The story of Santa and his reindeer is a timeless tale of how children receive their presents on Christmas, but how believable is a flock of flying reindeer? Yes, nothing wows a crowd of people more than a flock of flying reindeer but factor in travel delays and no-fly zones, and it would be even harder for Jolly Old Saint Nick to get all of the presents delivered on Dec. 24. According to recently released documents on WikiLeaks, Santa is in the process of replacing his stable with a state-of-the-art garage that shelters horsepower in place of reindeer-power. Of course, driving on snowy, icy roads is a job best tackled by all-wheel drive cars, so here is a look inside Santa’s garage:
Dasher - Nissan GT-R
With a name like Dasher, the 2011 Nissan GT-R is definitely the fastest car in Santa’s garage. The all-wheel drive system used in the GT-R is Nissan’s rear-biased ATTESA E-TS which can send up to 50 percent of the engine power to the front wheels. Not only does this help optimize the performance abilities of the 485-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6, it also helps give the car better traction in slick road conditions. A six-speed dual-clutch transmission gives the GT-R lightning-fast shifts whether in automatic or manual modes – the latter controlled by larger paddles mounted to the steering column that make shifts easy even when Santa’s wearing his thick winter gloves. To backup the car’s stellar drivetrain, Nissan gave the GT-R an equally sporty exterior design, and the $84,060 starting MSRP is definitely evident inside the car with the abundance of luxury and electronic goodies. Santa will likely give himself an early present next year as the 2012 GT-R features improved horsepower, handling and performance.
Dancer - Audi TT
Complementing the GT-R as Dasher, the 2011 Audi TT is an excellent choice as Dancer with its small size, turbocharged engine and quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. Audi’s Haldex-based AWD system is rear biased, but it can split all of the engine power between the front and rear wheels depending on wheel traction. This makes the TT a fun car regardless of the road conditions, but Santa can enjoy the car in any season thanks to the fact that it’s available as a roadster or coupe with pricing starting $38,300. All base TT models feature a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected inline-four parried with a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission that delivers lightning-fast shifts for impressive acceleration. The two-passenger seating capacity limits Santa’s use of the TT to quick runs with Mrs. Clause, but like most other Audi vehicles, the interior of the TT offers a stylish blend between sport and luxury including the race-inspired, flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Prancer - Suzuki SX4 Crossover
For getting around in some of the tighter areas around the world, the 2011 Suzuki SX4 Crossover is Santa’s go-to vehicle that thankfully comes standard with all-wheel drive. Suzuki’s three-mode Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (i-AWD) system allows the SX4 to operate more efficiently with a front-wheel drive (2WD mode) setting but also allows for the added stability and traction in the AWD Auto mode that can send up to 50 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels; the final mode, AWD Lock, gives maximum traction at speeds under 36 miles per hour by keeping at least 30 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels. With a starting MSRP of $16,999, the SX4 Crossover is the most affordable vehicle in Santa’s line-up, and the roomy interior afforded by the hatchback design helps deliver more presents.
Vixen - Infiniti M37x
The Vixen in this garage is the sexy 2011 Infiniti M37x, which ensures that Santa arrives in style on Christmas Eve. Infiniti’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system is rear biased with full engine power available at the rear wheels, but it can also split the torque up to 50:50 between the front and rear axles. Power is supplied by the 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 delivered through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The M37x has a slightly higher starting price ($48,650) than the base M37, but the extra $2,150 pays off when the road gets slick or twisty. Between the all-wheel drive system and the sleek, curvaceous exterior design, the M37x is an impressive sport sedan, but it also offers plenty of luxury and technology for Santa to enjoy on longer drives. With one of the best infotainment and navigation systems on the market, Santa is sure not to get bored or lost while delivering gifts.
Comet - Ford Taurus SHO
If Santa starts getting behind while delivering presents around the world, he can hop in his 2011 Ford Taurus SHO which offers impressive power from the EcoBoost engine and great handling from the all-wheel drive system. Ford uses a torque-sensing AWD system to improve traction for the 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. This twin turbocharged engine is definitely the highlight of the new Taurus SHO, but the roomy, luxurious interior also gives plenty of reasons to appreciate this sport sedan. Factoring in the added luxury, performance and styling of the SHO, Santa probably didn’t mind dropping $37,770 on the full-size sedan. On long deliveries, Santa also appreciates the Multi-Contour seats with Active Motion, which are said to maximize front passenger comfort and keep the driver more alert by making continuous and subtle adjustments to the seat bottom based on the positioning of the occupants.
Cupid - Cadillac CTS Coupe
The 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe AWD is a car that is easy to fall in love with, so taking the Cupid name is a perfect match. Although the all-wheel drive model is a $1,900 option, the starting MSRP of $40,065 still makes the CTS Coupe a fun and affordable sports coupe. The CTS Coupe is more than just a two-door version of the CTS Sedan as it is totally unique behind the front fenders – including the A-pillars that are raked an additional 2 degrees for a more aggressive stance and improved aerodynamics. Like the sedan and sport wagon, the CTS Coupe comes with a 304-horsepower, 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6, but, unfortunately, the 556-horsepower CTS-V Coupe is not offered in all-wheel drive. Like some of the sportier cars in Santa’s garage, the CTS Coupe is limited in passenger and cargo space, but it is definitely the best looking of the bunch.
Donner - Subaru Outback
When Santa is making stops at the houses of extra-nice kids, he hops behind the wheel of his 2011 Subaru Outback which can accommodate plenty of toy-filled bags. The Outback offers two peppy Boxer engines and the choice of three different transmissions, but all models come ready to tackle just about any terrain thanks to the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system and an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance. This rugged station wagon comes standard in three versions of Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system depending on the engine and transmission and varies from the base locking center differential up to the more advanced Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) system. Starting at $23,195, the Outback delivers a wagon-like look with crossover-like passenger and cargo space in addition to a cabin that is much more refined than previous models.
Blitzen - Volvo S60
Even with its new “naughty” ad campaign, the 2011 Volvo S60 is a perfect fit in Santa’s garage. This all-new sedan comes standard with Volvo’s Haldex-based All-Wheel Drive with Instant Traction that provides additional traction in slick road conditions or for better handling abilities. Powered by a 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six and combined with a sporty suspension tuning, the new S60 gives Santa a fun-to-drive sport sedan that doesn’t break the bank starting at $37,700. As things get hectic around the garage come holiday season, Santa can also count on the new S60 to help avert injuries to the hard-working elves as the sedan comes standard with Volvo’s Passenger Detection with Full Auto Brake system. For more aggressive styling and optimized handling, Santa can always upgrade to the S60 R-Design.
Rudolph - Nissan Juke
Like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, the 2011 Nissan Juke has received its fair share of harassment based solely on its looks, but the sporty little crossover should win over the hearts of consumers once they get behind the wheel. Launched earlier this year, the Juke stands out from other hatchbacks and crossovers on the market thanks to its unique exterior styling and its sporty drivetrain that includes a standard turbocharged engine and optional all-wheel drive. The Juke’s torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system adds $1,500 to the base price ($18,960), and this system can split engine power 50/50 between the front and rear axles as well as laterally across the rear axle which helps deliver a sporty driving dynamic in addition to improved traction in slick conditions. While the exterior styling is polarizing with a mix between a puffy-cheeked chipmunk and a Nissan 370Z, the interior is stylish and unique with the Integrated Control (I-CON) system drive mode selector and center console inspired by a motorcycle gas tank. The Juke also offers up plenty of fun from its turbocharged and direct-injected 1.8-liter that is sure to leave Santa grinning from ear to ear on his way ho-ho-home!