Depending upon how you look at it, winter might just be the harshest time of year — especially if you live in a place that freezes over. The cold can be a huge hurdle when it comes to transportation as snow, ice, and freezing rain make for very dangerous driving on any road. And that goes double if you have any hope of traversing unpaved pathways when there’s ice on top of the dirt.
Thankfully, some car manufacturers have taken that hardship to task and built vehicles ready for anything. And while there are certainly some sedans and hatchbacks that could theoretically contend with such conditions, we’d rather be safe than sorry. For that reason, we’ve put together the following list of ten available SUVs equipped with all-wheel-drive systems, making them perfect for winter driving.
With the CR-V, Honda came out swinging — aiming squarely at Toyota’s RAV4. And this compact SUV beats its competition on nearly every front, including entry price and onboard technology. And it’s comparable in all other categories. What’s even better is that this tiny-but-mighty ride is available with AWD on any trim for an upgrade of roughly $1,400. That way, if you want to tackle the roads in winter, you can do it on the cheap. On a strict budget, you can’t do better than this.
Subaru has always catered to the outdoor-minded crowd. They’re so dedicated to off-the-beaten-path capabilities, in fact, many of their vehicles come with all-wheel-drive as a standard feature. Their Forester SUV is no different. Sharing many styling cues with their legendary Outback, this one has the same ground clearance, but offers even more internal storage space, all while retaining the same top-tier off-road performance — even on icy roads during the colder months of the year.
Regardless of what season it is, you can always count on the Jeep Wrangler to be one of the top options when it comes to off-road performance. After all, every single trim level comes with standard all-wheel-drive. The one thing you have to look out for, however, is the top. If you’re seeking out a ride you can drive all winter long, you’ll want to make sure to opt for a hard top option. Luckily, even the hard tops can be removed, so — when the summer comes back around — you can drop the top for some open-air adventures.
Around for nearly 20 years now, the Ford Explorer has been a staple of the mid-size SUV landscape for as long as it has existed. Yet the all-American brand keeps figuring out ways to make it better. The current models look better than they have in ages, the long list of upgrades is as tantalizing as it is daunting, and the upgraded trim that gets you AWD — the Platinum Edition — is also pretty luxurious throughout the interior.
Nissan’s midsize SUV — though “midsize” might be a misnomer, as it seats seven — doesn’t come with standard 4WD. However, an upgrade will cost you under $2,000 (at most), so it’s hardly an imposition to bump up to the next tier, regardless of which trim you choose. And yes, you can get the 4WD option in any trim they offer. That makes this rather large SUV perfect for off-roading from summer all the way through the winter season. Plus, if you’re adventuresome, every single option comes standard with a roof rack for all your toys.
Unlike many of the other options on this list, the Toyota 4Runner actually has two different 4WD options — one that grants you part-time 4WD (a legendary system in itself) and another that makes the 4WD full-time. The benefits to the full-time system are fairly obvious: you never have to worry about switching it on and your traction will be solid all the time. But the part-time system is enticing, as it offers better MPG prospects when 4WD isn’t absolutely necessary.
When it comes to road- and trail-ready SUVs, few look quite as good as the Audi Q5. Its sleek and clean exterior screams class and betrays the beastly heart pumping within. You see, the Q5 looks like a luxury ride but acts a bit more like its rally-racing predecessors. In fact, it comes with the brand’s legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system as a standard feature. Off the lot, it also comes with 8.2″ of ground clearance, up to 53.1 cubic feet of storage space or seating for five, and a host of modern technologies — like a smartphone-ready wireless interface that supports both Android and iOS.
If sheer carry capacity is your top priority, then you can’t go wrong with the Chevy Tahoe. This beastly full-size SUV is practically a commuter tank, offering 94.7 cubic feet of interior storage space, as well as towing of up to 8,600 pounds. If you want all-wheel-drive, however, you’ll have to upgrade at the least to the LS trim. Of course, if you go all-in with the Premier edition, you’ll get a 6.2L V8 capable of a whopping 420 horsepower. For a winter-ready SUV that can bring all your toys along inside, on top, and behind it, this is your best bet.
Range Rover Velar
The top-tier gas-powered option on our list, the Velar is dripping with stylishness and technology — both inside and out. From an appearance standpoint, the Velar can’t be beaten. But just because it looks handsome as hell doesn’t mean it can’t handle its own both on- and off-road. After all, it’s equipped with Land Rover’s Torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, which offers up unheard-of control whether you’re on pavement or not. Pair that with a tremendous number of technological features, even on the lowest-end trim level, and this Range Rover is a drool-worthy SUV that’s more than ready for winter excursions.
Tesla Model X
Thanks in part to their all-electric drivetrains, all of Tesla’s offerings feature AWD. But when it comes to the potential for off-roading — especially in the winter — their top-tier option is definitely the Model X. With performance figures that put pretty much everything else on this list to shame (including standard 518 horsepower), this eco-friendly crossover is nigh-unstoppable. If you really want to up the capabilities of this bad boy, however, you’ll want to look into all-terrain tires. Of course, if you’ve got the scratch to upgrade to, say, the P100D (which does 0-60 in 2.9 seconds), what’s another few hundred dollars?
Range: 237 Miles
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Haven’t quite found that for which you are searching? We bet you’ll have better luck with the expanded options on our list of the 12 best off-road 4x4s vehicles you can buy.