Here is a list of new vehicles that can handle everything from a little frozen drizzle to the next snowpocalypse.
New England Motor Press Calls ’em Like they See ’em
Each February, the New England Motor Press Association, or NEMPA as it is called, convenes a ride and drive meeting to narrow down the best winter vehicles available based on the group’s actual winter test driving in real-world conditions. The only unfortunate thing is the timing. In order to evaluate that year’s vehicles, it needs to be done at the end of that year’s winter season. Fear not. Many of the group’s picks go unchanged into the new model year. Here are some great winter vehicles that have distinguished themselves in testing, and some with a long legacy of handling snow in all its forms.
Best Winter Vehicle – Overall Champion – Jeep Grand Cherokee
Based on actual NEMPA winter condition testing, the best vehicle for tackling winter is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. If it were just this one win, we would have a hard time calling the Grand Cherokee the overall champ, but it has won several times. The Cherokee brings a proven formula to the mix. It features a great ride height for seeing over snowbanks at intersections, has a sophisticated all-wheel-drive or 4X4 drivetrain, and a wide range of price points.
The least expensive all-wheel-drive Laredo with the winter package starts at about $37,000. In its most extreme trims, the Grand Cherokee can be outfitted with skid plates to make runs to the ski lodge up an unplowed private dirt road with its front swaybar disconnected. Regardless of how the Grand Cherokee is outfitted, it is a solid choice for winter.
Best All-Wheel-Drive Compact Wagon
Compact wagon, so it must be a Subaru, right? Not this year. The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack offers much of what an Audi A4 allroad does but in a package that is available for under $30K well-equipped. 4-Motion all-wheel drive is the key to this vehicle’s success, but it also adds an extra inch of ground clearance and a dedicated snow mode to the already impressive capability of an AWD Golf wagon.
Every Subaru (Except One)
Drive into the parking lot any diner in Vermont some snowy Sunday morning and you will find that most of the population not in a pickup or on a snowmobile is in a Subaru. Whether it be the iconic Outback, the practical Forester, or the sporty and popular Crosstrek subcompact crossover, Subaru’s lineup is ready to play in the snow on the way out the door. Subaru’s X-Mode goes further than almost any other mainstream vehicle system to manage slip in the most extreme conditions and Subarus boast more ground clearance than anything but a Jeep. New for 2018 is the 3-Row Ascent. We haven’t tested it yet, but we look forward to another AWD winner from Subaru. The lone dry-weather Subaru? That’s the rear-wheel-drive BRZ. It’s made for twisty roads and racetracks, but with a set of winter rubber we wouldn’t count it out in a storm either.
Best Coupe – Dodge Challenger GT
A muscle car in snow? Sort of. The Dodge Challenger has over 300 hp, more than most classic muscle cars and plenty to get you to your destination quickly. What makes the Dodge Challenger GT special is its amazing AWD system. NEMPA members put it through its paces on-road and on-track this past winter. Not very unusual for that group, except that the track was covered with a foot of ice and snow. The Challenger’s AWD system is smart. Sure, you can set it to snow mode, but if the temperatures are below 40F, if the windshield wipers are on, or if the car even sniffs wheel slip, the Challenger is already in AWD, rather than its default to rear-wheel drive. The Dodge Challenger is tough enough to be stuffed into a snowbank and then be driven home smoothly (trust us…). Couple these capabilities with a premium microfiber suede interior and heated seats and steering wheel, and the Challenger GT is one cozy coupe when the temps plummet.
Best Affordable Crossover – Jeep Cherokee
Jeeps are all over this list in case that escaped your notice. One affordable compact crossover not to miss if you are shopping for a great winter weather vehicle is the Cherokee. Like its larger Grand Cherokee sibling, the Cherokee is available in many trims that are affordable. The Latitude 4X4 starts under $26K. If you are looking for the best possible all-weather trim, check out the Trailhawk trim.
Best Luxury Winter Vehicles
They may be frugal Yankees, but NEMPA members appreciate a little luxury in the winter. The new Jaguar F-Pace is a sporty new two-row crossover that the membership is buzzing about this year. Those looking for a slightly more roomy crossover may want to check out the Infiniti QX60. NEMPA members pointed out that its seating is hard to top. Those looking for a larger luxury SUV or crossover should consider the Range Rover line. The all-new Velar adds to the line this year and the Land Rover Terrain Response system is legendary for its abilities.
Prefer a wagon? Audi’s A4 allroad combines a sports car’s abilities with superior off-road prowess. Those who want a large sedan should consider the Volvo S90 AWD. If a green luxury vehicle is up your alley, the Lexus RX 450h hybrid has a unique all-wheel-drive system and a surprisingly small carbon footprint.
Best Pickup Truck – Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline is not just NEMPA’s favorite winter pickup, it was also last year’s favorite pickup of BestRide overall. Honda’s unconventional approach to pickups does not always meet the expectations of long-time truck buyers, but on snowy commutes, AWD is always better than four-wheel drive and Honda’s system is a proven winner.
Best Extreme Conditions Winter Vehicle – Jeep Wrangler
Planning a snowy off-road adventure? No vehicle can go farther, do more, or do it better than the Jeep Wrangler. New for 2018, there is a hybrid model along with the capabilities you have grown to know and love. In the Boston area, and other snowy regions, the Governor has started to ban vehicles from roads during snow emergencies. Except for the ones with plows. Which can be mounted on Jeep Wranglers…