- Jul 31, 2013
Techsplanations: All Wheel Drive
One of the best selling and most reliable all-wheel-drive vehicles, the Subaru Outback is practically the "official car" of Vermont, Minnesota and Washington State. A wagon that began the trend of calling such vehicles "crossovers," the current Outback won MotorTrend Truck of the Year in 2009 after it was redesigned.
Subaru's all-wheel-drive system is considered the gold standard among non-luxury brands. It is good enough to have helped snare "Truck of the Year" for Subaru two years running, as the same system is in the 2009 MotorTrend Truck of the Year, the Forester.
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The godfather of four-wheel drive off-loading vehicles, the Wrangler is the most capable off-road vehicle you can buy. We include it hear among all-wheel-drive vehicles just to remind readers that the Wrangler, which can go just about anywhere off-road that a vehicle can go before you have to change to a horse or donkey, is also about sure footed as anything on road.
The 2012 model benefits from the substantial upgrade in the interior received for the 2011 model year. It comes in both two-door and four-door versions, as well as packages that inlude removable plastic roof panels or a cloth top that allows for fun, if dusty, summer driving and off-loading. Like true four-wheel off-roaders, it has a hi-low range switch that maximizes slow-moving rook crawling if that is your bag, as well as part-time 4wd. That means you have to flick the switch if you are driving in snowy or otherwise adverse road conditions.
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One of the only all-wheel-drive options offered any more on a mid-sized family sedan, the Fusion has gained a lot favor with buyers in the last few years after a 2009 upgrade on the car's interior. It is the Fusion Sport where you will find all-wheel-drive. That version, which starts at $27,150 before any incentives kick in, has automatic transmission only, 18-inch wheels and leather interior.
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If Subaru is the gold standard for all-wheel-drive systems in the non-luxury class, Audi's Quattro system captures the gold, if not platinum, among luxury brands. The Quattro all-wheel-drive system is available on all Audis, and, in fact, represents most of Audi sales in the U.S.
The A6 is a beautiful, if slightly conservatively styled, sedan. It comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and arguably the best in-cabin telematics system in the luxury segment.
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The Chevy Traverse is what GM has called the "full-size crossover." That means it is based on a passenger car platform, and not a truck chassis. This gives the car much better on-road manners and handling. The all-wheel-drive offering has made it a favorite among families who have more than two kids to carry, and who live in states that get harsh winters. All-wheel-drive minivans are few and hard to come by.
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BMW 335 xi
The benefit of buying a BMW "x" sport sedan is that you not only get the best handling sport sedan in the world, you also get a vehicle sure-footed in bad road conditions. The best of both worlds. The car is its normal, excellent rear-drive taut handling sedan on dry roads, and safe when the snow falls. Even with snow tires, we aren't wild about rear-drive cars in the snow.
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The Touareg is a classic, traditional premium SUV with all-wheel-drive that, despite the VW badging, feels like it holds it own just fine with traditional luxury brand offerings such as the Lexus RX, Audi Q5 and Mercedes M Class. It comes in a regular gas version, as well as with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.
There is no third row seat, but if you don't need one you can take pride in the fact that the Touareg was developed alongside the Porsche Cayenne SUV and shares a bunch of bits, pieces and systems.
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