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Winter handling Subaru vs dual-motor model Y

noshadow

Member
Mar 18, 2020
441
272
Berkeley, CA
I spent about a month in Bend, OR this winter with the Model Y, and also drove around a Subaru Outback as well. The roads varied from dry to black ice, to about 3 feet of fresh powder over hard ice. My quick notes from driving the MY vs. Outback:
  • Model Y's 1 pedal driving is even trickier than I expected. Not being able to just "coast" is new to me since I've always driven a 6-spd manual AWD in the past, so this is more user error, but I was actively nervous about getting the regen just right. In the worst conditions, I would fishtail a bit while braking and acceleration, but to be honest, the Subaru did slip as well in the same conditions, but it the rear did NOT come loose as much, and it was usually a more balanced slide. The Model Y felt like the regen braking and acceleration is extremely rear biased.
  • Going up and down steeper hills was easy with the Model Y, as long as I got the pedal right. In chill mode, I could still get a little rear slip but it felt a lot more stable. I never got completely stuck in extremely deep snow in the Y, whereas the Subaru had a few moments where it felt like we'd need to get a tow.
  • Overall, I think the Subaru felt a lot more balanced and at ease. The Model Y did well, but I had a lot to learn. It just feels like the Subaru was very intentional about doing well in the cold, whereas the MY is technically proficient, but doesn't feel like it was born for it. Everything from stuck handles to the window design was a clear sign cold was not a huge priority up front.
Best tips:
  1. Use chill mode when it's deep snow (not as needed when icy, I felt like I could control acelleration well in Sport)
  2. Use low regen when it's at all icy/snowy
 
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jcanoe

Active Member
Oct 2, 2020
2,166
2,144
Maryland
I spent about a month in Bend, OR this winter with the Model Y, and also drove around a Subaru Outback as well. The roads varied from dry to black ice, to about 3 feet of fresh powder over hard ice. My quick notes from driving the MY vs. Outback:
  • Model Y's 1 pedal driving is even trickier than I expected. Not being able to just "coast" is new to me since I've always driven a 6-spd manual AWD in the past, so this is more user error, but I was actively nervous about getting the regen just right. In the worst conditions, I would fishtail a bit while braking and acceleration, but to be honest, the Subaru did slip as well in the same conditions, but it the rear did NOT come loose as much, and it was usually a more balanced slide. The Model Y felt like the regen braking and acceleration is extremely rear biased.
  • Going up and down steeper hills was easy with the Model Y, as long as I got the pedal right. In chill mode, I could still get a little rear slip but it felt a lot more stable. I never got completely stuck in extremely deep snow in the Y, whereas the Subaru had a few moments where it felt like we'd need to get a tow.
  • Overall, I think the Subaru felt a lot more balanced and at ease. The Model Y did well, but I had a lot to learn. It just feels like the Subaru was very intentional about doing well in the cold, whereas the MY is technically proficient, but doesn't feel like it was born for it. Everything from stuck handles to the window design was a clear sign cold was not a huge priority up front.
Best tips:
  1. Use chill mode when it's deep snow (not as needed when icy, I felt like I could control acelleration well in Sport)
  2. Use low regen when it's at all icy/snowy
Did you try the Off Road Mode, especially in deep snow?
 

jcanoe

Active Member
Oct 2, 2020
2,166
2,144
Maryland
I haven't, is there an option?
Yes, it's called Off-Road Assist. See Traction Control in the 2020 Tesla Model Y Owner's Manual, page 72.

"Off-Road Assist is designed to provide
overall improvements when driving off road.
In addition to allowing the wheels to
spin, Off-Road Assist balances the torque
between the front and rear motors to
optimize traction. Off-Road Assist
improves traction on rough and soft
surfaces where one side of the vehicle
may lose traction while the other side still
has traction. When Off-Road Assist is on,
the accelerator pedal provides more
gradual torque, which is useful for
crawling at low speeds (for example, over
rocky surfaces). When enabled, OFFROAD
displays on the touchscreen above
the driving speed."

The option to activate Off-Road Assist is under Driving Settings.
 
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chinney

Member
Nov 7, 2020
119
87
Ottawa ON
I drove about an hour and a half earlier today on quite snowy and slippery roads, both highway and city streets, on my AWD Model 3. And again nothing to report in terms of fishtailing, slipping or regen-caused unsteadiness (and I had full regen on, albeit it probably fully kicked in only part of the way through, since I started with a cold battery with no pre-conditioning). The handling was totally steady and predictable. Actually, as a couple of others have reported earlier in this forum, the experience was a bit boring: my Subaru used to slide around somewhat in those conditions, in a controlled sort of way once you knew how to drive it, but with the Model 3 there is basically nothing beyond, very occasionally, a momentary wiggle or hesitation as the traction control adjusts the drive.

But I acknowledge that some Model Y and 3 owners are reporting experiences different from mine. I am having a hard time explaining what is going on. I suppose that it could be tires, but I have difficulty believing that they all have sub-standard tires. Could it be a Tesla quality control issue? Could some vehicles have something not quite right with their components or traction-control software? I am not trying to knock Tesla here, but the reality is that there has been some uneven builds on their vehicles, so I am hazarding a totally-speculative guess.
 
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Snow Drift

[Off-Road Assist] Activated
Feb 10, 2016
1,968
1,497
Long Island
I drove about an hour and a half earlier today on quite snowy and slippery roads, both highway and city streets, on my AWD Model 3. And again nothing to report in terms of fishtailing, slipping or regen-caused unsteadiness (and I had full regen on, albeit it probably fully kicked in only part of the way through, since I started with a cold battery with no pre-conditioning). The handling was totally steady and predictable. Actually, as a couple of others have reported earlier in this forum, the experience was a bit boring: my Subaru used to slide around somewhat in those conditions, in a controlled sort of way once you knew how to drive it, but with the Model 3 there is basically nothing beyond, very occasionally, a momentary wiggle or hesitation as the traction control adjusts the drive.

But I acknowledge that some Model Y and 3 owners are reporting experiences different from mine. I am having a hard time explaining what is going on. I suppose that it could be tires, but I have difficulty believing that they all have sub-standard tires. Could it be a Tesla quality control issue? Could some vehicles have something not quite right with their components or traction-control software? I am not trying to knock Tesla here, but the reality is that there has been some uneven builds on their vehicles, so I am hazarding a totally-speculative guess.
How often to you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal while driving?
 

masotime

Member
Sep 14, 2020
68
61
San Francisco
I drove about an hour and a half earlier today on quite snowy and slippery roads, both highway and city streets, on my AWD Model 3.

Have you tried it on twisty and snowy mountain roads? I find that on mostly flat / level ground it's not so much of an issue because you don't have to turn so much. Mountain roads also tend to have very variable snowy conditions - changes in amount of snow/ice due to elevation changes and exposure to the sun at different angles / shadows due to valleys / trees.
 

GaryY

Member
Sep 4, 2020
18
17
Utah
Have you tried it on twisty and snowy mountain roads? I find that on mostly flat / level ground it's not so much of an issue because you don't have to turn so much. Mountain roads also tend to have very variable snowy conditions - changes in amount of snow/ice due to elevation changes and exposure to the sun at different angles / shadows due to valleys / trees.

The more I've thought about it, the more I think this may be a bigger difference than quality control etc. Uphill and downhill turns are going to be turns with either more accelerator push, or more regen depending on the direction. Even just going straight up or down a steep slippery slope in either direction will obviously induce more pedal push or more regen. It might be helpful if people would comment on not only snow conditions but terrain for any problems (or non-problems).

I've still not played around with off road assist as much as I'd like because the plows have been too darned good last 2 snowfalls we've had...

But a dedicated snow mode that's non-rear biased with either rear regen adjustment or just big drop in regen power, while keeping traction control on still seems like something that would make everyone happy...
 
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Mvdaog

Member
Jan 3, 2020
91
103
BC
Again, I’ll reiterate. My two cars right now are an outback circa 2018 with hakapeliitta 9 studded tires, and a model y with the same tires. I live in the mountains of BC, on a logging road steep and windy driveway which has not been snow or ice free since December. There continues to be a not even comparable advantage with Subaru over the Tesla. There are days when the Tesla barely makes it up, almost sliding back downhill, and the Subaru literally barely has an issue. My wife and I drive in the same conditions daily, and the Tesla slips and slides frequently on turns, hills, and with acceleration, while the Subaru never does. I don’t understand how some people are still even comparing the two systems. They’re not close. This is confirmed with another friend of mine who’s coming from a Volvo who lives here and immediately noticed the instability and fishtailing and disappointment with winter driving traction. I’m almost in disbelief there are so many of you saying the model Y is great without any slipping in winter driving conditions, it doesn’t seem possible. But anyways, rant over. The model Y isn’t made for this kind of weather or these conditions. That’s fine. I just drive different now.

edit: if it weren’t for covid I’d welcome you to my driveway for proof lol... maybe a video would help prove my point???
 

masotime

Member
Sep 14, 2020
68
61
San Francisco
edit: if it weren’t for covid I’d welcome you to my driveway for proof lol... maybe a video would help prove my point???

Don't need to convince me :), I've personally encountered significant fishtailing during snowstorms in Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah and Luther Pass near South Lake Tahoe in California. It's really uncomfortable, and this is with dedicated snow tires.
 

noshadow

Member
Mar 18, 2020
441
272
Berkeley, CA
Yes, it's called Off-Road Assist. See Traction Control in the 2020 Tesla Model Y Owner's Manual, page 72.

"Off-Road Assist is designed to provide
overall improvements when driving off road.
In addition to allowing the wheels to
spin, Off-Road Assist balances the torque
between the front and rear motors to
optimize traction. Off-Road Assist
improves traction on rough and soft
surfaces where one side of the vehicle
may lose traction while the other side still
has traction. When Off-Road Assist is on,
the accelerator pedal provides more
gradual torque, which is useful for
crawling at low speeds (for example, over
rocky surfaces). When enabled, OFFROAD
displays on the touchscreen above
the driving speed."

The option to activate Off-Road Assist is under Driving Settings.

That's interesting! I guess I could try it next time I have a lot of problems.
 

Daks

Member
Oct 21, 2020
131
91
Anchorage, AK USA
Reading this thread before taking delivery of my Y I was concerned... After I am not. It handles the slippery stuff for me fine. I live in Alaska and I have a 1400 foot elevation change every time I go to/from my house into town. My driveway is steep (13% grade) and I have a 13% grade that's 7% off camber in an S turn that I see ditched cars on often. Even the Tesla Mobile Tech in his FWD Van with studded Nokians' had trouble getting up my driveway. My Y hanldes it just like my Jeep Grand Cherokee with zero issues. I've had people with 4WDs try to get up my driveway and can't do it with A/S Tires... In town taking turns the rear will kick out more then the Cherokee will, but it is not bad at all. Both vehicles have Nokian Hakka R9s studded winter tires on them, albeit different sizes. Here's my Y with them on. 225/60/18's on aftermarket rims. (Btw, the efficiency is dreadful, but I'll take that over a white knuckle drive any day of the week) Also, on ice/snow after the battery warms up - I can just about do a full power run on my MYP - I can feel traction control working too.... I live up one of those mountains in the background.

153436977_1204121983337303_6295408272394430384_o.jpg
 

chinney

Member
Nov 7, 2020
119
87
Ottawa ON
Have you tried it on twisty and snowy mountain roads? I find that on mostly flat / level ground it's not so much of an issue because you don't have to turn so much. Mountain roads also tend to have very variable snowy conditions - changes in amount of snow/ice due to elevation changes and exposure to the sun at different angles / shadows due to valleys / trees.

We don't have that sort of terrain in this area. But I follow some other winter driving threads on this forum (winter tire threads, etc.), where you can read other Model Y/3 owners driving in hilly and mountainous areas reporting excellent performance, some of them not even driving dedicated snow tires, but the newer, higher-rated all seasons (Michelin Cross-Climate, Vredestein Quatrac Pro). Even in the current thread, different owners are reporting vastly different experiences. Also, it is not that I am noticing 'less of' a problem, since I don't have to turn 'so much', I am not noticing any problem at all. And flatter terrain or no, I do still have to turn, and sometimes quite sharply and at speed, on slippery snow and ice.

So I am still wondering about the explanation here.
 

masotime

Member
Sep 14, 2020
68
61
San Francisco
We don't have that sort of terrain in this area. But I follow some other winter driving threads on this forum (winter tire threads, etc.), where you can read other Model Y/3 owners driving in hilly and mountainous areas reporting excellent performance, some of them not even driving dedicated snow tires, but the newer, higher-rated all seasons (Michelin Cross-Climate, Vredestein Quatrac Pro). Even in the current thread, different owners are reporting vastly different experiences. Also, it is not that I am noticing 'less of' a problem, since I don't have to turn 'so much', I am not noticing any problem at all. And flatter terrain or no, I do still have to turn, and sometimes quite sharply and at speed, on slippery snow and ice.

So I am still wondering about the explanation here.

I think the truth is not clear here until we have a test on the same terrain. Unfortunately that data is going to be hard to get. All we have are anecdotes, and there's no reason for anyone to lie, so things will likely remain uncertain for now. There's probably a factor or two that's making the experiences different however.
 
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Snow Drift

[Off-Road Assist] Activated
Feb 10, 2016
1,968
1,497
Long Island
I think the truth is not clear here until we have a test on the same terrain. Unfortunately that data is going to be hard to get. All we have are anecdotes, and there's no reason for anyone to lie, so things will likely remain uncertain for now. There's probably a factor or two that's making the experiences different however.

How often do you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal while driving?
 

Snow Drift

[Off-Road Assist] Activated
Feb 10, 2016
1,968
1,497
Long Island
Rarely - I constantly regulate my speed. I lift my foot off more often when in an area with many red lights or stop sign.
EDIT: I understand that a rear biased, rear dominant, layout, especially one with wayyy more torque at all times is new experience for most and may not feel ok in snow. Just give it time and you may adjust your driving and become accustomed to it.

I feel like the people who are having the biggest issues tend to lift more like they are driving an automatic that coasts (or lifting in a panic), which is inducing regeneration, shifting the car's weight forward, which lightens the rear and allows for fishtailing (or the sensation of it). The people who are staying planted on the pedal and just modulate small measured changes in pressure on the pedal, are not having a problem. Just stay on the throttle, correct steering and continue on your way.
 
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Mvdaog

Member
Jan 3, 2020
91
103
BC
No, not what is happening. Again, this is trying to get up a steep windy driveway in slush or wet snow, full throttle. Basically a hill challenge. Not about coasting or regenerative braking. Off canter banked turns. Starting from stopped. Etc.
 

Snow Drift

[Off-Road Assist] Activated
Feb 10, 2016
1,968
1,497
Long Island
No, not what is happening. Again, this is trying to get up a steep windy driveway in slush or wet snow, full throttle. Basically a hill challenge. Not about coasting or regenerative braking. Off canter banked turns. Starting from stopped. Etc.
You have a very specific scenario that the average person doesn't deal with. I have zero issues with driving on snow covered roads, but they aren't to the same degree that yours are.

Subaru makes a very good system (I have/had many), and frankly you have the least capable of them all (Active AWD).

M3/Y are RWD until slip or necessity (Bjorn shows it), which means you aren't going to have the same immediate experience as a full-time 60:40 Outback (especially if you use X-Mode). Perhaps try Off-Road mode which allegedly evens out the torque distribution f/r and mutes the throttle mapping.
 

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