I’ve driven a lot of cars in the snow and am surprised at how much difference I’ve seen even in vehicles that otherwise are comparable to each other.
As winter begins to set in across the country, we figure it’s a good time to create a list of the best cars, trucks and SUVs for plowing through deep snow and easing over slippery ice. Here are my top ten, but feel free to drop a comment and let us know what you drive in the snow and how it does.
Throw any weather situation at either of these Toyotas and you’ll make it through just fine.
Audi A6 Quattro
I had a boss once who loved his A6 so much he’d take me out on snowy mornings and speed through the twisties, trying to make his car come unstuck. He succeeded only once, and broke an axle for the effort.
I chose this over the Pilot because it’s lighter. The Pilot gets a little top-heavy, which makes going down icy hills a heart-racing experience, while the smaller CR-V crawls easily to the bottom.
A low center of gravity and all-wheel drive combine to make the Forester a winner in the snow and cold.
If you’ve got a hard top and doors on your Wrangler, nothing should stop you from reaching the top of the mountain.
Lots of ground clearance, lots of weight, but a low center of gravity make the AWD version of the XC90 a great winter car.
Being a 2,500-pound small car, this thing stays planted. And with the ability to choose AWD or lock it into 4WD, the SX4 is a great commuter car for snowy highways. Just don’t take it on the trails.
As long as you’re not running low-profile 18-inch summer tires, this little Lexus will serve you well through any winter storm.
This is for those who want a little extra flashiness in the their snowy commutes, plus the added benefit of the residual heating function, which will keep the Cayenne heated for up to 20 minutes after shutting the engine off.
BMW 328i xDrive
With dynamic stability control and intelligent all-wheel drive, what else do you need in a winter car? Oh… headlamp washers? Okay, you get those, too.
What do you drive in the snow?
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Rusty Bell says
I had a Suzuki Grand Vitara 2000 year model.
I loved it in snow, sand and rough roads.
I had to part with it and my XL7 because their catalytic converter had problems on both of them
I highly recommend the Volvo XC90! I bought a Volvo XC90 3.2 AWD back in 09 brand new, and I love it. Still runs well today, very safe, and very comfortable. The 2009 is almost exactly like the model listed above (which seems to be an 05), but with a few modifications to the interior and safety systems. It feels very planted on the highway, which is especially important for me here in Alaska because of our dangerous highways – oh and the brakes save moose! My only concern is the MPG. It’s terrible. My average MPG at the time of this comment is 12.8 combined, which is way less than to be expected… WAAAYYY less! But it has a large(ish) fuel tank, and it’s an amazing cruiser, so if you have the means to pay for premium fuel once a week, you will love this car! And a word advice from myself (being a Volvo owner), “do not buy a Volvo brand new”! They depreciate quicker than almost every car I have ever seen. For example, my 09 XC90 was 60K brand new and well equipt, and now has a CARFAX value of 7.5K with a clean inspection. That’s only a 7 1/2 year old car with 70K miles! At this price point you could get it as a winter beater!
Have a 2010 Dodge Ram 4×4 and I am very disappointed in the way it climbs hills in just a few inches of snow or ice. Just like a two wheel drive truck, one rear, one front tire spins.
I just bought a 2014 Toyota Camry and it sucks in the snow! I feel like taking it back tomorrow. My other car for years was a Ford Taurus that kicks it butt hands down in the snow. SMH!!!
Rosann roberts says
I have lived in wyoming my whole life and have driven rear wheel drive, four wheel drive cars as wel as pick ups on snowy and ice packed roads…..I’ve even owned two subarau legacy wagons in the past. The subarau forester is a death trap when driving on ice. You have absolutely no control over the steering when you get over thirty miles an hour so you either cringe worrying about getting hit from behind or chance the car floating all over the road into the ditch or into another car.
I cannot believe that subarau would put a car like this on the market and risk lives. Shame on you Subaru !!!!
You may claim to share the love but please quit sharing the forester!!!!!
Actually, I own a forester. It’s amazing in the snow, handles well, and has very responsive steering. It is not floaty, in fact it is pretty solid. I have no clue how you came to your conclusion but you must have had the only SUBARU (not subarau) in the world that didn’t drive well. It also feels very stable at 75 and cruising. Plus it has many safety features, it has a high ground clearance, and is very comfortable. I have had two Foresters, one Outback, and now I have the Outback and a previous gen XC90 (a sister listed above). I highly recommend the Forester for anyone who wants a dependable, safe, comfortable, go-anywhere car!
As listed above*
What kind of tires did you have?
Kastor Miko says
Have you ever tried Suzuki Grand Vitara on snow or off road. Try it, and you will know why I like this car.
I have cooper 35 inch tires theyre not super good on snow then again i drive a 2wd f150 nissana suck so do toyota they have like 180 hp lol
Add Mercedes to that list too..
Wrangler 4 door hard/soft top with A/T tires. Great in Snow last winter we got hit with a 30 plus inch storm and had drifts over 5 ft. After shoveling out our driveway we had to go to New london ct 25 miles away and shovel out our store the roads wre not plowed and we had no problem in our Wrangler we passed and helped a few other 4 wheel drive type suvs on the way and the other drivers where shocked we had no problems. Tires do make a difference; why some people put street tires and low type rims on suv’s it does not make sense.Also the only type we saw that day not having any problems was Jeeps’ Chevys and Ford 4 wheel drives with A/t Type tires
i cant believe no-one mentioned a ford ranger with 4×4. mine (the 4.0 v6, if that matters to you) went through about a foot of fairly hard packed snow with no complaints at all. on the other hand, a 2 relatives, 1 in a z71 avalanche and another in a z71 silverado, got stuck in my tracks when following me up my (long) driveway.
A lot of bias in the comments section. I’ve driven in a foot of snow in a 05 Civic Hybrid with a set of really aggressive snow tires, while cars and SUVs were stuck. The tires inspired confidence, and the lightness of the vehicle coupled with the ability to provide light throttle response on narrow tires makes all the difference.
This bull that you ‘need’ an SUV, you don’t, especially for the average person. Knowing how to drive in the snow and proper tires will get you through anything that your city is still operating.
Ground clearance can help. But big heavy vehicles aren’t always your best solution. I could go right up steep hills in the hybrid while bug SUVs were sliding back or to the side.
Smart driving with proper tires in anything with moderate clearance will get you through most anything you need to.
So; ignorance in this thread with the car hate, especially anyone saying the ‘Asian’ cars suck. It isn’t the car, it is the combination of your lack of skill, forethought and preparation including the tires (still your fault for not having a proper snow set if you live in the snow belt).
Simple answer; unless you are driving a sports car; most vehicles will easily handle 6-12″ of snow with a proper set of snow tires. Bridgestone Blizzaks or General Altimax Arctic are both great tires.
The Altimax Artics are what were on my hybrid. Test drove another of the car with stock tires in light snow and it was a scary experience compared to the steady and secure grip of the winter tires.
u may laugh, but my Malibu Maxx 2005 because of the cars design and tires has kept me driving in extreme conditions for the past 10 years!! I lived in upstate NY and Long Island communiting in NYC during superstorms ans super-snowstorms. Obviously can’t go trekking up mountains. Icy roads and if the snow is still soft can drive through anything at bumper height. She really has been a blessing at 116k in 2013, I’ve taken her all over the east coast. If anyone can pick one up with decent milage it’s worth it.
you ever tought about replacing your summer sport tires, coming originally with your Rr sport, with high performance snow tire I have two sets of Bridgeston Blizzak winter tires under my range rover vogue 2001 and it climbs the montains like a montain goat.
Any heavy sedan with RWD. Just place a couple hundred pounds in the trunk and you are ready to go. AWD is overrated; since it cannot do burnouts and cannot slide into turns. That the reason why all top of the line luxury sedans over $60K are RWD. RWD is the only way to travel on snow as well as on ice.
2010 forester turbo- stock geolanders were good, but went to a stickier road tire for performance- still pretty good in the snow. drove 600 miles through a heavy snowstorm, only took me an hour longer than when dry. Every car will slide in the snow- but the subarus transition very well and very predictably. 4 wheel power slides at will, and manual upshifting if you want to keep the torque low.
A dedicated snow setup will perform better in the snow- but the forester can handle deep snow, and go right to twisty dry mountain roads or long interstate drives at high speed, all with equal aplomb.
I just went 4×4 with a few friends had a h3 Tacoma and Dodge Dakota we were off-road on a mtn with snow and ice we’ll h3 got stuck I was n front and the Tacoma couldn’t keep going it was sliding everywhere afraid it mite fall of the side the trail which was a 100 ft drop off we all got n the Dakota and went the rest the way it never lost grip or tryed to get stuck. I go 4×4 with it all the time it’s out done a lot of trucks and cars even a few of these tho I do 4×4 low. In those crazy conditions.
Norma Jean says
I have a Dodge Nitro, that is excellent in the snow I recommend it highly
have you lived in a state that consistently gets a lot of snow? I do. Sure 4 inch snowfall may seem like a lot to you. But where I live no one drives any of the cars on the list except the wrangler. Three names is all you need Ford, Dodge, Chevy. get any of their heavy suv or pickup you won’t know when there’s snow and when there’s not.
Janice Hickly says
Boy did you hit the button when you metioned the importance of you tires in snow, especially mountain snow. I live up at six thousand feet in the Montana rockie mounains. We learned real fast how important tires are even in a four wheel drive. you can have all the power and umpf you want but if you don’t have good traction tires you are going anywhere.
Was over in TAcoma WA last winter. Took my little grandaughter snow boarding there when we go one of those unusual snow stroms I have an expidition four wheel drive. I was amazed at all these crazy guys who were out getting stuck in the snow because they had four wheel drive they could go anywhere. They kept the tow truck drivers in business and when I told them that four wheel drive dosen’t mean much without the righ traction tires they would just smile at me and shake their heads, because I was only a woman and what do I know about driving in the snow. Well eighteen miled of dirt road not only in snow, but MOntana gumbo will educate anyone really fast on what works and what doesn’t.
My subaru was great as long as the driveway and road were plowed. For getting through deep snow nothing could beat my Cadillac Escalade 1999 with its truck body and studded tires. I pulled not one but two vehicles out of the ditch at the same time and didn’t even feel the weight.
Years of living up in the mountains in Alaska- I feel confident in my vote. Subaru, jeep, old toyotas. In that order. I loved my jeep and my husbands Toyota. But I could go on and on about the snow and ice stories in my forester. Subaru rocks- jeeps rock- Toyota rocks. If you REALLY drive one snow and ice…. There is your shopping list.
Lol easy auto correct
I drive a 93easy ford explorer and I have yet to get stuck in deep snow or mud with the low range from time to time on Michigan back road and thru fields with some decent angle hills. Bfg all terrain tires were under inflated and no mods besides rancho shocks.
drew richards says
gah it wont let me edit…
there are two lists in the one paragraph…suffice to say good fuel economy and deep snow running I would go with a chevy tracker. f I dont care about gas then Jeep wrangler or the awesome Jeep Cherokee
drew richards says
Ok maybe I am missing something and you guys can explain it to me…but,
I have run all of the vehicles listed with the exception of the audi’s and truthfully most of those I would NEVER dare deep snow in, no matter the tires…they are just not deep snow runners.
There are two combinations for multiple passengers with no concern for gas milage…deep snow running, great tires, great clearance and heavy weight with true locking 4×4,,,jeeps, hummers, rodeos, rodeos, fjcruisers, honda ridgeliners…or great tires, great clearance and light weight with locking 4×4. Suzuki vitara, chevy tracker…
While I love subaru’s and similar systems they are NOT deep snow runners the forester is close though :)
The writer is asking for both deep snow AND fuel economy…I am sorry but there is only one vehicle that fits the bill to me…that is the 2002 Chevy Tracker ZR2 2 door. It is light enough that I can even slap BearTrax on and run on top of the snow no matter how deep and still get 18MPG in 4×4 High.
Did it hurt to list a AMERICAN car in your list. Buy AMERICAN or move!
Good choice Frank. I’ve got a 2003 Yukon with RWD traction control. No problem regularly driving up to Flaggstaff. I’d get the 4×4 version next time, but have really been happy with what I have. Very little maintenance required so far.
I’ve pulled all the SUV’s listed out of the ditch with my Suburban.
This is an odd list. Kind of covers the basics without a solution for the heavy duty deep.
I’ve been driving the Audi A6 in the Sierra Nevada the last few years. Excellent where regular plowing occurs. But our new ski lodge is down the county road that gets plowed to 6″. Put that on top of hard pack snow and the ruts get over 6″. Put two wheels on one side into the rut and the Audi got me stuck twice in 2009. With 4 new snow tires I kept out of the ruts in 2010, but it requires good driving techniques and a bit of hauling a$$.
For 2012 I’m looking for a used vehicle with more ground clearance and thinking hard about the bigger heavier truck chassis mentioned above. They are big and ugly but will probably for for a 2000-2006 Chevy Tahoe or the equivalent GMC Yukon. Wife wants to seat seven so the choices are not so good.
I just went through one of the snowiest and iciest winters in the last 150 years of records here in Alberta. The snow is just starting to melt now in the last week of March, and 3 weeks ago it was -20C. Since I live in a city, most of the year I’m driving on plowed streets. So for me, traction, stability, and braking ability are the most important factors. And of all the cars/trucks I’ve driven, nothing can touch the World Rally Championship winning Subaru Impreza WRX STi (the car designed to race on ice, see YouTube). I’m shocked no one has mentioned this car. At just over 1.2 tonnes, with my Nokian RSi’s, and 4 massive disc brakes /w ABS on glare ice, I can outstop my F-150 in dry conditions. This was incredibly useful this year. I couldn’t help but cringe everytime I saw someone in a big SUV or Pickup go sliding into an intersection on the days before and sand and salt trucks would come out. I would have expected ground clearance to be an issue too, as this year we got 60.1 cm in January alone, but I honestly had no trouble parking and then driving away in residential areas where the snow was so deep it was coming up over the hood and onto the windshield. Shoving the door open was a challenge though. The only real issue I had, was that the after the plows would go through, the snow drifts were too high to see over. Really, the only other car I can compare this too is the Mitusbishi Evolution X (which also as fantastic ice stability control systems, refer to Top Gear USA Ep 2). However that car is pushing close to 1.8 tonnes, affecting stopping and turning.
I have a friend at work here that does a lot of off-roading in the foothills and the Rockies. He went out to B.C. just about every other weekend this winter to blaze various trails. In those off-road conditions, he recommends the Tacoma, Jeep, or XTerra. But his dream vehicle is the Toyota Land Crusier. He says the most important factors are suspension travel, ground clearance, skid plates, and locking front and rear diffs (locking fronts are hard to find). And obviously a winch, GPS, a buddy, and survival gear.
So I guess it all depends on what you use it for, a big heavy SUV with a good crash record can also be useful in the event of an accident. But I prefer avoidance and careful driving myself.
Keep in mind that tyres are even more important than the vehicle. You need proper winter tyres for traction. This year I saw a rear wheel drive Mustang with winters manoeuvring around a stuck Focus with all-seasons in my parking lot. Even if you can’t afford a proper winter vehicle, equip whatever you have with proper tyres. Don’t be cheap and get the WalMart specials, do some research.
My 2c anyway.
You’re right- if you trade in your Civic at a Honda dealer, you’ll be directed to either the Honda CRV, Honda Pilot or Honda Accord Crosstour. All are fine snow vehicles and will serve you well.
The Kia Sportage is also a great choice, just be sure to not let the dealer undercut you too much on the value of your Civic, if you trade it.
Also consider a Subaru vehicle. In Colorado you’ll certainly fit right in with one! All models come with AWD and have a reputation for being nearly unstoppable in the snow.
Good luck and let us know what you get!
Hello! I need your best advice. I recently purchased a Honda Civic to drive here in Floria for two months. Brand new, 2,000 miles. In May, 2011, I am returning to Colorado and would like to get the best trade in value as possible for the 2010 Civic. I am assuming that Honda will suggest the crv/suv. What is your suggestion? I live in the mountains and and face snow frequently. Truthfully I LOVE the KIA Sportage. My artist side speaks here! All this has me confused. Too many choices. Have any ideas? Thanks for your time. Marie
you really think your range rover is bad in weather? wow, im just one of those people who think there not over-rated. I guess they really are.@ J. Waxman
Nissan Xterra – with radial tires – could not get out of 7-9″ snow even in 4 wheel drive..that is with added weight of 2 ppl (380 Ibs) plus added bags of morar (4 @ 75Ibs each) to the back of the truck/trunk. Ended up digging out to abt 3″ and using grip strips to get out. Very disappointed Truck is just too light, need to butch it up with weight and snow tires. :(
Ignorant rant is right. I drive a 2001 Jeep Wrangler and it is terrific in snow but once things start turning icy you can kiss your traction goodbye. The thing is just too light to grab in those conditions. I think tires are 55% of the equation then weight, AWD/4WD, Traction Control etc come into play.
Dumb list for snow. Maybe realistic for Ice.
Best for deep snow is a bigass truck. You can take an old suburban 4×4 through 2 foot deep snow on bald tires… try that with anything on this list. Even the jeep won’t make it.
After you got the bigass truck with 4×4… then worry about the tires and the driver. Until then you’re just kidding yourself. And no, regular sedan with snow tires isn’t going to outperform a hummer with summer tires…
Dale Blank says
Have a 2004 Jeep Wrangler 4×4 soft top 4 cylinder with new fairly new a/t tires. Paid $8,000 for it 18 mos ago and,,,Have really enjoyed pulling out several $40k to $70k 4x4s here in Central Ok this week.
I always tell them that i paid much less than i did to just watch their faces..(bad me,,58 year old kid) Yeas ago, when i had kids at home,, I had a AMC Eagle wagon.. That went everywhere too..
Love my Jeep!!
paul d says
this list is a good start but not anything close…
first take every car off- yes the audis are good but 99% of suvs/trucks are better than cars in snow due to ground clearance…
The most glaring omission is any full size truck- Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150, Dodge Ram, etc… Any full size truck with decent tires will do better than most any other car.
Also good in snow and ice are heavy SUVS- like the Tahoe, Avalanche, Sequoia, Land Rover LR4- this is because their weight gives them good stopping power but powerful engines allow them to plow through alot of crap.
Also, revise your jeep wrangler category and include any jeep. Let’s face it, the Jeep Quadra-Drive system is just as good if not better than Audi’s Quattro (I know this because I’ve owned both an Audi and Jeep) If I had any vehicle to choose from to get through insane snow, a loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland would be one of the top choices.
AND OF COURSE- HOW COULD YOU LEAVE OUT THE HUMMER/HUMVEE?!?! I’ve driven the H2 in the most adverse winter conditions and it just laughs at bad weather.
I’ve lived in Iowa my entire life and have owned many vehicles and large suvs/trucks are without a doubt the best vehicles in snow.
Interesting list… the only cars I agree with are the volvo and the wrangler and perhaps the subaru. I lived in the very cold, very snowy, very icy north for 18 years and except for a small population of specific ‘badass’ vehicles, getting through the snow is largely driver skill. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen sturdy, weighted-down trucks with all the bells and whistles to get through snow actually get stuck; meanwhile, I run through unplowed snow with my FWD Monte carlo. I’ve owned two of those cars, and I’ve never once gotten stuck in the snow with them. to be noted.
i have a 91 325ix bmw with viscous coupling to the front differential/ axles. The viscous coupling is worn out, so the awd system is not working properly., i have good tires with a lot of threads, and i have not gotten stuck yet. It has about 10 inches of ground clearance. All in all, it’s all about the type of tires you have and how the driver tackles the surface conditions.
O.H. It’s not your Toyota’s fault it;s those damned tires, Bridgestone Turanza’s i guess? All vehicles improve with better tires…narrower tires. Remember fat tires for mud and skinny for snow. look at the model A and Model T Ford’s. The go thru snow like a tractor.
O.H. Culp says
Jan. 2011. Still shoveling out of one of the worst snow/ice episodes in Georgia’s history. FORGET THE TOYOTAS! HORRID! Haven’t been able to get to work in 5 days & I’m an RN. Have had 2 toyotas Camry was better my now owned Corolla is a JOKE. Will not buy another Toy. OC
But in the past I owned several 85-90 model Subarus,and never had trouble going in them either,except when the snow was too deep and I got my wheels off the ground.
Well,I drive a Chevy Colorado,all stock 4×4 here in the mountains of East TN/NC,and so far Ive not had any trouble going or stopping.Thats in a foot plus of snow,and you can bet there was a little ice there,too.It has a set of Goodyear wranglers on it. Ive also read that the Hummer (H2,I think), is built on the same platform of the Chevy Colorado.
Pulse I see your point – but Drew is referencing over a foot of snow, and many low clearance vehicles will inhibit your snow prowess for sure..
Joe’s comment about good snow tires is 100% accurate this will help even the worse car considerably…
I think the list is good but limited…Vibe/Matrix AWD also very decent, all Subaru’s (not sure about the Tribeca), any AWD is better then it’s front/rear drive counterpart but tires will make or break you through that storm..
I have had 2 Chevy blazers, one with only RWD, and the more recent is a 4×4, and they are both very capable in the snow. Tires are the thing that affect your snow abilities more than anything. If you have a truck go for a set of severe weather service rated tires, like the BFG All Terrain TA/KO’s, Wrangler Duratrac’s or Wrangler SilentArmor’s will go a long way!
“if you put a BMW,Porsche,or any Asian car period in the snow you are asking for trouble!!”
What an ignorant rant.
One word: Subaru
Drew – you must have gotten all of your snow driving experience living in Key West. What a dork.
this might be the worst list ever for snow vehicles ever! the only one on this list i would take out in the snow is the wrangler, you can take those just about anywhere. if you put a BMW,Porsche,or any Asian car period in the snow you are asking for trouble!! nothing good will ever happen, you will never arrive at your destination if there is a good amount of snow on the ground and your driving a BMW 328i or whatever, the ground clearance alone is enough to get you stuck in your own driveway. Good cars for the snow are…Hummer, but those are very impractical the rest of the year so i would not recommend one, a Chevy suburban with 4×4 will go through just about anything up to about 16inches is the most I’ve ever been through and it was starting to struggle. a full size pickup is great if any only if you have some weight in the bed otherwise you will never get the tires to hookup. this list is good for snow up to like 4-5 inches. if you live north where you regularly see snow in the 6-12inch range don’t count on any of these cars, with the exception of the wrangler all are worthless in the snow.
I have a BMW 330i and it is garbage in the snow!
Range Rover ? Any list that includes one of these is suspect… it might go through snow but then break down on top of the snow pile…
It’s not necessarily the AWD/4X4 system or weight of the vehicle that makes a significant difference. The tires you’re riding on make the biggest impact. A Hummer H1 with summer tires will perform worse than a FWD sedan with good winter tires. As for driving on ice…studded snow tires or tire chains are only getting through that…the type of vehicle doesn’t matter. It’s all in the tire.
J. Waxman says
I drive a Range Rover sport supercharged and the car stinks in snow and forget about driving on ice. People think that since this is a 70 thousand dollar car its invincible in any weather, but theyre wrong. the car really does stink. Ive driven all kinds of suvs and i think the BMW X5 is the best in the snow. Audis Q7 is also amazing in the snow.
Well the nissan frontier drives just as well as the tacoma. i think the top vehicles are the tacoma, frontier, 4runner and xterra.