Can I put snow tires on just the two rear wheels of my rear-wheel drive Lexus?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I drive a 1993 Lexus LS400. We live in the country and have a long, steep
driveway (the "driveway from hell" when there is snow and ice). And no, paving
it is not an option. My Lexus has rear-wheel drive, so I need some help figuring
out how to get home every night next winter, which I really enjoy doing! Should
I get snow tires for the rear only? My husband, who also likes to see me every
night, thinks I should get four studded snow tires. Do I need them? -- Claudette

TOM: It's really hard to know what you need, Claudette. You might need studded
snow tires, but here's what I'd try first.

RAY: Go out and buy four of the best snow tires you can get. You do want them on
the front wheels, too, because you want to be able to stop and turn the car, not
just accelerate on snow and ice. Good snow tires can make a big difference in
traction. Whether or not the difference is big enough, we don't know. It depends
on your car and your driving conditions.

TOM: If the normal snow tires aren't good enough, you can always have them
studded (at least in states where studded snow tires are still legal). The studs
are actually shot into the rubber of the tire with a little tool.

RAY: Be aware, though, that since you'll be essentially driving on metal, your
lovely Lexus will sound like a VW diesel Rabbit whenever there's no snow on the

TOM: If neither of those suggestions works, or if you're just so inclined,
another thing you can do is get a different car. An unpaved road covered with
snow and ice is tailor-made for a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

RAY: You probably love the cushy ride of the Lexus, but now even Lexus is making
an all-wheel-drive car. It's called the RX300, it's based on the same chassis as
the ES300/Camry sedan, and I'm sure it would get you up your driveway with no
problem. And it'd give you a nice, cushy seat for the rest of the year.

TOM: We haven't driven one yet, but Lexus has rarely disappointed us ... except
when we look at their price tags! The RX300 is expected to sell for between
$35,000 and $40,000 decked out. Expensive, but a lot less than a new LS400,
which will cost you $55,000-$60,000.

RAY: We have some other ideas, too, Claudette. Like the driveway rope tow and
the helicopter assist. And if those interest you, send a SASE and we'll write to
you privately.

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