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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our Q3 has finally had a good, full week in snowy conditions of the Sierra Nevada with the good spring storms we've been getting here in California. With the quattro system in off-road mode, I can happily report that it drove as well as my older A4 with torsen-based quattro. As with my older A4, I kept the snow chains stowed and drove confidently with just the all-season tires and quattro system. I only felt brief moments where loss of traction required even a hint of counter-steer, and otherwise it drove like it would in a heavy rain.

This was in mixed road conditions transitioning between ice, slush, plowed and packed snow, and several inches of fresh snow on steep grades and winding mountain roads. The precipitation also varied rapidly between rain, hail, heavy wet snow, and lighter powder as the storms arrived and departed. The Q3 also easily extricated itself from parking where you would start on icy/bare pavement under the car and mounds of snow all around it from the overnight snowfall, plowing, and slabs of snow cleared off its roof and all the adjacent parked cars.

The only thing that bothered me was a spurious TPMS alert upon descending from the mountains. This was a 20 mile drive that started with cold tires, clouds/fog and 25F temperatures around 7200 ft elevation and descended down very windy roads (many 10 MPH switchback corners) to around 2000 ft elevation, intense sun, and temperatures around 50F. I checked all four tires and they were all reading within 0.5 PSI of each other, so I just reset the TPMS and continued my trip on flat land highways. I wonder if there might have been some accumulated ice on the wheels or wheel arches that shifted suddenly to throw off the TPMS sensors/calculations during the sudden thaw...
 

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In low traction conditions the Torsen versus Haldex systems work well. Under high traction conditions, the Torsen Quattro system enables improved cornering abilities (if driven very aggressively) due to the constant application of engine torque to all 4 wheels. If no slippage is detected, the Haldex system applies no drive torque to the rear wheels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
For the past 20+ years, I had exclusively driven B5 A4 cars when I entered the Sierra Nevada in winter, so I am very familiar with the theory and practice of the torsen system. It was actually one of my biggest concerns in getting a Q3, along with adapting to an automatic transmission.

I have read that the off-road mode of the traction-control system puts the haldex system into a more even torque split, as well as relaxing some of the anti-slip throttle regulation. It seemed to drive that way to me. The only way I can imagine that the car has fooled me here is that I have already had to learn to accept the occasional lag and misbehavior of the automatic transmission which might mask a small delay in haldex engagement...?
 

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I have read that the off-road mode of the traction-control system puts the haldex system into a more even torque split

Does this mean that in this mode, I'd be able to put snow cables on the rear wheels? I have 19" wheels and it doesn't look like even thin cables will fit on the fronts.




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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't think it sounds like a very good idea, since most braking force is via the front wheels. If you have quattro and are not comfortable driving in the snow without chains, I think you need better tires, more driver training, or should just stay off the road until conditions improve.

However, if your only need for the chains is to self-rescue out of some strange low traction environment, I think putting them on the rear wheels temporarily would work. Even if the haldex only engages temporarily, it will do so when it detects wheel spin on the front wheels and starts pushing the rears to try to get moving. Just realize that you are now moving in a situation where you have very poor steering and braking traction!

I carry a set of cable chains to satisfy National Park rangers in the US, but I don't expect I will ever install them. I carried a similar set in my A4 for almost 20 years and never had to install them. I am comfortable driving my quattro cars in snow on twisty mountain roads with M+S all-season tires here in the Sierra Nevada. It doesn't really get so cold here that the rubber get too hard, and I don't spend enough time continuously in the mountains for a dedicated set of tires to make any sense.
 

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I have a lot of snow driving experience, but there are times when chain use is enforced here in California. Now that I live by the coast, I don't want or need dedicated snow tires but will sometimes be forced into chaining up in the mountains if I'm only running all season tires.


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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Where have you had this happen recently? I am also in California and carry the cable chains for places like Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks and the Tahoe area. You may be required to carry chains but you do not necessarily have to install them. When the signs say "4WD with SNOW TIRES OK" that includes all-season tires with the S+M (snow and mud) designation. You do not need to chain up a quattro vehicle in these conditions.

Maybe I've been extremely lucky, but the last time I saw a mandatory chain condition for 4WD was in the 1980s in Yosemite... what I have seen is that most places in recent years seem to proceed from chain controls with the 4WD exception to road closures.

In no small part, I buy Audis just so I can drive to these places and not muck around with chains!
 

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Ok, my solution is to add a set of 15mm spacers front and rear to fit the cables. They should be here in a few days so I haven’t installed them yet, but I’ve looked and there should be enough clearance around the wheel to avoid rubbing with the cables on, while allowing the cables to fit between the front tire and spring seat.
If I find myself pulling over to add cables too often, a set of 18” wheels with some more snow-oriented tires (like the Nokian WR G4) might be in my future. Again, I don’t live in the mountains, so I don’t want true snow tires.

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Again, I don’t live in the mountains, so I don’t want true snow tires.
I'm not talking about dedicated snow tires. The normal stock all-season tires from Audi usually have the snow/mud rating stamp on them and that's all you need for an occasional trip. For California R1 conditions (snow tires required), this is enough even with only front-wheel drive. In R2 conditions (chains and 4WD), this is enough with quattro. Only in R3 would you actually be required to install the chains, even though you are required to carry them in R1 and R2 conditions as well.

Check the sidewalls of your current tires if you have all-seasons. Maybe look them up user reviews about their winter handling...

And if you have summer tires, stop now! You should never drive summer tires in snow or cold temps. Chains will not make it safe. Just rent a car for your trip if you don't have all seasons.
 

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Yeah, I have all seasons and I’m very confident in my winter driving ability, but I’m just looking for added traction and safety.



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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
how does one put a quattro in 'off road mode"?
According to the Q3 manual and other sales literature, the intermediate ESC mode, where the console displays "OFF" with pictogram of the car on squiggly road is the off-road mode. It's the one you get with one short press from normal mode. I think it is in place of the "sport" mode that some other Audis have in their ESC controls.

I have previously read that the off-road mode of the Q3 is supposed to change torque split for the haldex system along with the other ESC parameters it changes, but I do not have a handy reference for that.
 
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