It's getting to be that time of year again 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.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 01 - 2014 Subaru Forester XT
The 2014 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 new feature for the redesigned 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.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 02 - 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2014 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 away Jeep buyers, including a V-6 (290 horses), a V-8 (360 horsepower), and a new turbodiesel mill (240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque). The latter also returns 30-mpg during highway cruising, and all three are matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 03 - 2014 GMC Yukon
The 2014 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. Power is derived from a 5.3-liter V-8 engine that generates 320 horses and 335 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 403 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 (as well as its luxury features).
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 04 - 2013 Kia Sportage
The 2013 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 176 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.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 05 - 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander has been redesigned for the current model year and it 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.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 06 - 2013 Land Rover LR4
The 2013 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 5.0-liter V-8 churns out 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, and all versions of the Land Rover come equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and an adjustable air suspension system (for tackling really big drifts).
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 07 - 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2014 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 tops out at 28-mpg for both city and highway measures.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 08 - 2014 Mazda CX-5
The 2014 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 exactly the same fuel mileage rating when matched with the Mazda's six-speed manual transmission.
10 Best SUVs in Snow - 09 - 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
The 2014 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 (25-mpg city / 33-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 Best SUVs in Snow - 10 - 2013 Lexus GX
The 2013 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.