So many great cars that came out over the past decade might have been too expensive at the time, but now the prices have dropped and such cars are more than affordable. Thankfully the luxury of AWD is not confined to trucks and SUVs, and car shoppers can find it in virtually every style of car, be it a wagon or luxury sedan.
Here are some of our picks for best cars for snow:
While it’s true that Volvos lack a certain image that turns heads, there’s no doubt that taking a closer look and getting to know the Volvo underneath more intimately yields a deeper connection, sending superficiality to the wayside. In other words, if you can get past the exterior styling, you’ll find the riches of owning a Volvo are plenty enough to sustain a long and happy relationship.
The S80 can do it all, and do it well. Volvo’s S80, equipped with AWD and a turbocharged inline-six, makes for an effective snow plow. There’s not an overwhelming amount of torque, which means it has an easier time holding traction in the snow, but it’s 300 horsepower is plenty to move it at manageable speeds. Volvos are comfortable, safe cars so you really can’t go wrong.
New station wagons may have recently tip-toed onto the endangered species list, but defiantly in the face of wagon-extinction emerges the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. It’s big, heavy, doesn’t make a lot of power but does provide a massive cargo area of 58 cubic feet. It also comes with big tires, AWD and much like the Volvo not a lot of torque, which can be a good thing in the snow. Too much low-end power can make the tires spin, and you want them to stick, especially when driving on snow and ice.
Cadillacs as a general rule provide comfortable upholstery that you can sink into, but new and standard to the 2014 CTS models is active noise cancellation. Various other amenities litter the cabin as well, such as enough usb ports to charge an Apple store and a universal garage door opener.
For something decidedly less interesting and far more practical, go with the now discontinued Toyota Matrix. It’s not too big and certainly not small, has a lot of trunk space, gets decent gas mileage, lasts a long time, and makes very little power so it won’t be at all treacherous. There’s an AWD option as well, only mated to an automatic transmission, so no fuss is involved.
The Matrix has a turning radius that is nothing if not convenient. Visibility is fine, albeit not as good as a larger car like a Honda Accord but is by no means as dangerous as a Chevrolet Camaro. For tooling around in the snow it’s hard to imagine a car that offers as much sanity and comfort as a Toyota Matrix, but it wouldn’t be so bland if only Toyota had sprinkled on just a bit of turbocharger.
For the sports car enthusiast, the Subaru Impreza WRX is hard to beat. Surprisingly we are not recommending a turbocharger for this particular Subaru. Aside from all the problems it can bring (and problems are the last thing you want while negotiating a blizzard), it’s not really needed when you consider that it’s the fastest factory Subaru up until at least 2015.
While Subaru has many different kinds of AWD systems that are sometimes rear biased and designed to operate alongside specific transmissions, this particular manual transmission-equipped Subaru uses the Symmetrical AWD with viscous coupling. This means that while holding traction the engine’s power is distributed evenly to the front and back axles of the car. Under slip, or at the loss of traction, a center differential will send as much as 80-percent of the power to the tire(s) with the most grip. Very handy in a dangerous, snow-ridden situation.
If you’re skeptical of this we can’t in good conscience blame you, as the reliability of Jaguar cars has been called into question for several decades. However, if you’ve got the money and want a more luxurious, classy way to carve through snowy mountains, the 2015 Jaguar XF Sport Sedan is certainly a viable option. Not only is it affordable, but also has AWD and a supercharged V6 engine. Believe it or not, the XF has been rated for achieving 20 combined MPG.
For dicey ground clearance issues the XF can come with adaptive suspension. The car is surprisingly controllable on the ice, and has a hard working traction control system you probably won’t want to turn off.
If for some reason you want to take a convertible up to the snow there are options for that, but none that we’d recommend. Especially not if you plan on fending off a storm that’ll damage your precious leather interior. For driving to the snow, choosing from this list won’t do you wrong no matter what kind of car you prefer.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.