The Best Cars and SUVs for Winter Driving

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Winter can be rough, but that doesn’t mean it should get the best of you—here’s all you need to know about the best cars and SUVs for winter driving. Learn about the difference between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, as well as the safety features your vehicle needs in order to stay on the road in winter conditions.
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Read up on the best cars for winter driving so you can tell Old Man (or Woman) Winter to take a hike, once and for all.

The best cars for driving in winter

Sometimes, winter driving can be beautiful and serene—other times, a white-knuckle experience. Here are the best cars for your money that will get you through the snow safely without losing your mind (or your life)!

Mazda 3 AWD

Mazda 3 AWD product image.
Mazda 3 AWD
Not only is the Mazda 3 one of the most nimble and enjoyable compact cars on the road today, but both the sedan and hatchback offer a turbocharged 2.5 L four-cylinder engine that powers it through the snow with surprising grace. All trims (except the base model) come with standard all-wheel drive. The Mazda 3 offers the following standard features:
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Automatic high beams
  •  Mazda’s iActivesense and its full array of driver-assist technology
Starting price including AWD: $25,245

Toyota Camry AWD

Toyota Camry product image.
Toyotacamry
Toyota’s Camry might not look like a winter car, but a Camry equipped with a 2.5 L four-cylinder engine featuring 202 horsepower, along with Toyota’s standard SafetySense 2.5+, is an excellent winter choice.
Here are the winter weapons that come standard with a Camry:
  • Automatic emergency braking system
  • Automatic high beams
  • Forward-collision warning system
  • All-wheel drive
Toyota’s Cold Weather Package adds a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and heated mirrors ($1,290)
Starting price including AWD: $27,365

Dodge Charger SXT AWD

Dodge Charger SXT product image.
Dodge Charger SXT
When properly equipped, the made-in-USA Dodge Charger SXT is a powerful animal that even winter won’t be able to tame. To ensure your Charger is the snow beast you’ll need it to be, consider adding a few options for a truly formidable winter ride.
  • Add all-wheel drive ($3,600)
  • Add the Technology Group package, with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, and rain-detecting windshield wipers ($1,895)
Starting price including AWD: $34,890

BMW 3 Series XDrive

BMW 3 Series XDrive
BMW 3 Series XDrive
Adding all-wheel drive to a BMW 3 Series makes this Bavarian bruiser perfect for whipping over snow-covered alpine roads, not to mention making all those Volkswagen drivers jealous when you leave them covered in (snow)dust. 
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here—safety is the name of the game in winter driving, and BMW’s 3 Series XDrive offers it in spades, coming standard with:
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Automatic high beams
You can also add BMW’s Active Driving Assistant with blind-spot monitoring ($700)
Starting price including AWD: $44,245

Volvo S90 AWD

Volvo S90 AWD
Volvo S90 AWD
If you think the Germans take their winter driving seriously, check out how the Swedes outfit their cars to conquer winter roads (if you didn’t know, Sweden = winter).
Besides its turbocharged, 2.0 L 316 horsepower engine, Volvo’s S90 comes standard with a snow boulder’s worth of driver-assist technology to keep you safe as you drive your kid to hockey practice amidst an early-morning Malmo snowstorm—your kid plays hockey, right? You live in Malmo, right?
Here’s the standard winter-friendly tech that comes with Volvo’s S90:
  • All-wheel drive
  • Front-mitigation collision support
  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Blind-spot monitors
  • Remote start
  • Slippery road alert
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Rain-sensing wipers
Add the Climate Package for heated windshield wipers, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel ($750)
Starting price including AWD: $53,290

The best SUVs for snow

If you’re really serious about winter driving, try a sport utility vehicle. Nothing says giving winter the business and getting on with your life like the brute force of a winter-whipping SUV. 
Here are the best SUVs for winter driving. And remember, no matter what vehicle you have, driving cautiously in a properly outfitted vehicle is the best way to stay safe on winter roads.

Hyundai Kona AWD

Hyundai Kona product image.
Hyundai Kona
The fun-to-drive Kona brings a dash of style and practicality to the crossover set, and this compact SUV can more than handle its own on a winter’s drive.
Hyundai is known for reliable and durable vehicles and the Kona doesn’t disappoint, offering the following driver-tech features standard on this small-but-mighty SUV:
  • Automated emergency braking
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Front-collision warning
  • Driver attention monitor
  • Lane-departure warning
Starting price including AWD: $23,085

Subaru Forester AWD

Subaru Forester AWD
Subaru Forester AWD
The Subaru Forester offers a good-looking, practical SUV with plenty of ground clearance (8.7 inches) for an expansive view of your winter drive. While its engine and power leave a bit to be desired, the Forester will easily get you through winter driving weather. 
The Forester comes standard with the following features:
  • All-wheel drive
  • Pre-collision braking
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Automatic high beams
  • Rear-view camera
Starting price including AWD: $25,845

Chrysler Pacifica AWD

Chrysler Pacifica AWD
Chrysler Pacifica AWD
We here at Jerry are aware of the fact that Chrysler’s Pacifica is actually not an SUV (it’s a minivan), but we do love it for the snow-devouring monster it becomes when equipped with all-wheel drive (and a proper set of snow tires, of course).
This 3.6 L six-cylinder with 287 horsepower is a carpool-moving, winter-safe vehicle that offers a cube truck’s worth of standard safety features to ensure you and the kids stay safe all winter.
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Partial emergency braking system
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear-cross traffic alert
  • LED headlights
  • Fog lights and taillights
  • Automatic high beams
  • Remote star
Add the Cold Weather Group package for a heated steering wheel and seats ($495)
Starting price with AWD: $39,415

Kia Telluride AWD

Kia Telluride product image.
Kia Telluride
Offering amazing bang for your buck, the Kia Telluride is a luxury fortress on wheels, carrying you, the kids, and their friends—the Telluride has three rows of seats—to your winter destination in style.
The biggest knock on the Telluride is that it's not very fuel-efficient (it only gets you around 24 miles per gallon on the highway), but it's a smooth ride, even in the snow. It offers high ground clearance and an abundance of safety features—it's an overall great winter SUV.
Here are some standard safety features on the Telluride:
  • Forward collision warning
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Rear-cross traffic alert
  • Heated mirrors
  • Remote start
All-wheel drive is optional ($2,000) but for everything you get, this Telluride is a steal of a deal
Starting price with AWD: $33,415

Mercedes GLA Class 4Matic

Mercedes GLA Class 4matic product image.
Mercedes GLA Class 4matic
Even if the most recent iteration of Mercedes’ GLA isn’t as quick as its predecessors, it still offers an energetic drive and twitchy handling, combining to make it a fun—yet safe—winter driving machine.
With plenty of style and an intuitive infotainment system, the GLA 4Matic (4Matic is what Mercedes calls all-wheel drive), this handsome SUV comes with plenty of standard safety amenities:
  • Front-collision warning
  • Cross-wind assist
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • LED headlights and taillights
  • Heated mirrors
  • Heated windshield wiper nozzles
Starting price including AWD: $39,280

The difference between AWD and 4WD

Both all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive exist to increase a vehicle’s traction on the road, but there are subtle differences between both systems.
Generally speaking, all-wheel drives (particularly in the winter) are better-suited for cars and smaller, crossover-type SUVs. Four-wheel drive vehicles are better for Jeeps, trucks, and off-roading.
Cautious driving and a good pair of snow tires are your best friends when driving in winter conditions. No amount of extra traction will save you if you’re driving carelessly through the snow.

How all-wheel drive works

An all-wheel drive system sends power to all four wheels as it drives. Most modern vehicles with AWD electronically adjust how much power to send each wheel based on how you drive and from road conditions.

Pros of all-wheel drive:

  • Allows you to accelerate faster in the snow by powering all four wheels and reducing spin
  • AWD systems are cheaper, lighter on fuel consumption, and easier to manipulate than four-wheel drive

Cons of all-wheel drive:

  • AWD isn’t perfect—you can still lose traction in bad winter conditions
  • Pricier than front-wheel or rear-wheel drive cars

How four-wheel drive works

Four-wheel drive vehicles send equal amounts of power to each wheel simultaneously to improve traction, which is particularly useful in slippery, icy conditions.
Four-wheel vehicles are best suited to trucks and heavy-duty SUVs and work well for drivers who typically go off-roading over rocks and ice, mud, and deep snow.
Some four-wheelers offer locking differentials, which help a driver maneuver over slippery roads or terrain. If a four-wheel drive vehicle has low range, this mode helps you crawl over rocky, uneven ground.
There are two types of four-wheel drive—part-time 4WD and full-time 4WD:
  • Part-time 4WD gives the driver the option to shift into four-wheel mode, but otherwise the vehicle powers two wheels to save fuel
  • Full-time 4WD sends power to the wheels at all times

Pros of four-wheel drive:

  • Great for truck and heavy SUV drivers that love off-roading over difficult terrain
  • Makes low-traction instances easier to handle

Cons of four-wheel drive:

  • Four-wheel systems add significant weight to a vehicle
  • Burns more gas than an all-wheel drive system

Which system suits you—AWD or 4WD?

For most drivers, all-wheel drive is just fine for everyday winter driving and highway commutes. 
If you’re one of those woodsy, adventurous types (we here at Jerry couldn’t even pitch a tent if we tried—this is our way of saying “we’re jealous”) fond of barreling over difficult terrain, a four-wheel drive system might make more sense.
No matter which system you choose, remember to watch your speed and drive cautiously at all times, especially during the winter.

Winter safety features to have on your vehicle

Besides snow tires (an obvious must if you live in a winter climate), there are some features every driver should have to ensure the safest winter driving conditions possible.
  • Adaptive headlights: Headlights that rotate in the direction the steering wheel is pointed to, lighting the area
  • Anti-lock brakes and stability control: Two systems that work together and engage when a slide is detected, braking the appropriate wheel or wheels to bring the vehicle under control
  • Blindspot monitoring: System to detect vehicles in your car’s flanks, that you can’t see in your side mirrors. Can prevent you from suddenly merging into a lane, especially when driving in snow
  • Forward collision warning/automatic emergency braking: Detects hazards on the road using a vehicle’s sensors, cameras, and lasers. These systems will engage anti-lock brakes to stop your car or SUV if necessary
  • Heated mirrors: Melts snow and ice on mirrors to ensure better visibility
  • LED headlights and taillights: Provide superior illumination when compared to standard bulbs. Allows you to see further in front of you and allows drivers to see you from further behind
  • Rear cross-traffic alert system: As you back up, this system alerts you to any traffic approaching from either side
  • Snow tires: Saving the best for last—snow tires are by far the most important winter accessories you need for your vehicle, as they provide better traction than regular or all-season tires. In a heart-stopping moment of winter-driving terror, they just might save your life
Key Takeaway If you live in a winter climate, putting snow tires on your vehicle is the most important measure you can take to ensure you make it safely through the winter.

Winter driving with Jerry

Knowing you’re carrying a robust car insurance plan will give any driver peace of mind throughout a winter full of challenging driving conditions.
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