Q. Is four-wheel-drive helpful in rotten northern weather? And how good are winter tires, compared to all-season tires found standard on most cars?  -- L.C. (via Internet)

A. All-wheel-drive (AWD) systems have front, center and rear differentials to transmit power to all wheels and enhance acceleration. But AWD doesn't help at all on wet, icy or snowy surfaces. Snow tires take care of handling and braking best for such surfaces, compared to all-season tires. That's because snow tires have the compound and tread design to stay flexible in much lower temperatures than all-season tires. But snow tires generally are more costly and wear far more quickly than all-season tires on dry summer roads because of their softer compounds. Snow tires also don't handle as well as regular tires on dry roads because of heavily grooved tread designs. They also transmit more road noise in summer.

Q. I'm told by friends that December is the best time to buy a new car. Is that correct? -- E.H (via Internet)

A. September or October are generally the best months to buy a new car because dealers want to close out their inventory to make way for the next-year models. By December, it's likely that a dealer no longer will have a variety of this year's models left, or ones with the features you want.

Q. Should I buy or lease a car? --  D.M. (via Internet)

A. Leasing is the most costly way to buy a new car because you're buying essentially a used car at its new car price. A new car loses 15-20 percent of its  value when driven from the dealership--or generally 70 percent in the first four years of ownership.

A. I've heard of an incredible new car from oil-rich Dubai. What do you know about it? -- D.M. (via Internet)

A. It's called the Devel Sixteen from Dubai and has from 4,500-5,000 horsepower, with an estimated top speed of 350 m.p.h. It looks like some sort of Batmobile and has a 12.3-liter sixteen-cylinder engine with four turbochargers, 32 titanium valves and custom cylinder heads and crankshaft. The Devel Sixteen has been displayed at a major auto show, but no price or production plans have been released.

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