2017 Subaru Outback in snow exterior front angle ・ Photo by Subaru
If you have any experience driving in snowy or icy weather, chances are you have strong opinions about what makes a good winter car. So do we. Even though Autobytel is based in sunny California, our writers and editors come from all over, and we’ve done our fair share of winter driving. Our experts compiled this list of the best current cars for winter driving, based on a combination of useful characteristics and qualities. To keep things interesting, we skipped over the hordes of crossovers and SUVs and focused instead on actual cars, although a wagon or two have found their way onto this list of 10 best cars for winter driving.
The 2017 Ford Fusion kicks off our list of the best cars for winter driving thanks to one key attribute—it’s one of the few models in the midsize sedan class that offers all-wheel drive as an option. As you’ll see, all-wheel drive isn’t compulsory for driving in snow, but it’s a definite confidence-booster for skittish commuters—we feel it’s worth the money if it helps you get where you’ve got to go. Besides the all-wheel-drive option, the Ford Fusion offers affordable pricing, a comfortable cabin, plenty of cargo space, and good overall handling. The Fusion also offers high safety ratings and a newly updated suite of active safety and driver assistance features.
Photo by Ford
As promised, here’s one of the wagons on our list of 10 best cars for winter driving. It’s not one of the most glamorous or most powerful wagons we’ve chosen, but it’s definitely the most affordable, and it’s definitely capable of getting the job done. There’s a reason the Subaru Outback’s long been a common sight throughout New England’s college towns and ski resorts—it’s spacious inside, with a roomy passenger cabin and best-in-class cargo capacity, making it unbelievably versatile. But that’s not all. With standard all-wheel drive, the 2017 Outback is an awesome winter car. For 2017, Subaru adds alloy wheels to the base Outback and adds a couple of new features to the optional EyeSight safety package.
Photo by Subaru
If you’ve got a lot of money to spend on a great car for winter driving, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is high on our list of recommendations. You can get the E-Class configured in a handful of body styles to suit your fancy—coupe, sedan, wagon and convertible are all available, but the ragtop, sadly, is avaialble with only rear-wheel drive. Most E-Class vehicles can be upgraded from rear-wheel drive to 4Matic all-wheel drive, for better stability, and the cars are engineered to provide good handling without sacrificing passenger comfort. A number of powerful engines are available, from reasonably affordable to high performance, and Mercedes, as you'd expect, also offers the E-Class with a long list of high-tech features.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
For 2017, Audi updated the suspension and the Quattro all-wheel drive system in the Allroad wagon, making this winter-worthy beast even more formidable. The Allroad’s been around, off and on, for a while, but it’s always a vehicle that makes our list of the best cars for winter. With its raised ride height, contrast body cladding, and integrated roof rails, the Allroad looks the part, and it stands out amongst its very small list of competitors. The Audi Allroad is a little expensive, but if you want an eye-catching and fun-to-drive alternative to your run-of-the-mill crossover, this is it.
Photo by Audi
You might have noticed a theme so far: Up until now, the cars on our list of the best models for winter driving offer all-wheel drive. Here, we’re going to break that trend to prove to our readers that AWD is not an absolute necessity for surviving the winter months. Front-wheel drive is totally acceptable, especially in a car that’s easy to handle and provides good feedback. The Mazda3 is just that, and it's backed by good safety ratings and a decent reputation for reliability. On dry pavement, the affordable Mazda3 is a blast to push through the corners; when conditions turn wet and slippery, the Mazda3 provides prompt and accurate response to the driver’s commands. It’s a smart option for year-round driving, especially for those of us on a budget.
Photo by Mazda
Subaru’s sporty little go-anywhere, do-anything sedan is one of our favorite cars for winter driving… and driving in general. The 2016 WRX, which comes standard with Subaru’s top-notch all-wheel-drive system, is eager for adventure and willing to try just about anything. The WRX isn’t the comfiest car on our list, since it’s designed more for sportiness than relaxation, but that’s a good thing. The WRX provides excellent feedback to the driver, which makes the safe navigation of snowy roads a team project, of sorts. And rest assured, this Subaru makes a great winter teammate. If it’s not quite peppy enough for you, you can always step up to the STI performance model.
Photo by Subaru
To be fair, just about any BMW equipped with the brand’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system could easily earn a spot on our list of the best cars for winter driving. We chose the 3 Series, though, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s among the most affordable BMW models, and finding a smart winter car doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. And second, if the sedan isn’t exactly your style, the 3 Series is also available as a wagon and as a Gran Turismo hatchback. In addition to the optional all-wheel drive and numerous available engines, the 3 Series can also be configured with heated front and rear seats to keep you toasty all winter.
Photo by BMW
The 2017 Hyundai Sonata is another affordable and comfortable commuter car that doesn’t offer the option of all-wheel drive, but makes a compelling case for making do with front-wheel drive. This midsize sedan joins our list of the best cars for winter driving thanks to its extremely competent handling that’s balanced with a very comfortable ride. Hyundai generally earns excellent safety and reliability ratings, and the Sonata is no exception, so you can rest assured you’ll get where you set out to go, a comforting thought when it’s cold outside. The Sonata’s also a great car all year round, thanks in part to its abundant safety and technology features, along with its very competitive base price.
Photo by Hyundai
The Cadillac CT6 is an all-new addition to the brand’s lineup for the 2016 model year, and it’s a smart choice for buyers who want a large luxury sedan that will be comfortable and competent all year long. The CT6 quickly earned a reputation for being one of the best-handling sedans in its class, with an agility that enables this Cadillac to out-maneuver much of the competition, a trait that will serve you well in unpleasant weather. The CT6, a rear-wheel-drive sedan, is available with all-wheel drive for added securityon slippery roads. Other features to improve your winter commute include an available heated steering wheel and heated front and rear seats.
Photo by Cadillac
After an excruciating wait, Ford finally added the RS trim level to this sporty compact car’s lineup in the United States. The 2016 Ford Focus RS, long envied by Americans as it raced around Europe, isn’t exactly ideal for winter—if you shell out upwards of $35,000 for a Focus, it would be tempting to keep it pristine. But this is no ordinary Focus. It’s an all-wheel-drive hatchback bred specifically for rallying, negotiating muddy wooded trails and dirt tracks with ease. The Ford Focus RS is a favorite of professionals and amateurs, and if it can take some of the toughest courses in the world, your snowy suburban neighborhood certainly won’t pose much of a challenge.
Photo by Ford