Is it that time of year again? You know, when the ground in the northern half of the country turns white and roads get a little bit slipperier than they really ought to be. There's no question that all-wheel traction can make a big difference in your daily winter commute, but balancing an all-wheel or four-wheel drive SUV with true winter tires can turn almost any people mover into a legitimate snow warrior. Remember: when the temperatures drop, so does grip, and you need genuine winter tires in order to make it through the winter safely. Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best SUVs in snow when outfitted with the right winter tires.
1) 2015 Subaru Forester XT
The 2015 Subaru Forester XT is the high performance edition of the Japanese brand's go-to mid-size SUV. It also happens to be remarkably capable when the going gets snowy, thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and its available X-Mode, a recently introduced feature on the Subaru Forester XT that strategically redistributes engine torque at lower speeds in order to make the most of available traction. Under the hood, the Forester XT's 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and a continuously variable automatic transmission handles the shifting duties for the SUV.
2) 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with the choice between not one, not two, but three four-wheel drive systems. While two of the three are targeted at fans of hardcore off-roading, the Jeep Grand Cherokee's entry-level Quadra-Trac I system offers four-wheel traction without the need for a low-speed transfer case and should be enough for 90 percent of winter pilots. A number of drivetrain choices sway Jeep buyers, including a V-6 (290 horses), a V-8 (360 horsepower), and a V-6 turbodiesel (240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque). The latter also returns 30 mpg during highway cruising. A new eight-speed automatic transmission helps bring 2015 models even more up to speed.
3) 2015 GMC Yukon
The redesigned 2015 GMC Yukon is your choice for dashing through the snow in an SUV that has enough space to seat as many as nine passengers. Big and brash, the GMC Yukon is based on GM's full-size pickup platform and as such it features the availability of a low-range four-wheel drive system, as well as an all-wheel drive system. Power is derived from a 5.3-liter V-8 engine that generates 355 horses and 383 lb-ft of twist, managed by a six-speed automatic transmission, and if you want to get fancy, you can upgrade to the Yukon Denali's all-wheel drive grip and an all-new 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 (as well as its luxury features).
4) 2015 Kia Sportage
The 2015 Kia Sportage might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of the best SUVs in snow, but as we mentioned in the opening paragraph it's often the right winter tires that make the biggest difference in terms of snow safety. The Kia Sportage is a compact sport-utility vehicle that can be had with all-wheel drive in all save the base trim, and buyers can choose between either a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that puts out 182 horsepower or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is good for 260 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is standard with each all-wheel drive Sportage.
5) 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander, which was redesigned for the previous model year, offers seven passenger transportation across three rows that can be relied on no matter what weather conditions might be waiting outside. The Mitsubishi Outlander's all-wheel drive system can be paired with either a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a more robust 224-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6. The smaller unit features a continuously variable automatic transmission while the six-cylinder is paired with a traditional six-speed automatic. The Outlander is one of the more affordable mid-size snow-ready SUVs on the market.
6) 2015 Land Rover LR4
The 2015 Land Rover LR4 is a big name in off-road luxury, but its full-time four-wheel drive system also does the trick when plowing through snowbanks instead of fording rivers. The Land Rover LR4 also comes with the SUV manufacturer's Terrain Response system, which allows the driver to custom-tailor vehicle performance to match road conditions (including a snow setting). The LR4's standard 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 churns out 340 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, and all versions of the Land Rover come equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an adjustable air suspension system (for tackling really big drifts).
7) 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid proves that battery-assisted SUVs can handle the white stuff, too. Yes, fuel mileage might take a hit in colder weather as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid's electrical components struggle to deal with winter's chill, but the upshot is seven passenger capacity plus a “there when you need it” all-wheel drive system that features two electric motors dedicated exclusively to the Highlander Hybrid's rear wheels. Total system output for the Toyota (which also makes use of a 3.5-liter V-6 and a third electric motor) is rated at 280 horsepower, and fuel mileage is rated at 27 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.
8) 2015 Mazda CX-5
The 2015 Mazda CX-5 doubles as a reliable snow steed and a fun winter plaything, all wrapped up into one. Believe it or not, the compact Mazda CX-5 SUV is actually a delight to drive compared to many of its competitors, and it also comes through with excellent fuel economy figures of 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway when equipped with its 2.0-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder engine (that also generates 155 horsepower) and all-wheel drive A bit more forward thrust is available via a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder SkyActiv motor, which features similar fuel mileage when matched with the Mazda's six-speed manual transmission.
9) 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek
The 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek takes what so many compact car buyers like about the Impreza hatchback - good cargo space, standard all-wheel drive, excellent fuel mileage - and jacks things up to improve ground clearance and add even more snow-fighting capability to the mix. More aggressively styled than the hatch on which it is based, the Subaru XV Crosstrek is still efficient (26 mpg city/34 mpg highway) when equipped with its continuously-variable automatic transmission, and the vehicle offers 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine.
10) 2015 Lexus GX
The 2015 Lexus GX is one of the luxury automaker's best-kept secrets, a four-wheel drive SUV that is much more rugged than the brand's reputation would suggest while still offering comfortable, and snow-proof, accommodations for as many as seven passengers. The vehicle's adaptive suspension system ensures a supple ride, while its 301 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 also produces 329 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the Lexus GX, and so are hill descent and ascent control should you find yourself staring down any perilously iced-over driveways this coming winter.