The unforgiving cold in northern Finland can put every car and its driver to the ultimate test. Here, in this remote area beyond the Arctic Circle, is where ŠKODA chose to test out its all-wheel-drive models. Hans-Joachim Stuck, multiple winner of the Le Mans and Nürburgring races and former Formula One driver, took part in the tests. An extremely experienced driver, well-known promoter of all-wheel drive, and ŠKODA KAROQ owner all in one person.

He also took the opportunity to share several valuable lessons gained from driving modern ŠKODA SUVs in a challenging winter terrain. “If you know your car’s limits and possibilities, you can enjoy your ŠKODA 4×4 to the fullest,” explains Stuck.

Hans-Joachim Stuck

racing driver

7 tips for driving in snowy terrain

1. Don’t stop if it’s not NECESSARY
Fluid motion is the basis for trouble-free driving in winter terrain. The car’s inertia and its momentum will keep it moving over most types of terrain. On the contrary, every time the car stops it runs the risk of not getting it moving again. This doesn’t mean, of course, that every stop is pointless. It’s definitely safer to stop on a straight stretch and go check out the difficult passage ahead than to be forced to stop in the middle of a steep hill.


2. Not too slow, not too fast
When you’re off the paved roads, it’s generally advisable to ride slowly and with forethought, but not too slow. A faster speed and sufficient power on all wheels means a better ability to break through deep snow and overcome rough terrain. If the car has troubles overcoming an obstacle, make sure that the car’s clearance is high enough to cross over it. If so, try it again with a longer start and at a higher speed. A stronger entrance will often help.


3. Keep the wheels turning
When the front wheels are locked or sliding coming down a steep hill, the car is very difficult to handle; it’s being pushed forward only by its own weight. When this happens, look for better traction outside of the traveled tracks and try to apply the brakes as gently as possible. Most of all, use the braking effect of the engine and let the car continue moving slowly forward so that the wheels can rotate freely and maintain direction better. For ŠKODA vehicles with all-wheel drive and Off-road mode, the hill descend assistant can help here. Drive as straight as possible both uphill and downhill to avoid uneven terrain as much as you can.


4. Don’t get trenched in
If your car gets stuck in deep snow and can’t get out, it’s pointless to stay there and doggedly step on the gas. This will just make it worse. If the car “won’t move”, first try backing up – this is usually much easier than going forward. If this doesn’t help, try moving back and forth, or rocking the car by giving it short bursts of gas in the rhythm of the car’s movement. Transferring the weight of the car between the axles might help find that missing piece of traction. If you can’t get out with the wheels turned straight, try rotating the steering wheel in different directions.


5. Turn with feeling
The front tires should be either turning or braking, but not both at the same time. On snow and ice, the front wheels have a limited amount of traction. This is why you should always apply the brakes before turning. It’s important to hold the steering wheel correctly (nine and three o’clock) and avoid jerky movements. When the car is losing momentum, though, don’t be afraid to step hard on the gas. The ŠKODA smart all-wheel-drive distributes the power to all wheels at each moment depending on how much traction they have, so it’s no problem to turn and accelerate at the same time.


6. Choose the right mode
ŠKODA cars offer a range of useful assistants. The tests in Finland clearly showed that what a car can’t accomplish with the Off-road mode turned off can be easily handled when it’s turned on. The careful fine-tuning of all the car’s systems for any given task can accomplish more than the driving style of even the most experienced driver. When driving off-road, the automatic transmission is also generally better suited for driving, since it’s smooth and gentle to the clutch even at very low speeds and when taking off on low-traction surfaces. It’s also a good idea to choose a softer chassis mode where the wheels copy the terrain better.


7. Don’t be lazy
Off-road driving demands respect and patience and definitely can’t be rushed. In unfamiliar terrain, it’s good to get out at a suitable spot and take a closer personal look at the depth of snow or water that your vehicle has to overcome. The rule of thumb is “if I can’t see it, I can’t drive it”. It’s also important to know the ground clearance and breakover angles of your car so that you don’t scrape the chassis or end up “teeter-tottering”. And even though you’re getting in and out of the car often, don’t forget to fasten your seat belt.



How does the ŠKODA all-wheel drive work off the road?

The first part of this winter series illustrated. ŠKODA’s all-wheel-drive technology. A host of other useful technologies have also been designed for ŠKODA off-road models. “Off-road mode, for example, makes it much easier to control the car when riding off of paved roads, both on slippery downhill surfaces and when traction is needed for such challenging conditions. A car equipped with such technology can accomplish unimaginable things both on and off the road,” says Martin Hrdlička, Head of Chassis and Powertrain Development at ŠKODA AUTO.

Snow Mode
This mode changes how the assistant systems behave so that they help the driver as much as possible on low-adhesion surfaces. The ABS anti-lock braking system, for example, allows for more wheelspin when braking to allow snow to accumulate in front of the tires to increase the braking effect (the “wedge effect”). In turn, the anti-skid system allows for greater wheel rotation for better grip on winter tires. The transmission shifts to higher gears at lower speeds than usual, and the accelerator pedal responds more slowly so as to prevent the wheels from jumping into spin with the added torque.


Off-road Mode
An extraordinarily complex assistant for more challenging off-road situations. The Off-Road Mode works at a speed up to 30 km/h, and its function can be divided into three main groups: start and traction support, braking support, and steep downhill support. When it’s activated, all the related assistance systems are switched into a special setting suitable for off-road driving. The infotainment panel can then display useful data such as the angle of rotation of the wheels, the compass, or the altimeter.



Hill Hold Control
This system is activated at slopes exceeding five degrees and prevents the car from rolling backwards or stalling. This makes starting out uphill easy and safe without having to use the handbrake. For cars with manual transmission, it significantly reduces wear and tear on the clutch. The assistant also takes the direction of slope and the actual gear into account, so it can even help when backing up the hill.


Hill Descent Control
When driving down steep slopes off-road, the driver can completely leave control of the downhill speed to the ŠKODA 4×4. It uses the braking system and the engine braking torque to automatically adjust the speed of the car depending on the situation so that the car doesn’t start skidding out of control. The driver doesn’t have to use the pedals at all and can fully focus on steering.