These are just a few of the words I've been using since Winnipeg was hit with about 10cm of snow, and a ton of freezing rain just prior to that. All that being said, while driving around in our five month old Jeep Compass North 4x4.
I've been driving for about thirteen years now. All the while I've driven front wheel drive (FWD) vehicles during the seasons. While my wife and I were searching for a new vehicle, I had made a strong point. I wanted AWD/4WD/4x4 for the winter. I was sick and tired of having that slight lack of control. I was tired of wanting to proceed from a red light, or a stop sign - only to sit there while the front tires spin helplessly on ice. I was tired of having no confidence that my FWD vehicle would not get stuck in a snow storm. With our new Jeep, I've gained this confidence, and then some.
One thing I have always done, was push the vehicle a little harder to see what it can handle. So on streets with no traffic, or in a large empty parking lot, I would stop, and then accelerate quickly (not flooring it, but more oomph than one would normally do in slippery conditions). I would repeat this in a straight line, and then into a turn. As I did this several times, my smile grew and grew.
When turning quickly into a corner, the 4x4 system can easily fish-tail since there's power to the back wheels as well (compared to FWD). But with the ESP, it has consecutively pulled the Jeep back into a straight line! Impressive! Also, if I happen to accelerate too hard for the icey conditions, the TC portion of ESP kicks in, and causes the wheels to stop spinning freely, and re-gain traction on the ice - thus giving me a far better take off.
When it comes to braking, the Jeep doesn't act any differently than any other vehicle out there with ABS. It's kicked in often already (as said, right now, there's a lot of streets that are pure ice w/ no sand on them yet) and has given me a good idea of braking distance. Also, with ours being a 5-speed manual transmission, downshifting helps considerably.
So from all this time of driving and owning FWD vehicles, I am pretty certain I will not be going back - so long as I live in a climate that holds long winters! I've gone from dredding a simple drive to a destination, to thinking, "Bring it on!"
I personally couldn't fathom going back to FWD. But, I also survived it for thirteen years. You still have good ground clearance compared to the average car, and if you have traction control, that will help too.
I have an '08 4WD Compass Sport and can say with no reservations that it handles better than any car I've ever owned in the snow. Before that, when I got my first FWD drive car, I was beyond impressed with how easy it was to drive with snow on the ground. Prior to that, I somehow managed to do OK with RWD drive cars w/no weight in the back and a giant engine in front.
Just to reminisce... I can remember how impressed I was when I drove my first FWD drive car in winter ('90 Plymouth Acclaim). I couldn't believe how easy it was to take corners, accelerate from a stop, or go up a hill vs. my previous car (a '78 Olds. Cutlass Supreme coupe).
Well, before the Compass...I drove a Mazda Protege for 13 years. This last winter in Iowa was so Brutal, it had to go. Problem was, the dealer had no 4 WDs at the time of my purchase and I fell for the Black Rallye Sport...