Why Snow+Toyota+Hill=Going Nowhere

One thing I’ll never understand is why Toyota now insists on building cars with traction control systems that cannot be deactivated. The person who gave final approval to such a system should be banished from working in the auto industry ever again…or at least be forced to drive one such Toyota in the mountains for a year.

Whether it’s the Four Wheel Drift’s own ’06 Avalon (with integrated Vehicle Stability Program) or the Prius owned by one of our technical contributors, all it takes is a small hill and a bit of snow to stop one of these Toyotas cold. In any other car one can simply deactivate the traction control and use momentum and some spinning tires to crest a snowy hill. In Toyota-ville, however, the fuel is cut-off the moment the wheels start spinning, which means momentum is killed.

It’s a sad day when my wife’s 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue – a car designed and built on a dead-company-walking budget, has an easier time ascending the hills covered by the Pacific Northwest’s record snowfall than the much newer Avalon. To up the ante, the Intrigue rides on four-year-old chewed-up Z-rated Continentals, while the Avalon has brand new all-season Michelin Pilots (which on small grades and flat ground actually cuts through the deep powder snow like Stevie Nicks circa 1979.)

I’d love to hear the reasoning from the Toyota PR machine for this terrible design flaw, and indeed I’ll be contacting the Media Relations guys after the holidays to get the official response. (I can see it now – something about “safety”, even though we all know the real answer is “we found a way to cut costs and/or increase the fuel mpg rating on the window sticker by leaving the traction control deactivation button out.”)

Given Toyota’s recent transmission issues (and its botched response to these issues), it’s alarming to see how the Japanese giant is beginning to act so much like one of the American Big Three. A couple more decades of poor design decisions like not allowing people to deactivate traction control for snow and maybe Toyota will be in line for a little bailout money of its own!


3 Responses to Why Snow+Toyota+Hill=Going Nowhere

  1. amigaboy says:

    one phrase for you sam: ’87 VW Vanagon Syncro. 🙂


  2. I have a prius. Wen is recently snowed in Seattle I put chains on it and totally experienced what you are describing here. I don’t understand why there is no cut off switch for the traction control. That being said I nver got stuck anywhere. You just have to drive super slow and hope neither wheel spins.

  3. itnerd says:

    I have a ’09 Matrix AWD and it has a switch to kill the nannies. One press of the button disables just the traction control program to allow for rocking a stuck vehicle free. The system re-activates once the vehicle reaches about 25 MPH. If you press and hold the button for about five seconds, though, and both stability and traction programs go to sleep. Then you can really go nuts with the car. 🙂

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