The words of House Stark will tell you that preparing for winter is imperative. And assuming you’ve seen a few winters in your time, you’ll know that one of the biggest adjustments you’ll need to make is winter driving. You’ll need to add some time to your commute allowance, check your antifreeze, grab some flares and road salt, and throw on some snow tires. But if you’re looking for a new vehicle to bring to battle with winter, we have some suggestions. Cars for skiing are great, but these vehicles will do you good in the everyday winter struggle.
These are some of the best vehicles to tackle most winter conditions. (We don’t know if anything can help you if you’re in Buffalo at the time this article was written, as 7 to 8 feet of snow is quite a bit.) We suggest a vehicle that can climb over snow banks and handle icy conditions without fear of losing too much control. This is where all-wheel and 4-wheel drive come into the conversation. We don’t need to tell you why having more wheels to get traction in less-than-ideal driving conditions is a good thing. Additionally, a front-loaded engine and heated comfort features will help any vehicle handle wintry conditions, and heated exterior features (mirrors, windshield-washer jets, etc.) are also a plus from a safety/convenience standpoint.
10. If you’re looking for a winter vehicle to complement your practical family-oriented lifestyle, the Chevrolet Traverse is the utility crossover for you. It’s a very large crossover, capable of seating 8 people while still holding 116.3 cubic feet of potential cargo space (with the rear seats folded). Not bad for a car platform. Its selection of AWD trims traverse wintry conditions (see, it’s right in the name) with relative ease, and heated front seats will ensure passengers stay nice and toasty. It’s a vehicle that will get your kids where they have to go in the dead of winter. They might be even be disappointed there won’t be as many snow days with the Traverse to haul them around.
9. When it comes to luxury crossovers, the Acura MDX has the stuff needed to conquer the winter wonderland. Acura is not afraid to boast about this car’s ability to handle any condition thrown at it. Its SH-AWD (SH stands for “Super Handling,” by the way) gives it unmatched control and agility for a crossover. Luxury means comfort, and comfort in Winter means heat. Heated seats all around mean your passengers will be comfortable, and heated mirrors will provide you with a safer driving experience. You’ll barely notice the snow with the features the MDX offers.
8. The BMW 2 Series debuted for the 2014 model year to much fanfare. Not only was it good looking, it was also incredibly well balanced, fun to drive and fast, with the M235i version hitting 60 in 4.3 seconds. One thing the 2014 2 Series wasn’t, however, was great in the snow (largely due to the fact that power went solely to the rear wheels). Happily, BMW added all-wheel-drive versions of both the 228i and M235i for 2015. Don’t get us wrong, we love rear-wheel drive and all the fun that comes along with it, but if you live in a state with a college hockey team (except maybe Alabama), plan on parking that rear-wheel-drive bad boy from Thanksgiving until the Frozen Four. Thankfully, you’ll never again need to decide between missing college hockey and enjoying the thrills of the open road thanks to the 2015 2 Series.
7. The Jeep Wrangler continues its tradition of being a vehicle with zero limitations, and you can bet that snow does very little to slow it down. The Cherokee may have a built-in Snow mode, but that’s just because the Wrangler is always prepared for these conditions. A little (or a lot) of snow doesn’t stand a chance against the tried-and-true capability of the Wrangler. Whether it be snow, ice, rain, sleet or something in between, the Wrangler will make easy work of a tough drive. Speaking from experience, the soft top roof of the Wrangler can get a little more cold than you would expect, so having the heated comfort features makes all the difference in the world. The Wrangler makes surviving harsh winter conditions an easy thing to do, and you won’t regret having it at any other time of the year, either.
6. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has long been known for one thing: being an absolute beast. When it hit the civilian market in 1979, it didn’t deviate too far from its military roots. Fast-forward 35 years and the G-Class hasn’t changed much on the outside, but it’s drastically different on the inside, offering a plush interior that would make almost any other luxury car jealous. This combination of military-inspired off-road prowess and modern luxuries gives you the best of both worlds, letting you take on anything from the streets of Buffalo to the backwoods of Maine and do it all from the comfort of heated Nappa leather seats. While the “basic” G550 should handle just about anything Old Man Winter can throw at it, shell out $137,150 for the G63 AMG version, and you’ll be able to tackle all that while getting from 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds. If even that isn’t enough for you, step up to the G63 AMG 6×6 for a mere $633,000 (approximately), and there won’t be anything Old Man Winter, Mother Nature or Zeus can do to keep you from getting where you want to go.
5. As far as entry-level luxury sedans go, the Chrysler 300 is the one to handle the difficulties of winter conditions. The 300 has plenty of trims to choose from with both RWD and AWD (but we don’t have to tell you which of these you should get for snowy conditions). As a luxury sedan, the 300 offers some great comfort features to improve your winter driving experience. Multi-level heated front and rear seats, heated mirrors and a heated steering wheel will ensure the people in the car stay as warm as possible, and heated cupholders will make sure coffee in the car stays as warm as possible.
4. We included the Volvo XC90 on last year’s list, and since then we’ve become even more impressed with the Swedish SUV. While it should be no surprise the XC90 does well in the snow (Sweden does get a fair bit of the white stuff, after all), it is a bit surprising just how well it does. According to CarGurus blog commenter Randy, the XC90 is “a superb snow and ice vehicle” with “a relatively aggressive stability system, which makes it ideal for spouses who may not have advanced winter driving skills.” Add to that the XC90’s low center of gravity, high ground clearance and comfortable seating for 7, and you have the recipe for one of the best, safest and easiest-to-drive family snow cars around.
3. It’s no secret we love the Toyota 4Runner, but that love is not for naught. The last of the midsize body-on-frame SUVs, the 4Runner has not deviated from that winning formula since it hit the market in 1984. With the capabilities of a truck and the comfort of a car, the 4Runner is the best of both worlds for those looking to get off the beaten path this winter. While the SUV performs admirably on snowy roads, it’s on snowy trails where it really shines. Thanks to that body-on-frame construction, the 4Runner is as rugged as a pickup and can transport you and up to 6 friends wherever you want to go. When the white stuff really starts coming down, simply slip the 4Runner into 4WD and keep on going.
2. The Audi Allroad brings some fine handling to the station-wagon marketplace. As the name implies, the Allroad offers Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drivetrain that is capable of driving on whatever road conditions come your way, be they rain, snow or ice. The Allroad also offers heated windshield-washer jets to assist in the window defrosting process. Features like these make the Allroad more than a convenience to have in the winter. The Allroad’s capability extends beyond the winter months, with a powertrain that can outperform much of its competition in the AWD wagon category. The Allroad certainly stacks up against Audi’s selection of SUVs and crossovers, but it also brings the drivability of a station wagon to the conversation.
1. Subaru has long held a reputation for building cars that perform well in the snow. In fact, Subarus are so prevalent in states like Vermont and Colorado that some have joked the states’ flags should include the Seven Sisters. Although almost every car Subaru makes has helped contribute to this, perhaps the most impressive is the Subaru Forester. When we tested the Forester last year, we experienced its superb abilities in snow first-hand:
“In the middle of the storm, when others were indoors, the Forester logged mile after mile without a fuss. Its all-wheel drive clawed through the snow and maintained control in just about any level of accumulation on the road.”
The Forester achieves this through its use of Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, which is also found in other Subarus (like the Legacy, XV Crosstrek, Outback, Impreza, WRX and WRX STi) and delivers power to whichever wheels have the most grip when things get rough (thanks to its boxer engine, the Forester’s low center of gravity is also a huge help in maintaining control when things get dicey). This allows the Forester to stick to the road even in the most slippery of situations, keeping you and your car safely on-track. Where the Forester sets itself apart, however, is its cost-effectiveness. Starting at $22,195, the Forester offers seating for 5, 34.4 cubic feet of cargo space and the best all-wheel drive in the business. That’s a pretty great price for a car that looks at snow and just chuckles.
What car (or truck) gets you through the winter?
-jharrington and zwaller
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Solid list of cars that are more than capable of handling the slippery roads of winter, but drivers also need to exercise common sense and equip their rides with proper winter tires and/or chains as well. A vehicle is often only as good as the person driving it!