Home » Would You Rather Have An AWD Subaru On All-Season Tires Or This Lifted Subaru BRZ On Snow Tires?

Would You Rather Have An AWD Subaru On All-Season Tires Or This Lifted Subaru BRZ On Snow Tires?

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This past week was April Fools Day, a 24-hour period in which companies break out their best material and get to work joshin’, goofin’, ribbin’, and all other forms of joking around. Some of it’s mildly chuck-worthy, some a massive eye-roll. Though, occasionally, some of it is actually a really good idea.

“This would ironically sell,” my buddy Nick said when he sent me this Instagram post by Subaru of New England: A lifted BRZ sporting all-wheel drive and done up in the company’s more off-road-centric Wilderness spec.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Well, somebody already made their own—sans all-wheel drive—and it’s exactly how you’d imagine it: Just begging to be drifted down a snowy road. Here’s why the owner did it, and why it’s such a categorically Good Idea.

lifted subaru brz
j_mosk on Reddit

Wyoming Livin’

Reddit user j_mosk is no stranger to less-than-ideal traction, in fact his former whips were a 2018 Volkswagen Golf R and 2006 Toyota 4Runner to deal with his home state of Wyoming’s deep snowfall. He wanted something fun, as well as to no longer have a car payment, so he sold them and got into the sprightly, rear-wheel drive Subie.

You’d think reducing drive wheels would reduce capability, but after some simple-yet-effective modifications, the opposite has proven true. “The BRZ is currently my only car and I ask a lot of it. This car is full of surprises and consistently exceeds expectations with whatever I throw at it,” he told me via Reddit.

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The build is pretty simple straightforward: Anderson Design and Fabrication 1.5″ Strut spacers with multi-link spacers so as not to upset the suspension’s geometry, then 16X7 Sparco Terra wheels, 205/60/16 Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 studded tires, RokBlokz mud flaps … and that’s about it besides an upgraded clutch spring and pulling the plug on the BRZ’s active sound. For non-deep-snow duty, he’s got a set of OEM 16-inch Subaru WRX wheels wrapped in 205/60/16 Falken Wildpeak ATs.

lifted subaru brz
j_mosk on Reddit

Then, to be more prepared out there, he packs 120 lbs worth of sand bags, a spare tire, MaxTrax Minis, a kinetic recovery rope with soft shackles, water, food, a high-visibility vest, and an assortment of tools.

“With the Nokians, it climbed Teton Pass with ease, during a blizzard, and with level 1 chain law in effect … the only thing that will stop it is deep snow.” he said of its capability. Not bad, not bad at all. Then, if he ever wants to return it to stock, it’s quite easy to do so.

lifted subaru brz
j_mosk on Reddit

Solidifying the Basics

It really says something when someone so accustomed to snow and off-road driving is continually impressed by a vehicle lacking all-or-four-wheel drive, lockers, advanced off-road traction control, and so on. It’s a testament to driver skill, as well as getting the basics down right: A little more ride height to clear obstacles, and the right tire compound for the task at hand. Being on the right quality tires makes such a difference, and I bet a lot of people don’t put as much focus on this concept as they ought to.

The BRZ does sport a limited-slip rear differential—good for both grip and drift—but it’s still quite cool that it’s proven to be so potent across the powder.

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It looks so incredibly fun to drive, too, in fact, j_mosk’s proven this on his YouTube channel and Instagram. For folks who are in the market for either a little rear-wheel drive sports car, or something a lil’ more stilted that can tackle tricky traction: Do both! 

Subaru should also consider something like this as an actual new trim addition that fits the bill, rear- or all-wheel drive. Not just an April Fools Joke. We bet it’d sell well, and will happily volunteer to wheel one all-day-long for review’s sake.

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Hatebobbarker
Hatebobbarker
3 months ago

This looks so fun to drive!

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
3 months ago

I’ve gone the deepest part of Winter here in MI with a set of Vredestein Wintrac Pros on my 986, stock with an open diff and no T/C, so far the hardest thing has been resisting the urge to go full Röhrl at every roundabout. Like j_mosk, I keep mini recovery tracks (albeit a generic brand) in the trunk, but forgo the sandbags as my engine is back there to weigh down the drive wheels. If my commute was longer and less urban, I’d certainly stock food and water. I’ve only used the tracks once, to dig a hapless Infiniti out of a ditch, but they worked quite nicely and doubled as good snow shovels in a pinch. I’m considering purchasing a folding shovel to keep year-round along with a fire extinguisher and trauma kit.

As far as comfort, the heated seats warm up quickly and the cabin is so small that, even with the fabric top, the heat coming through the firewall gets it decently warm before the thermostat even gets a chance to open up.

Next Winter, I hope to get some rugged floormats and a late-style ragtop with a defrosted glass window to replace my soft plastic one to complete the car’s Winter-worthiness.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
3 months ago

Absolutely the 86/BRZ. I had a first-gen FR-S on snows for the winter and drove through 18″ of fresh powder. I backed out of the driveway, then needed to rock back/forward once to get it going. It was plowing snow over the hood and windshield as I drove. I couldn’t have been happier.
Now, good AWD and snow tires makes a supercar in the winter, but not a more fun car in the winter.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

I am not at all surprised that this works excellently. I’ve been rocking 2wd trucks through Chicago winters for 20+ years. Keep good tires on them, and roll. A lifted BRZ on snows would be a freaking BLAST!

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
3 months ago

I’ve been saying if I ever bother to mod my BRZs suspension it’s going to be a lift or rally coilivers or the like to go for a safari type build. We get a touch of snow here but enough to justify it except as a fun thing to do, so may not ever get around to it.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
3 months ago

We rented an old Dodge Valiant to head to Mt. Bachelor for a day of xcountry skiing from the airport we flew into in a club plane. I was the driver as I could drive a stick, and you know since we got it from (seriously) Rent-A-Wreck, the tires were marginal at best. I bombed up the hill that was solidly packed snow passing several 4x4s and lifted trucks that has slid off the road. Found a place to park and had a great day skiing in the backcountry. Got back and snow had melted and left deep ruts where the tires of the vehicles that had made it as far as us. Heading down the hill I had to drive with only one side in the ruts otherwise we would high-center. Which we did a couple of times, freeing us by digging out with our skis. Finally I said this was the last time, once I got going, I wouldn’t stop. We passed more 4x4s and lifted trucks on the way back down. Great trip, the Valiant proved to be more valiant than a lot of trucks.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Few people know this, but pickups are inherently terrible for all offroading or low traction situations.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
3 months ago

Studded snows are pretty capable. I had a buddy who drove an E30 in Upstate NY with studded snows. No problem.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
3 months ago

Back when I lived in parts of the UK that regularly had 6” of snow I did my winter commuting in two cars fitted with snow tyres: an MX5 with a welded diff and a series 1 Lotus Elise

Both were excellent, loads of traction, loads of feel. Ground clearance was the only issue, I didn’t mind the Mazda grounding out, but you really don’t want to dent the aluminium floor on an Elise.

The only other issues with the Elise is that if the door buttons are iced up there is no way of keeping to door shut once you’ve opened it, and that the front mounted windscreen washer bottle wouldn’t thaw out if your mixture was wrong- too far from any engine heat (also true of MR2s, which were hilarious in the snow because I ran them on summer tyres).

05LGT
05LGT
3 months ago

Show me the law that I can’t put snows on AWD.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  05LGT

Wife had snows on her Outback. That thing was unstoppable.

Matthew Skwarczek
Matthew Skwarczek
3 months ago

This rules SO HARD and I want one

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
3 months ago

Yes! While pondering a move to Montana I imagined this as my winter beater!

Davey
Davey
3 months ago

There’s no substitute for real winter tires. Anyone who drives in real winter knows this.
In Ontario, “all” season tires are 3 season tires.

Patrick
Patrick
3 months ago
Reply to  Davey

Indeed; clearly the Canuck dark season isn’t part of “all seasons”. Winter tires are mandatory here in Quebec and it’s a no-brainer. Unfortunately, that means many maroons keep their winters year round..

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
3 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

I had a buddy who ran winter tires year round. But he lived in Leadville, CO, which is at 10000 feet altitude. There they have 2 seasons, winter and July. And it sometimes skips July.

Pedro Soto
Pedro Soto
3 months ago

Subaru of New England for April Fools posted that Subaru was making a BRZ Wilderness edition… and f*** me if they didn’t stumble on an absolutely glorious idea. This article makes me want one even more now!

https://opposite-lock.com/topic/96627/i-missed-this-april-1-post-brz-wilderness-edition

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

I got the Blizzaks for my GR86 in two sizes taller sidewalls, which gives me about 7/8″ extra ground clearance and the taller gearing evens out the lower mileage of winter blend fuel. The few times we’ve gotten snow, I’ve seemed to do better than AWD vehicles on some kind of (apparently) non-snow tires. Just the other day, I had a guy in a Pathfinder spin out in the passing lane in front of me when he panicked hitting a heavier patch of snow from someone changing lanes or something and he ended up in an elevated area of trees in the median. I was impressed he didn’t flip as he went perpendicular almost immediately at around 65 mph. Luckily, for him, snow-covered grass is slippery and I don’t know how he seemed to miss hitting any trees. Earlier, a Charger spun out doing what looked like a pretty normal lane change on the other side of the highway and ended up backwards in deeper snow alongside the breakdown lane. Don’t know if it was AWD or RWD, but he definitely didn’t have snow tires. That said, we get so little of it nowadays that I question bothering with winters anymore. I also changed the clutch spring—it’s a great and cheap mod. Anyway, I don’t like AWD, so my answer is obvious. This is my fourth “Subaru” and none of them have been AWD—the others were FWD and they drove much better than the AWD versions and with better mileage.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
3 months ago

I would love to know what mods, if any, this character made to his Golf R for mountain duty. We love our Golf R and are in the process of moving to Maine from Austin. We took the Golf on an epic Rocky Mountain road trip with a rooftop tent strapped on top a while back and bounced it all over some pretty rough forest service roads. Aside from bending all four fancy Konig wheels that were on the car when i bought it, the car acquitted itself pretty well, although we’ve been kind of daydreaming about a lifted Golf R ever since. Could be just the thing for backwoods Maine as well. I was always surprised there aren’t more rally style Golf R builds out there but i’ve never seen too much.

Stacks
Stacks
3 months ago

I’ve driven all winter in the high Rockies on both kinds. A 4WD (duh) Cherokee on good, new all-weathers, and a cheap old Saturn SL1 with Blizzaks. I’ll take the snow tires every time. It was night and day, no competition.

Stacks
Stacks
3 months ago
Reply to  Stacks

(I know that’s not a perfect comparison to the two Subarus in question– the SL1 was FWD and the XJ’s part time 4WD is expected to slip turning corners unlike modern AWD with traction control, but still my experience has made me a snow tire evangelist)

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Stacks

That surprises me, because my experience is that even on all seasons, a Cherokee is quite unstoppable in the snow. I honestly can’t imagine anything doing a whole lot better. But it was actually night and day?

Btw, 4wd is not a (duh) on Cherokees, they did make 2wd ones.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
3 months ago

i just finished up a Wisconsin winter in my gr86 on Blizzaks and it was no problem keeping up with typical suv’s etc in stop and go traffic. On the highway it was far superior to those top heavy turds, with amazing directional stability.

A car that handles well in the dry handles well in the snow, given the right tires.

Technosaur
Technosaur
3 months ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

Same here in Minnesota! Blizzaks on old WRX rims make the car a champ in the winter. I’ve driven my 2013 BRZ through 5-6 winters and it handles extremely well. Plus the safari look is great on 16s. I have not lifted mine but with the tire sizes it ends up riding about 0.5” higher than stock on 205/55R16. I agree with OP: this car consistently exceeds expectations. It is my forever car; it’s that good!

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago

Traction and snow performance are more complicated than good tires vs all seasons and AWD vs RWD vs FWD.

My 1995 f150 single cab long bed 2wd is extremely bad in the snow. I mean extremely bad, worse than anything else I’ve driven. It’s not tail happy or anything, in fact it understeers, but the issue is that the weight distribution is EXTREMELY front heavy. The heavy front wheels plow deep into snow and mud while the light rear wheels spin on top of the snow. I changed my extra cheap all seasons for some three peak rated all terrains in hope for improved snow performance and was very disappointed. I don’t think it’s improved even a little. Tire chains help considerably, but it can still easily spin the rear wheels and I could still get it stuck with chains if I tried something deep.

Basically, the best tires in the world can’t fully compensate for inherently poor weight distribution.

Compare to my 1995 XJ Cherokee, which is an absolute beast in the snow even before you put it in 4wd, and is on some really old all seasons(which don’t really feel different from the three peak all terrains on the other Cherokee). The weight distribution is massively more tail heavy, and massively superior.

My 1992 Honda Accord is also a beast in the snow, through the virtues of fairly good weight distribution and FWD. A FWD car pulls from the front while the rear wheels just coast along, not doing any steering or anything. This is much better than RWD, where the rear wheels push, and the front wheels just have to climb up and over stuff with no driving torque. The front wheels steering also encourages them to dig in deeper.

Basically, my experience is NOT that good winter tires are the most important thing. FWD/4WD and especially weight distribution are more important. The 4WD Jeep on crappy all seasons will go places the RWD f150 wouldn’t even with chains, aka the best possible snow tires.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rust Buckets
Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

This.

Anyone who has ever driven an old-school VW Beetle in the snow knows this first hand.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Fixing weight distribution in a pickup is easy- just throw a couple of hundred pounds into the bed and it makes all the difference.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago

I’ve done that, and it helps to add weight to the rear, but I literally have like 1000-1500lb more on the front axle than the rear. I can tell you from experience that 400-500lb in the bed makes a barely noticeable difference, you have to really really load it down to help.

But even when you load it down, you still have the inherent issues of a heavy front end and RWD.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

I plow with an F-250, but the bed is always empty so I throw a couple of old manhole covers into the bed. Ballances out that bigass steel blade hanging off the front.

Alan
Alan
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

My RC 2wd Tacoma felt like a hero during our ice storms when I ran studded tires. Even with nothing in the back, it got through to many places that SUVs w/ 4wd and all seasons could not.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
3 months ago

RWD car with proper snow tires will almost always be better than an AWD car with crappy all-seasons. A few years back my buddy in Oregon was telling me that the first snowfall of every winter would yield dozsens of Subarus that were crashing and being stuck on the side of the road, because their owners put way too much faith into AWD and not into good tires.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
3 months ago

The Topher did something similar as well. He raised his BRZ and more or less made an all weather/rally version. All of it is documented on his YouTube channel.

Anyway, I always get some flak for this take but I’ve long held on to the belief that all wheel drive is a ridiculously oversold feature. Before Midwest Gang gets here to tell me I DON’T KNOW REAL SNOW, I do acknowledge that if you’re in the Chicagoland area or something like that then yes, it has real benefits.

But the average Crosstrek et al type buyer would honestly be just fine with front or rear wheel drive. Two wheel drive cars are also much lighter and less complicated, which has benefits as well. Also…can someone explain the Toyobaru worship to me? If car internet is to be believed these are essentially some of the greatest cars in human history.

I’m legitimately apprehensive to drive one because I just feel like they’ve been canonized so much that I’ll inevitably be disappointed. I don’t know if I can think of a car that’s received such overwhelming and universal praise.

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
3 months ago

As a member of the Midwest gang, I completely agree with you that awd is a bit overhyped. I’ve lived in rural Minnesota my whole life and two wheel drive is perfectly fine in all but the deepest snow. Having a good set of tires and understanding of how to drive in the white stuff makes all the difference.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
3 months ago
Reply to  Marc Fuhrman

There are those situations where 2WD is fine and those where you NEED 4WD Low. Very rarely are there situations where AWD is more than a slight benefit.

I’m from MN as well(now live in CA) and was always quite happy with FWD and a set of Michelin X-ice. If snow is past the bumper you’re pretty much SOL anyway and need the Jeep or Truck.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago

That is not my experience at ALL, I have bombed a Subaru through some hilariously deep stuff, plowing the bumper, that a fwd car could never have done.

What kind of AWD system was it? Subaru and Audi AWD are literally AWD, as in power to all wheels all the time and 100% power to either the front or rear as needed. It is a huge benefit compared to fwd.

Most other “Awd” systems, like Honda, Toyota, and almost any crossover, are objectively not full time AWD: they send power to only the front wheels 99% of the time and are very limited(10-20%) on how much power they can send to the rear. This crappy system advertised as AWD is not much better than fwd.

Last edited 3 months ago by Rust Buckets
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Marc Fuhrman

The understanding of how to drive in it is key. AWD and all the traction control features give people an inflated sense of how much grip they have imo. They work great if the driver keeps their speed down to match conditions, but I’ve known several people who ended up in ditches because their awd accelerated quite well in the snow which led them to believe they had more braking or cornering traction than was the case

MtnCamantalope
MtnCamantalope
3 months ago

I bought a 2017 after cross shopping against a 370z and a Miata. It is easily as fun to drive as the Miata but with the ability to put things in it. And it was $27k out the door. It’s not the best sports car you can buy, but it is close to the best for the money. It feels like when we enthusiasts complain that they don’t make em like they used to we’re imagining they used to make them like this.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

As a GR86 owner and someone who puts little value in numbers, but a ton in feel when evaluating a car as a driver, I think it’s that it’s being compared to modern cars which are absolute shit to drive. It’s a sports car that has a more vintage feel without vintage concerns, has minimal stupid nannies (though they changed it this year and even the manuals have that wuss crap now), actual buttons for anything you’d use while driving, and still works as a daily driver for people who have to carry stuff and want to lean the seat back a few degrees, unlike the Miata. If I blindfolded people and put them in my dearly departed mk1 Legacy with an aftermarket steering wheel so they couldn’t see they were driving an ancient wagon, the sense of mechanical connection and the steering, clutch, and throttle feel as well as the latter’s response would blow those people TF away. The GR does have the same great chassis communication and a bit of the attitude, though, and that still makes it better than most. The GR reminds me more of what my S30 Zs would be today if Nissan didn’t go bloated cruiser.

AWD is definitely overhyped and I don’t like the feel of it, either. My FWD Subarus with decent tires were nearly (though not completely) indistinguishable in performance from the AWD versions back when we used to actually get snow and better in any other weather with the modest power of the day not having any need for AWD for dry weather traction. Stopped buying them partly because they went standard AWD.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
3 months ago

The right tires make all the difference in the world regardless of quantity of driven wheels. That said, I am still sold on AWD. In an Audi where they put the whole damn engine in front of the wheels, added weight vs RWD is pretty much negligible and you can’t deny having all four wheels driven isn’t beneficial in many scenarios. Much like Porsche and the 911 and it’s engine hanging out the back leading to oversteer, Audi has figured out how to make a car handle with the engine in a less than ideal spot. Neck snapping launches (on all seasons!) at the track are the bees knees.

R53forfun
R53forfun
3 months ago

That BRZ looks awesome. Yes please. I’ve driven them on ice with studded snow tires and they were a hoot. 10/10 did hoon.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
3 months ago

I would do something like this if my dog could fit in the back seats of the BRZ (German Shepard). I may live in Ohio but a rally-fied BRZ is exactly what I need on the terrible roads here

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