Revving up for winterFri, 04 Oct 2013 00:00:00 -0700
It happens every year, that inevitable moment Mother Nature decides to unleash her snowy wrath on the greater part of the United States. Winter has arrived and suddenly your rear-wheel drive, high-performance cars aren't providing you with the performance or confidence you need to combat those Antarctic-esque conditions.
For those fortunate enough to live in year-round T-shirt permitting weather, we invite you to keep reading, because it's a fact that all 50 states receive some measure of winter weather in a typical year.
We've put together a how-to survival guide of the best cars to help you endure those long winter months.
Folks from the most snow-heavy regions will tell you that a rugged four-wheel-drive pickup or truck-based SUV is the way to go -- probably from past experience trying to navigate through category 5 blizzards or plowing their way out of mountainous snow drifts.
Now, we know what you're thinking, you hear the phrase “four-wheel-drive” and automatically generate a vision of dollar signs erupting from a gas pump. But thanks to modern automotive technology, the four-wheel-drive systems of today have become quite sophisticated and efficient.
Vehicles have the ability to engage four-wheel-drive simply by pressing a button, and others give you the option of choosing between rear-drive, four-wheel-drive, and a safety minded “automatic” mode in which the front axle is engaged when loss of traction is detected.
The more hard-core four-wheel-drive systems include a feature called “low range” gearing which is especially useful when extra traction is needed -- climbing up snow-trodden hills or wiggling your way out of deep snow. Forewarning, don't falsely assume that because you have the backing of four-wheel drive under your feet you can zip around like Jeff Gordon in the blizzard of '75. Four-wheel-drive simply helps you get out of snowy situations but doesn't do much when it comes to maneuvering corners and braking.
For buyers not looking for all the brawn of a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you're in luck. There are some very capable light off-road vehicles on the market today, so car-based crossover enthusiasts can rejoice.
But remember, all-wheel-drive, unlike four-wheel-drive, usually doesn't include low-range gearing, increasing the risk of motorists becoming stranded in densely snow-packed conditions. Nevertheless, an all-wheel-drive vehicle might be the best option for you. Which is why we included both drivetrains in our list. Without further ado, here it is (in no particular order.)
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
This powerful performer earns a spot on our winter wondervehicle list for obvious reasons. Jeep has built its entire image off the fact that you drive them on pretty much every terrain imaginable, so why not snow?
HIGHLIGHTS: Its 6.4-liter HEMI V8 with fuel-saving technology gives you 470 hp at 6,000 rpm and 465 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. Jeep's Quadra-Trac Active on Demand 4WD gives drivers the option to turn on the four-wheel-drive in more rugged terrain.
BASE PRICE: You can get into a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT for $63,195. Not bad considering you can literally drive it everywhere.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Land Rover may be the only manufacturer with an off-road reputation rivaling Jeep's. If you're looking for a little more luxurious four-wheel-drive styling, this might be the vehicle for you.
HIGHLIGHTS: The 2014 V6 model now offers 340 hp while the optional 5.0-liter supercharged V8 makes 510 hp. That will surely give you enough oomph to handle any type of snowy terrain.
BASE PRICE: 2014 models starts out at $63,495
2014 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Subaru makes one of the best all-wheel systems in the business, offering outstanding traction in every condition. It's essentially a station wagon but has a higher ride height, mimicking the design of a crossover SUV.
HIGHLIGHTS: Its available 3.6-liter 256-hp six-cylinder engine gives you enough pep combined with very respectable horsepower all with a 25 mpg highway rating. Subaru also offers heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer, perfect for those frigid early morning commutes.
BASE PRICE: The 2014 Outback starts at $32,095
2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Again, Jeep makes our list with its legendary “go-anywhere” capability. Fully equipped with Wrangler's part-time four-wheel drive system, this Wrangler could be the most capable vehicle in Jeep's lineup.
HIGHLIGHTS: Under the hood, this Rubicon sports a 3.6-liter V6 24-valve VVT engine. Transmission is available in a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. Rubicon also features its “Command-Trac Shift-on-the-fly” 4WD system which essentially allows the driver to choose when they want to switch to four-wheel drive.
BASE PRICE: The 2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon starts at $34,495.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
Just from the name it's obvious that this thing can hold its own in polar conditions. Buyers concerned with fuel-efficiency, the 2014 models offer a hybrid option for only a few thousand more -- $4,000 to be exact.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Crosstrek's 2.0-liter 148-horsepower horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine drives all four wheels while still offering a 33 mpg highway rating.
BASE PRICE: Buyers can get into a 2014 Crosstrek for as low as $21,995.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country
Chevy's first premium truck on the market combines the power and capability pre-requisites to make it onto our list. The 2014 model features Silverado's most powerful EcoTec3 6.2-liter V8 engine.
HIGHLIGHTS: Silverado's available 420-hp and 460 lb-ft of torque is enough to give even the most timid winter drivers the confidence they need to get out of any snowy situation. The High Country is also available in a two-wheel-drive model with a standard 5.3-liter engine.
BASE PRICE: The 2014 Silverado High Country starts at $45,100 for two-wheel-drive models.
2014 Chevrolet Tahoe
The Chevy Tahoe is one of the best-selling full-size SUVs in American so obviously the company is doing something right. The 2014 models offer both two-wheel and four-wheel-drive all powered by a 5.3-liter V8 engine.
HIGHLIGHTS: The 2014 Tahoe can put out a maximum 320-hp and 348 lb-ft of torque. The Tahoe not only has brute strength (it has a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds) but is also equipped with a comfortable and roomy cabin. Not the mention the respectable 21 mpg highway rating.
BASE PRICE: Buyers can get themselves a 2014 Tahoe for $41,600.
2014 Volvo XC70 T6 AWD
Don't let the station wagon design cues of this Volvo XC70 fool you, it still offers a 300-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Volvo also offers a 240-horsepower 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine with front-wheel-drive, but for the winter minded buyers we suggest the first option.
HIGHLIGHTS: The available 325 lb-ft of torque at 2,100-4,200 rpm is especially helpful when traversing over snow-covered pavement. And the estimated 23 mpg highway rating isn't too shabby either.
BASE PRICE: The T6 AWD version starts at $41,865
2014 Mini Countryman ALL4 S
You hear Mini and automatically think of that sporty little Cooper and wonder how that could possibly suffice in the barren snowy terrain, but the 2014 Mini Countryman ALL4 S is a whole new breed.
HIGHLIGHTS: This subcompact four-door wagon comes with a fully capable 181-hp four-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive. The AWD system is designed specifically to distribute drive power seamlessly between the front and rear axles.
BASE PRICE: The 2014 Mini Countryman ALL4S bottoms out at $27,400.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model 4MATIC Wagon
When thinking of luxury German engineered cars, our first thought is not of their winter capable features, but rather how terrible I remember my Grandpa's BMW 3-Series being in the snow. But this Mercedes-Benz E-Class is different.
HIGHLIGHTS: The 2014 E-Class models include your choice of a V6 or V8 engine. Should you choose to go the AMG route, under the hood you'll find 577-hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
BASE PRICE: The AMG E-Class wagon starts out at $103,295
By Natalie Sejnost