The Best Cars and Trucks for Snow and Ice: 2011/2012 Edition

October 7th, 2011

In this day and age, it doesn’t take long for things to become obsolete. Digital cameras? No need, I have a smart phone. E-mail? Nope, I’d rather text. That Facebook status from 30 seconds ago? Puh-lease. Latest news only, thank you very much.

So I’m just a little surprised that a blog post from two years ago still gets people fired up. The subject matter, though, is as timeless as the seasons: the best vehicles for snow and ice.

I’ve taken some mild criticism for that post. One such comment began, “This might be the worst list ever for snow vehicles…”

Ouch. While some of the cars and trucks on that list might be questionable choices, I stand behind them and would drive any of them in a snowstorm and feel comfortable. Well, a Seattle snowstorm. You know, one that drops maybe 3 inches of the white stuff. For vehicles built to survive a serious Syracuse-style snowfall, keep reading!

Before I get to the cars, I should say that any vehicle properly equipped with good snow tires should be able to handle some pretty gnarly conditions. So if you can’t go find a new or used snow vehicle, at least invest in dedicated snow tires. Years ago I made it through a few Eastern Washington winters in a ’94 Mustang with studded snows, proof that any car can be a snow car!

A lot of folks prefer full-size heavy trucks to plow through the deep stuff. I’ve included some of those, because in deep snow they really are the only choice. But when things get slippery all that heft turns into a liability, because it also has to be stopped. Ideally, the best snow/ice cars are all-wheel-drive crossovers with high clearance and a lower center of gravity.

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and your contributions are greatly appreciated. Just be nice.

Hummer H2

Hummer H2

Just don’t get going too fast.

Chevrolet Suburban

1990 Chevrolet Suburban

The Suburban will make it through just about anything. Just drive like a cup of hot coffee is sitting on the dash, like in License to Drive. Slow and steady…

Silverado, F-150, Ram

2009 Ford F-150

Full-size trucks with true four-wheel drive are hard to beat in deep snow.

Toyota Land Cruiser

2006 Toyota Land Cruiser

I’m kind of disappointed this one didn’t make my first list! It might even be a candidate for “Best Snow Vehicle Ever.”

Volvo XC90

Volvo XC90

It’s like a mountain goat: sure-footed in the snow with a bit of an attitude.

Subaru Outback

Subaru Outback

If you’re in the backcountry and dealing with a 27-inch snowfall, the Subie’s probably not going to do you much good. But anywhere else you should be fine.

Chevrolet TrailBlazer/Equinox

Chevrolet TrailBlazer

A good AWD system and a low center of gravity make the small Chevy sport utes a fine choice.

There are a lot of Chevys on this list. Any cars or trucks you think are missing?

-tgriffith

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Hummer H2
Used Chevrolet Suburban
Used Chevrolet Silverado
Used Ford F-150
Used Dodge Ram
Used Toyota Land Cruiser
Used Volvo XC90
Used Subaru Outback
Used Chevrolet TrailBlazer
Used Chevrolet Equinox

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    Ah, here’s something I can comment on with some experience testing at our winter test site in northern Michigan.
    Hummer H2: Nope. Remember, the H2 is just a suburban dressed up in an overpriced body and the H3 is ditto for the Trailblazer. These vehicles are set up better for off road than snow, and their source vehicles are better choices with more visibility.
    Trailblazer: Yes, big time. This is one of the best winter vehicles of all time. Newer ones have stability control and the wheelbase is the most stable on snow-covered roads. I’ve driven them long distance in blizzards and it’s just a terrific snow vehicle. (so impressed I bought one for myself.
    Volvo XC90: This vehicle has a very good stability system and wheelbase similar to the trailblazer. I can’t say I care for the steering because it is so stiff it tired me out by the time I arrived.
    Suburban: Not bad but it’s a really big vehicle and prone to getting that mass stuck. It also has a long wheelbase, and once it starts to yaw, it doesn’t want to stop. (even with stability control) On the plus side, you can put a plow on it.
    Pickup trucks: Naw. I see lots of them in the ditch here in Michigan. They really don’t have very good traction for a 4wd unless you get very agressive (noisy) tires.
    Land Cruiser: Haven’t driven one of these.
    Outback: Good general purpose suburban snow car until you get real deep snow, then you’re stuck.

  2. andrew caffarelli
    | #2

    Isuzu Rodeo, Toyota 4-Runner; both are durable with Great 4wd systems & good ground clearance

  3. | #3

    Pre-2011 Explorers(Since those are just crossovers now) along with Expeditions or Excursions. Also, I had a Ford ZX2 and that thing got around GREAT in the winter. No joke. It, along with any other light car can just glide over the snow and it’s no problem. Did get stuck in my driveway, as it has quite a steep dip in it, but that’s the only problem I’ve had.

  4. Jim Redd
    | #4

    I once had a Toyota Tercel that I called my little snowmobile. That thing, somehow, always managed to get me to work no matter how bad the snowstorm. Great little car! Now I drive an older GMC Envoy and it does great! Rattles like mad but it keeps going!

  5. | #5

    I am looking at a 2012 RAV4 V6 Limited fully loaded, I am under 100 lbs (small) and need a SMALL SUV we just bought in Northern Idaho Courd’Alene area, and I have a very bad back, yesterday I test drove this Rav4 as well as a Honda CRV the ride in the RAV4 was MUCH BETTER and a quiet ride, I did love the looks of the Honda CRV but looks don`t cut it while comfort is important. Can anyone give me some feedback on this SUV? or suggest something equal to it, with the comfort I have the leather heated back and seat (I want). So any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks Cheryl

  6. | #6

    CarGurus’ review of the 2012 RAV4 is very positive, but we don’t have any user reviews yet:

    http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/2012-Toyota-RAV4-Overview-c23168

    The Kia Sorento might be worth a look, too:

    http://www.cargurus.com/Cars/2012-Kia-Sorento-Overview-c22988

    Good luck!

  7. | #7

    hi
    thinking about buying 2012 kia soul live in nebraska do you know it handles especially on ice and snow any helped will be greatly appreciated thank you

  8. soj ibor
    | #8

    @ Randy

    Steering a Volvo tired you out? You should do a little more exercise than typing if that is the case. If a Volvo is too much for you, just stay inside and drink some tea.

  9. Ghost
    | #9

    I know I’m super late to the party but I’d like to share that I once had an ’08 Subaru Legacy and it was a little snow mobile! Though I don’t doubt it would’ve gotten stuck in a ton of snow.
    I now drive a Volvo Xc90 myself and its excellent for snow and ice in my opinion. Very stable car with excellent AWD and traction control. Though I can’t say its the best I do enjoy it quite a lot.
    None of this would be possible if it didn’t have good tires. Tires are key people!

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