All-Weather Autos: 12 Best Cars For Winter

Photo: Porsche

There once was a time when motor vehicles were specifically purpose-driven. If you wanted an efficient city-going ride with a solid miles-per-gallon rating, you got a sedan or a coupe. If you wanted to haul a large number of people around, you got a van. And if you wanted to haul cargo or go off-roading, you got a pickup truck or an SUV. Those lines nowadays, however, have blurred significantly.

Now, there are appropriate vehicles for all of those activities in every existing category and then some. Now, if you live somewhere the roads freeze over, you’re no longer stuck with the prospect of getting a hulking 4×4. Rather, you can find yourself a reliable and tough non-SUV that’s just as capable of handling those winter roads. And that’s what we’ve rounded up for you today: a collection of rides that aren’t SUVs or pickups but still come with all-wheel-drive for handling inclement weather. These are the twelve best cars for winter driving.

Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Even if you’re keeping a close eye on your wallet, you can still find an affordable winter-ready wagon in VW’s Golf Alltrack. A bit longer than its stout brethren with their rally-racing heritage, this all-terrain, all-weather ride might just be the ultimate budget-friendly adventure vehicle. Not only does it come standard with AWD, but it also boasts plenty of internal storage space, roof rails for a cargo box or roof rack, plenty of up-to-date optional tech upgrades, and — frankly — it’s a beauty. We’d never call her a luxury ride, but you definitely get more than you pay for.

Horsepower: 168
Torque: 199
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $25,955+

Subaru Outback

Subaru’s Outback will likely go down in history as the hands-down best off-road-ready wagon ever built. That’s partially because it’s plenty capable — with AWD as a standard feature on all trims, the same ground clearance as their larger Forester SUV, and roof rails for all your storage needs — but also because it’s remarkably affordable and incredibly reliable. We definitely understand that sport wagons aren’t for everybody, but if you’re not offended by the vehicle class, you can’t really do better than this, especially for the price.

Horsepower: 175-256
Torque: 174-247
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $26,345+

Subaru WRX

As we mentioned, wagons and shooting brakes aren’t for everyone. But you can still get behind the wheel of a Subaru that’s not a wagon or SUV, yet still get AWD. This is because their same symmetrical all-wheel-drive system can be found in the WRX. Originally a trim option under the Impreza umbrella, the WRX has since become its own vehicle and, frankly, is better now than ever — including the legendary STI trim. You don’t get the kind of mileage you might expect out of a sedan (just 27 highway and 21 city), but that’s because this bad boy is a rally-ready racing machine. If you want your winter-ready sedan to be sporty and fun, but you can’t afford a high-end sports car, go no further than the WRX.

Horsepower: 268-310
Torque: 258-290
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $27,195+

Dodge Challenger

Typically, people associate pony cars with straight-line driving, like that found on the drag racing strip. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t non-rear-wheel-versions on the market that can handle those slippery winter roads. In fact, one of the best available, the Dodge Challenger, has a pair of AWD trims that are outstanding in the rain, sleet, and snow. That also means you get, at the very least, 305 horsepower to go out and have some fun with, frozen roads or not. If you want a bit of muscle in your winter-ready ride, the Dodge Challenger is as solid as they come.

Horsepower: 305
Torque: 268

Purchase: $33,995+

Alfa Romeo Giulia

American muscle cars, to some, are an offensive affront to motor vehicles. We certainly don’t feel that way, but we also understand why some might. For those folks, maybe the Alfa Romeo Giulia — with its European curves and sensibilities — is a more acceptable car for winter driving. And winter-ready it most certainly is, so long as you make sure to pay for the AWD upgrade. Featuring a baseline of 280 horsepower, this svelte speedster is definitely a driver’s car worthy of its Italian heritage. Granted it’s no Ferrari, but it’s also a fraction of the cost of even the cheapest of the prancing horse’s offerings — and that definitely gives it a leg up in our book.

Horsepower: 280-505
Torque: 306-443
AWD/4WD Trim: Upgrade Available For All Trims

Purchase: $40,195+

BMW 3 Series

BMW’s 3 Series is legendary when it comes to sedans and cars in general. And wouldn’t you know it, they offer their current range with optional all-wheel-drive. Found in the 330i xDrive Sedan, which does 0-60 in a respectable 5.3 seconds, this is a handsome luxury-level standard-setting sedan for a far more reasonable price than you might expect. And since it’s been through a whopping seven generations of changes, you can be certain this current edition is not just one of the best AWD cars on the market — it’s one of the best vehicles overall, period. Beauty, performance, and a reasonable price — BMW’s 3 Series has it all.

Horsepower: 255
Torque: 295
AWD/4WD Trim: 330i xDrive

Purchase: $42,250+

Lexus RC

If you find that your tastes align more closely with those of Asian auto builders, rather than European ones, you might find yourself more drawn to something like the Lexus RC. Sporty, sleek, and small, this coupe isn’t going to win any awards for jaw-dropping performance — with a standard horsepower rating of 260 — but it’s lightweight enough that it’s still plenty of fun to drive. Of course, it wouldn’t be up to winter driving standards if it didn’t come with the option for AWD, which it does across a pair of trims. Just keep in mind that AWD isn’t available for the higher-end options in this case.

Horsepower: 260
Torque: 236
AWD/4WD Trim: AWD, AWD F Sport

Purchase: $43,835+

Audi A6

It seems hard to believe, but Audi dates back all the way to 1909 (and the story of the marque is a very interesting one). Still, it seems like they’ve certainly seen a renaissance over the last decade or two, elevating themselves into luxury brand territory alongside the likes of other German manufacturers, like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. We credit a lot of that to their careful balance of style and performance, as can be seen in their A6. It’s a more subtle sedan than some of its competition, but it’s also graceful and sleek. And if that’s not enough, it’s even available with up to 420 horsepower — an impressive figure by any standard. Available with the brand’s legendary Quattro AWD system, this is definitely a winter-worthy sedan.

Horsepower: 268-420
Torque: 285-430
AWD/4WD Trim: Upgrade Available For All Trims

Purchase: $58,900+

Cadillac CTS

Interestingly enough, this sporty sedan is one of the few non-trucks/SUVs that has available all-wheel-drive on every level of trim. You just have to make sure you’re getting the right one or you could be stuck with only two wheels moving you down the road. That being said, if you do pick one up, this bad boy is a speedy little sports car good for up to 420 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque. And that ain’t half bad for a car that weighs less than 4,000 pounds. It’s not the sexiest looking 4-door on the market, but it’s not ugly, either. And the potential performance and AWD certainly make up for any perceived shortcomings.

Horsepower: 335-420
Torque: 369-430
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $60,195+

Mercedes-Benz CLS

Mercedes-Benz and their CLS 450, with the option for a 4MATIC AWD upgrade, have got us wondering if there’s really anything better than good old-fashioned German engineering. Curvy and aerodynamic, the CLS is a gorgeous entry into an already packed catalogue, yet it still manages to stand out as an individual. And while we wish there was an option for an engine upgrade on the base model, we’re definitely still satisfied with the standard 362 horsepower. Of course, if you have the scratch for a substantial upgrade ($79,900 starting), the AMG-tuned version will get you a 429-hp from a turbocharged inline-6 with an electric EQ Boost — which is definitely an enticing prospect.

Horsepower: 362
Torque: 369
AWD/4WD Trim: 450 4MATIC Coupe

Purchase: $71,700+

Tesla Model S

Of the, frankly, very long and impressive list of features that make Tesla’s offerings top-tier, one of our favorites is that, as a symptom of their all-electric powertrain, they all boast full-time all-wheel-drive. That also makes them uniquely equipped to handle the conditions on snowy, frozen, or wet roads, like those you’d find in the middle of winter. Of course, that’s hardly the only perk. It’s also got a baseline range per charge of 335 miles, a 0-60 time of 2.5 seconds, and 30 cubic-feet of storage. And that’s if you don’t choose the high-end P100D trim, which has been dyno-tested at 588 horsepower. Nice work, Elon.

Horsepower: 518-588
Torque: 387-792
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $84,750+

Porsche 911 Turbo

Even as electric power continues to eat away at the one-time petrol haven that is the automotive world, there are still those of us who will always prefer gas power to electricity. If you fall into that category and you want a winter-ready car, then the cream of the crop is definitely the Porsche 911 Turbo. Powered by a twin-turbo 540 horsepower boxer engine, this glorious sports car can do 0-60 in as little as 2.9 seconds, has a top speed approaching 200mph, and boasts one of the most iconic silhouettes in the entire history of automobiles. And cold, inclement weather is no trouble with the standard all-wheel-drive. After all, Porsche used to race these annually in the snow. If money is no question, we definitely suggest this as your daily driver for winter conditions. It’s also worth noting, the 911 Turbo is hardly the only worthwhile winter-ready Porsche if the Turbo is a bit out of your price range.

Horsepower: 540
Torque: 486
AWD/4WD Trim: All

Purchase: $161,800+

10 Best Luxury SUVs For Winter

For those who want something a bit beefier and more opulent, there are still plenty of options. And you can find the best ones on our list of the 10 best luxury SUVs for winter.