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Winter handling Subaru vs dual-motor model Y

Mvdaog

Member
Jan 3, 2020
91
103
BC
TLDR: Model Y handling in winter conditions not nearly as good as Subaru

So bit of background.. I come from driving a subaru in the canadian interior mountains for the past 10 years. Prior to that was a FWD Honda. I ski and drive over mountain passes frequently and consider myself experienced in winter driving and variable conditions, as we're frequently above and below freezing, back and forth, with lots of precipitation.

I can now say after having been in a few snow storms now with the model Y, that it's handling is no where near as good as a Subaru. I had an outback and an impreza previously. My wife still drives an outback. With the subaru, we rarely ever felt fishtailing, slipping, or loss of control, even momentarily, while cornering. With the model Y, there is fishtailing with almost every cornering attempt if there's snow, packed snow, slush or ice. Going up hill, the subaru would charge up snowy and slippery conditions with confidence and mostly a straight path. With the model Y, there is quite a bit of deviation to straight, and there is some struggling in regards to keeping speed etc.

I do notice that with the off-road assist, it does help getting up our steep and windy driveway. In normal driving mode, there may have been some days I couldn't get up to my house very confidently. There are frequently FWD cars that can't make it to our house in the winter.

I should note on both cars I use studded nokian hakkapelitas. So tires are not the difference.

I did a lot of research on subarus AWD in the past, and tried to review the Tesla AWD experience from previous owners before purchasing, and was hoping it would be better than I have found it to be, is based on previous reviews. That being said, although the slipping and fishtailing are concerning, I do have confidence in the AWD system keeping me safe because it kicks in very quickly to get the car back on track, it's a very brief amount of time before the car is back on track.

So, there are going to be times when it is very slippery, that if I'm taking a corner, I will have to slow down more and be more cautious about a loss of traction, because the slightest fish tail could send me spinning in circles. In the Subaru, I knew that as long as other cars were driving on the road, I was fine no matter what the conditions. I will be more cautious and aware in the Tesla. And as my wife said, this might actually be a good thing, as in the Subaru we never truly knew the road conditions as we never felt the loss of traction. Literally, we would sometimes step out of the car and fall down as our feet couldn't get traction on the ice we were just driving on, but never felt the ice in the car. Now I know when it's slippery and when to drive more cautious.

Love the car, and I sorta expected going in it wasn't going to match the Subaru in this regard. Why would it, it's not their focus. It doesn't change my love for the car, and I still feel much more safe than most cars on the road, and certainly much better than a FWD car or a truck without any weight in the back. But for anyone wondering, I can confidently say, it doesn't match a Subaru for winter driving. I'm only writing this because I would have liked to see a review like this before purchasing, even though I would have still bought it.
 

Chisale

Member
Sep 28, 2019
234
218
Ohio
I have a model 3 and not a Y but I understand perfectly what you're saying about Subarus. My wife has an Outback and I have tried to force that thing to lose traction and go sideways and it's almost impossible. Like you said, if you're driving out in slippery conditions in a Subaru and you see other cars, then you're fine. If all you're seeing is other Subarus then you're probably still fine but at that point might want to slow it down a little.
I feel like my AWD M3 is adequate for most conditions. But it doesn't hold a candle to those.
 
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jcanoe

Active Member
Oct 2, 2020
2,644
2,613
Maryland
TLDR: Model Y handling in winter conditions not nearly as good as Subaru

So bit of background.. I come from driving a subaru in the canadian interior mountains for the past 10 years. Prior to that was a FWD Honda. I ski and drive over mountain passes frequently and consider myself experienced in winter driving and variable conditions, as we're frequently above and below freezing, back and forth, with lots of precipitation.

I can now say after having been in a few snow storms now with the model Y, that it's handling is no where near as good as a Subaru. I had an outback and an impreza previously. My wife still drives an outback. With the subaru, we rarely ever felt fishtailing, slipping, or loss of control, even momentarily, while cornering. With the model Y, there is fishtailing with almost every cornering attempt if there's snow, packed snow, slush or ice. Going up hill, the subaru would charge up snowy and slippery conditions with confidence and mostly a straight path. With the model Y, there is quite a bit of deviation to straight, and there is some struggling in regards to keeping speed etc.

I do notice that with the off-road assist, it does help getting up our steep and windy driveway. In normal driving mode, there may have been some days I couldn't get up to my house very confidently. There are frequently FWD cars that can't make it to our house in the winter.

I should note on both cars I use studded nokian hakkapelitas. So tires are not the difference.

I did a lot of research on subarus AWD in the past, and tried to review the Tesla AWD experience from previous owners before purchasing, and was hoping it would be better than I have found it to be, is based on previous reviews. That being said, although the slipping and fishtailing are concerning, I do have confidence in the AWD system keeping me safe because it kicks in very quickly to get the car back on track, it's a very brief amount of time before the car is back on track.

So, there are going to be times when it is very slippery, that if I'm taking a corner, I will have to slow down more and be more cautious about a loss of traction, because the slightest fish tail could send me spinning in circles. In the Subaru, I knew that as long as other cars were driving on the road, I was fine no matter what the conditions. I will be more cautious and aware in the Tesla. And as my wife said, this might actually be a good thing, as in the Subaru we never truly knew the road conditions as we never felt the loss of traction. Literally, we would sometimes step out of the car and fall down as our feet couldn't get traction on the ice we were just driving on, but never felt the ice in the car. Now I know when it's slippery and when to drive more cautious.

Love the car, and I sorta expected going in it wasn't going to match the Subaru in this regard. Why would it, it's not their focus. It doesn't change my love for the car, and I still feel much more safe than most cars on the road, and certainly much better than a FWD car or a truck without any weight in the back. But for anyone wondering, I can confidently say, it doesn't match a Subaru for winter driving. I'm only writing this because I would have liked to see a review like this before purchasing, even though I would have still bought it.
Is your Model Y the LRDM or a Performance model? When you experienced fish tailing in the Model Y were you driving in Normal Mode or Chill Mode?
 

TLej

Little-Known Member
Dec 29, 2015
495
495
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Funny, my S is better in the snow than any of my 3 Outbacks or my Legacy wagon before that. It might be something that has changed over the years, different motors in the Y than my S, etc. One thing you do need to watch is your Tesla is way heavier than your Subaru, so you do need to slow down for corners more than you might be used to - inertia can be a cruel mistress. Otherwise, it's almost impossible for me to make my S kick the back end out. I use Nokian WRs, not studded, and generally find the car to be the best I've ever driven in the winter.

Also watch out for regen, if the battery is warm and you have full regen available, you can lock up the tires pretty easily as the ABS is only linked to the brake system, not to the regen. Get good at finding the sweet spot for slowing down where regen is not too strong and you'll be fine. It's usually only a problem when you get to your destination after a lengthy highway drive, as the battery takes forever to warm up fully in regular city driving so your regen is always limited.
 

gundarx

Member
Feb 5, 2020
254
402
Renton, WA
@Mvdaog thanks for your post. I think it's particularly useful because you're using the same tires with your comparison. One thing you did not mention, and would be special for EV winter driving and especially Tesla is regen. Try setting regen to Low (assuming your MY is able to change this; some reports of 2021 vehicles don't have this setting). Regen can sometimes feel like strong engine braking (ex. shifting down to low gear, letting off the clutch quickly) and would upset a car's balance particularly in low traction conditions. With that set to Low, it should slow down more predictably and you can control with the brake pedal, and less chance of locking up your tires, especially when you're making your turns and leading to fishtailing.
 
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jsight

Member
Apr 5, 2018
634
435
Charleston
I'm not a snow driver, but I wonder if the stiffer suspension of the Y could be having an impact here? I can't really think of a lot of good reasons that a heavy car like the Y would feel less stable in a straight line, tbh.
 

CapsEngineer

Member
Nov 28, 2020
104
88
Maryland
I’d like a winter mode that would set it to chill, stop regen, and maybe off road assist. A quick voice command as conditions might change will driving.

Asking this as someone who has not driven one, don’t have one on order (but will in a couple months) , and has watched tons of videos about the Model Y.

Can you set a driver profile with these settings? If you can, can you switch profiles via voice command?
 

acarney

Active Member
Jul 9, 2019
2,599
1,626
Richland, WA
Asking this as someone who has not driven one, don’t have one on order (but will in a couple months) , and has watched tons of videos about the Model Y.

Can you set a driver profile with these settings? If you can, can you switch profiles via voice command?

I believe you can set a driver profile for that, and I've seen it mentioned here by others as a "solution." I'm not sure on the voice command, but I rarely use voice commands anyway...
 

acarney

Active Member
Jul 9, 2019
2,599
1,626
Richland, WA
What size studded nokian hakkapelitas on each car? Are they roughly similar to those on the Subaru?

I would imagine the Tesla is wider by a decent amount... I haven't seen many 17 or 18 inch wheels with 255s. If it's a base 2020 Outback then it'll be 17 inch with 225 section width. that's 12.5% smaller...

Edit: Apparently even the 18s have 225 width...
 

jsight

Member
Apr 5, 2018
634
435
Charleston
I would imagine the Tesla is wider by a decent amount... I haven't seen many 17 or 18 inch wheels with 255s. If it's a base 2020 Outback then it'll be 17 inch with 225 section width. that's 12.5% smaller...

Edit: Apparently even the 18s have 225 width...

Oh, that could explain it.
 

jcanoe

Active Member
Oct 2, 2020
2,644
2,613
Maryland
Asking this as someone who has not driven one, don’t have one on order (but will in a couple months) , and has watched tons of videos about the Model Y.

Can you set a driver profile with these settings? If you can, can you switch profiles via voice command?
Not currently; the driver profile settings adjust the seat, steering wheel, side mirrors and climate control, regenerative braking (on early Model Y vehicles this is adjustable can be set to standard or low but this option was removed from later production vehicles.) Creep/Roll/Hold but not the driving mode setting. Voice commands do work for lights and wipers but not driving mode or regenerative braking settings. The Model 3 and Model Y do not currently offer air suspension; would be great if the vehicle height could be automatically raised for snow. There is a Joe Mode (really!) there should be a Snow Mode.
 
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Mvdaog

Member
Jan 3, 2020
91
103
BC
I do have a winter driving profile set up as mentioned with regen low, creep mode, and chill driving mode. I haven’t tried with voice command but it’s pretty easy to switch on screen.
 

Pianewman

Active Member
Oct 28, 2020
1,096
747
Fort Worth
I would imagine the Tesla is wider by a decent amount... I haven't seen many 17 or 18 inch wheels with 255s. If it's a base 2020 Outback then it'll be 17 inch with 225 section width. that's 12.5% smaller...

Edit: Apparently even the 18s have 225 width...

I can't imagine the Tesla AWD is a sophisticated as the Subaru (?), but with all that torque, and a wide footprint, for sure it would suffer by comparison.

Regen issues? Doubtful. Isn't the regen on the Tesla disabled below "x" degrees? I've read 50, but that seems way too high.

(I'm also wondering, with the Y being sold to more "mainstream" drivers that aren't as car oriented as many here, if this is why the latest software updates have reduced regen power???)
 

acarney

Active Member
Jul 9, 2019
2,599
1,626
Richland, WA
I can't imagine the Tesla AWD is a sophisticated as the Subaru (?), but with all that torque, and a wide footprint, for sure it would suffer by comparison.

Regen issues? Doubtful. Isn't the regen on the Tesla disabled below "x" degrees? I've read 50, but that seems way too high.

(I'm also wondering, with the Y being sold to more "mainstream" drivers that aren't as car oriented as many here, if this is why the latest software updates have reduced regen power???)

It you believe Musk, it should be "better." Musk has said that the digital control of the motors is much faster and more precise compared to "analog" control via an engine... maybe it just needs tweaked more to cut in faster or something. I wouldn't be surprised if Musk has specifically directed his guys to make the car "fun" with it's traction control systems... maybe at the expense of strong feelings of control on slick roads. Would be interesting to see it pushed to the limit rather then gently driving. Maybe it kicks out some and gets a little lose, but if you pushed it a little more it would step in a lot with traction control to pull you back in line. It might feel less confident driving because it's giving you a larger amount of "play" before it takes over and lets you know you're pushing too much...

I haven't seen a lot of professional testing between some leading cars in different areas like winter handling, summer road handling, tracking use, etc. There's the occasional track test against a Merc or BMW and it sure does seem just as fun as those guys with kicking the rear out (if you can get over the grip it has), but all the winter stuff has been puff videos (sponsored by Tesla and just a couple youtubers driving around in powder) or very "word of mouth" reports from owners. We need a semi professional driver or fully pro driver, that can turn consistent lap times to take the two cars out and give some reviews on how they handle on snow and ice at different speeds around corners, stopping, and on inclines. I trust their opinion on how the car "feels" more than someone that isn't able to generate reproducible numbers around a track... more so because we might not actual be at the traction limit of the vehicle but it's hard to find that limit on public roads coming home from the grocery store.

The going up the hill is interesting since one would think the AWD, heavy weight, and digital traction control should cause it to do well, but again, it's possible that the torque and power are causing it to kick lose a bit when Tesla really should dial that back a bit more as the expense of "fun" wheel spin...
 

MY2Ski

Member
Jun 2, 2020
69
76
Portland, OR
My comparison is a 2008 Acura RDX with Nokian WR G4 tires vs. Tesla MY LR with the Sottozero's.
The big difference is that the Y have much more power/torque and it is instant. The allows me to get the tail happy and get some wheel slippage but it is very good at keeping things under control.
The RDX with the SH-AWD moves torque from the front to the back wheels and vectors it side to side but is much more mild than the MY. It limits the wheel spin to a minimal amount allowing the tire to slightly slip and then re engaging every 1 to 2 inches (looking at the resulting tracks in the snow).
With the MY the tires have some limited spin but the car does very well keeping itself pointing in the intended direction.

Find yourself some safe space to try things out and I believe you will learn the differences and come to love it. Just because you have all that instant power/torque does not mean you always have to use it.
upload_2020-12-17_18-15-55.png
 

Jacko

Member
Sep 17, 2020
71
36
portland, or
My comparison is a 2008 Acura RDX with Nokian WR G4 tires vs. Tesla MY LR with the Sottozero's.
The big difference is that the Y have much more power/torque and it is instant. The allows me to get the tail happy and get some wheel slippage but it is very good at keeping things under control.
The RDX with the SH-AWD moves torque from the front to the back wheels and vectors it side to side but is much more mild than the MY. It limits the wheel spin to a minimal amount allowing the tire to slightly slip and then re engaging every 1 to 2 inches (looking at the resulting tracks in the snow).
With the MY the tires have some limited spin but the car does very well keeping itself pointing in the intended direction.

Find yourself some safe space to try things out and I believe you will learn the differences and come to love it. Just because you have all that instant power/torque does not mean you always have to use it.View attachment 618650
Well said. I'll keep an eye out for you - I was up there Thursday. Black MYP.
 

Mvdaog

Member
Jan 3, 2020
91
103
BC
It you believe Musk, it should be "better." Musk has said that the digital control of the motors is much faster and more precise compared to "analog" control via an engine... maybe it just needs tweaked more to cut in faster or something. I wouldn't be surprised if Musk has specifically directed his guys to make the car "fun" with it's traction control systems... maybe at the expense of strong feelings of control on slick roads. Would be interesting to see it pushed to the limit rather then gently driving. Maybe it kicks out some and gets a little lose, but if you pushed it a little more it would step in a lot with traction control to pull you back in line. It might feel less confident driving because it's giving you a larger amount of "play" before it takes over and lets you know you're pushing too much...

I haven't seen a lot of professional testing between some leading cars in different areas like winter handling, summer road handling, tracking use, etc. There's the occasional track test against a Merc or BMW and it sure does seem just as fun as those guys with kicking the rear out (if you can get over the grip it has), but all the winter stuff has been puff videos (sponsored by Tesla and just a couple youtubers driving around in powder) or very "word of mouth" reports from owners. We need a semi professional driver or fully pro driver, that can turn consistent lap times to take the two cars out and give some reviews on how they handle on snow and ice at different speeds around corners, stopping, and on inclines. I trust their opinion on how the car "feels" more than someone that isn't able to generate reproducible numbers around a track... more so because we might not actual be at the traction limit of the vehicle but it's hard to find that limit on public roads coming home from the grocery store.

The going up the hill is interesting since one would think the AWD, heavy weight, and digital traction control should cause it to do well, but again, it's possible that the torque and power are causing it to kick lose a bit when Tesla really should dial that back a bit more as the expense of "fun" wheel spin...

Yea this is what I'm getting at. It does kick in and get you straight, and it does have more play and a bit of looseness, as you put it. Which is all fine and dandy in low consequence situations, but that little bit of play and looseness on a patch of ice going 90km/h around a blind turn in the mountains here can lead to disaster, so it just takes a bit more caution as well. I have been playing a lot with the torque going up steep windy mountain roads in the snow, and you can drive it a bit more and have more fun with it than a subaru, and it is more fun to drive in the snow than the subaru because there is some drift and slip. My subaru with traction control on is just super boring no matter how you drive it because it won't really let you drift or slide at all. Race car drivers on a controlled track may find this AWD system superior in terms of time around a track etc but in real life situations, to put it simply, you just don't want any slippage on fast, busy roads.
 
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