The Cars That Beat This Winter


If it seems like we're covering the winter weather all the time that's because there hasn't been much of a break in the snow and cold to write anything else. Luckily, we've been able to pilot some true foul-weather standouts in our test fleet in Chicago and Detroit this season.

If we ranked these by least surprising, the 2014 Jeep Wrangler would likely take the crown. The bright orange Rubicon Edition came into our fleet recently and had Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek crying, "Where have you been all winter?!" Its off-road chops are undeniable, but Bruzek added, "The manual transmission makes the Rubicon every bit as fun to drive on the street as it is terrorizing unplowed snow-covered paths."


The most surprising winter warrior probably belongs to Buick's all-wheel-drive Regal. "I was plowed into a parking spot and was able to climb over a pretty significant ridge of packed snow and ice to make my way out," said Jennifer Geiger, assistant managing editor. "Many drivers on the same street were stuck."

Bruzek was also impressed with the Regal's snow-clearing ability. "I cleared one of Chicago's infamous snowplow ridges that traps countless cars within the city limits. The Regal didn't hiccup once and clawed out over the ridge of the snow embankment."

With great amounts of snow eventually come great amounts of slush, and in early January, we had one of these Noah's ark moments in Chicago. Luckily, Managing Editor David Thomas was in a 2014 Chrysler 300C with all-wheel drive. "The roads were awash in cold, slushy water, but the 300C was a beast," he said. "My commute had to be rerouted from a paralyzed highway to surface streets, traversing roughly 25 miles of mostly potholed roads. After two hours of not nearly as white-knuckled driving as it should have been, I was convinced the car was a keeper."

Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder wasn't as impressed with Chrysler's all-wheel-drive system, but he still found plenty to like in the bitter temps. "I had no idea anything was extreme outside. With the climate control on Auto, it kept the windshield and side windows clear without blasting air conspicuously or creating a draft."


We compared the Infiniti QX80 to a beluga whale when it was called the QX56, but we didn't know how well it liked the cold. "The QX80 felt like a tank on the highway in a few inches of snow, and it was able to power through anything that winter threw at it, said Geiger who drove the Infiniti through the worst of the polar vortex.


Another large luxury SUV won Senior Editor Mike Hanley over. "The Chicago region was digging out from more than a foot of snow when I tested the Lexus GX 460, but with 8.1 inches of ground clearance and standard full-time four-wheel drive, driving around on unplowed side streets and alleys was a non-issue. The GX just plowed ahead and made its own path."


We started this list with a Jeep, so why not finish with another one. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 with an EcoDiesel engine was scrutinized mostly for its new powertrain, but the brand's well-known capability shined through for Bruzek again. "The 6 to 7 inches of fresh snow on the ground hardly impacted the Grand Cherokee," he said. The test vehicle had an adjustable ride height that Bruzek said was "completely overkill, even on unplowed streets. I still drove around with the suspension jacked up. It just looked really cool." photos by Matt Avery, Joe Bruzek, Evan Sears and David Thomas. 


Mike zobbe

I'll take my Subaru over any of these.

Ingrid Zula

Agreed! My forester is a badass


I second the Subaru comment. My 2014 xv is a winter beast!

Rick Bannerman

Agreed. We traded in for our Subaru Forester when we moved to Alaska a few years ago and no regrets. Through the mountain pass into the Yukon in mid-winter - no problem.

J. Wright

I have an old-school '87 VW Vanagon Synchro that will run circles around these traps...


A Buick, but no Subaru? Really? That's silly.


In the early to mid-70's, living in Colorado I drove a Fiat 128. The doors were mostly Bondo so it was a bit heavier than most. I'd put on studded snow tires for winter driving and could practically climb ice walls with it!!!


Subaru FTW, huge omission on this list

Chris R

My 1988 VW Golf with 4 snow tires handled better in winter than every other car/SUV I've driven, including my 2010 Subaru Forester, which, to its credit, handles snow pretty well.


I have a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 114,000 miles on it... It still goes great in 6-8" of snow.


I haven't shoveled the driveway this year since I bought the Subaru. And we've had a bunch of snow, and the driveway slopes up to the street. Love it.


I have a 2002 Chevy Blazer with 120,000 miles and clad with Hankook DynaPro thick-tred tires. I live in the northern Catskill Mountains in NY, and my Blazer cuts through the snow like a hot knife through butter.


I had a Subie, which I liked but did not love. My '03 VW Passat 4-motion, though, goes through absolutely anything--including snowed-in parking spaces where most cars fear to tread. It's been fantastic this winter.


My 2005 Subaru Outback has NEVER let me down in snow or otherwise. 205,000 Miles and still running strong. But, I imagine if you put 4 snow tires on any AWD vehicle, it will do well in snow.


I love my AWD Volvo cross country wagon. Put on 4 snow tires and push W mode...never get stuck.

Will V.



As a new driver in the winter of '73-'74, I had to drive home from school in a snow storm. My Dad had loaded the trunk with about 300 lbs of sand for just incase. That 1971 Ford Maverick made it around stuck cars, up and down the hills of southern Maryland like it was no problem. There was a layer of ice under about 10 inches of snow. Too bad the school system did not let us out earlier. I remember having a delayed opening the next morning. That Maverick got me to school. Too bad they don't build cars like they used to.


bber on the road. Nokian Tires North America tires I have had on all of my cars. And they were the first thing that my fiancee bought for her car a few years back. also check here:
Snow Tire Reviews
Updated November 2013
Driving in the snow is a necessary evil for people who live in cold climates. Snow tires can make the journey much safer and make your car less prone to slipping and sliding on ice and snow. Winter tires' softer compounds and special tread patterns grip cold, slick roads far better than all-season tires. ConsumerSearch analyzed both owner reviews and rigorous expert winter-tire tests -- including those from Scandinavian publications that we have professionally translated.


Had 16+ inches of snow north of Boston a couple weeks ago and my 2002 Chevy Tahoe in 4-high went through it like it was nothing, can't beat power, high clearance, and a proper 4WD system

jim podolak

In 1974 I bought a Plymouth Valiant. I lived in Leadville Colorado. It was rear wheel drive. Being in the Rocky Mountains, I put 300 pounds of rocks in the trunk during winter. With narrow tires I was able to get anywhere. When I drove to Denver, I would dump the rocks upon leaving the mountains and after our visit find them again on the side of the road, load up and head back up the hill. Never a problem.

Scott S

My 99 Cherokee with 328k on the clock and my 2009 Ford Escape were like Billy Goats hopping around in the NJ snow


I like how they show a Wrangler.. horrible in snow, and a soft top! Worst winter car I ever had.

I had an 86 Isuzu Trooper, 4wd, under-powered and heavy, that would drive through snow up to the headlights.


My 2003 BMW 325xi with studded Nokian Hakkapeliitta tires on all 4 is a tank in the snow. We've been pleased with the numerous Subarus and VWs during the many years living in Lake Placid, but nothing compares to hearty old Fritz, the BMW.


Wow, we couldn't face the winter without our Subaru Outback. There's a reason you see so many of them in the mountains of Colorado.


Our Subaru Outback has done well for us here in Connecticut. But it's the 4 Blizzak winter tires on it that really make the difference.

I tell people this all the time, but I'd rather give up AWD than the winter tires. But they never believe me. AWD is key for super-deep snow and steep hills... but my Honda S2000 on winter tires can show up most cute-utes on the road in the ice, slush, and packed snow.

Scott Brown

I'll stick with my 50 year old Corvair(Rear wheel,rear engine).


I have a 2010 Liberty with big ol' studded tires on it that never stops. However, my best ever snow rig EVER was my '97 Chrysler Town and Country AWD with studded tires. We pulled a Land Cruiser out of a snowy ditch once, while hauling 6 high school skiers over the Santiam Pass for a XC skit race. Every weekend for 6 years, that van plowed through ALL weather,even getting plastered by a boulder on the hood!


I wonder what vehicles they actually test drove? Subaru? Audi? Rover? Check out what the locals are driving in snow towns…
A rag top vehicle for winter? Really? I'll not believe any more of the ratings on this site...

B. Barden

Recently there was an independent test of all wheel drive vehicles, and a Subaru Forester won hands down.. Why not post that video???



Hello there Commenters!

Please note the second sentence of this story: "Luckily, we've been able to pilot some true foul-weather standouts in our test fleet in Chicago and Detroit this season."

This was not a complete list of the best winter cars in existence but an anecdotal story about cars that stood out THIS winter.

We did not have a Subaru in our test fleet this winter. We had dozens of other cars however.

Thank you again for reading.

BTW three current editors at own current gen Subaru Outbacks.

Daniel Watterworth

Where does breaking down on the side of your snowy path do all of these cars fall into? I'll take my '98 rusty subaru legacy wagon over any of these heaps.


I have driven a lot of cars in snow (Vermont, Alberta, Colorado, Utah, eastern WA, northern ID) and the best I have ever driven in snow is 99 Toyota RAV4. Very balanced steering and goes just about anywhere. Good ground clearance and used to be about 30 mpg


I second that. We have a '99 RAV4 and a 2011 Subie. Much rather drive the RAV as it's quieter, better mpg, more reliable, and is quicker. Unfortunately the RAV is my wife's and the Subie is mine. My first and last Subie ever again.


I have a 91 RWD volvo wagon. Old school. With new all seasons all round. I can go through any harsh winter. !8 inches, no problem. Alot of it has to do with experience as a snow driver. Save your money and learn how to drive.

2014 Jeep Wrangler is my choice, It has its own unique features, style & prestige.


can you drive the wrg3 nokian in the summer also??

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