Driving on Ice with Mazda’s i-ACTIV All-Wheel-Drive

A Girls Guide To Cars | Driving On Ice With Mazda'S I-Activ All-Wheel-Drive - Mazda Mx 5 Miata 800X478 1

Getting schooled in driving on ice.

At this moment, there is something of a snowstorm raging outside my office window. It’s supposed to be a mess in a few hours and I have to pick up my girls from the bus stop, but I’m not worried. One of the reasons I know it’ll be easy to drive there is because I’ll be driving a Mazda CX-3 with i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive.

It’s a happy coincidence that I spent last week driving Mazdas on an ice track at the Mazda Ice Academy in snowy Colorado and now have one as a review vehicle. I’ve had a chance to experience what the system does in the real world and on a closed course and I’m impressed.

Mazda’s Ice Academy was a special event designed to show off their all-wheel-drive system rather than showcase a specific car. We had a chance to drive the CX-3, CX-5, and MX-5 Miata on snowy tracks without fear of other cars or random mailbox posts.

The MX-5, well, that was just for fun and was worth the possibly frostbitten ears I risked by putting the top down. The other two cars were educational, demonstrating why the i-ACTIV system is different.

Taking The Mazda Mx-5 Miata For A Spin At #Mazdaiceacademy. Mage: Nicole Wakelin

Taking the Mazda MX-5 Miata for a spin at #MazdaIceAcademy. Image: Nicole Wakelin

The goal of i-ACTIV is to predict wheel slip before it happens. It does this through a combination of sensors that take readings over 200 times a second to determine the conditions around the car. Something as simple as turning on your windshield wipers lets the system know the roads are wet and it plans accordingly. Add this to the data collected from 27 sensors and i-ACTIV can almost predict the future.

What you feel as a driver is, well, nothing, and that’s the goal. They don’t want you to feel your wheel slip. They don’t want you to feel the jerking sensation as torque is transferred to that wheel and it regains traction. They want the entire process to be as seamless as possible.

We had the chance to experience i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive on a cone-covered course with tight turns, straight runs, and even a steep snowy hill. We also had a chance to try the competition on the exact same course. Did the Mazdas feel any different?

In every scenario, the Mazdas were easier to control than competitive models. Snow is snow and you always have to be cautious, but the Mazdas with i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive remained more composed and required fewer frantic adjustments to keep the cars going in the right direction.

If you, like me, are faced with fluffy white stuff on the roads for much of the year, then purchasing a Mazda with i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive will help make winter driving much easier.

Nicole Wakelin contributes to The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, and Boldride, and she hosts her own blog, http://www.nicolewakelin.com, where... More about Nicole Wakelin