January is a time for setting (and sometimes forgetting) New Year’s resolutions. It’s also the time where the northern half of the country gets pummeled by snow, ice, and freezing rain, making commutes on roads and highways much more challenging. To hone our winter driving techniques, we journeyed to Crested Butte, Colorado, and met up with Maserati and its lineup of performance-oriented SUVs and sedans.
Much of the boutique luxury automaker’s lineup comes wearing summer tires, so it’s an unlikely partner for a two-day event on a frozen race course. That’s why Pirelli showed up with enough sets of Scorpion Winter and Sottozero 3 winter tires for the selection of all-wheel-drive Levante GTS SUVs and Ghibli sports sedans.
On dry pavement, Maserati’s all-wheel-drive system favors the rear, which gives the Maseratis a rear-wheel-drive feel. But on a curvy road course like the one we were on, with uneven snow and ice surfaces, the system works overtime shuttling power fore and aft to whichever tires are digging in.
That’s where the extra grip from the winter tires comes in. The Pirelli winter tires employ both arrow-shaped tread blocks and aggressive siping to increase traction in slippery conditions. After a few instructions from some pro racing drivers, we were tearing around the course at speed and doing our level best to hit apexes and avoid plowing into snowbanks.
Never ones to take ourselves too seriously, we were soon holding drifts through corners and powersliding across the start-finish line, much to the chagrin of our trainers, who were not so subtly suggesting “quicker” ways around the track. It’s honestly just more fun when you’re hooning, and the big horsepower, willing throttle response, and baritone exhaust sounds from the Maseratis only encouraged our shenanigans.
While holding four-wheel drifts won’t help us on our next wintry commute, the confidence we garnered from finding and driving at the slippery limit will. We’re fierce advocates of winter tires here at Car and Driver, and all of our long-term test vehicles get swapped over to them each year to tackle whatever Mother Nature can throw at us here in Michigan. We suggest all drivers north of the Mason-Dixon line do the same, because that extra bit of grip in the snow can mean the difference between making it to your destination or not.