Winter Is Coming: 7 Great Cars for Snow Driving
If you live in the northern half of the U.S., where significant snowfall is a regular winter occurrence, how a car or truck handles the white stuff can take on added significance when shopping for a new car — and it might push one model of a given type ahead of another.
Related: How to Survive Winter With Rear-Wheel Drive
Not all shoppers want a rugged SUV to take on winter, so our list of models for winter driving goes by vehicle type, highlighting cars with features and technologies to keep you comfortable and underway when weather conditions sour.
While the right car is important, the tires on it play a critical role in successfully navigating winter weather. Having the right tires can mean the difference between making it safely to your destination or getting stuck in the driveway, and in areas of the country with significant snowfall or poor snow removal, the right tires for the season might be a set of winter tires. The difference versus all-season tires — both when accelerating and braking — is night and day.
On to the list. Bear in mind, all prices listed below include the destination fee.
Cars for Snow Driving
- 2021 Audi A5 cabriolet
- 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD
- 2021 Dodge Challenger AWD
- 2021 Honda Ridgeline
- 2021 Subaru Outback
- 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
- 2021 Toyota Prius AWD
If You Want a Convertible: 2021 Audi A5 Cabriolet
- Base price: $51,445
- Combined fuel economy: 26 mpg
There are convertibles that offer all-wheel drive, but the A5 cabriolet is among the few that has standard AWD and doesn’t cost six figures. Fitted with Audi’s Quattro AWD technology that can vary torque distribution between the front and rear wheels, the A5 is powered by a 261-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that teams with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The cabriolet’s fabric soft-top has standard power operation, and it can be lowered or raised at speeds up to 31 mph. Standard cold-weather niceties include heated side mirrors and heated front seats. While the A5 cabriolet’s base price isn’t exactly inexpensive, it’s worth a look if you’re looking for an all-season convertible.
If You Want a People Hauler: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD
- Base price: $39,535
- Combined fuel economy: 20 mpg
Minivans are a great choice to move people and cargo, and the Chrysler Pacifica — which earned our Best of 2017 award in the current generation’s debut year — is comfortable, quiet and offers innovative technology like an available Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system with built-in games. The 2021 Pacifica gets freshened styling and new multimedia technology, and it’s also the first model year to offer AWD across the van’s trim range (an AWD Launch Edition was briefly available for 2020). Standard remote start can help take some of the edge off bitterly cold days when parked outside, and the optional Cold Weather Group adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
If You Want a Muscle Car: 2021 Dodge Challenger AWD
- Base price: $32,790
- Combined fuel economy: 21 mpg
Some muscle cars only come out of the garage when it’s sunny and warm, but if yours has to serve as a daily driver all year round, the Dodge Challenger may fit the bill. It’s the only traditional American muscle car that offers AWD (on the SXT and GT trim levels) with the coupe’s standard 305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The AWD system has a front-axle disconnect feature to save fuel, and it automatically varies torque between the front and rear wheels. And despite the Challenger’s throwback styling, the car offers modern comfort and convenience features to help you through the winter months, like available remote start, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
If You Want a Pickup Truck: 2020 Honda Ridgeline
- Base price: $35,020
- Combined fuel economy: 22 mpg
With its unibody platform based on front-wheel drive, the mid-size Ridgeline isn’t like other pickup trucks, but Honda’s unique approach provides certain benefits in winter driving. Whereas a typical rear-drive truck may not have much weight over its driven wheels, limiting traction in slick conditions, the front-drive Ridgeline has the weight of its V-6 engine over its wheels. All-wheel drive is available for another $2,240 if you need more winter-weather capability. Other mid-size trucks offer higher towing and hauling numbers, but we learned in a recent mid-size truck comparison test that the Ridgeline is a practical, comfortable and innovative pickup.
If You Want a Wagon: 2021 Subaru Outback
- Base price: $27,845
- Combined fuel economy: 29 mpg
The number of available wagons has dwindled in the U.S., but the Subaru Outback remains popular amid increasing competition from traditional SUVs, and it’s a good choice for shoppers looking for a capable winter vehicle. Its 8.7 inches of ground clearance rivals that of many taller SUVs, and it comes standard with AWD. Available winter-friendly convenience features include heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and heated windshield wiper resting points to help keep the rubber blades from freezing to the windshield.
More From Cars.com:
- Should You Warm Up Your Car in Winter?
- Video: Winter Driving Tips
- Survey Sorts Winter-Driving Fact From Fiction
- Song of Ice and Tire: Does Snow Buildup Cool Car Performance?
- How to Free Your Car From a Snowbank or Ice Patch
If You Want Ultimate Winter Capability: 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
- Base price: $51,645
- Combined fuel economy: 17 mpg
The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is built to tackle tough off-road terrain, but the attributes that benefit the SUV off-road are also useful for tackling challenging snow-covered roads. The 4Runner’s 9.6 inches of ground clearance lessens its susceptibility to getting stuck or high-centered in deep snow, and the TRD Pro’s standard four-wheel-drive system includes low-range gearing and a locking rear differential to help escape really tricky spots — or for just powering out of a plowed-in street parking spot.
If You Want Maximum Efficiency: 2021 Toyota Prius AWD
- Base price: $28,130
- Combined fuel economy: 49 mpg
Like the Challenger above, the Prius probably isn’t the first car that comes to mind if you’re looking for winter capability. But if fuel efficiency is also a requirement, Toyota’s hybrid hatchback should be high on your list. The LE and XLE trim levels of the Prius offer available AWD, which adds an extra electric motor that drives the rear wheels. EPA-estimated gas mileage takes a slight hit, dropping 3 mpg combined versus comparable front-drive models, but the AWD Prius is still rated an impressive 49 mpg combined. Winter-friendly features on the XLE version include heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
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