2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged Alaska Road Trip: Winter Temps, Summer Tires
September 21, 2012
We'd read the weather reports and the archives of normal temperatures and figured, at worst, we'd see high 30s at night en route to Alaska.
High 30s, high 20s. What's the difference? To summer tires, a lot. It was somewhere a south of Beaver Creek, YT where the tires first started to give up. The temperature had dropped to something like 39 and, during a normal braking procedure for a turn, the ABS activated.
"This is going to be fun!" I said to Kurt. As the temperature dropped, the rubber's compound played less and less well with the pavement. Once again, something cool was happening and I was behind the wheel instead of Kurt. He's a faster driver, I've spent more time in winter/wet driving situations.
Things were going well enough until the sun fully set.
You already know from a previous blog that when the sun fully set, we were already going slower than we'd really like due to lack of visibility. Had we not already been doing 5 under, we may have been caught by the car's behavior when the mercury settled in below 35...and then below 30.
From that first whiff of ABS flutter at about 40-degrees until we pulled in for the night, the car got more and more playful as the temp dropped. At 35 degrees the Jag would understeer on fairly sharp corners. At 30 degrees, it was doing sweet four-wheel slides with just a slight poke at the accelerator. Thankfully the roads were dry.
Once again, though, we found ourselves going slower than the speed limit to continue driving safely. Getting all wild in the corners is great fun, having increased braking distances-- especially considering the lack of visibility we had -- is not. It wasn't as bad as driving on ice or on wet leaves, think more of a damp road with crappy tires.
So, we drove slower and pulled off sooner. Far worse things have happened on a road trip. On this trip we'd seen temperatures range from 118 in Death Valley to 29 in the Yukon Territory. This could be the first time I'd ever wanted all-season tires instead of dedicated summer and winter rubber.
Again we had to change our timing. Temps never fell below 45 in the daytime which is still in the normal operating zone for summer tires. We'd have to do all of our driving in the daylight.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor