Given the choice between staying home — sitting by the fire, listening to music and sipping warmth-enduing libations — or doing battle for traction out on an icy, snow-swept road, we’d most certainly choose the former. But even in the thick of winter, life doesn’t stop — the kids still need to get to school, you have to go to work, and the groceries don’t deliver themselves when prepping that tori-nabe (or alternatively, those grilled cheese sandwiches).
Fortunately, today’s breed of SUVs are as rugged as their forbearers while retaining a level of sophistication and refinement not unlike that leather wingback you keep by the fireplace. Supple leather, heated seats and steering wheels and high-end sound systems are to be expected, but they’re at their finest in these seven SUVs that run the gamut from relative bargain to absurdly opulent. Old Man Winter, do your worst.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4
Best Value: For those looking to get the most bang for their buck, Jeep’s Gand Cherokee Summit might be the best value in the mid-size SUV market. For just over the $50,000 mark you get a fully loaded car. Luxury features like Jeep’s supple Natura leather, open-pore wood, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof and Harmon Kardon audio all come standard. What’s more, to keep from getting stuck, the Summit also comes standard with Jeep’s Select-Terrain traction control with snow mode, as well as Quadra-Lift suspension for clearance needs on unpaved roads.
Volvo XC90 Inscription
The Safest: Volvo has committed to having zero deaths in their cars by 2020. A tall order, sure, but with the recently redesigned XC90 it looks like they’re on track. The XC90 has received the IIHS’s highest award (Top Safety Pick+), and while other mid-sized SUVs have won it (like the Lexus NX and Audi Q5), the XC90 is the only one to also receive a superior frontal crash-prevention rating with standard equipment. The new redesign has also made the XC90 handsomer and more luxurious than ever before. In Inscription trim, it comes with semi-aniline Nappa leather paired with one of the industry’s most comfortable and supportive seats. There’s also open-pore wood trim, an optional Bower & Wilkins sound system and clean, purposeful Scandinavian design. Altogether, it makes the XC90’s interior one hell of a nice place to be.
Cadillac Escalade 4WD
Best Family Truckster: The Escalade is a mainstay in hotel and airport premium livery services for good reason: it’s as much a bus as it is an SUV. Why? It has three rows of leather-appointed seats (the first two of which are heated), 94.2 cubic feet of cargo room (120.9 if you spec the ESV model) and the ability to tow 8,300 pounds. Simply put, if you want to carry a family of seven and all their stuff, no SUV is more capable than this.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Most Capable: If you had suggested the Toyota Land Cruiser as a luxurious way to get through the harsh winter 30 years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room. But since the end of the lovable, minimalist FJ40 in the mid-’80s, the Land Cruiser has transformed itself into something of a luxury land yacht without forgetting its rugged, off-road origins. Though we don’t have any seat time in the latest-generation Land Cruiser (yet), it already looks to be an ideal choice for those expecting the absolute harshest winter (be that on-road or off), and the Land Cruiser comes standard with everything. That means four-zone climate control, heated seats (front and second row), heated steering wheel and even two massive 11.6-inch screens in the back. If you still demand more, for about $5,000 more you can opt for the Lexus LX570 for added leather, wood trim and optional Mark Levinson surround sound.
Land Rover Range Rover HSE
Most Refined: Like the Land Cruiser, the Range Rover is an SUV that’s evolved incredibly in the last couple decades, with it’s latest big redesign being without a doubt it’s most refined version yet. An aluminum body helps drop weight, and exterior design is reminiscent of the old RR’s beefy, utilitarian design while looking rather elegant and svelte (despite a curb weight of about 5,000 pounds), especially when compared to its rivals.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Range Rover without off-road capability and central to that is Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, which offers settings for different conditions (including slippery conditions like snow) and will adjust to provide optimal traction. Throw in a supercharged V6 with 380 horsepower, an opulent interior with 14-way adjustable front seats, heated seats front and rear and an optional Meridian audio system and you have one of the best all-rounders in the luxury SUV segment.
Porsche Cayenne GTS
Most Fun: When it came on the scene in the early aughts, the Porsche Cayenne was one of the only sport utility vehicles to actually provide speed and handling prowess in a mid-sized SUV package. Today, it remains the optimal choice for drivers who want sports-car-like driving dynamics in a legitimate SUV (read: not a crossover) — that’s especially true in GTS guise. It offers 440 horsepower (140 more than the entry-level version) making it good for a 0-60 sprint of 4.9 seconds, as well as optional ceramic composite brakes and Porsche dynamic chassis control. Add some performance snow tires and you’ll be ready to conquer winter sideways and smiling.
Most Opulent: Bentley’s Bentayga brings supreme luxury — that of not just Bentley but Rolls-Royce and Maybach caliber — to the SUV for the first time. We have yet to drive it (something we’ll do in early 2016), but the numbers Bentley released are impressive: the 6.0-liter W12 engine puts out 600 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque, giving it enough power for the company to claim it is the fastest SUV in the world, with a top speed of 187 mph. And the excess is best seen on the inside. As with all Bentleys, intensive soundproofing has been used to make for a serene interior, which happens to be swathed in leather with 15 different hide choices. Customers can also opt for a four-seat arrangement, as opposed to five, and when you spec the optional Naim sound system, the Bentayga becomes the ultimate winter hideaway on wheels.
The 15 Best Winter Tires Admittedly, it’s easy to assume high ground clearance and AWD are all you need to survive the winter, so we recommend putting the right shoes on your luxury SUV if you want to ensure the safest possible drive. Read the Guide Here