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The best cars for driving in the snow

If you regularly drive through blizzards, look no further than the Subaru Crosstrek the next time you’re shopping for a car. It’s rugged, it’s reliable, and above all, it’s extremely capable, thanks in part to Subaru’s time-tested all-wheel drive system and a generous amount of ground clearance. It remains user-friendly around town, too.

There are other good options if the Crosstrek is too small or underpowered for your needs. Digital Trends has traveled to the coldest, snowiest parts of the world to find out which cars keep old man winter at bay and which ones get stuck on ice. We’ve also selected the best electric snow car and the best luxury snow car, among other choices.

Product Category Rating
Subaru Crosstrek Best snow car overall Not yet rated
Volvo V90 Cross Country Best luxury snow car Not yet rated
Audi E-Tron Best electric snow car Not yet rated
Subaru WRX Best performance snow car Not yet rated
Jeep Grand Cherokee Best SUV for the snow 3.5 out of 5

The best: Subaru Crosstrek

best cars for the snow 2018 subaru crosstrek

Why you should buy this: It will get you where you need to go, regardless of the weather.

Who it’s for: The winter-weary.

How much it will cost: $22,245+

Why we picked the Subaru Crosstrek:

Almost every Subaru is a good winter car. With the notable exception of the rear-wheel-drive BRZ sports car, which just entered its second generation, every model in the Japanese automaker’s lineup comes standard with all-wheel drive. In particular, we think the Crosstrek hatchback is a good all-around package for winter driving.

The Crosstrek is basically an Impreza hatchback with extra ground clearance and plastic body cladding added to mimic the styling of SUVs. It isn’t an SUV though; it proves that you don’t need one.

All-wheel drive lets the Crosstrek handle all sorts of nasty weather, and the extra ground clearance is helpful on dirt roads. The rest of the time, the Crosstrek drives like a normal car. Its compact dimensions give it relatively responsive handling, and its acceleration is adequate, though we wouldn’t call it fast. Subaru did add a bigger engine for the 2021 model year that puts much-needed extra power under the driver’s right foot. All told, it’s a well-executed package with handsome styling, a spacious interior, and a modern infotainment system. What more do you need?

The best luxury car for the snow: Volvo V90 Cross Country

best cars for the snow volvo v90 cross country

Why you should buy this: It’s a masterpiece of Swedish design.

Who it’s for: People who want a rugged wagon with more appeal than a Subaru Outback.

How much it will cost: $54,900+

Why we picked the Volvo V90 Cross Country:

Volvo has been building its Cross Country-badged models in one form or another since 1997. They’re station wagons (and, rarely, sedans) with SUV-like ground clearance and rugged-looking styling cues such as plastic body cladding.

All-wheel drive turns the V90 Cross Country into a true winter warrior. Digital Trends tested it in the middle of winter in northern Sweden, and it never got stuck. It offered excellent traction even on a frozen lake. In addition to an extra dose of ruggedness, the V90 Cross Country offers everything that’s great about recent additions to the Volvo family, like an ergonomic interior made with high-quality materials, and user-friendly tech features.

Volvo offers the V90 Cross Country with a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to deliver 316 horsepower. That makes for brisk acceleration, but the Cross Country is happier when it’s cruising on the highway. It’s perfect for, well, crossing the country.

The best electric car for the snow: Audi E-Tron

Why you should buy this: It offers an electrified version of Audi’s Quattro system.

Who it’s for: Tech-savvy motorists.

How much it will cost: $65,900+

Why we picked the Audi E-Tron:

Quattro all-wheel drive is one of Audi’s claims to fame. It helped the company dominate the rallying scene during the 1980s, and it allows thousands of motorists to drive through awful weather each year. Going electric wasn’t an excuse for Audi to ditch Quattro; it perfected it. Two electric motors power the E-Tron — one is mounted over the front axle to spin the front wheels, and the other is positioned above the rear axle to zap the rear wheels into motion.

This is called a through-the-road setup, because there’s no physical connection between the axles yet all four wheels are driven. Speaking to Digital Trends, Audi engineer Tobias Greiner compared the powertrain his team developed to a network. The different components share information and work together to decide how much torque each axle needs in real-time. For example, if the armada of sensors detects understeer during hard cornering it will brake the inside wheels to counter it. If the sensors detect that the rear axle loses traction, they’ll send more torque to the front wheels to keep the car moving. In other words, snow and sand won’t stop the E-Tron in its tracks.

We also liked the E-Tron’s infotainment system, which is one of the most intuitive systems on the market, and we appreciated its smooth, silent ride on the highway. It’s a good daily driver — even in the winter — that just happens to be electric.

The best performance car for the snow: Subaru WRX

best cars for the snow subaru wrx

Why you should buy this: It’s a performance car that foul weather can’t stop.

Who it’s for: Snowbound speed freaks.

How much it will cost: $27,495+

Why we picked the Subaru WRX:

If the Crosstrek is a good all-rounder for winter driving, then the WRX is a performance-focused smile machine that plays well in slippery conditions. Like the Crosstrek, the WRX is a derivative of the Subaru Impreza compact, but it’s based on an older body style. That’s not the difference that really counts, though.

The WRX packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer-four engine, which produces 268 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (Subaru also offers a WRX STI with a 2.5-liter, 305-hp engine). All-wheel drive allows the WRX to keep going when most other performance cars would be spinning off the road and into snowbanks. Torque vectoring channels power side-to-side, helping to turn the car into corners. That’s something you’ll appreciate even on dry pavement.

All-wheel drive isn’t the only thing that makes the WRX a practical choice. Underneath the boy-racer hood scoop and quad exhaust tips, it’s still a practical four-door sedan. A reasonably sized interior and trunk, as well as good road manners, make the WRX a performance car you’ll actually want to use every day.

The best SUV for the snow: Jeep Grand Cherokee

best cars for the snow 2018 jeep grand cherokee

Why you should buy this: It’s a family SUV for the Rubicon Trail.

Who it’s for: Outdoorsy types.

How much it will cost: $36,220+ (4×4)

Why we picked the Jeep Grand Cherokee:

When you think of a Jeep, you picture a vehicle with impressive off-road prowess for the serious adventurer. To the company, this is more than just innovative marketing; they put an impressive amount of hardware into their vehicles to help them tackle the elements. Like the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee benefits from Jeep’s decades-long expertise in manufacturing serious go-anywhere off-roaders, but it also reflects the firm’s upmarket ambitions.

The Grand Cherokee handles snowy roads with ease, even when loaded with five adults and all their gear. An added benefit, it’s available with Jeep’s touchscreen-based UConnect infotainment system, which is one of the more intuitive systems on the market. The portfolio includes no less than 12 trim levels ranging from a relatively basic, V6-powered variant to the hot-rodded Trackhawk version that packs a 707-horsepower punch.

How we test

Our automotive team here at Digital Trends implements rigorous testing to compare and contrast various vehicles against the best standards. Over the course of these processes, we review and analyze both interior and exterior qualities and hold them against the vehicle’s category and price range. We also take a close look at the various entertainment technology and safety features, as these are both critical components to cars today. 

Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.

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