Winter conditions are a fact of life for many of us. And that’s why understanding the Tesla in snow performance is crucial. As someone who’s driven many winters in Tesla cars, I have the real-world experience to share what it’s like.
In this easy-to-follow guide, we’ll review the advantages and challenges of driving a Tesla in snow.
Is Tesla Okay in the Snow?
Tesla models can perform well in the snow, especially when they have all-wheel drive. The electric motors offer excellent torque control. All models have anti-lock brakes. And the low-centered weight of the battery packs helps maintain traction.
As with any vehicle, a set of winter tires helps. They use a more malleable rubber compound that provides better traction. But even with all-season tires, Tesla cars drive well in snow.
One challenge of any electric vehicle in the snow is the batteries. The cold temperatures can cause reduced performance and range. But Tesla cars have a ‘Preconditioning’ setting. This warms up the battery before driving to prevent these issues.
Compared All Tesla Cars to Other Cars in the Snow
When comparing Tesla’s performance in snow to other cars, they are very competitive. Many Tesla models come with all-wheel drive, and every Tesla has excellent traction control and heavy battery packs. They also have excellent weight distribution.
For driving in snow, loss of traction is one of the biggest concerns. Slick roads can be a disaster for some cars. But Tesla cars have many features that help maintain traction, even on ice, such as:
- Excellent torque vectoring power distribution
- Anti-lock brakes to prevent locking up
- All-wheel drive capability
These three Tesla features help maintain traction on any road. It’s common for modern vehicles to have anti-lock brakes. All-wheel drive is a more limited feature. It is available on many SUVs, but it is usually a premium option for luxury sedans.
Torque vectoring is another premium option that’s not always available. But when it comes to click conditions, it’s crucial. Without it, when one tire loses traction, the car will send most of the engine power to that wheel. And the vehicle can easily get stuck.
The weight is a big difference between combustion vehicles and electric vehicles. Battery packs are heavier than an engine, even with a full fuel tank. Tesla vehicles typically weigh around 500 lbs (~225 kg) more than similarly-sized combustion vehicles.
Here are two sample comparisons showing how two Tesla models with AWD compare against competitors:
|Model S LR
|4,727 lbs (2,144 kg)
|5-Series M550i XDrive
|4,275 lbs (1,939 kg)
|Model Y LR
|4,555 lbs (2,066 kg)
|Edge SE AWD
|4,126 lbs (1,872 kg)
While this does create some issues like extra tire wear, the extra weight can be quite helpful in snow. It provides more downforce onto each tire. Some people put sandbags in the bed of pickup trucks to help with snow driving. Tesla battery packs do the same thing, but 100% of the time.
The extra weight can be problematic during braking and tight turns. This is why anti-lock brakes and cautious driving are always wise in cold weather. Even in the best vehicles, these maneuvers are risky while driving in snow.
The balance of weight has a major impact on the performance of any car. But it can be especially important when driving on snow and ice. It is best if all four wheels have a lot of weight resting on them so they all have traction. This can be a problem with some vehicles where the engine puts most of the weight in the front.
The Tesla battery packs placed underneath the vehicle span most of its length. This helps provide an even weight balance and adequate pressure on each tire. Which gives you an excellent snowy driving experience.
Other electric vehicles usually offer this same ideal distribution. Cars with combustion engines will have the majority of their weight on the front axle. This is usually around 60% front and 40% rear. Some combustion vehicles can achieve a better weight distribution closer to 50/50, but this is generally only in luxury vehicles or ones with a mid-engine design.
|Model S LR
|Model 3 LR
|e – C4
Driving in snow means getting over the snow and ice that stacks up on the roads. Even after a snow plow comes through to clear the roads, there are still piles that you have to turn through. Ground clearance is a must. It prevents snow accumulation underneath the car, reducing the risk of getting stuck.
Most Tesla models have a decent level of ground clearance, with Model X having the best. Here are the measurements for Tesla and others:
|4.6 inches (11.7 cm)
|5.5 inches (14 cm)
|6.6 inches (16.8 cm)
|8.1 inches (20.6 cm)
|8.7 inches (22.1 cm)
|8.3 inches (22.1 cm)
|8.2 inches (20.8 cm)
|6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
|6.7 inches (17 cm)
|6.1 inches (15.5 cm)
|7.1 inches (18.0 cm)
|5.7 inches (14.5 cm)
The adjustable clearance in Model X can be particularly useful in deep snow. Lower clearance, like in Model S, may be insufficient in heavy snowfall. Selecting the right model can impact your Tesla’s snow performance.
Compared to other similar vehicles, Tesla vehicles usually have nearly the same ground clearance. Sometimes Tesla can be a little lower due to the battery pack. The BMW 5 Series has 5 inches, compared to the Model S’s 4.6 inches. And the Ford Edge is at 8 inches of ground clearance, nearly identical to the Model X at 8.1 inches.
Tire grip is crucial for any vehicle in snow, and Tesla is no exception. Selecting the right winter tires can transform the driving experience. Most vehicles come with all-season tires, including Tesla models.
To achieve superior traction in cold or snowy weather, get winter tires for your Tesla. These tires use softer rubber that allows for excellent traction in the cold. Other tires, even ones with adequate tread design, can get rock hard in cold weather. This reduces grip.
This comparison holds across vehicles from nearly every brand. Most come with all-season tires that will perform decently in winter conditions. But for exceptional grip, you’ll need to buy your own set of winter tires and have them mounted.
Is 4WD or AWD Better in Snow?
Both four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) can perform well in snow. The main difference is that AWD is usually engaged at all times. AWD can also transfer power between axles. 4WD requires the driver to change a setting to engage the second axle. And it may have more limited capabilities to transfer power.
Tesla models with AWD can perform as well as 4WD vehicles. Best of all, the driver doesn’t have to make any changes to settings. The car always monitors each wheel. If traction loss happens, the Tesla will adjust power.
4WD vehicles can be better in some conditions. Especially if they have locking differentials and four-wheel low. These are rare cases like extreme off-road trails or when towing another vehicle.
But these functions aren’t often used in routine snow driving. As a result, the Tesla AWD system is usually more than adequate.
In 2023 versions of the Model S, AWD is standard. AWD is an optional upgrade on Model 3, standard in Model X, and available in higher-end Model Y variants.
Which Tesla Model is Best for Snow?
Among Tesla’s models, Model X is the best for snow. It has AWD as standard equipment and comes with the highest ground clearance. But any Tesla with AWD will drive well in snow, especially when ground clearance isn’t a major need.
The two-wheel drive Tesla models will be the most challenging to drive in snow. These include some older Model S cars, certain Model 3 cars, and certain Model Y cars.
They still have a torque vectoring system to help provide power to wheels with traction. And they all have anti-lock brakes and good weight distribution. But they’re rear-wheel drive vehicles, which makes it difficult to maintain traction.
Driving a Tesla in the snow is generally a positive experience. They have great traction, excellent weight balance, and adequate ground clearance. Each model offers different advantages. But the Model X stands out as particularly good in snow.
It’s important to be ready for anything with your Tesla. Head over to our article about Tesla Winter Easy Tips and Tricks for driving in winter.