Winter Driving

No, winter tires and snow tires aren't the same thing

Snow tires and winter tires are often thought of as the same thing. They're not.

Photo by Getty Images

Not all tires are created equal, and not all tire types are the same. This isn't just true in NASCAR and F1. It's also true at your local tire shop.

Winter and snow tires are often confused as being for the same thing. Or, at least for the same season. That's not necessarily true.

The difference between tire types is more than just a tread pattern. Originally, snow tires were just winter tires with deeper tread patterns that could more easily take on snow-covered streets and trails. Chemistry and production techniques have made modern snow tires more sophisticated.

Winter tires aren't just designed to take on snow. They're designed for when conditions are below 44 degrees, the point at which road conditions start to seriously change. The tread patterns, flexibility, and density of the tire all come into play.

Today, despite that many call their winter tires "snow tires," most companies to not make a designated snow tire, instead relying on modern winter tires that are more versatile.

Drivers often leave all-season tires on their car thinking that they're in good enough shape and happy to avoid another trip to the tire shop. All-season tires are formulated to perform best when worn by your vehicle in 50 to 100 degree temperature conditions.

When it has reached 44 degrees and below outside, the materials that make up a summer or all-season tire get rigid, which impedes flexibility and grip, making them less safe.

When choosing a tire, whether it's of the winter, summer, or all-season variety, be sure to check the owner's manual of your car to determine what the recommended tire is. Automakers work closely with tire companies to develop the "perfect" tire for their vehicles.

Wondering which winter tires are best? Our friends at TFL recently tested some in the snow.

TFL: Which Snow Tire is Best? We Test Them On America's Steepest County Road! Video by TFL Car

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2020 Toyota Yaris punches above its weight.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Folks are always fascinated about what I do for a living. "Oh, you drive a different car every week? That's so exciting!"

What follows is a fairly predictable set of questions. "What's your favorite car?" (Rolls-Royce Wraith). "Have you ever driven on a race track?" (Numerous times.) "What's the fastest you've driven?" (180 MPH in a Porsche Panamera on the Autobahn in Germany.)

But then I'll start asking them questions, trying to learn about what they drive and why. What car do you have and why did you buy it? What other cars did you consider? What do you look for in an automobile?

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris has Toyota looks up front.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It's my own form of market research. I can't review a car if I don't understand who my reader is and how to best guide them. It's part of why I don't dive too deep into horsepower and performance figures — I've found that, performance cars excepted, most vehicles perform adequately for the everyday tasks that people buy them for.

That brings us to this week's car, which is perhaps one of the least-interesting cars I've tested — but in a very good way. The sub-$20,000 2020 Toyota Yaris Hatchback is aimed solidly at folks who want an affordable, entry-level vehicle that's safe, practical, and with just a touch of luxury-ishness.

My tester was the (slightly) fancier XLE trim, pricing out at $19,680. It's equipped with an adequate if unexciting 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a whopping 106-horsepower. The engine might be tiny, but it comes with the added bonus of 32/40/35 mpg (city/highway/combined) fuel economy. It's paired to a six-speed automatic transmission (and a real transmission too, not a continuously variable unit that some folks love to hate).

2020 Toyota Yaris The hatchback is convenient but the car also comes in a sedan variant.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

It has 16-inch wheels, a bunch of airbags, LED headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a seven-inch color touch screen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It has push-button start, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Oh, and there's automatic climate control too, which I've seen missing on cars that cost way more than this.

Here's where things get a bit confusing. Toyota sells the Yaris in other markets around the world, and it's their own in-house vehicle. But the Yaris sold in America is a rebadged Mazda2 that's assembled at Mazda's facility in Salamanca, Mexico. It's related to the Toyota Yaris sedan which used to be called the Scion iA, which is also built by Mazda, but also has the Toyota brand on it.

Whatever.

2020 Toyota Yaris The Yaris rides okay, about what you’d expect for a sub-$20,000 vehicle.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

I've driven a lot of Mazdas and a lot of Toyotas, and it's obvious to me that this is a Mazda. That's not a bad thing. Mazdas vehicles have punched above their weight for a long time (I had a 2011 Mazda3 for years, and I've praised them frequently in these pages), bringing both upscale materials and design to lower-priced segments. That's true here too. The Mazda2 — I mean, Toyota Yaris Hatchback — doesn't feel like a stripped down econobox. It's small and maneuverable and the engine, though a little noisy, gets you through traffic nicely.

It's a great new car for a teenager or for someone looking to spend as little money on a new car as possible. New cars, after all, come with new car warranties and can appeal to folks who don't want to imagine what came before when buying something used.

The Yaris competes with the Honda Fit, which is a perennial favorite in this class, and it seems a little nicer and a little more polished, though with less rear-seat legroom if you anticipate carrying adults back there.

2020 Toyota Yaris Even low-cost models have an infotainment screen these days.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The front is comfortable and attractive enough, with solid buttons and knobs and dials that are all pleasing to touch and fiddle with (which isn't as common as you'd think). It seems to be a better car than it's bargain-basement price would indicate, with a solid ride, comfortable seats and two reliable names behind it.

I took it to Costco (as I have with all my COVID-era test drives) and, with the 60/40 seats folded down, was able to fill it with ease. It swallowed up toilet paper and paper towels and a case of Diet Dr. Pepper and all manner of other things. It's no Rolls-Royce Wraith, but I'd be happy to recommend the little Yaris to someone looking for a new car that won't break the bank.

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The Lotus Evija is the most powerful series production road car ever built.

Photo courtesy of Lotus Cars

The Lotus Evija is Britain's first all-electric hypercar. Its powertrain delivers a minimum of 986 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque, with its upper limits reaching near 1,973 horsepower, making it the most powerful series production road car ever built.

The British automaker is showing off the prowess of the Evija for the first time on the track. A new video (vailable below) showcases the model at the 2.2-mile track at Hethel, Lotus's headquarters.

Piloting the Evija is Gavan Kershaw, Director of Vehicle Attributes for Lotus. In the video, he provides extensive new commentary on key elements of the Evija project as on-board cameras reveal the capabilities of the car.

Gavan Kershaw, Director of Vehicle Attributes for Lotus Gavan Kershaw, Director of Vehicle Attributes for Lotus, pilots the car in the video.Photo courtesy of Lotus Cars

In the film, Kershaw takes the audience through the development journey of the Evija from the earliest discussions amongst Lotus staff to today.

The model features five drive modes, each designed to enhance a different part of the Evija driving experience. Range mode is limited to 986 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, switching the Evija from four-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, in an effort to save power.

The City driving mode adds power Control, compared to the Range mode, by increasing regenerative braking ability, which is optimal for urban environments.

In Tour mode, the drive system is switchable to four- or rear-wheel drive. This drive mode delivers 1,381 horsepower and activates torque vectoring technology.

The car's Sport and Track mode deliver the most power and performance. Sport mode ups the power to 1,677 horsepower and 1,254 pound-feet of torque, and increases traction levels. Using Track mode, power is boosted to 1,973 horsepower. The car's Drag Reduction System is available on request to deliver the highest level of torque vectoring technology available. In this mode, the chassis setting is automatically switched to Track.

Lotus has given the Evija a top track speed of 200 mph.

Lotus Evija development prototype on test at Hethel www.youtube.com

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