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The 20 Best Cars for Driving in the Snow

2022 Jeep Wagoneer

Under normal conditions, driving an automobile to get from one place to another seems to be the favorite mode of transportation among the people who have access to a vehicle. Even in weather conditions that are less ideal, it is still preferred. However, when it comes to winter driving, it seems some vehicles are better able to handle driving in the snow than others. Unless a vehicle is properly equipped for it, the motorist's ability to make the most out of winter driving experiences is vastly reduced. While winter tires definitely help, it's usually meant to handle icier road conditions. When it comes to plowing through the snow like a tractor, those winter tires are not designed for that kind of job. In fact, if you're driving a low-riding vehicle, driving in the snow will more likely have you stuck in the white stuff rather than have the ability to drive through it.

So, what vehicles make the best options to handle snowy conditions? Truth be told, it's not always the make of the vehicle itself that decides how capable it is to trek through the snow, but rather what's all involved. Although it does help for the vehicle to have an effective drivetrain and transmission, how about those tires? Are they all-season or winter? How about the technologies involved such as safety and driver-assist? There's also stability control and blind-spot monitoring, which come in handy. Also, for winter drivers, the luxury of having heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and rain-sensing windshield wipers help, too. Regardless of the vehicle happens to be a sedan, SUV, or pickup truck, anybody living in Snowbelt regions will definitely find all the appropriate combinations of the mentioned features a big bonus when it comes to contending with harsh winter driving conditions. For inexperienced drivers dealing with snow and ice, the more technologically advanced the vehicle is the better but it also boils down to common sense and driver awareness. Even among the twenty recommended vehicles on this list, if considerations such as winter tires and regular vehicle maintenance are not maintained, even the best of the best may come across as bitter disappointments for the driver.

AWD vs. 4WD

Which is better between the two drivetrains, an all-wheel-drive (AWD) or a four-wheel-drive (4WD)? There are also front-wheel-drive vehicles (FWD), rear-wheel-drive vehicles (RWD), and two-wheel-drive vehicles (2WD). Among these different types of drivetrains per vehicle, which has the best performance record when going up against the big, bad, white snow? For starters, AWD and 4WD are not the same systems, a mistake many people make regarding these two drivetrains to be identical. AWD functions with little or no driver input, but functions as FWDs or RWDs. On dry pavement, the engine is able to send all the torque to one axle. With FWDs, the power is sent to the front wheels while the RWDs see the power sent to the rear wheels. Common AWD systems typically sense either one or both primary drive wheels slipping, which then transfers a percentage of the engine torque to the other axle and its two wheels. As for better fuel efficiency, AWDs behave as an on-demand system that's set up to usually behave like a two-wheel drive. In the automotive industry, these types of AWDs are also referred to as part-timers that only behave as such when road conditions warrant the vehicle to shift from its two-wheel drivetrain to an all-wheel drivetrain.

There are full-time AWDs, which always send some amount of torque to all four of the vehicle's wheels. This setup automatically adjusts the torque as needed between the four wheels. The Subaru lineup of vehicles is notorious for having most of its vehicles set up as full-time AWDs. These types of AWDs are not quite as fuel-efficient as the on-demand systems. Whether it's the full-time AWD system or the on-demand AWD system, whenever there is the need for more traction applied, more power will be needed to reduce slippage on icy road surfaces, as well as more push and pull when having to contend with snowy surfaces. For many drivers, an AWD automobile is good enough to handle winter conditions that see a fair share of ice and snow.

However, the 4WD automobiles have a better track record when it comes to dealing with road conditions that are more extreme. Usually, these vehicles are designed with off-road capability, so this already places these types of automobiles with a distinct advantage over the AWDs. These machines have the power sent to all four wheels but create a lock between the front axle and the rear axle so that both axles maintain the same speed. This reduces the spinning of the wheels when there is low traction, which can handle surfaces such as gravel and deep snow. However, 4WDs cannot handle corners as well as a 2WD nor an AWD can. This is why there are some vehicles that don't always have a strict 4WD drivetrain. Just like on-demand AWDs, there are also on-demand 4WDs. Most part-time 4WD automobiles are fashioned with 2WD vehicles.

4WD Highs and Lows

When the driver needs that extra traction to handle something like snow, there are modernized 4WD units that have the option to switch to a high range (4-Hi). This is the mode used whenever handling off-road conditions or at least contending with snowy road conditions. When that extra traction is not needed, the driver can switch to a low range (2WD) without having to stop. There are some automobiles that will automatically do this for the driver, which reacts on a sensory system based on how the wheels respond to the surface it's driving on. As great as the 4WD drivetrain is, using the 4-Hi range on a perfectly good road that doesn't require extra traction control is not recommended. If a driver forgets to switch the 4-Hi system back to a 2WD system, there is a risk of damaging the vehicle. Furthermore, the 4WD mode is less fuel-efficient than the 2WD.

Technology Matters

As of 2013, the government has mandated each new passenger vehicle made is required to have the features of anti-lock brakes, stability control, and traction control. Vehicles aged 2014 and newer have a wide array of safety and driver-assist features. The more focus is poured into these features for the vehicle to improve upon its performance the better. It is from that collection the list of the twenty best vehicles for driving in the snow is selected.

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser

20. 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser

Designed for luxury and performance, the four-wheel-drive 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser isn't shy to go anywhere, regardless of the road condition. Whether it's paved, dirt, or snow-covered, it is capable of getting you where you need to go. It is big and it is heavy, so that is to its advantage. The steering is easy enough, allowing you to maintain control should the weather become unfavorable. With enough features to make it a solid off-roader, as well as a warm and comfortable interior, the Cruiser will do. It also has tow hooks should anybody need a helping hand out of the snow. There are also multiple skid plates, low-speed crawl control, and a two-speed transfer case between high-range and low-range gearing.

2019 Mazda CX-9

19. 2019 Mazda CX-9

Sitting at 8.8 inches off the ground, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 SUV stands tall enough to handle snow travel. With this model, the advanced all-wheel-drive system demonstrates a superior grade to standard all-wheel-drive vehicles that are not quite as performant. Within this AWD is a predictive system that helps navigate icy and snowy road conditions.

2021 BMW 3 Series xDrive

18. 2021 BMW 3 Series xDrive

Normally, when it comes to referencing the best vehicles to handle the snow, it's the SUVs that get most of the attention. This is because that vehicle class has a higher ground clearance that makes them less likely to get trapped in the snow. However, there is the occasional sedan that can hold its own too. The 2021 BMW 3 Series xDrive is considered by many reviewers as one of the most luxurious compact sedans on the market. It also features an xDrive AWD system, plus a driver-assist feature, which comes in handy when dealing with winter road conditions. Although there isn't enough ground clearance to plow through roads that have thicker blankets of snow, it is quite capable of helping a driver get through a scary snowstorm.

2021 Mazda3 AWD

17. 2021 Mazda3 AWD

As an AWD, the 2021 Mazda 3 features a drivetrain that also features an i-Activsense suite that is loaded with safety and driver-assist technologies. This helps handling snowy driving conditions, as well as icy ones. The automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic high beams come as a standard with the sedan. The 4-cylinder engine pushes 186-horsepower and the six-speed automatic transmission sends output to all four wheels as an AWD.

2019 Honda CR-V

16. 2019 Honda CR-V

Small yet spacious, the 2019 Honda CR-V SUV really seems to know how to handle the snow. As a front-wheel-drive, it's already impressive, but upgrade to a real-time all-wheel-drive and now you have a car that can handle snowy conditions as if it was picnic day. According to Motor and Wheels, looks can be deceiving when sizing up this little SUV. As a real-time AWD machine, the features of traction control, vehicle stability assist, and ABS brakes have that ideal combination to handle ice, snow, and slush without causing problems.

2019 Subaru Impreza

15. 2019 Subaru Impreza

There are winters and then there are Canadian winters. What makes Canadian winters so special? What sets Canadian winters apart from American winters in the nation usually encounters even more frigid temperatures than its neighbors to the south, as well as more snow. In Canada, unless a car is designed to handle harsh winter climates, then it's a useless piece of machinery. In the case of the 2021 Subaru Impreza, it is one of those surprising sedans that can handle winter conditions almost as if it was an SUV. While it may not have the same ground clearance level as an SUV, as a five-speed manual, AWD automobile, it is as drama-free as it gets when driving in snowy weather conditions. According to the website review, this car was purposely driven during a snowstorm where the weather forecasters made pleas for every driver to stay home. The Subaru Impreza is one of those rare crossover vehicles that can handle even deep snow without issue.

2020 Kia Telluride

14. 2020 Kia Telluride

The 2020 Kia Telluride made its debut in 2019 as a brand new SUV model from this Korean-based company that was purposely designed to combine luxury with performance. As an all-wheel-drive, the Telluride can handle the unpleasant driving conditions a harsh winter can bring, even if it's a snowstorm threatening to throw drivers off the road. Car and Driver gave the 2020 Kia Telluride a perfect ten rating, and for good reason.

2020 Ford Expedition

13. 2020 Ford Expedition

The 2020 Ford Expedition serves as a great winter-savvy SUV that is at its best when it's an all-wheel drive. The 9.8-inch ground clearance serves as a key advantage to avoid getting stuck in the snow. It also makes a great off-roader and is one of the best-liked vehicles. According to Motor and Wheels, the Expedition has a dedicated Snow Mode, thanks to the intelligence system programmed within the AWD. It also has an advanced braking system that has no trouble dealing with the snow. The Ford Expedition is noted as the superstar of larger SUV units and for good reason. Can't be called Ford tough if it can't handle a few snowflakes.

2019 Subaru Forester

12. 2019 Subaru Forester

With its 182-horsepower engine, the 2019 Subaru Forester has proven to be one of the best vehicles to drive in while having to deal with snowy conditions. This AWD has an EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, as well as vehicle dynamics control. There are plenty of upgrades and safety features in this vehicle to make even the least experienced driver feel more comfortable driving in inclement weather. The 2019 Subaru Forester has 182 horsepower and several other features that make it an excellent model for driving through snow. It has all-wheel drive, along with EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, vehicle dynamics control, and that is just the base trim. Upgrades include even more safety features and amenities to make car journeys safe and enjoyable.

2021 Toyota RAV4

11. 2021 Toyota RAV4

For something that's easy to drive and is budget-friendly, but capable of handling icy and snowy road conditions, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 SUV as an AWD is the route to go. The off-road trim helps, as does the underbody skid plates, and the TRD-tuned MacPherson front suspension. Its 203-horsepower, four-cylinder engine comes as an eight-speed automatic transmission. Can it get you through a snowstorm? According to Motor Biscuit, this SUV unit is built to handle snow like a pro.

2022 Subaru Ascent

10. 2022 Subaru Ascent

People living in colder climates would appreciate the 2022 Subaru Ascent as it is one of the few mid-size SUV units with a standard all-wheel-drive (AWD). The 8.7 inches of ground clearance makes it easy to travel through snowy road conditions and it has traction control that can also handle the hills. This adds confidence to the driver, who sits in a cabin made with good quality materials that are easy to clean. With enough space to not worry about the claustrophobic feeling of snow boots and a winter jacket, this allows the driver to enjoy a good, comfortable ride. With plenty of trunk space to work with, plus it's the largest in its class, this makes it a great vehicle to take anywhere for any occasion. There are three rows in this vehicle, allowing a passenger load of six people to enjoy the ride without feeling cramped.

2021 Volvo XC40

9. 2021 Volvo XC40

The Swedish-based company, Volvo, has a solid handle on how harsh the winter season can be. If anybody knows how to handle snow, it's the Swedes. The 2021 Volvo XC40 is a sub-compact SUV that has an AWD system that's designed to handle unpleasant road conditions. The horsepower range of this unit is between 187 to 402, but the best option to deal with snowy conditions would be the T5 AWD momentum. There is enough technology poured into the safety and traction features of this vehicle to be able to deal with foul weather, including snow.

2022 Honda CR-V

8. 2022 Honda CR-V

When it comes to performance, Honda is a tough act to follow. The 2022 Honda CR-V is no exception as its critically acclaimed five-passenger compact SUV remains a solid favorite, especially among motorists that rely on a good vehicle that can handle even the harshest winter conditions. As an AWD, folks in the Snowbelt should consider the Special Edition trim as that comes with heated front seats and a remote start. While Honda spares no effort on all the technological features to make the interior of the vehicle comfortable, it also doesn't shy away from the safety features, either. This four-cylinder, 190-horsepower SUV has a peppy powertrain that can effectively plow its way through some snow and not suck up a tonne of fuel to do it.

2021 Kia Telluride LX AWD

7. 2021 Kia Telluride LX AWD

For three years in a row, Car and Driver has given a perfect ten score for the Kia Telluride. This 2021 LX AWD unit offers an excellent blend of comfort, luxury, and performance that can handle just about anything thrown at it while on the road. With an eight-inch ground clearance, heated mirrors, and all the extra safety features, this makes an easy favorite for Snowbelters. Upgrade to an EX AWD and the benefits of heated seats, automatic high beams, and LED headlights makes the Telluride experience even better. The power of this SUV comes from a 3.6-liter, V6, 291-horsepower engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. According to Kelly's Blue Book, a rating of 4.8 out of 5 for what has now been a total of three years in a row, the Kia Telluride can do way more than just handle a handful of snowflakes.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Class 4Matic

6. 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Class 4Matic

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA was a redesign to finally make it look like a luxury-classed SUV should be. Not only is it luxurious, but performant, especially as an AWD. As an AWD, it's called a 4Matic with the Mercedes-Benz bunch. The mirrors, seats, and windshield washer nozzles are heated. There are also a number of high-end safety features to ensure the driver has as worry-free a driving experience as possible, especially when having to endure unpleasant weather conditions whenever it seems nature wants to throw a temper tantrum.

2021 Lincoln Navigator

5. 2021 Lincoln Navigator

The 2021 Lincoln Navigator is a three-row SUV that has a cavernous interior that can comfortably seat eight passengers. This is a large vehicle but is an awesome winter driving machine that is loaded with safety features and driver-assist programs. This four-wheel-drive SUV boasts a 450-horsepower, turbocharged V8 engine and can handle winter and its snowballs.

2021 Ford Expedition

4. 2021 Ford Expedition

It's big and it gets the job done. The 2021 Ford Expedition is a three-row SUV that handles very well on any given road condition and has minimal body roll. When dealing with snow and ice, this is important. With a V6 turbocharged engine ten-speed automatic gearbox and 375 horsepower, this SUV is a beast. When taking the four-wheel-drive option and the FX4 Off-Road package, the Expedition features an even tougher array of features that adds even more meaning to the company slogan, Ford Tough. When fully loaded, it can tackle any kind of weather, regardless of what kind of road it's driving on.

2022 Honda CR-V LX

3. 2022 Honda CR-V LX

When it comes to performance, Honda is a tough act to follow. The 2022 Honda CR-V is no exception as its critically acclaimed five-passenger compact SUV remains a solid favorite, especially among motorists that rely on a good vehicle that can handle even the harshest winter conditions. As an AWD, folks in the Snowbelt should consider the Special Edition trim as that comes with heated front seats and a remote start. While Honda spares no effort on all the technological features to make the interior of the vehicle comfortable, it also doesn't shy away from the safety features, either. This four-cylinder, 190-horsepower SUV has a peppy powertrain that can effectively plow its way through some snow and not suck up a tonne of fuel to do it.

2022 Kia Telluride

2. 2022 Kia Telluride

As a brand, Kia has proven to be more than just some car manufacturing company with a cute name. The 2022 Kia Telluride has a wonderful blend of performance and comfort as an SUV that seems like it can handle anything hurled at it, including snow. This three-row, mid-size SUV is also one of the most luxurious models produced by Kia and is also the most muscular. This V6, 291-horsepower gem is an eight-speed automatic that offers the choice between a front-wheel-drive (FWD) or an all-wheel-drive (AWD). Our suggestion is to go with the AWD as you need the extra grip on the road if you deal with harsh winter conditions that see snowfall. As a standard issue, the Telluride has all the technology needed to not only make the ride a safe one for as many as eight passengers but a comfortable one. Since this is the third time the Kia Telluride has been listed here, this should say something about its ability to deal with the snow.

2022 Jeep Wagoneer

1. 2022 Jeep Wagoneer

The 2022 Jeep Wagoneer has been dubbed the most tenacious SUV in the industry today. It is large and luxurious and it's a Jeep. The Jeep Wagoneer has a long-standing reputation for handling off-road and treacherous road conditions when most other makes and models can't. With a passenger capacity of eight people, plus a boat-load of standard features and a 10,000-pound towing capacity, not only can you plow through the snow on your own, but pull someone out that may be stuck in it. As important as it is to be able to drive in icy and snowy road conditions, it's also vital to be as comfortable as possible too. The advanced all-terrain package adds extra air suspension and a two-speed transfer case, skid plates, and all-terrain tires. However, if you're driving in winter, it's still recommended to equip the vehicle with quality winter tires. It does make a difference.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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