If you’re thinking an Australian summer is exactly the wrong place to be testing AWD systems and the benefits of winter tyres on snow, you’d be exactly right. Most of the time an Australian winter wouldn’t even suffice but that’s a moot point thankfully. CarAdvice was recently able to attend just such a test session at the annual Mazda Ice Academy in stunning Crested Butte, Colorado. No inclement weather needed Down Under then.
One of the most popular ski resorts in the USA, there’s no shortage of snow and ice in and around Crested Butte. Snow started to fall as we walked out of the airport in nearby Gunnison and didn’t stop for just over 48 hours - in which time more than a metre of powder had accumulated. There was so much snow in fact, and such limited visibility that our test day was almost (somewhat ironically) cancelled.
We were scheduled to drive the new Mazda CX-9 and take a longer drive out of the test facility onto open roads to test some new Bridgestone winter tyres but the inclement weather nailed both those actives on the head. Instead we had to be content with putting the CX-5 to the test against a Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester over a variety of circuit activities. Oh and we got to hammer MX-5s around a slalom course, on ice, with the roof down…
Mazda is openly confident its AWD system is best in class, and it must be confident to let us loose with vehicles from the competition alongside. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re testing vehicles on the same courses back-to-back.
The first thing we learn when we hit the track is how effective a proper winter tyre is. Pretty much unused in Australia, the heavy snow and icy surface illustrate just how effective these purpose built tyres are in such conditions. Outside of serious off-roaders, you’ll rarely even see all-terrain tyres in Australia.