Best Cars for Winter Driving: Here’s our Top 10
When winter arrives and the snow flies, everyone must use caution while driving. Snow causes loss of traction, which can result in disaster. Some cars are better in winter conditions than others; however, it must be borne in mind that no car offers exactly the same driving characteristics in snowy or icy conditions as it does in clear conditions. Neither all-wheel drive nor true four-wheel drive provide any advantage while in motion in slippery conditions. Such features provide an advantage when starting up or getting out of a stuck situation but may not provide extra traction. That being said, SUVs generally offer the best overall performance on snow and ice. Most have at least a good safety record and solid handling characteristics. All prices listed below are accurate as of January 2016.
Subaru has long specialized in vehicles with all-wheel drive, and the 2016 Outback is no exception. The base engine for this quirky SUV is a 2.5-liter four cylinder that provides 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. Together with the extra ground clearance of this Outback, this engine can get drivers out of a lot of “stuck” positions. The Outback even offers the AWD in reverse.
For those wishing for more power, the Outback has a six-cylinder option available that cranks out 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. This combined with a 5-star safety rating, the Outback’s above-average handling completes the package. The base price is $24,995.
While not a true SUV or crossover, the Audi allRoad is a competent station wagon that offers drivers with families the option of a car with ample room combined with above-average all-weather adaptability. The ground clearance is a little more than seven inches. Although the engine is smaller than that of other cars in its class, it is turbocharged and provides a solid 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
The allRoad also offers AWD to get out of sticky situations in bad weather. In clear conditions, the acceleration is excellent: 0-60 in 6.4 seconds. The allRoad’s winter handling is also exceptional, handling situations where lesser vehicles fear to tread. The base price is $42,700.
The Mazda CX-5 combines sporty handling with an eye-catching look. Being a crossover rather than a true SUV, drivers will surely notice the difference once they hit the road. Although the engine is a small four cylinder that provides only 155 horsepower, the entire vehicle is lighter than the competition.
This results in better performance than one might expect. Unlike other vehicles in its class, AWD is not the standard option; it can, however, be fitted for it. When AWD equipped, the CX-5 provides handling that tops out at 0.81 g in clear conditions and very much above-average in wintry conditions. The MSRP is $21,795.
The Subaru Forester offers the best all-around value for the price. It’s not the fastest SUV out there; it’s not the roomiest. It’s also not the best handling. Nevertheless, it is very good at everything even if it’s not the best at anything. The Forester offers two engine options: a 2.5-liter and a turbocharged 2.0-liter, both of which have four cylinders and offer AWD.
The base engine goes from 0-60 in nine seconds flat and produces 170 horsepower. For winter driving, Subaru has installed X-Mode, which is a computer-assisted system that transfers differing power levels to the AWD based on conditions. The base price is $22,395.
Volvo XC70 AWD
Although the Volvo XC70 AWD has a stock 2.0-liter engine, it cranks out 240 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Even with this power, this vehicle uniquely offers a nifty system that shuts the engine off as soon as the vehicle comes to a stop and starts it again as soon as the driver releases pressure on the brake pedal. This contributes to the design’s “best-in-class” fuel economy (this fuel economy only applies to the front-wheel drive version; the AWD version doesn’t have the same option).
As with all Volvos, safety is the No. 1 concern. In both versions there is traction control as well as assorted monitoring systems such as a frontal collision warning system that keeps drivers on their toes. The vehicle’s handling is below average, however, despite the numerous safety features. The MSRP price for this model is $ $37,100.
The Dodge Journey seats seven and, with the 283 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 installed, has enough power to get them around. The Journey comes with traction control and an array of airbags, including one for the driver’s knees which gives it a combination of excellent safety ratings for side collisions and above-average handling in snow and ice.
For a vehicle that’s over 16 feet long, it also turns quite nimbly; the radius is only 19 feet, which is valuable during slippery conditions. With the V6, the Journey will accelerate from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds. The MSRP price is lower than many vehicles in the class at only $20,995.
As with many Acura models, advanced technology is at the core of the vehicle concept. This is especially so in the case of the TLX, that includes AWD, four-wheel steering and torque vectoring. These all contribute to improved handling and stability in all conditions. The car also assists with braking when a collision is imminent. The TLX comes with one of two engine packages, both of which offer exceptional power at a reasonable price.
The TLX hits 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, making it one of the fastest racehorses in the stable. With stock tires, the TLX doesn’t handle as well in snow and ice as the competition. Upgrading the tires, however, might solve this problem making the TLX much better than average during the winter. The base price is $32,635.
Among this group, the Chevrolet Tahoe is the largest and beefiest. Accordingly, it cranks out the most horsepower, 355, and more torque, 383 pound-feet, with its V8 engine. Because the Tahoe weighs almost three tons, this is an absolute necessity.
The electronically assisted steering and Magnetic Ride Control both contribute to the design’s all-weather adaptability even when towing more than four tons. For safety, the Tahoe sports a system that helps keep you in your lane and warbles at you if you’re about to hit something. The base price is $48,195.
The AWD Toyota RAV4 is a hybrid vehicle, the gasoline-powered motor pairing with two electric motors to produce 194 horsepower. And for drivers who prefer to shift gears themselves, paddle shifters are an attractive option.
The AWD and a slew of traction systems give the RAV4 outstanding handling characteristics on wet, snowy roads, and the fuel economy is likewise outstanding. The RAV4’s MSRP is $24,350.
Range Rover Sport SUV
For true off-roading in an SUV, the Range Rover Sport is the select choice. The handling tops those vehicles discussed today, and the performance is almost that of a sports car. Luxurious, packed with safety features and tough as nails, the Range Rover Sport also boasts supercharged V8 that delivers 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque.
The Range Rover even clocked a faster lap at the famous Nürburgring raceway than some BMWs! It rockets to 60 mph in less than five seconds and, most impressive of all, at 2.5 tons it still handles like a two-seater designed for Autobahn driving. Quite simply, the handling is astonishing. All of this comes with a MSRP of $64,950.
Remember, even with AWD or true four-wheel drive, it’s crucial to have proper tires for current weather conditions and take proper precautions while driving. No matter how many safety features and computer-assisted gadgets one has, once hundreds of pounds of metal begin to skid out of control, there’s no stopping. Each of the vehicles in this list has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’d be wise for a prospective SUV buyer to weigh all the options carefully before taking the plunge.
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