DETROIT (WWJ) – The days are short, the nights are cold and the chances of encountering rain, snow, sleet or some other form of weather-related treachery during the course of any daily drive are at their peak.
It just may be time for consumers to consider upgrading their current rides for vehicles more befitting the season. To help you ponder the possibilities, expert editors at Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com put together a list of the Top 10 Winter Driving Vehicles for 2012.
JackNerad, executive editorial director for kbb.com, said all of their picks for best winter driving vehicles share one common trait: Each boasts some type of user-friendly all-wheel drive system that can help keep you on the road.
Top 10 Winter Driving Vehicles for 2012
#10: 2012 Subaru Outback
Classy, comfortable and capable, the 2012 Subaru Outback is a superb year-round travelmate that truly rises to the occasion whenever Mother Nature does go on a rampage. Even the base Outback 2.5i with its economical 2.5-liter flat-four engine packs an impressive feature set, highlighted by Subaru’s excellent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and a comprehensive Vehicle Dynamics Control system. The more potent six-cylinder Outback 3.6R as well as the Premium and Limited variations available for each respective Outback model make it easy to find the best match to up the creature comforts ante even further. An options list that includes a GPS navigation system, harman-kardon premium audio, a Cold Weather Package and Mobile Internet access further bolster the Outback’s appeal.
#9: 2012 Toyota Sienna AWD
If only a minivan can really meet your basic transportation needs, there’s just one choice to be made: the 2012 Toyota Sienna with optional On-Demand All-Wheel Drive System with Active Torque Control. Available on V6-powered Sienna LE, XLE and LTD models, this totally transparent upgrade adds a new level of sure-footed confidence to Toyota’s well-appointed space ship. Like its front-drive kin, this even-more capable Sienna offers easily reconfigurable room for seven or eight, loads of standards and the choice of adding a passenger-pleasing Dual-View Entertainment Center on the XLE/LTD models as well as a Navigation Package and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control on the primo LTD variant.
#8: 2012 Acura MDX
Well-mannered, richly appointed and offering room for seven, the 2012 Acura MDX makes a strong case for its spot on our list by matching a refined 300-horsepower V6 engine with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and Acura’s stellar Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. Couple the MDX’s dynamic prowess with standards like power heated leather seats, a premium audio package, tri-zone climate control and a power rear liftgate, plus available Technology, Advance and Entertainment Package upgrades, and this well-rounded Acura takes on all the charm of a safe and secure mobile living room.
#7: 2012 Ford F-150 AWD
Perennial best-seller in the full-size pickup segment, the 2012 Ford F-150 in 4WD configuration won our votes for its smart blend of style, comfort and, yes, even fuel economy, thanks to the available 365-horsepower EcoBoost V6 – which has become the most popular engine in the entire F-150 lineup. Like the base V6 and two optional V8s, the EcoBoost/4WD combo can be had in Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew body styles and multiple trim levels. While all F-150 4WD models boast Hill Start Assist for 2012 and upline versions add a new 4×4 “auto mode” to the existing 4Hi/4Lo setup, only EcoBoost 4WD models also get a new 36-gallon fuel tank that lets them match their best-in-class 21-mpg highway mileage with a best-in-class 756-mile range.
#6: 2012 Honda CR-V AWD
A generational makeover brings a more contemporary appearance as well as many welcome new features to the 2012 Honda CR-V, not the least of which is the introduction of Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System. Optional on all models of the automaker’s compact, crossover-style SUV, this smaller, lighter and quicker-responding upgrade of the previous Real Time AWD setup helps the latest CR-V cope with challenging traction conditions even more effectively. The people side of the CR-V package benefits from a similarly well-measured upgrade regimen that includes a quieter, more stylish cabin, better ride comfort and a new rear-seat entertainment system option, plus significantly improved fuel economy from its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission.
#5: 2012 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro
Bigger, better and even more engaging than its highly-regarded predecessor, the all-new 2012 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro sedan brings its own special touch of Teutonic class to this contingent of AWD all-stars. A 310-horsepower supercharged V6 and legendary Quattro all-wheel drive system provide the grunt and the grip to keep to keep this luxury sedan pressing on regardless, with or without the benefit of the A6’s optional Cold Weather Package. The A6 3.0T Quattro is available in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels that offer increasingly higher levels standard comfort and convenience touches, while the cool Audi Connect feature allows it to be transformed into a mobile WiFi hotspot that can support up to eight devices.
#4: 2012 Chevrolet Traverse AWD
A popular choice anytime of the year for anyone needing a full-size crossover with style, space and a bounty of features, the 2012 Chevrolet Traverse with optional all-wheel drive really shines when the sun doesn’t. Fitted with a torquey 3.6-liter direct-injected V6 that makes 281-288 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission, the Traverse integrates its torque-managing intelligent AWD with the standard StabiliTrak dynamic control system and anti-lock brakes plus hill-start assist to help reduce driver stress under less-than-ideal road conditions. Offering room for up to eight and a class-leading 116.4 cu ft of maximum cargo space, the Traverse also can be outfitted with an optional DVD-based rear entertainment system, Bose premium audio and a Navigation radio package that includes real-time XM NavTraffic.
#3: 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee
An iconic name in off-roading, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee combines comfort and confidence in a handsomely styled, five-passenger luxury SUV that also excels in on-pavement maneuvers. Motivated by a standard 290-horsepower/3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and available with either a 360-horse/5.7-liter or 470-horse/6.4-liter Hemi V8, the Grand Cherokee offers three different four-wheel drive systems — two with high/low ranges — as well as its trick Selec-Terrain torque management system and Quadra-Lift Air suspension, all designed to keep it forging ahead under any conditions. Multiple trim lines step up the Grand Cherokee’s creature-comfort index while its impressive infotainment roster includes optional Uconnect Navigation/Phone and Internet features.
#2: 2012 Subaru Impreza
All-new, the fourth-generation 2012 Subaru Impreza has grown in size and desirability. Available in sedan or five-door form and offering multiple trim levels, all versions share the same outstanding all-season core competence that’s become a Subaru hallmark as well as a new 2.0-liter/148-horsepower flat-four engine that can be backed by either a five-speed manual transmission or Lineartonic CVT automatic, each matched with a dedicated version of Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Those new powertrain combos deliver a huge 30-percent bump in highway mpg for 2012, making the Impreza the most fuel-efficient AWD model you can buy in the U.S. Well-appointed and now even more spacious, the Impreza’s cabin matches impressive standards with an optional voice-activated Navigation system that includes Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio, iPod control capability and USB/AUX inputs.
#1: 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Smallest, lightest and most fuel-efficient model to ever grace the Land Rover lineup, the 2012 Range Rover Evoque also represents the most dramatic visual departure from its conventional kin. Based on the LRX concept vehicle, this super-styled 5-passenger SUV is available in 3- and 5-door body configurations plus three unique design-themed trims, all fitted with a 240-horsepower/2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. To ensure it maintains Land Rover’s legendary all-access capability, the Evoque’s standard intelligent all-wheel drive system incorporates the marque’s signature Terrain Response feature as well a comprehensive suite of traction/stability assists and offers optional tri-mode Adaptive Dynamics suspension that uses MagneRide dampers to instantly optimize ride and handling characteristics under all driving situations.