8 Best SUVs in Snow

It’s that time of year again. The temperature is dropping rapidly signaling the arrival of winter and everything that comes with it. This includes skiing, tobogganing and Christmas, but also sleet, snow and ice.

As you travel to and from family gatherings over the holidays or commute into work, you’ll likely run into reduced visibility, snowstorms or slippery roads at some point. The extra traction that an all wheel drive vehicle provides can make a big difference in the level of control you have over handling and braking. Add a set of winter tires to that and you’ll be able to face almost any winter weather conditions feeling confident and secure.
Here’s an overview of the 8 best 2016 SUVs in snow when they have winter tires installed.

VehicleMSRPRankMPG City/HwyPowertrainSeats
Subaru Forester$22,395122/29AWD5 std
Jeep Grand Cherokee$29,995219/26RWD5 std
Chevrolet Tahoe$47,000316/23RWD8 std (9 opt)
Land Rover Range Rover$84,950417/23FWD5 std
Toyota RAV4$28,650522/28FWD5
Lexus RX Hybrid$41,900620/27FWD5
Volvo XC90$49,800720/25FWD7 std
Mazda CX-5$21,795826/34FWD5 std

2016 Subaru Forester

subaru-forester

Subaru has a great reputation for producing vehicles that perform well in all-terrain conditions, and the Forester is no exception. As with all Subaru vehicles, the Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Under the hood, the 2016 Forester is powered by a 170 hp 2.5L 4-cylinder coupled with a six-speed manual in the base model. There is an optional CVT automatic transmission available, and Subaru also offers a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that makes 250 hp and is really the preferred option here. The base engine is fine for everyday driving but the turbocharged option is not only faster, it performs better in off-road conditions.

The Subaru rounds out its offerings with great cargo space and an above average ground clearance of 8.7 inches. It’s a solid off-road performer and well equipped to handle rough winter weather.

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

jeep-grand-cherokee

Recently Jeep has aimed their Grand Cherokee line at high-end SUV buyers who don’t want to sacrifice off-road capability in their family haulers. A direct competitor for Land Rover’s Range Rover SUV, Jeep set a lofty goal in creating an acceptable alternative. They have done an excellent job in this, creating a 2016 Grand Cherokee that doesn’t compromise on its ability to tackle rough terrain or nasty weather, while keeping its occupants in perfect comfort and luxury.

An optional 4WD is necessary to get the full off-road handling package on the Grand Cherokee, and buyers who select it won’t be disappointed. Two engine options are present here, the base model V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic, and an available V6 diesel that’s much better on fuel economy than the base engine. Both engines are suitable for off-road performance.

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is an attractive option for buyers looking to tackle cold winter weather in a domestic brand.

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

chevrolet-tahoe

One of the largest SUVs on the road, the 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe is a powerhouse of utility and passenger transport. A cavernous interior gives the Tahoe’s passengers plenty of room to stretch and still fit cargo, while the wide range of extras and trim options allow its buyers to custom tailor the Tahoe to fit their own needs and tastes.

A muscular V8 powers the Tahoe, and even though there are no other engine options, that shouldn’t dissuade SUV buyers. This V8 is mated to a six-speed automatic and a fantastic advanced suspension to create one of the smoothest rides in the full-size SUV class.

Rear-wheel drive is standard here, so anyone looking for a winter transport should opt for the 4WD powertrain. The Tahoe has the ground clearance, suspension, and internal power to tackle even the heaviest of snowfalls, and its great 4WD system will keep the vehicle on the road and plowing forward.

The Tahoe seamlessly blends old-school SUV power with modern day comfort and ease of use. It’s one of the best full-size SUVs available today whether it’s on the pavement, in the dirt, or sloshing through the slush.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover

land-rover-range-rover

The undisputed king of the consumer off-roading crown, the 2016 Range Rover is the absolute last word in tackling dangerous terrain other vehicles could never dream of attempting. It has one of the most sophisticated terrain monitoring and response systems in existence today, and everything from the suspension to the low-range gearbox work in tandem to keep its occupants moving through even the worst conditions.

Not only is the Range Rover the off-road champion, it’s one of the biggest names in SUV luxury on the market today. They can be custom tailored for almost any desire, with a price tag to match, and buyers can expect every tiny detail in their SUV to be top-quality.

The standard engine in this year’s Range Rover is a supercharged V6 that produces 340 hp coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard on the base model, a clear sign Land Rover is still very serious about their premiere SUVs handling on the road and in the snow.

It’s hard to beat the Range Rover in sheer off-road capability or its penchant for high-end luxury and comfort.

2016 Toyota RAV4

toyota-rav4

Toyota’s RAV4 is the direct competitor to Honda’s CR-V, and for consumers looking for a compact SUV to tackle snowy weather, the RAV4 is the clear winner. The optional AWD system is vital for control in winter conditions and comes with a standard 2.5L inline-4 six-speed automatic. It’s not the sportiest engine, but it’s enough for daily commuting.

For a compact SUV, the RAV4 is a little on the small side in terms of interior space, and the seats could use a bit of work. It also has average ground clearance at 6.3 inches. The major highlight here would be Toyota’s reliability and the RAV4’s responsive handling.

It’s the least expensive option on this list and will provide suitable transport in winter conditions for everyday commuter transport.

2016 Lexus RX

2016-lexus-rx

A luxury SUV with its primary focus on comfort and quality, the Lexus RX series is also an solid snow performer when it is equipped with the optional AWD powertrain. In terms of interior quality, the RX is second to none, with all of the expected luxury options present, a fantastic infotainment system and instrument panel, and one of the most comfortable seats of any midsize SUV.

The RX’s base model engine is a 3.5L V6 mated with an eight-speed automatic, and while it’s not as quick on its feet as one might expect, it’s still suitable for everyday commuting. Speed isn’t the point in the RX anyway, and Lexus hits all the right notes with its superior ride quality and comfort.

FWD is standard, but if traversing snow covered roads is to be expected, the AWD version is recommended for its better traction and control.

2016 Volvo XC90

2016-volvo-xc90

One of the most well-rounded SUVs available today, the big Volvo XC90 is a sublime mix of luxury, utility, safety, and comfort. It’s a quiet luxury that doesn’t feel the need to be flashy in its presentation. This is reflected in every aspect of the vehicle’s design, from the unassuming exterior to the smartly modeled interior.

Volvo has come out the gate swinging with a 316 hp turbo and supercharged 2.0L 4-cylinder with an eight-speed automatic and standard AWD. This motor provides plenty of power for the spacious SUV and the AWD powertrain works wonderfully in winter conditions. It’s one of the primary testing grounds for Volvo SUVs and this is apparent in the way the XC90 handles in poor weather.

With some of the most comfortable seats in its class and plenty of room for passengers and driver alike, the Volvo has an incredibly smooth ride and comes with a off-road driving mode for handling rough terrain.

2016 Mazda CX-5

2016-mazda-cx-5

Likely the least sporty offering from Mazda this year, the CX-5 is nonetheless a solid choice. Aimed at being a people carrier first, the CX-5 performs its intended function well, giving its occupants a smooth ride and comfortable seating.

It comes equipped with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox, but there is an AWD option available. Consumers who are in areas with harsh winters will need to upgrade to the AWD option, as the CX-5’s performance with the FWD powertrain is average at best.

The CX-5’s role as a family friendly people carrier really shines through in its spacious interior and comfortable seats. The major downside here comes in raw acceleration and driver enjoyment, an area the CX-5 happily gives up in favor of a more composed and family friendly ride.

Where Rubber Meets Road: The Importance of Having Winter Tires

The performance difference between regular all-weather tires and snow tires is significant. Equipping a vehicle with winter tires dramatically increases its ability to maintain control during snowy weather conditions. In any environment where snow is expected, winter tires are a smart choice to keep yourself and your passengers safe. Even when roads are not covered with snow, winter tires provide greater handling, stopping distance, and reliability in colder temperatures.

Tires generate grip by creating friction with the surface of the road. Standard or all-weather tires are given a specific tread to grip pavement and the presence of snow interferes with their intended function – to keep the vehicle on the road and and the driver in control. Snowy weather conditions ask for a completely different set of requirements from the rubber assigned to handling them, and not having the additional safety and traction provided by a snow tire can be a dangerous choice.

When a tire hardens or freezes in cold weather conditions, it loses traction – making it easier to slip or skid. Winter tires have special deep treads to bite through snow and a more flexible material to prevent hardening of the rubber. A few of the most popular brands of winter tires are Michelin, Bridgestone, Cooper and Continental.

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