Today our test driver Reinhold Deisenhofer is going to give us some tips on how to drive safely in the winter and in the mountains. More and more SUVs with all-wheel drive are on the road, including family-oriented station wagons like the Seat Leon Xperience. But Reinhold underscores that even all-wheel drive can't repeal the laws of physics. It's a big help when starting up on snow or ice; but braking is another matter.
If you're starting out on a slippery surface, Reinhold recommends putting the car in second gear to keep your wheels from spinning.
Second gear puts less torque on the driving wheels. And during your drive, too, shift up early, even if the engine struggles a bit. For the same reason: you don't want your wheels to spin.
High rpm's should be taboo with a cold engine, anyway. Just after starting, many moving parts are not optimally lubricated yet. And that means increased wear.
Our car tester says that if you drive lots of short distances, especially in winter, you should check your oil frequently. Because if the engine doesn't warm up properly, fuel and condensation water can mix in with the oil. And that reduces the oil's lubricating capacity, increasing wear.
Whether winter or summer: it's better to change your oil frequently than to risk damage to your engine. In snow or ice, use your brakes as seldom as possible. It's better to use the engine brake.
If the car has cruise control -- don't use it in such weather. Using the brakes shuts cruise control off, and that increases the danger of skidding.
If you're not confident about how you handle a car in winter, says Reinhold, just find an open space and test how your vehicle responds on ice or snow. Practice steering and braking and get a feel for controlling the car in these conditions. This is especially advisable if you've rented a car for a ski trip and are not yet on familiar terms with it.
In snow packed down by traffic, keep a close eye on where you drive. Hazardous sheets of ice can form under the snow.
If you do find yourself on ice, don't panic, says Reinhold. Don't jerk the steering wheel back and forth, don't brake suddenly. Just steer very gently to the right or left to give your tires a chance to grip the road again. In a car like the Seat Leon Xperience, your electronic assistants will help you.
Be especially careful at intersections. Braking cars have packed the surface and made it slick. So keep more distance from the vehicle in front of you and brake gently and early.
If you are driving with ABS, you'll have to floor the brakes and steer carefully.
Reinhold has one more tip. Getting up the hill is one thing; but you'll have to come back down. If your car starts sliding, the wheels are blocked. Ease up on the brakes: your automatic control systems don't function unless they recognize that the wheels are turning enough to move the car at 3 kilometers an hour. Only then can they help out.