Driving in a Blizzard - 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Long-Term Road Test
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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Long-Term Road Test

2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray: Driving in a Blizzard

January 24, 2014

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

I called 911. I didn't know what else to do.

The nice man that answered my call said, "911, what is your emergency?" I said I was sorry to bother him, but my car is stuck in the snow and I'm essentially blocking Interstate 70 eastbound somewhere between Vail and Frisco.

He said, "OK, sir. You did the right thing calling us. We'll send out a tow truck as quickly as we can. Please stay in your vehicle. What color is your car?"

"Green," I said.

"And what kind of car is it?"

I paused. I didn't want to tell him. I knew he would think I'm an idiot for driving a Corvette through Colorado in January during a blizzard. "A Chevy," I said.

"What kind of Chevy, sir?"

I paused again. "A Corvette."

And with a snicker he said, "OK, sir. We'll be there as soon as we can."

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

From Santa Monica to Grand Junction, CO the trip was dry and drama free. I knew there was some weather ahead, but honestly I wasn't worried about it. I was overconfident. We had fitted the Corvette, which is rear-wheel drive and packs 460 horsepower, with Pirelli winter tires, and I had successfully driven our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster from Santa Monica to South Dakota and back last February without any issue.

Then the snow started. It was no big deal at first. The Corvette's tires and sophisticated traction and stability control systems were working as designed. With the car in "W" or Weather mode, which slows throttle response, traction was not an issue. As long as I could still see some blacktop, 60 mph was still drama free.

Then I began to climb the mountains. And as the elevation rose, the amount of snow falling increased. And then traffic stopped for the first time. A lane was closed ahead and they were forcing us to merge. Suddenly, I found myself in stop-and-go traffic in a blizzard while driving uphill at 5,000-ft. elevation. This wasn't good.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Everyone else was driving something with all- or four-wheel drive, and now I knew why. Every time I would need to inch the car forward I was testing the limits of the tire's and the Stingray's ability in these conditions. The incline of the road was becoming a real issue. Getting the car to move from a dead stop was getting harder and harder.

And now it was getting dark.

By the time I reached Vail I was concerned. I wanted to stop but getting off the interstate and onto the unplowed service roads where the snow was certainly deeper seemed like a bad idea. So I kept going, inching the Corvette through what was now a blizzard. I felt like I was on the set of The Shining .

Thirteen miles later traffic stopped and stayed stopped. We sat there motionless for 20 minutes as an accident was cleared from the road up ahead. I called my wife. She could hear the worry in my voice.

I asked her to make me a reservation at a hotel in Frisco 13 miles down the road. "Any room will do," I said in a mild panic. "Just make sure the hotel is close to the interstate."

During the call traffic began to move, but the Corvette was snowed in. For the first time it wouldn't budge. There was just no traction. The car's stability system was keeping the tires from spinning but it was also shutting off its big V8 engine in an attempt to cut power to the tires. The 18-wheeler behind me was not amused.

"I'm stuck," I yelled into the Bluetooth.

I tried everything. Traction control on. Traction control off. Weather mode. Touring mode. I tried to spin the tires. I tried to rock the car back and forth. Nothing worked. I was stuck. And I was blocking the number two lane.

Out of consideration for my fellow motorists I rolled backward (downhill) onto what little shoulder I could find just to get out of everyone's way. I knew that meant putting the Corvette's tires into even deeper snow and making my situation even worse, but I didn't have much of a choice.

It worked. I was out of the way. And two lanes of continuous traffic rumbled by the driver-side mirror of the Stingray.

"You have a room booked at the Holiday Inn in Frisco," my wife said, "if you can make it there."

"Thanks," I said. "Now what?"

"Call 911."

I hung up with my wife and tried again to get the car moving. It was no use. So I made that 911 call.

And then I sat there testing the Corvette's seat heaters as I watched the snow fall and the traffic go by. Traffic that was now limited to the far left lane and included the occasional plow. I started to think that if I could get over to the left lane I could get going.

Twenty minutes later, just as my survival instinct was kicking in with an odd desire to eat my left foot, I could see a break in the traffic.

For the first time there were no headlights in my rearview mirror. I rolled backward down the hill again, this time maybe 100 ft. and maneuvered the car over into the left lane. For the record, I have never reversed down an interstate highway before and I don't plan on doing it again.

I put the car back in Weather Mode, made sure its traction control system was on, put it in first gear and crossed my fingers. There was just enough traction to get the car moving. Five mph. Ten mph. Fifteen mph. Yes. It's working. Second gear. 20 mph. 30. Third gear. 40.

It worked. I was free.

I called 911 and told them I had busted out. No tow truck needed. And I made it to the Holiday Inn which was packed with other travelers that had also decided to wait out the storm.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The next day I awoke to blue skies and I didn't hit a touch of rain or snow the rest of the trip to Detroit.

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

But I did learn something. Two things really. First, I learned that even modern electronics and winter tires have their limitations. And I learned why Subarus are so popular in Colorado.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief


Comments

  • diondi diondi Posts:

    Surprised you didn't try Onstar instead of 911 - they might've been faster?

  • yellowbal yellowbal Posts:

    Winter tires are awesome but the rear tires are way too wide to be able to bite into deep snow. You're running 295s in the rear right?

  • How did u get the photos of the car in the road? Was someone with u or did u just quickly get out and take a snap?

  • I agree with diondi, you should have called Onstar not 911. And GM and Porsche are the only two companies I know who design and test their ultra high performance cars to operate in all types of conditions. Desert heat, snow and ice and heavy rain. Also starting in 2nd gear would be better in slippery conditions.

  • Nice story-telling, Scott!

  • explorerx4 explorerx4 Posts:

    The traffic cleared because someone behind you crashed, blocking the lanes. I hope you at least topped off the tank before heading into the snow.

  • blueprint1 blueprint1 Posts:

    Geez, a Californian just experienced a Canadian commute!

  • bassrockerx bassrockerx Posts:

    interesting how you guys made it in the jaguar to alaska on all seasons and the sls to dakota with no troubles and the corvette had all these issues. I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say that the perelli winter tires are not up to snuff or could have used studs or chains in this situation. also the width of the tires was probably against you in this situation because the contact patch was too wide to dent in the snow and give you enough contact with the pavement. Would it be too much to ask for you guys to refer to the owner's manual and see what the recomended snow tire size is and see if you guys are within spec? side-note that bmw 6 series convertable in the 3rd pic. you have to love his dedication if that doesent say car enthusiest idk what does.

  • jeepsrt jeepsrt Posts:

    @bassrockerz, that's an Audi TT not a 6 series. This reminds me when I was in High School with my now Wife, we were driving home from Denver after going to the auto show in my Mitsubishi Starion with summer tires and got stuck in a snow storm. With the ro

  • willin58_ willin58_ Posts:

    Did you try starting in 2nd or 3rd?

  • vvk vvk Posts:

    Great story. I am so glad you lived to tell it.

  • Haha!!!!!!! Best story yet!!!!! Remember, on snow, slow on the throttle and clutch as well as slow onto the brakes. No sudden steering inputs and never brake and steer together. Brake early (as in REALLY early) and stay calm. People can wait, if they get mad, big deal because you never have to see them again. :) Happy travels!!!

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    man, if there ever was an oh SHLt moment that was one for certain. I guess there are limits to the winter tires--but still, if it weren't for the hill I think you would have been just fine. Glad you made it!

  • carchatter1 carchatter1 Posts:

    In Buffalo it's common to not only throw on the studded winter tires but also throw 5 bags of sand into the back of your rear wheel drive car or pick up truck. That bit of extra weight over the driven wheels would have given you enough traction to get going. Granted this isn't good for handling or mpg, but then again those are terrible anyways in the cold and snow. Been there done that with an RX-7.

  • handbrake handbrake Posts:

    What? A Corvette isn’t a great blizzard car? Why, this must mean that the internal combustion engine is not ready for prime time and the Corvette is a failure.* *just had to use the Tesla haters’ logic on this one.

  • toddm52789 toddm52789 Posts:

    Well, a road trip is all about adventure! Awesome story! Stories like that, are what make a road trip, a true road trip.

  • autoboy16 autoboy16 Posts:

    What about Onstar?

  • trmckin trmckin Posts:

    Sorry but living in Colorado, I see idiots in the same situation on a regular basis. It makes the roads unsafe for everyone around you and not to mention the traffic it causes due to their inability to go up a hill from a stop. It's no mystery that vettes or any other rear wheel drive muscle car is terrible in the snow. Know I sound like a grumpy old man but it causes weekly headaches and adds hours to my commutes when people do this crap. But hey, just further confirmation this isn't a great winter vehicle... Smh... In other news, a F-350 isn't easy to park in a compact car parking space.

  • mieden mieden Posts:

    @trmckin, sounds to me like you're not embracing all there is to enjoy about your Colorado life...

  • trmckin trmckin Posts:

    I'd enjoy it more if people wouldn't drive like idiots. Doesn't matter where you are. Traffic blows. I teach special needs children how to ski so I spend a lot of time stuck on I-70 this time of year for this very reason. As for the "recreational" greenery, I am subject to Texas law as my employer is based in Houston. So... Crack jokes, do whatever. Doesn't change the fact this is a dangerous and stupid experiment with a vette.

  • jmaroun jmaroun Posts:

    Love this story. Glad it turned out so positive and safe! Wonder if you would have gotten stuck in a GTR, or a 911 Turbo? Probably not.

  • 335abuser 335abuser Posts:

    I guess a shovel and a bag of sand was forgotten? Trust me I know how you feel... I moved back to my native Finland 3 years a go and bought an M3 the first winter that was running on mid-european studless winter tires (we use full Nordic spec winter rubber, studded or non studded which is of a whole different rubber compound and much much better than the rest of the world.) Anyway, the M3 was a handful and I could barely go take the car out for lunch because of the 5 ft of snow... So a shovel and a bag of sand did the trick ;)

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    Scott didn't see that car insurance commercial where they recommend bringing kitty litter with you to gain traction when you are stuck in snow. meoooowww.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    Great story! I was in a similar situation once upon a time. My first brand-new car after college was a Mustang; it was also my first rear-wheel drive car. Being young and inexperienced, I didn't realize the car came with summer tires. Miraculously I made it through one Chicago winter, but the second winter was too much. I was caught on a hill in a pre-Thanksgiving snowfall, sliding left, sliding right, irritating the people behind me... Finally I was able to get a litte traction, keep it idling forward until the light at the top of the hill turned green. Needless to say, a new set of tires was in my future.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    "I know that feel bro". Luckily you weren't in Michigan before or after the autoshow, as the snow was piled up thick enough to cause all but the highest riding AWD cars to get stuck. Probably the worst winter here in a looong time. I worked from home those days.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    trmckin said: "Crack jokes, do whatever. Doesn't change the fact this is a dangerous and stupid experiment with a vette." I would agree if they were basing the car out of Denver. But this wasn't an experiment in driving a sports car in the Colorado mountains on a daily basis. It is unreasonable to expect out of town drivers just passing through to drive a vehicle that fits local weather conditions. As it is Edmunds did fit proper winter tires, which is probably far more forsight on their part than the typical road tripper would have used.

  • trmckin trmckin Posts:

    @ banker.. It's not an experiment? Really? They do this with lots of cars and write about it. It's a blog, experiment, long term test, whatever.. It's semantics but long story short, it is in fact a test. As for expecting out of town drivers being saf

  • dtmh dtmh Posts:

    I hope one day edmunds will be able to test small "SUVS" with awd in these conditions. Most articles that I've read about them always say of course you wouldn't want to take off-road or in heavy snow without ever testing it. Assumptions shouldn't be in a review, only tested facts. It's hard to make a decision on vehicle without all facts. I've seen one review on another website where it was tested, only to be told that they were using regular tires, not winter tires. We come to places like this so we can be informed of all aspects of car not just mpg, horsepower, etc... Thanks and sorry for the rant!

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    They were told way in advance that this was not the car for the trip. And it also reveals the idiocy of putting larger-than-OEM-size winter tires on the OEM wheels of a high-performance car, rather than minus-one-size tires on minus-one-size wheels. Yes, these 295-section winter tires are 10mm WIDER than the stock rear tires. Sez Edmunds, when mounting them: "We don't necessarily like going up by 10mm in the rear for winter driving, but for this road trip they'll work just fine." Yah. Just fine.

  • csubowtie csubowtie Posts:

    A few sandbags in the trunk would have helped quite a bit, especially in such a light car with such wide tires. Take it from someone who grew up in CO riding around in Mustangs and Camaros.

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