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RWD Model S vs. AWD ICE in heavy winter

I have a Model X reservation and was hoping to get it before winter starts, but that ain't happening. :/ I live in Boston and my current car is a Prius that does not handle well in the winter here, so I'm looking to upgrade to another car temporarily until I can get my Model X. I can't get a new Model S at this point because the lead time would be too long, but presumably I could close on a used Model S in a matter of days. However, there's no used AWD Model S available in my market right now, just RWD.

This brings me to the question of which handles better in heavy winter: a RWD Model S or an inexpensive, conventional AWD ICE (let's say a Subaru). I know from experience that an AWD Mercedes beats the pants off of my 2008 FWD Prius even with snow tires on the Prius and all-seasons on the Mercedes, but I have no experience with Model S handling. I assume it must be better since Norwegians love it. :)

Do we have any RWD Model S owners here that have experience driving in heavy winter with their car and with AWD ICE cars? If you were to buy a car specifically for winter, which would you choose? Let's assume that I would put snow tires on the Model S.

P.S. I live in an apartment with a free chargepoint station and I have a 60 mile commute each way, so between the gas savings and the deprecation of a luxury car there is probably not much financial difference either way.
I've got an RWD 85 and I live in Minneapolis. I have Michelin Ice X tires. My girlfriend has a Prius on all seasons and I prefer the Model S in the snow and ice. I am very confident that your needs would be met with this setup. AWD would be better, in most cases, I've have bad luck with BMW AWD. I'm sure a D variant would be better, but getting an RWD now, for a lot less money, that is perfectly capable in winter conditions, seems like the way to go.

It's important to remember that a Model S has one of the best weight distributions and that EV traction control is very very good.


Well-Known Member
Feb 28, 2015
Merced, CA
AWD ICE car will handle better than an S85.

If this is really just short term, then consider buying a 5 year old used Subaru...something you can resell without much or any loss once you get your X.

My Prius is superior to any rear wheel drive vehicle I've had in ICE or snow.
Tires are more important than the number of axles driven, as AWD does you nothing when needing to stop.

That said, the more important element here is this will be a car you're only going to keep for ~6 months? That seems really cost-inefficient. Just buy a set of really good winter tires for your Prius, like the aforementioned Michelin X-Ice or Nokian Hakkapeliitta r2, and be done with it.


Custom Warming Stripes wrap.
Mar 18, 2009
If cost is no issue, I would get the RWD Model S and put winter tires on it.
My wife and I both drove Prii, in Minnesota, prior to going electric.

We are coming up on out fourth winter with our RWD 85. Hands down, it beats the pants off the 2007&2008 Prii we had... with or without winter tires.

It does seem a very expensive way to do it though.


(S85-3/2/13 traded in) X LR: F2611##-3/27/20
Supporting Member
Mar 8, 2012
Most of the vehicles I see in the ditch are either AWD or summer and Texas all-season tires. Get good winter tires like XIce or Hakkapeliitta R2 whichever version you get. AWD will get you started, but won't stop any better than RWD. People get in trouble because of not being able to stop and AWD makes them overconfident (it takes a certain level of discipline to overcome this).

Patrick W

Active Member
Mar 17, 2015
Tomorrow (the 29th) will be the 7 month anniversary of having my S85 rear wheel drive and today was my first experience with driving it in snow.

I had snow tires installed last week and today it handled the snow and slush and occational icy spots very well.

I've never owned an all wheel drive vehicle so I can't compare but, like I saw, the car was great. And that the wiper heater kept the wipers from icing up was a plus.

Though I was disappointed that with all the snow hiding the lines on the road AutoPilot did not work so I actually had to drive. :)
As said above, traction is not the only important factor in winter. So I would focus on tires first if I were you.

On my RWD Model S I have Nokian Hakappellitta R2, and although they are crap in rain/damp, they are astonishing in ice and excellent in snow and slush. I am soon going to replace the rear tires and will try the Michelin iceX3. So far my experience with the Model S in the Norwegian winters has been very good, but I've sometimes found myself stuck and have needed a push to get going.

I have no AWD to compare to, but it sounds reasonable to think it will be much better if equipped with either of the 2 sets of tires mentioned earlier

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