Musk Says RWD Tesla Model 3 Surprisingly Good In Snow With Right Tires


Initial Tesla Model 3s will only be offered in rear-wheel-drive form, but that should be fine for snow still, says CEO Musk.

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the Model 3, even with just rear-wheel-drive, performs admirably in the snow, if fitted with proper tires.

Musk On Snow Performance Of RWD Electric Car

The first Tesla Model 3 deliveries will commence next month, but all-wheel-drive won’t be available until a later date (potentially by the end of the year). Musk doesn’t think the lack of AWD will be much of an issue for those who live in snowy regions though. According to Musk, if fitted with the proper tires, a RWD electric car offers “really good” snow performance due to the precise level of traction control afforded by the electric setup.

Basically, Musk is saying don’t wait for the AWD 3. The RWD version will suffice. A statement that’s probably true unless you reside in a frequent heavy snow area.

We’ve yet to see a Model 3 being tested in the snow and likely won’t before its release. The deciding factor for some may be the cost to move up to AWD. For a couple thousands bucks, most will probably make the jump. But if AWD is packaged in with lots of other options that bring the tab up considerably, then RWD may be the way to go.

We should find out some of this information sometime next month when the Model 3 configurator goes live.

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71 Comments on "Musk Says RWD Tesla Model 3 Surprisingly Good In Snow With Right Tires"

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The previous owner of my Model S85 lived in Wisconsin and said the car did great in the snow, even in Colarado with snow tires.

Good weight distribution.

He’s right about snow tires. All season tires do very little once you have more than an inch of snow on the ground. I grew up driving RWD cars in the northeast long before ABS, traction control, stability control, etc. 4 good snow tires and common sense will get you were you need to go.

Common sense is the most important factor in your equation. See lots of fancy SUVs in ditches here in Colorado because idiots don’t know that 4 wheel drive != 4 wheel stop.

I’m happy to say that in nearly 20 years of living in Denver, I never ended up in the ditch with my 4×4. Except for that time near Steamboat where I pulled to the “side” of the road… and it was really the ditch…. filled with snow.

Soft snow.

Damn nice of the snowplow I’d just passed to yank me out.

Of course the driver makes the biggest difference.

But for the same driver, same tires, same car, which version is better on snow/icy roads, AWD or RWD?

I think the answer is pretty simple…

There’s an old adage among 4×4 aficionados: What’s the difference between 4 wheel drive and 2 wheel drive? About 20 feet.

There are bunch of old sayings that are often full of crap and it doesn’t make them true.

Is that why they require chains on 2WD but 4WD/AWD vehicle can get away without them in those Sierra Nevada Mountain Roads?

The reason they require chains on 2WD but not AWD in the Sierra Nevada is because the rules were made back when there weren’t AWD cars. Saying 2WD cars had to do it covered the entire normal populace.

I find it hilarious that chains aren’t required on AWD vehicles because then the AWD people So think they don’t need to slow down either. inevitably the first vehicles in the ditch are all 4x4s (mostly SUVs). I’ve had to turn around and drive back down the hill I just climbed in my FWD vehicle so I can get to a plow to pull a 4×4 out of the ditch (no consistent cell service on CA-88).

Sometimes conditions are so bad you should just stay home. The rest of the time it’s about the driver and the tires. Go slow or go in the ditch. Regardless of your drivetrain.

Redneck. Of the year.

You *grew up* driving? Where was that?!? Are the adults who let the kids drive behind bars as they ought to be?

In case you didn’t know, in most US states, a full driving license used to be available at age 16, and in a few of the agricultural states, from 15; many US high-school students have their own car.
This usage of “grew up” is perfectly fine idiomatic English.

This isn’t the first time where it appears your command of English isn’t as good as you think. Nothing wrong with that, but you should be more careful about your conclusions.

I was “driving” a Farmall tractor at age 5 (for the first few years my dad had to run up to the tractor and pull the clutch pedal for me, since my legs didn’t reach) up and down the windrows while my dad was two machines back on the wagon stacking the hay bales.

I don’t recall what age I was allowed to legally drive the tractors on the roads but it was quite a few years before I could get my drivers license. There are plenty of adults around who literally grew up driving. Legally. And their adults were looked upon with respect and dignity.

Yup. It’s uncanny, how quickly torque vectoring dials off the acceleration, before you even get a remote sense of slip.

The i-MiEV I had for 2 years (rear-motor, rear-wheel drive) had outstanding traction control. We had a pretty good snow (for Texas) and the car was just fine in the snow with the traction control on. Turn the traction control off and it was a donut machine and was virtually undriveable.

Perhaps so. But hopefully it won’t have so many issues like this guy is having with X.

P’ing and moaning about a car you should have checked out completely before buying it is really chicken when you post your crybaby complaints on social media.

I don’t know I would have posted myself on social media just to tell the world how stupid I was not to fully check out a car before buying it.

Did you even see the video? Guy said he pointed them out when he picked up the car, and he was told “it’s normal”. When you go to pick up your Tesla 3, and it’s making creeking noises only to be told that “it’s normal, now pay up!”, how would you feel?

Yea Model X was kinda a bad thing for Tesla. But now they have it and they’re fixing it step by step. Elon admitted that he was stupid. But I agree with this guy. Of course you have kinda high expectation for that price even if it is anew company. Hopefully Tesla will fix his car completely so that he can be happy again.

Yes. Tesla’s cars, despite the $100K price, correspond to other makes $40K cars in some ways. This includes build quality.

I forget what those dimples are called in plastic moldings but they happen because there is a concentration of stiffening ribs behind the surface there. These cause the plastic to cool at different rates during molding and leads to those little depressions. They are difficult to avoid, but a car of this price should do so. Clearly Tesla doesn’t.

I expect if he sprayed armor all on a rag and then wiped down the areas near the hinge on his door it would fix the squeaks opening and closing.

Well, THAT was a waste of 10 minutes. I’ll save readers the trouble: guy complains about cosmetic fit and finish and squeaky door for 8 minutes, then brings cute baby to mall to fill the last two minutes.

Seat getting stuck and unable to use is not cosmetic fit and finish problem.

As for others, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to have your brand new $100K car rattling and squeaking. But for most people, new car of any cost having such awful finish would be unacceptable, and would simply walk away if told that those are “normal”.

AWD is a solution to a First World Problem. A nice option but completely unnecessary for 99% of the population. It does highlight another of the advantages of an EV though because it is about the only car that can be more efficient with AWD, which is why I would consider it if I can ever afford a Tesla

There is still some efficiency to be squeezed out of the RWD system. I think the advent of the “D” cars might have stalled it, but if RWD 3s are prevalent, we may see some nice advances.

Spoken like someone who probably doesn’t live in an area where it snows much.

As a Southern Californian I can relate but when I visit family in Oregon or Montana you realize how much of a benefit AWD can be. This winter we got stuck a couple times and just dropped it in to 4 high and got out.

If you spend enough time in snowy weather, you will not get stuck, according to the message. If you grow up by the beach, you lack the skills. Simple as that.
I’ve driven my RWD Model S through all kinds of snowy weather in maybe a dozen states now. Zero issues.

Come to Truckee, CA by Lake Tahoe. After a big snow storm, take your RWD Tesla and try to get up one of those windy/icy/steep neighborhood street and see if you have issues.

After that, you can feel free to go to Mt. Rose Hwy just over on the Nevada side and see if you can make it to the top where all the “rich people” lives..

The rich people don’t live at the top of that highway. They live near the base.

RWD with winter tires will climb the roads on those hills just fine.

“RWD with winter tires will climb the roads on those hills just fine.”

Someone who never lived in the area said so…

Assuming I’m unfamiliar with the area is presumptive. I’m familiar enough that I do know where the rich people live. Should I have suggested you don’t know the area because you didn’t know that?

Take a look at Incline Village and then take a look at the top of Mt. Rose. Then notice where the houses are and aren’t.

Most of the expensive houses are just before the big sharp bend on the Mt. Road Hwy. Near the bottom of the Incline Village are more condos, small to medium size houses. I have rented houses in the area many times.

If Mt. Rose Ski Resort is considered as “top of the hill”, then no, they aren’t at the top of the hill. That is national forest. But top of the hill is aimed at top of the residential area which is the top part of Incline Village.

No. RWD with snow tires wouldn’t be nearly as good as AWD with snow tires on those roads.

So you’re saying if top of the hill means top of the hill….

The top of Incline Village is not the top of Mt. Rose. It’s not even particularly close.

There are very rare conditions where a Tesla with AWD will let you climb a road that you can’t climb without it. It just doesn’t have any ground clearance. If the road is plowed (and isn’t all ice) then RWD with snows will get you there. If the road isn’t plowed or is all ice then your AWD Tesla better stay home too. You’re not going to get up that hill. It will help you get stuck quicker though.

California as the benchmark for snow performance. I love it!

Yes, in this case, Lake Tahoe region that are known to get 500 inches or more in snow.

Most people just think California as “sun and beach”. But don’t let that stereotype get too deep in your head…

Spoken like someone who expects to be able to live in an area with snow. Gasoline has really spoiled you. After the gasoline/oil era, people will need to live in areas that won’t require so much gasoline.

The Model S RWD has been lauded in winter conditions, so I would expect the 3 to be the same.

I want to know if there’s 6″ to 10″ of new snow on the road, will a RWD Tesla drive through it?

I’m not talking about after other people have made tire tracks, but brand new snow. And not the airy stuff, but heavier/wet snow.

Not many vehicles of any make can go through fresh 10 inches of heavy snow. How about comparing apples to apples. A sedan is not a hummer. A four wheel drive vehicle is not an AWD vehicle. Most dedicated four wheel vehicles can shift into low or high 4×4 but the AWD can’t.

I have a Subaru that does. But I also have a M3 on order.

I do it every year in my FWD cars in Michigan. When I’ve had RWD cars.. not so much.

No. And an AWD one won’t either.

If your axles or bottom of car drag/bottom on the snow your tire traction will not be enough to pull the car ahead. To go in deep snow/sand you need ground clearance most of all and no Tesla has enough to do what you ask.

My little AWD SUV has nearly 8 inches of ground clearance. I was once “high centered” in it when I drover over fresh now in a parking lot. Don’t know how deep it was.

I live in the PNW, and our snow is “heavier/wet”, too.

We used skis to remove snow from under my SUV as I didn’t have a shovel. Once we got the wheels on the road again, I had to back out.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Nah, I prefer the AWD.

I’ve driven in the mountains, in the snow, with AWD, 4 wheel drive (4×4), front wheel drive, and real wheel drive. The rear wheel drive vehicle had studded snow tires.

I definitely prefer AWD. However, a good set of snow tires is a must on any vehicle in the mountains (at least in the PNW).

Over the decades I’ve driven several vehicles of each type (RWD, FWD, 4WD, AWD) in the north. IMO – Snow tires help RWD, but AWD is superior in all weather conditions. If I rank them in order of weather handling, RWD is at the bottom. On top of which, RWD requires us to store a set of tires in our garage and have a shop swap tires twice a year. As he should, Musk is trying to sell the initial Model 3 offering. I prefer Tesla spend their energy accelerating time to market for AWD.

Car salesman maxim #1.

“Sell what you got.” (actually it’s sell what you have on the lot, but I slightly modified it)

If you don’t have it to sell then explain why that isn’t worth having anyway.

this is true, All of my cars have been RWD (Porsche 944S, Lexus LS430 & LS460) until i got my model X. the lexus traction control along with winter tires were incredible and out performed several awd cars. the only time i ever wished i had awd is when we had more than 6-8 inches on the ground…

“the lexus traction control along with winter tires were incredible and out performed several awd cars. the only time i ever wished i had awd is when we had more than 6-8 inches on the ground…”

Try go up in a hill at slow speed and then you can talk.

Yes, some of those AWD system fro cars like Highlander or CRV do suck.

Seattle is built on seven hills. While a storm can dump a foot of snow, it’s usually washed away in three days and the poor drivers and the steep hills make it smart to stay home and wait it out. Just like the first warm day of spring, no one expects anyone at work. I’ve owned 4 wheel drive and used it once a year. We are also only 50 miles from the mountains, so you see a lot of high clearance 4×4’s for that.

Whenever I see a snowstorm in Seattle, I invariably happen upon a RWD car (usually a BMW) in a ditch, or in a minor collision. RWD is just a bad idea when you have snow + hills. Sadly, it snows too rarely to run with winter tires, making AWD an attractive voice. Even with the weight of the X I’ve fishtailed it in the snow.

People who claims that RWD is just fine in snowy country probably only drives on relatively flat snowy area.

I don’t deny the importance of a good driving skill, attentive driver and good set of snow tires. But on snowy/icy windy roads that are steep, AWD/4WD are crucial in getting you up the hill for sure. Although I do agree that many “snowy” area probably don’t have those kind of terrain that would require those AWD/4WD vehicles. But that shouldn’t be used an argument to say that “AWD/4WD aren’t needed”.

I lived in Vail for 10 years and drove only RWD vehicles. In the winter, I used studded snow tires. I tried to avoid driving through snow that was deeper than the clearance of my vehicles. The snow there is typically not as wet and heavy as West Coast snow which helped. Never got stuck, never had an accident.

The secret was that one vehicle was mid-engine (Porsche 914-6) and the other was rear engine (VW bus). If you have enough weight over 2 driving wheels, it doesn’t matter on which end of the vehicle the driving wheels are. I prefer RWD and either rear- or mid-engine to FWD because with FWD, when the driving wheels lose traction, steering is also lost unlike with RWD where propulsion and steering are split between axles.

We have one model S with RWD and one madel S with AWD. Here in Sweden and driven for some years now. Difference is we small under normal winter conditions.

We will go for the RWD.

I feel that most people here who are against AWD are making the case that RWD+Snow tires are better than AWD+all season tires. Sure, that is obvious since at the end of the day, 2 tires with traction still beats 4 tires without traction anyday.

But will 2WD (FWD/RWD) with snow tires beat 4WD/AWD with snow tires in hill climbing and start up? Absolutely NOT!

It won’t help you slow down or braking, but it will help you keeping up momentum and potentially steering better when the tires are equal.

Comparing power train without taking tires into consideration is just dumb. Comparing power train with different tires are also dumb. Tires make the biggest difference, followed by the power train.

“Musk Says RWD Tesla Model 3 Surprisingly Good In Snow With Right Tires””

Once the AWD version comes out, Must will say this: “AWD Tesla Model 3 will be even better in the snow with Right Tires”.

Of course he will. The AWD one makes him more money.

This is about selling what he has available right now. When he has AWD he’ll tell you to get that one even if you live in Florida because he makes more money on it.

An AWD version with higher mileage but fewer options at the same cost as RWD should be sold. This will benefit those who do some offroading and prefer higher range.

No one who drives in snow frequently would get a RWD car. Yes we all know that a good driver with good snows can do OK but they have to be careful vs. someone who wants to go skiing when its blasting because its blasting. Even the AWD with the low ground clearance is an issue, nice to have the air suspension and the AWD.

Musk doesn’t say if the winter package is one of the limited number of options that will be available.

I’d guess that the current sales of Tesla’s are 90% AWD and that trend will continue with the Model 3

I think the AWD take rate will be lower for two reasons.

This car will be bought by more cost-conscious buyers. They’re less likely to splurge.

And this car will be more geared toward economy. So you won’t need to get the AWD version to get the higher geared front motor to get longer range. The AWD range increase will be smaller, zero or negative on this car.

As to idea that you “have to be careful vs. …” You ALWAYS have to be careful. AWD drivers think they don’t have to and that’s why they are first in the ditch in the bad weather.

But people currently “splurge” on AWD to a great extent and with Tesla’s to an every greater extent.

Add to it the fact that AWD on EV’s increases range and range is the single most important feature on EV’s.

I feel I explained myself well. The take rate for an expensive option will be lower on a cheaper car.

I also explained that AWD will not add range in the same way you have already seen on the S. I even explained why.

“The take rate for an expensive option will be lower on a cheaper car.”

Cars much cheaper than the $36,200 Model 3 sell with AWD, the entire all AWD Subaru’s for example whose most expensive models are priced at the Model 3’s base price.

The Model 3 with decent range, the 70kWh battery, and Autopilot activated is going to be going to be pushing $50K.

The Model 3 is high end car from a luxury brand which has a history of mostly AWD sales.

So evidence would seem to disagree with your view.

Yes. There are cheaper cars with available AWD. But no, that doesn’t mean the evidence is against me. Your opinion is against me.

The take rate could be 89% and it would *still* be lower on the Model 3. The take rate isn’t 89% on a 3 series. Or a Dodge Charger. etc.

It’s a cheaper car. There will be more people economizing. Especially since AWD shouldn’t have the same effect on range since the rear motor will be geared for efficiency too (except on a later “P” model).

You’re not even beginning to address this points! It seems you think you are, but you’re not.

It isn’t in dispute whether the Model 3 is less expensive than Model S and X. You don’t get to pretend they are the same. The fact that there are cheaper cars on the market is irrelevant. He never said it was cheap, and it is half the price of the S and X that you base your prediction on.

Nor did he say the take rate will be very low – just less than the 90% you think.

I’m happy to take your bet that by the end of 2018, 90% or more of Model 3s delivered will be AWD. Because I’m certain he’s right that it won’t be.

“He never said it was cheap, and it is half the price of the S and X that you base your prediction on.”

Exactly, a $50K car, an expensive luxury brand car, so people will want the AWD in that price/income demographic. Tesla has even acknowledged this by stating people can keep their reservation until the AWD is available.

Tesla looks at its current sales, ~90% AWD and sees similar pattern for the Model 3 and has acknowledged it.

So that’s the evidence, past sales, current Tesla sales policy and overall car market in the $50K AWD demographic.

They’ll be the “first on the block” folks who will take anything just to be first but the volume business will, based on past sales stats for Tesla and overall car market, be the Model 3 75D, Autopilot, SubZero, non-black for $52,000.

> higher geared front motor to get longer range

Since the electric motor is nearly as efficient over most of the RPM range it is extremely doubtful that slightly higher gearing will by itself have any significant impact on range. In any case it would be very silly to put the compact motor upfront in a RWD EV.

Electric motors are more efficient across wider ranges, but they still aren’t equally efficient across the entire range. If the motor spins faster that means more energy lost to centripetal force. There will be more energy lost to field reversals and transistor switching. So if you gear it lower you will increase efficiency (at cruising power levels).

If the Model 3 is going to try to beat the Bolt on range (and Musk says it is) with a similar sized battery (and it is implied that it will have one) then the rear engine will have to be more optimized for efficiency than a Model S is. So there is plenty of reason to think that adding the weight of a second motor, diff, half-shafts and inverter will not improve the efficiency to the same extent it does on the S.

I don’t understand your mention of putting the compact motor up front. What is that in reference to?

Well yes, all cars in the past were RWD and guess what we still got to the snow and Back.

My other car is ICE RWD and it is a joy to drive 🙂

Subaru made the marketing B.S. that AWD makes miracles occur around corners with the same 4 patches of rubber. But ask all the WRX rednecks who ended up in the ditch or the trees.

It may help in certain conditions providing you have above driving skills and are aware of the limits. For the average public they are lulled into a false sense of security that will undo itself at the worst possible time for them.

The AWD in Tesla’s help to get the power to the ground under maximum acceleration if you like to drive like that all the time … So Elon is correct.

I’m sure people will be up sold for the 0.001% that possibly an AWD on a III Tesla will come in handy!

I can’t help but be reminded of how every tightskull, small minded person before you have been speaking!

“Well, we all had horses before, and you know what, we got to where we were going! I had one that was a joy to ride!”

(One wonders how anyone could ever claim to NOT have gotten to wherever they went!)

AWD isn’t necessary, but neither was the car. It’s just better.

> We’ve yet to see a Model 3 being tested in the snow

Since we’ve yet to see an actual production Model 3 at all.

Elon: America’s most trusted source of honest car reviews. Forgive me if I get a second opinion.

Gee, this is the pre-D Model S spin all over again. Mae West is reputed to have said “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” Likewise, I’ve driven RWD and AWD Model S in snow. AWD is better. I admit RWD doesn’t suck in the slightest. But AWD is better.