We’re on the cusp of winter, and some of us are already anticipating ski season and road trips to the mountains. Others might live in the mountains, or other places where winter driving is a daily event, and not for the faint of heart. If you’re in any of these categories, and you’re thinking of buying a car, it makes sense to consider which are the best cars for snow and ice driving.
Features that are worthwhile
All wheel drive, or four wheel drive are the most significant features to help you stay safely in control, in even the most treacherous conditions. They’ll make sure you always have the most traction, whether you’re driving through a couple of inches of new snow, or hit a patch of black ice.
Options like heated seats and steering wheels can be pretty great, too—to keep you as warm as possible when you get into your car in freezing temperatures.
Some typically more lux options (which might seem a little over the top, but are actually pretty useful on frozen mornings) are heated windshields that melt ice away so you don’t have to scrape it, and heated mirrors—for the same reason.
Here are the models we recommend as the best cars for winter driving, at various price levels, for their safety and capability in cold weather conditions.
Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser has been synonymous with off-road and snow and ice mastery for as long as anyone can remember. It’s definitely a luxury SUV, but there’s no mall-hopping poseur thing happening here. The Land Cruiser is the OG, and as legit as they come. You can buy a new one, or one that’s 10, 20, or 30 years old, and you’ll get the same comfortable cabin, rugged good looks, and absolutely planted road feel.
If you’re more interested in a wagon than an SUV, but still want excellent ice, snow, and wet weather performance, the Subaru Outback, and its standard all wheel drive is definitely worth considering. It even has exceptional ground clearance for a car. If you want something a little bit smaller, the Crosstrek is also a solid winter weather performer.
An all-around excellent vehicle, the Audi Allroad is one of the first entries into the now wildly popular ‘crossover’ category. It strikes a great balance between sport and off-road prowess, with precise and responsive handling and a twin-turbo V6, and Audi’s venerable Quattro all wheel drive system. Audi started selling the Allroad in the US in 2001, and stopped in 2018, so you can likely find one to fit your budget.
The Mazda CX-5 is capable crossover in a sporty package. It’s small enough to easily park in tight urban spots, and comes with a range of options that can make it more affordable or more luxurious. All wheel drive is optional on the CX-5, and we strongly recommend opting for it, for snow and ice driving.
The RAV4 is another small crossover with enough ground clearance to add an extra level of versatility. You can safely navigate snow and ice, but can also do some light off-roading, should the need arise. As with the CX-5, all wheel drive is optional—and we definitely recommend it for the best snow and ice driving performance and safety.