Even if you live in an area of the country that sees a heavy dumping of snow and ice each winter, it's not necessary to ride out the frigid temperatures behind the wheel of a crossover or an SUV. There are a number of passenger cars out there that offer the all-wheel drive traction and winter credibility needed to brave the elements and emerge unscathed in the spring. Not only are all-wheel drive cars easier to maneuver than SUVs, they are also typically more comfortable and more fuel efficient, which makes them well worth investigating.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best winter cars currently available on the market.
Best Winter Cars - 01 - 2014 Subaru Impreza
The 2014 Subaru Impreza is in a long line of compact sedan and hatchback efforts from the Japanese brand that have won over the hearts of those living in the northern United States. The Subaru Impreza hatchback kicks in a very usable amount of cargo space, and both cars come with the standard all-wheel drive that has become a Subaru trademark. A 148 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the only engine offered with the Impreza, and when equipped with its optional continuously-variable automatic transmission the vehicle delivers fuel mileage of 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway. A five-speed automatic is also available with the Subaru.
Best Winter Cars - 02 - 2014 Ford Fusion
The 2014 Ford Fusion is an ultra-stylish take on the mid-size family sedan concept, offering not just striking exterior looks but also a passenger compartment that is head and shoulders above that of the previous-generation Fusion in terms of quality. All-wheel drive is available when ordering the top-tier Titanium trim level of the Ford Fusion, which comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. This unit, which is rated at 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, provides respectable fuel economy of 21-mpg in stop and go driving and 32-mpg on the highway. A six-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available with the 2.0-liter engine, which is also the most powerful engine available with the sedan.
Best Winter Cars - 03 - 2013 Jaguar XF
The 2014 Jaguar XF is offering something new to fans of luxury performance sedans: an all-wheel drive system that is available in the larger, full-size Jaguar XJ. The Jaguar XF AWD is motivated exclusively by a supercharged V-6 engine, one which displaces 3.0-liters and which provides 340 horsepower. The all-wheel drive system provided with the XF (which is shifted via an eight-speed automatic transmission) comes with a Winter Mode that automatically pre-loads the front axles when pulling of the line, but when left to its own devices 100 percent of engine torque is shuttled to the rear wheels in order to preserve the automobile's impressive handling dynamics during the summer months.
Best Winter Cars - 04 - 2014 Dodge Charger
The 2014 Dodge Charger is a full-size American sedan that provides all-wheel drive availability across the board. This means that it's possible to order either the base 292 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and the Charger's fire-breathing 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (that generates 370 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque) and benefit from the added traction that all-wheel drive brings to the table. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard for the eight-cylinder, while the Pentastar V-6 graduates to an eight-speed automatic that helps it turn in the best fuel mileage of the pair: 18-mpg around town and 27-mpg on the highway. The Dodge Charger's aggressive looks and muscle car reputation help to set it apart from other family fare on this list.
Best Winter Cars - 05 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer
The 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer is a versatile four-door compact option, and in addition to its value-oriented entry-level model it is also available with all-wheel drive. In order to sample a version of the Mitsubishi Lancer in which power is sent to all four wheels it is necessary to locate it in Ralliart trim, which doesn't just feature winter-friendly all-wheel drive but also a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission that is unique to that edition of the car. The Lancer Ralliart's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is turbocharged to produce 237 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque, which allows the small sedan to hit 60-mph from a standing start in less than six seconds. Fuel economy for the Ralliart checks in at 18-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.
Best Winter Cars - 06 - 2014 Volkswagen CC
The 2014 Volkswagen CC provides mid-size Euro shoppers with a dramatically-sloping rear roofline that is intended to give the vehicle the 'four-door coupe' look that has blossomed in popularity over the past several years. Selecting the most expensive version of the Volkswagen CC - the VR6 4Motion Executive model - doesn't just bring with it all-wheel drive, but it also installs a 280 horsepower, 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine that is managed by a six-speed automatic transmission. The CC's extra ponies give it lively acceleration, and the V-6 puts up 17-mpg in city driving and 25-mpg on the highway.
Best Winter Cars - 07 - 2014 Subaru Legacy
Subaru's second entry on this list is the 2014 Subaru Legacy, a larger sedan than the Impreza that comes with more traditional styling, a spacious interior, and a smooth, comfortable ride. The Subaru Legacy features all-wheel drive as standard regardless of whether it is found in four or six-cylinder form. The entry-level engine offers up 173 horses from 2.5-liters, while the more robust 3.6-liter six-cylinder puts down 256 ponies and 247 lb-ft of twist. A surprising number of trim levels are available with the Legacy, but only two transmission can be ordered with the car: a six-speed manual (four-cylinder) and a continuously-variable automatic (either motor). The CVT helps the four-cylinder provide fuel mileage of 24-mpg in stop and go driving and 32-mpg on the highway.
Best Winter Cars - 08 - 2013 Toyota Matrix
The 2013 Toyota Matrix is a surprise entry onto this list of the best winter cars, as not many compact hatchback shoppers are aware that it is available with the option of all-wheel drive. There was once a time when small, all-wheel drive Toyota cars were almost common, but the Toyota Matrix is currently the only member of this now-exclusive club. In order to purchase an all-wheel drive Matrix, one must order the S trim, which comes with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 158 horsepower. A four-speed automatic handles the shifting duties for this motor when it is paired with all-wheel drive, and fuel mileage is listed at 20-mpg around town and 26-mpg on the highway.
Best Winter Cars - 09 - 2014 Ford Taurus
The 2014 Ford Taurus presents two very different all-wheel drive personalities for those seeking a winter ride. The full-size Ford Taurus can be had with its base 290 horsepower, 3.5-liter engine and optional all-wheel drive, or it can be kitted out with a startlingly quick twin-turbo version of this same motor that produces 365 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque (under the hood of the Taurus SHO). Both engines comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, but the best news for performance-hungry shoppers is that the SHO model's fuel economy - 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway - is only one mile per gallon lower than that offered by the entry-level mill.
Best Winter Cars - 10 - 2014 Chrysler 300
The 2014 Chrysler 300 rides on the same platform as the previously-discussed Dodge Charger, and it also shares the same drivetrains and similar fuel economy figures. This means that the Chrysler 300 benefits from the choice between a 292 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and a 363 horsepower 5.7-liter V-8, each of which is available with all-wheel drive. Why opt for the 300 over the Charger? The Chrysler is much more luxury-oriented, which can be seen not only in its somewhat conservative exterior styling but also in its elegant interior, which is as large as that offered by Dodge but trimmed out with higher quality materials.