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VOL. 44 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 18, 2020

All-wheel-drive SUV alternatives for winter

By Travis Langness | Edmunds

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Winter is coming, as is the unpleasantness of driving on wet, snowy or icy roads. A vehicle with all-wheel drive can help maximize traction in these conditions.

With four wheels being powered instead of two, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding spinning your vehicle’s wheels and getting stuck.

A lot of people buy an SUV to get all-wheel drive. But you might not need all the capability that an SUV provides. Maybe you want a smaller vehicle or one that’s more fun or fuel-efficient.

In today’s marketplace, there are many non-SUVs that offer all-wheel drive. Edmunds’ experts have compiled five of their favorites. Note that the following prices include destination charges.

2021 Mazda 3

The Mazda 3 is one of the most refined and enjoyable small cars to drive. Mazda offers two body styles: a regular sedan or a hatchback with more cargo space. You can get both with all-wheel drive.

Look for a Mazda 3 in the 2.5 S trim level or the new-for-2021 2.5 Turbo. All-wheel drive is optional on the 2.5 S and standard on the 2.5 Turbo. The 2.5 S has a 186-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while the 2.5 Turbo offers 250 horsepower.

The Mazda 3 doesn’t have as much rear legroom as other top small cars such as the Honda Civic, but what it does have is useful enough for adults on short journeys. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $25,045

2021 Kia K5

The Kia K5 should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for something with a spacious trunk, a roomy cabin and a comfortable ride on the highway.

The K5 name might be unfamiliar. It’s an all-new sedan that replaces Kia’s previous midsize sedan, the Optima. But don’t let the newness throw you off. Edmunds named the K5 its top-rated midsize sedan, and it’s a class leader in almost every regard.

All-wheel drive is up for grabs on the midlevel LXS and GT-Line trims, both of which feature a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower. Kia offers a luxury-oriented EX trim and an even more powerful K5 GT trim, but you unfortunately can’t get all-wheel drive on either. Starting MSRP: $27,555

2021 Toyota Sienna

You might think an SUV is the only way to get all-wheel drive and abundant family-duty versatility. But Toyota has offered all-wheel drive on its Sienna minivan for more than a decade now. That’s also true for the redesigned 2021 Sienna.

Notably, the Sienna is now exclusively a hybrid. Its four-cylinder hybrid powertrain isn’t overly powerful it has 245 horsepower but it does provide an attractive EPA-estimated 35-36 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

The new Sienna also has an SUV-inspired center console, available second-row seats with extendable footrests, and seven USB ports to keep all of your electronics fully charged. And when it comes to all-wheel drive in the Sienna, you can have it on any trim level. Starting MSRP: $37,635

2021 Volvo V90

With excellent interior materials and a sleek exterior look, the Volvo V90 wagon feels classy whether you’re staring at it in your driveway or you’re driving it to work. The V90 has abundant cargo space and a comfortable ride on the highway, plus it offers a few sporty options if you want your drive to be more entertaining.

All-wheel drive comes with the V90’s more powerful T6 engine, which makes 316 horsepower. Go with the R-Design trim level and you’ll get sportier suspension calibration, sport front seats and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Not bad for a family wagon that will easily see you through the winter months. Starting MSRP: $58,795

2020 Porsche 911

A sports car for the wintertime? You can do it with the Porsche 911. Naturally, the 911 is engaging to drive thanks to its rapid acceleration and communicative handling. Yet with its small but useful back seat, comfortable highway ride and wealth of available driver safety aids, it’s also one of the best daily-driver sports cars out there.

All-wheel drive is standard on the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S trim levels, which have 379 horsepower and 443 horsepower, respectively. So, yes, the 911 is up to the task of winter driving. The only issue you might have is whether you can stomach sending your $100,000 Porsche out into the muck. Starting MSRP: $107,850

Edmunds says

No matter what kind of car you’re looking for, there’s probably a vehicle in the class that offers all-wheel drive. So if you need a vehicle that can handle a bit of inclement weather over winter, there’s no reason to restrict your search to just SUVs.

Travis Langness is a reviews editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @travislangness.

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