Being in the thick of winter, it sure would be nice to have a vehicle up to the task. The good news is one doesn’t need a fully-loaded luxury truck to tackle the elements as we show you in this buying guide. From the value-heavy all-wheel drive Subaru Outback to the plush safety-technology-equipped Volvo XC90, we provide a spectrum of models made for traversing the snow in various price brackets.
With prices hovering around the $15k mark for a barely two-year-old model, the Jeep Compass is a no-brainer for picking a reliable, fun vehicle for the cold months. Buyers may pick between front or lockable four-wheel drive, and an optional Freedom Drive II 4×4 off-road package jacks the ride height up an additional inch as well as adding skid plates, a -size spare and all-terrain tires to get you anywhere you need to go. The Compass can also tow up to 2,000 pounds to get friends out of trouble, and a five-speed gearbox is standard to help tackle those slippery starts.
Entering its fifth generation for 2015, the Outback provides a lot of winter-busting bang for the buck. Called the “world’s first Sport Utility Wagon” by Subaru, the current generation is the roomiest and most fuel efficient version so far, and boasts the company’s legendary symmetrical full-time AWD system. Working in combination with the flat boxer engine — both a four and six cylinder are available — and transmission mounted over the front axle, the low center-of-gravity setup yields exceptional handling in almost any low-traction environment.
For a time not so long ago, the popular Toyota Sienna owned the title of being the only all-wheel drive minivan on the market. LED headlights help cut through stormy weather, and eight airbags installed around the cabin keeps everyone safe when the unexpected happens. A neat Driver Easy Speak helps parents communicate with their mini passengers at the rear via a built-in microphone and the on-board stereo speakers.
This Japanese premium sedan tackles frost with a high-tech approach. The all-wheel drive is comprised of a V6 gasoline engine and electric motor driving the front wheels and two more electric motors spinning the back pair. A heated steering wheel and seating all around means every occupant stays toasty, and the hybrid powertrain rated at 29 city/30 highway miles per gallon means there will be less pain at the pump. The RLX received the highest Top Safety Pick+ honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The grade-topping XC90 was completely redesigned in 2016 winning a whole whack of awards for everything from its beautiful exterior to performance. Some highlights include the SUV’s unique signature “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights and massive touchscreen tablet infotainment interface. Volvo claims having the most comprehensive standard safety package in the industry, bundling active tensioning safety belts, a series of automatic braking features and semi-autonomous capability. Inside, there’s room for up to seven, with each seat designed to mimic the human spine for optimum support and comfort.