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sorry for long post

Today I finally got to drive my Zephyr(FWD) in real snow about 5-7 inches of it. Below is my review of the car's ability to be driven in snow. I am a very hard critic in this subject. I am comparing the zephyr to the following: 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee LTD with Quadra-Drive( 4x4, ABS, 4 wheel sensor AWD), which was sold in 2005; and 2005 Saab 93 FWD sedan with all the tech goodies available(FWD, Winter tires, ABS, EBD, traction control, Stabilty control), which we still have. Also the saab is designed in scandanavia with ultimate winter utility in mind. It is an excellent winter car even better than many SUVs.

I know that tires are one of the most important aspects of winter driving. I already ranted about the stock michelin tires. see
So the zephyr is at a tire dis-advantage as these are the worst tires I ever drove in snow.

ground clearance
The zephyr is a little bit too low for heavy snow driving and can get easily stuck if one is not carefull like the Saab 93. With AWD it may be a little better but it will never match SUVs. with the Jeep's 9.5" of ground clearance (CD3 cars have 4-5"???) getting stuck is never an issue. Another issue is that going off road with any car in snow is a sure way ticket for AAA tow truck. with an SUV; it is never an issue even if it happens "4lo" will get you out of it. I personally like the low center of gravity of cars over SUVs b/c of handling ability and improved fuel economy. :D

cornering control
in this cataory it is win for the Saab b/c of stabilty control. The car is always in control and will never spin just understeer and computer will apply the brakes for you. Ford really needs to add stability control to our cars. the zephyr is a very close second though. the zephyr has almost ideal weight distrbution for snow (not 50/50 for autocross) since the center of gravity is near the driver. the car also easily recovers from spins due to plenty of weight over front- steering tires and excellent abs/ tcs system (I braked to slow down). I believe our cars have yaw control in breaking software to improve stability and it was obvious today. I can't judge the effect of AWD in this instance, but I am sure it can't hurt. The Jeep is acctually much worse than either car in cornering. the rear end will easily spin and cars abs/ computers have no idea what is going on. I remeber it recovered from a spins faster without braking and letting continue spinning. :shock:

Vechiles with AWD or 4x4 systems are always at an advantage here. compared to fwd cars. the Zephyr has an excellent traction control system. It allows little wheel spin to allow the drive to clean some slush to gain better traction. system works without you noticing except by a light on the dash. Even instances of way too much throttle system controls the situation same way as the european Saab system. with identical tires, I am sure zephyr will beat the Saab in acceleration due to more weight under tires.

The Jeep being the heaviest took longest distance to stop. again abs worked very well and adjusted very quickly to diffrent road conditions. The Saab with winter tires stoped faster than the old Jeep. for the zephyr, I couldn't realy do a good test b/c of the bad michelens. The abs system was working way to hard to stop the car. despite this the zephyr is still very drivable and controlable in braking due to great ABS system.

Hills / grade aceleration
obviously 4x4 system rules supreme here. the saab's winter tires help give it comfortable accleration. the cars computers are also top notch as well. the tires on zephyr made the car in traction control system mode :( . with better tires I expect it to tie the saab. With AWD the zephyr/mkz will probabily win this one out.

Hills / grade braking
My best advice for anyone driving in snow is to always use engine bracking down hills. believe it or not, the jeep sucked at this. guess 4x4 doesn't help in braking and extra weight hurt it. Another issue quadra-drive when engine braking switches to RWD. maybe on "4lo" it will do better but how can you do it when going down a hill after going 30 mph before. The saab again was again the best b/c of its manu-matic trans and winter tires. On the zephyr engine braking works very well in shifter "L" mode with better tires it will probabily match the Saab.

Overal the CD3 cars (fusion, milan, Zephyr/MKZ) with FWD handle winter conditions very well because of their excellent ABS-TCS computer systems. It is my opinion that with stabilty control & good tires these cars outdrive the best (FWD, RWD; just not AWD) cars in snow weather. FoMoCo really did their homework on exxcelent ABS-TCS systems. so if you live in a wintery area and thinking of buying either vechile; you will be very pleased with it wintery weather performance without michelins even without AWD & stability control. These cars are definately well above average in that regard compared to other vechiles in its class. I also think that AWD will help these cars in acceleration and reducing chance of being stuck. With AWD and stabilty program these cars will out drive even the best SUVs/ cars in wintery weather.

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Nice review. I have an awd fusion-its actually about a second slower than a normal fusion in the dry but any awd car will outdo a fwd or rwd car in the wet/snow. Love mine other than clearance its fantastic for winter driving. I agree stability control would be nice but I've had no trouble driving this winter while others spin tires my car just grips and goes! I've always liked michelin tires but I do see now that others don't so once these are worn out I'm going to try something else. I'd like to own some pirellis :D
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