedan.

The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) was unveiled inn the 2018 A-Class and there are now more than 1.8 million Mercedes passenger cars with the equipment on the road worldwide. A second generation of the system debuted a few months ago alongside the new S-Class sedan. It's set to take another leap forward when the EQS makes the Hyperscreen available to buyers.

Here's what we know.

The screen is huge.

You can tell by the images of it that the screen is big. How big is it? The large, curved screen panel extends almost the entire width of the interior, from one A-pillar to the other. It measures over 56 inches wide and has 377 square inches of surface area. There is no vehicle on the market today with a similarly sized screen.

The screen incorporates digital and analog parts. There is a large digital surface that has traditional air vents integrated into the face. The Hyperscreen is surrounded by a continuous plastic front frame. The visible part of this frame is painted in a Silver Shadow color that has been applied in a three-coating process.

Mercedes-Benz MBUX OLED Hyperscreen display illuminated thickness lighting LED

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The large glass cover display of the Hyperscreen is curved in the molding process at a temperature of approximately 1,202 degrees Fahrenheit. The high-heat bending allows for a distortion-free view of the display unit across the entire width of the vehicle.

Ambient light has been installed on the lower part of the screen to give it the appearance of floating on the dashboard.

Mercedes has engineered the screen to have two coatings of the cover plate to reduce reflections and make cleaning easier. The screen is made a scratch-resistant aluminum silicate.

What happens to the screen in the event of an accident? Safety measures have been put in place as part of the engineering process. There are predetermined braking points alongside the side outlet openings as well as five holders that can "yield in a targeted manner in a crash thanks to their honeycomb structure" according to the automaker.

It's the brain and nervous system of the EQS.

In a recent statement, Sajjad Khan, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO said, "The MBUX Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car." He described it further, saying, "The MBUX Hyperscreen continually gets to know the customer better and delivers a tailored, personalized infotainment and operating offerings without the occupant needing to click or scroll anywhere."

Two parts of the display feature OLED technology.

MBUX Hyperscreen width EQS

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

OLED technology is used on the central and front passenger displays of the Hyperscreen. The technology allows for images that are self-luminous while unused space appears deep black. Active OLED pixels radiate with a high color brilliance, resulting in high contrast values.

All of the graphics on the Hyperscreen are styled in a new blue/orange color scheme.

It doesn't just look high tech. It is.

The Hyperscreen has a powerful computer system running it consisting of 8 CPU cores and 24 gigabytes of RAM. It has a 46.4 GB per second RAM memory bandwidth.

There are a total of 12 actuators beneath the touchscreen that deliver haptic feedback during operation. If the finger touches certain points there, they trigger a tangible vibration in the cover plate that a person can sense to know that their touch command has been received by the system.

The Hyperscreen is connected to a multifunction camera and a light sensor, which adapts the brightness of the screen to ambient conditions.

The MBUX system can hold the information for up to seven profiles and can be individualize for multiple front passengers.

Front passengers get their own screen and operating area.

As part of the design, front passengers have their own display and operating area. Entertainment functions of the passenger display area are only available in countries where it is allowed. If the passenger seat is not occupied, the screen becomes a "digital decorative part" where animated stars are displayed.

Crisp, clean graphics help make the screen easy to operate.

MBUX Hyperscreen navigation design look size

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The MBUX Hyperscreen features most of the functions you'd find on a traditional center console in a fully digital format. Through research, Mercedes learned that most infotainment use cases fall into the Navigation, Radio/Media and Phone categories. Because of this, they put the navigation application at the center of the screen.

Many suggestions for the use of infotainment technology can be made by the artificial intelligence within the MBUX system, which monitors user behavior and analyzes it for patterns. For example, the system can issue a birthday reminder or suggest items from a to-do list.

Even further, if you always call one particular person on Thursdays on your way home from work, a business card may appear on the screen with their contact information instead of you having to find their contact info by scrolling through your phone, utilizing a voice command, or clicking through several layers of the screen's menus. Mercedes emphasize that these prompts can be dismissed with one button touch.

Zero-layer living is designed to make the Hyperscreen easier to live with.

MBUX Hyperscreen climate controls audio radio design

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

With the Hyperscreen's zero-layer feature, users do not have to scroll through sub-menus or give voice commands to complete popular tasks. Mercedes has placed the most important applications in a "situational and contextual way" at the top of the driver's field of vision.

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The Dakar Rally has been held on some of the Earth's toughest terrain since the 1970s.

Photo by F. Gooden

Editor's Note: AutomotiveMap's Sue Mead is among those in Saudi Arabia right now taking part in the 2021 Dakar Rally, as team manager/media support for American Amy Lerner’s Team AL. This is Mead's sixth participation in the Dakar Rally. In 2011, she drove a T2 Raptor (No. 374) across the finish line in Buenos Aires and won the stock production class, the first North American class win in Dakar history.

The Dakar Rally is one of the world's best-known off-road challenges. It ranks right up there with ones held in Baja, Morocco, and beyond. You may have heard about it in passing, scrolled past the live coverage listing while looking for something to watch, or read it as a line item in a racer's biography. Perhaps you first learned about it after binge watching "The Crown" over the holidays. No matter how it happened, the Dakar, as the in-crowd calls it, has piqued your interest and now you want to know more.

Scroll down to learn more about the 2021 Dakar Rally.

What is the Dakar Rally?

2020 Dakar Rally Red Bull UTV

Photo by Frédéric Le Floc

The 2021 Dakar Rally is an off-road challenge that crosses some of the most treacherous, wild terrain in the world. It was formerly known as the Paris–Dakar Rally. The annual rally raid is organized by the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) and most of its events have been ongoing since the event's inception in 1978.

Throughout its history, one of the rallies has been cancelled (2008) due to security threats. From 2009 to 2019, the rally took place in South America. The organizing body held the 2020 contest in Saudi Arabia for the first time and it returns there for the 2021 edition.

What are the dates of the 2021 Dakar Rally?

The 2021 Dakar Rally begins with the Prologue on January 2 then continues through January 15, 2021.

How long is the Dakar Rally?

Motorcycle Dakar Rally

Photo by F. Gooden

The 2021 Dakar Rally consists of 12 stages. The length of each stage of the rally varies. Some are short while others are over 500 miles.The event ends in Jeddah on January 15, after traveling along a nearly 5,000 mile-long loop through desert landscapes and along the shores of the Red Sea.

Most of the competitive special sections are off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, and rocks. The 2021 Dakar blends a rich tapestry of landscapes in Saudi Arabia. For its first edition in Saudi Arabia, the 2020 rally was called "a quest of discovery"; the 2021 edition is being billed as a "journey of exploration".

Who participates?

The rally is open to amateur and professional entries, with amateurs typically making up about eighty percent of the participants. There are 555 competitors this year and 321 vehicles in total. A whopping 83 of those participants have raced in at least 10 other Dakar races. The racers represent 49 different nationalities. There is one all-female team.

Are there different classes the vehicles compete in?

Red Bull Truck Dakar Rally

Photo by F. Gooden

Yes, there are several different competition categories based on the type of vehicle racing.

In the Motorbike class, there are 142 participants registered originating from mainly European countries.

The Quad class has 16 entrants driving mostly Yamahas. In the Auto - Car class there are 65 entries originating from a wide variety of nations.

Competing in the Auto - Standard Classic Car class are 14 teams, racing a variety of vehicles by Volkswagen, Porsche, Skoda, Peugeot, Mercedes, Land Rover, Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi.

Seven teams are competing in the Auto - Classic Confirmed Car category.

Can-Am and Polaris models make up the vehicles list of the 45 teams competing the T4 class.

Teams 500 through 551 compete against each other in the Trucks category.

The T3 class is made up of primarily PH-Sport, Can-Am, OT3, and Yamaha side-by-sides.

What is the Classic Class and a regularity rally?

Porche Amy Lerner Dakar 2021

Photo by C. Lopez

The Dakar's regularity rally is new and is for rally-raid vehicles built before 2000. It runs in parallel to the main Dakar Rally following the same direction, with the same starting and finishing points, as well as the same bivouac. This test of endurance, vehicle management, and mental will give vintage rally buffs an opportunity to compete.

Is anyone famous racing in Dakar Rally?

The 2021 contest entry roster includes a number of notable names you may recognize. Romain Dumas (Porsche factory driver, winning endurance racer, multiple Pike's Peak International Hill Climb championships), Carlos Sainz (two-time World Rally Cross drivers champion and record holder), Stéphane Peterhansel (13-time Dakar winner), and Sébastien Loeb (most successful driver in World Rally Cross history) are all competing in the Auto - Car class. Many other drivers are widely known within their respective racing class.


Can the vehicles receive service?

Motorcycle service 2021 Dakar

Photo by J. Delfosse

Yes, the Dakar Service Center includes the Motul Racing Lab and tire fittings by BF Goodrich experts. Participants can perform repairs to their vehicles, including tire changes, while en route.

Are the vehicles tracked?

Yes, all vehicles are tracked during the competition, and you can watch the tracking live online here. The tracking can be sorted by the following categories: Moto, Car, Truck, Quad, and Lightweight Vehicle.

What is the race terrain like? What is the route?

Map Dakar Rally 2021 route

Image courtesy of Amaury Sport Organization

Stage 1, Jeddah to Bisha is entirely driven on tracks through valleys with rocks and stones that are a hazard for tires and windscreens. Several intersections also are considered hazardous.

The rally's Stage 2, Bisha to Wadi Al Dawasir, features yellow and white sand dunes with a lengthy off-track area near the end. Stage 3 is a pure desert stage in the gateway to the Empty Quarter where the route is in a loop that begins and ends in Wadi Al Dawasir. On this stage, speed racers will get their first real opportunity to cut loose.

The fourth day of competition is the longest. Stage 4, Wadi Al Dawasir to Riyadh, offers winding tracks while Stage 5 switches it up with a difficult section of dunes and stoney tracks as racers move from Riyadh to Buraydah.

Things get slightly easier for tires on Stage 6 where a variety of smooth sand dunes move the race along from Buraydah to Ha'il. Bikes will have their hardest day on this stage. There is a rest day between Stage 6 and Stage 7.

The terrain switches for Stage 7, moving to sand mountains and stony plateaus as the races move from Ha'il to Sakaka. There's over 100 kilometers of up and down racing.

Neom, Saudi Arabia Pakar Rally

Photo by E Vargiolu

Stage 8 crosses the northern part of the country moving west to east beginning at Sakaka to and heading on to Neom (shown above). It is another very long stage. This is the stage where competitors will likely have their cameras out.

The race features another loop stage for Stage 9, this time in Neom. The stage starts at the seafront but quickly turns difficult as soft sand fills in tracks preventing speed. Organizers say that this may be the most difficult stage of the entire rally.

Stage 10 moves the race south over hills and vistas from Neom to Al- 'Ula. The dunes return for Stage 11 as racers go from Al- 'Ula to Yanbu on terrain described by ASO as "an ocean of sand".

The final stage, Stage 12, features more dunes as the race returns to its start point in Jeddah.

How do I track/watch the rally in the U.S.?

You can watch the tracking live online here. The tracking can be sorted by the following categories: Moto, Car, Truck, Quad, and Lightweight Vehicle.

NBCSN will be airing the race in the U.S. on cable television. Here are the watch times for each stage by date:

  • Sunday, January 3 - Stage 1 - 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 4 - Stage 2 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 5 - Stage 3 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 6 - Stage 4 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 7 - Stage 5 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, January 8 - Stage 6 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 10 - Stage 7 - 11:00 p.m.
  • Monday, January 11 - Stage 8 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 12 - Stage 9 - 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 13 - Stage 10 - 2:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, January 14 - Stage 11 - 9:30 p.m.
  • Friday, January 15 - Stage 12 - 6:00 p.m.
The race is also being broadcast online on Red Bull TV, MotorTrend On Demand, and Motorsport.com.

Viewers in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America should check with their local outlets for coverage information.

How has COVID-19 effected the Dakar Rally?

Threatened with cancellation due to the pandemic, the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) has put in place strict sanitation protocol. The organization also requires a series of negative results from COVID PRC tests from all participants ahead of the start. Additionally, ASO scheduled a number of charter flights from European locations, when flights into Saudi Arabia were halted two weeks before the start of the rally.

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