As we saw this past week, snow and ice can be quite a drag when you need to get somewhere—especially when half the country does at the same time. With Winter Storm Boreas hitting just in time for the Thanksgiving travel rush, we got to thinking about just which cars we’d prefer to take out in extreme winter conditions. Some of them are practical, some are sensible, and others are downright nuts—but they’re all cars we’d love to be in when the white stuff starts falling.
A great winter car should have many attributes: all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive, an engine in the front and heated seats are a good start (okay, that last one isn’t really a necessity, but it certainly takes off the edge on a cold winter’s day). However, all that technology will not automatically make the car perform well on a slick road. Winter tires are also hugely important and can help many cars perform quite well in snow (and will make the cars on this list perform even better). When you package all this up, you have the recipe for a car that should be able to get you to the mountain and back safely and comfortably.
10. Kicking off our list is an industry giant (in more ways than one): the Chevrolet Suburban. Put into production in 1934, the Suburban is one of Chevrolet’s most famous nameplates and has gained a reputation as a bulletproof SUV, capable of hauling almost anything almost anywhere. Weighing in at a staggering 5,820 pounds and getting power from a 5.3-liter V8, the Suburban just laughs as the snow starts to accumulate. While there are definitely other cars we’d prefer to drive in light snow, when inches start turning into feet, there are few we’d rather be in than the Suburban.
9. Next up is a relative newcomer to our lists: the Acura MDX. Redesigned for 2014, the new MDX is a huge improvement over the outgoing model and appears poised to shine as it approaches its first winter. Available with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, the MDX does a great job of staying glued to the road in adverse conditions while offering a smooth and luxurious ride during fair-weathered commutes. Add to that the plethora of luxury options that Acura offers and you’re likely to be too satisfied to even notice the snow coming down.
8. In at number 8 is a shocker even we didn’t expect: the Ford Fusion. We’ll admit it, we had no idea the Fusion was a beast in snow—but that’s exactly what Fusion owners say. It makes sense—the Fusion is available with all-wheel drive and a few different engine choices, all of which (with the exception of the hybrid) seem to make Fusion owners more than at ease in the snow. While we’re taking Fusion owners’ word for it now (it helps when they said things about the Fusion like, “I think this is the happiest I have been (really love this car) owning a car in a long time“), we’d love to get the chance to see just how much the Fusion really “is a tank in the snow.”
7. If you live in a remote area that sees several feet of snow every year, you probably don’t need to look much further than the Toyota 4Runner. One of the last truck-based SUVs, the 4Runner has been in production for 20 years and has earned a rock-solid reputation over that time. One of the most off-road-capable SUVs on the market today, the 4Runner has steadily built up a (much deserved) reputation as being both extremely reliable and able to go anywhere. Buy the 4-wheel-drive version and you should have no trouble pushing through more than a few inches of the white stuff. That being said, the reason we can’t rank the 4Runner higher is that it does particularly well only in deep snow at slower speeds (and preferably off-road). On snowy roads you would likely be better off with some of our other picks.
6. Our next pick comes from a country almost synonymous with winter: the Volvo XC90. Built in Sweden, one would hope that the XC90 knows a thing or two about performing in sub-zero conditions, and it certainly does. With a low center of gravity and lots of ground clearance, the XC90 is an excellent all-around bet for winter. A smooth ride, seating for 7 and plenty of room for cargo make the XC90 a great choice for a winter road trip, whether it be down to the Keys or up to brave the mountains of British Columbia.
5. When you think of the Jeep Wrangler, what do you think of in terms of limitations? If you answered “None,” we’re with you. The Wrangler is simply an awesome vehicle capable of conquering almost any terrain. In the summer it’ll have no problem charging up a sand dune, and in the winter it won’t even bat an eye at plowing through a snowdrift. While the Wrangler may be lacking in the comfort category, it is more than capable of handling whatever mother nature can throw at it after the leaves fall.
4. Batting cleanup is a car that is has recently returned to the U.S.: the Audi Allroad. Based on the Audi A4, the Allroad gains a few inches of ground clearance and comes in a wagon style, meaning it can get you more places than the A4 and haul more stuff while you’re getting there. Equipped with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, the Allroad does a good job of staying stuck to the road. While you won’t necessarily be able to tackle a mountain trail, the Allroad should get you and your gear to the top of any mountain with a paved road.
3. While the Mercedes-Benz G-Class may now be more commonly associated with bankers and rap stars, there was a time when it was known only for its extreme durability and ability to shine in horrendous conditions. Originally designed as a military vehicle, the G-Class made a transition to civilian life in 1979 and hasn’t looked back since. That being said, the car is still a favorite of many world militaries, and just this summer it was selected as the new off-road vehicle of the Swiss Armed Forces. Given the incredible terrain of the Swiss Alps (especially in winter), we can’t imagine a better endorsement of the G-Class’ abilities in winter.
2. What seats 4, has 4-wheel drive and goes from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds? The Ferrari FF. Equipped with 6.3-liter V12 pushing out 651 hp, the FF is nothing short of a blast in the snow. In fact, the car is so great in the snow that Ferrari had World Rally Champion Markku Alen unleash it on a snow-covered track in Sweden. While most Ferrari owners would never dream of doing the things Alen does with the FF, the fact remains that driving an FF in the snow would bring most of us plain, simple and pure joy.
1. How do you top a Ferrari? The answer is simple: with a Subaru, almost any Subaru. Take a trip around New England, Colorado or the Northwest, and you’ll be hard-pressed to turn around without seeing the Pleiades. What do these regions all have in common? Snow, snow and more snow. With a lineup featuring almost exclusively all-wheel-drive cars (the lone exception being the BRZ), Subaru has carved a niche for itself as the go-to brand for anyone looking for a safe, reliable car that will excel at winter driving. Although the entire all-wheel-drive lineup has earned accolades for its abilities in the snow, there is one particular Subaru that has caught our eye: the XV Crosstrek. Based on an Impreza wagon, the XV Crosstrek was developed with Europe in mind but proved to be an instant hit in the U.S. Sitting a few inches higher and with a bolder style than the Impreza, the XV Crosstrek takes the best of the Impreza and makes it just a little more versatile, able to handle higher snowfalls and slightly tougher terrain (although still not much). With heated cloth seats, heated mirrors and a windshield de-icer standard, the XV Crosstrek takes all that Subaru does best and puts it in one small, affordable package. For that, there is no other car we’d rather find ourselves in on a snowy day.
What would you like to drive in the snow this winter?