Don't let winter weather get you down. With these rugged cars and wagons in all price ranges, you'll be able to blow by Jack Frost and the gas station.
MSRP: $22,295 - $34,795
MPG: 20 City / 26 Hwy
The Subaru Outback is one of the most celebrated winter-weather wagons. Popular Mechanics calls it "the all-weather automotive equivalent of the utility infielder" and Car and Driver lists "all-weather versatility" as a major advantage.
The wagon's standard symmetrical all-wheel-drive system helps distribute power to the wheels where traction is most needed. It also comes with two additional safety-enhancing systems: Vehicle Dynamics Control and Traction Control. "Add those safety features with the stability of Subaru's all-wheel drive, and the Outback is at the top of our list for when the weather turns nasty and roads turn slippery," says Automotive.com.
On top of everything, the Outback boasts a rear window wiper with de-icer, and all but the base 2.5i trim come with heated front seats. Automatic-transmission models are pre-wired for a remote starter -- an accessory that allows you to start the car from up to 400 feet away so that the interior temperature heats up before entry.
Saab 9-3 Sedan and SportCombi
MSRP: $30,360 - $51,330
MPG: 19 City / 29 Hwy
The Saab 9-3 sedan and SportCombi wagon come standard in Aero and XWD trims with Saab's innovative XWD system. The fully automatic, on-demand system distributes torque to the front or rear wheels in response to driving conditions. The Saabs also come with a Traction Control System and Electronic Stability Program. A Cold Weather Package, available on most models, comes with heated front seats and high-pressure headlamp washers.
While some safety systems can take all the fun out of driving, USA Today appreciates that the 9-3's accident avoidance equipment isn't as overzealous as some competitors: "Some wheelspin helps you keep going in sand or deep snow, and spinning the tires can just be plain fun." Edmunds calls the XWD system "a bright spot, as it adds a level of driver involvement that has been absent from Saabs for years."
Audi A4 and A6
MSRP: $32,700 - $48,800
MPG: 21 City / 27 Hwy
MSRP: $42,950 - $56,300
MPG: 18 City / 27 Hwy
For a more luxurious experience, Audi's sedans are ideal havens in nasty weather. The German automaker's Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is standard on A6 models and on some A4 trims. "When sunny skies turn to rainy weather the all-weather traction advantages of the renowned quattro all-wheel-drive system are much appreciated and, even in dry weather, we could feel its calming influence while negotiating curving on-ramps and the like," says Kelley Blue Book.
Audi's weather-beating features include all-season tires, heated front seats and heated exterior mirrors (standard on all A6 and on some A4 models). Edmunds says the A6's all-wheel-drive system "affords it prodigious grip around turns that makes spirited driving that much more fun, while at the same time providing additional security in foul weather."
MSRP: $37,250 - $39,500
MPG: 15 City / 23 Hwy
When a tire loses traction, the XC70's Haldex AWD system with Instant Traction transfers power to the more sure-footed wheels. In addition, the XC70 boasts a Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system with a special setting to ensure extra traction in snowy conditions. The optional Climate Package comes with heated front and rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzlers, high-pressure headlamp cleaning and a rain sensor.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that the wagon "has more than eight inches of ground clearance, which makes it capable of handling modest terrain out in the boondocks" -- and presents an advantage in snowy conditions. The Auto Channel confirms that the AWD system was "much appreciated during the scoot along mountain roads that sometimes edged close to dropoffs."
MSRP: $45,950 - $55,450
MPG: 17 City / 26 Hwy
The Cadillac STS is a luxury sedan that comes optional with all-wheel drive on select V6 and V8 models. All-Speed Traction Control and a four-channel electronic stability control system are standard. In 2006, Autobytel's Automotive Information Center named the STS as the Best Winter Weather Vehicle because of its unique features, which include standard Adaptive Remote Start and an outside heated rearview mirror. Rainsense automatic windshield wipers with moisture detection and a heated steering wheel are package options.
MSRP: $46,280 - $53,700
MPG: 16 City / 22 Hwy
Acura's solution to slippery conditions is Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD), which has been revised for 2009 to increase its effectiveness at lower speeds. Standard on the RL sedan, the system sends 70 percent of traction to the front wheels and can send a maximum of 70 percent to the rear wheels in heavy acceleration.
"The SH-AWD system in the 2009 Acura RL works transparently but very effectively to maintain traction under the worst of circumstances and, along with the newly firmed-up suspension, provide cornering abilities that are more ‘sports car' than ‘luxury sedan,'" says Edmunds. The RL comes standard with dual-level heated front seats and Vehicle Stability Assist.