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The 8 Best All-Wheel-Drive Cars on the Road


December 10, 2018 Cars By Photo by Volvo

Winter is coming. In many parts of the country, it’s already here. Prepping for winter is a major reason all-wheel-drive cars have become popular. Technology has improved to the point where there isn’t a performance cost – all-wheel-drive is as likely to appear on your supercar as your crossover SUV. Here is a list of the premier AWD vehicles by segment.

Best… Subaru Outback: Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited

The Subaru Outback is in a category of its own. Any all-wheel-drive list would be incomplete without it. In many ways, the Outback was the ur-crossover: it combined the handling of a car with serious all-terrain capability. Considering Subaru’s now standard EyeSight technology and the copious cabin and cargo space, the Outback is the ultimate practical family vehicle. Other manufacturers lift wagons and slap some cladding on them to compete with the Outback. The only trouble with the Outback is it’s a vehicle to get you to your fun. The 2.5L base model, with ponderous acceleration, is not that fun to drive. How do you resolve that? Upgrading to the 3.6L six-cylinder engine with 254hp for a much more responsive car. The trouble is you’ll pay up front and with reduced efficiency at the pump.

Engine: 3.6L Flat-Six
Transmission: CVT
Horsepower: 254 hp
Torque: 247 lb-ft
Weight: 3,893 lbs
0-60: 7.1 sec
Top Speed: 139 mph
Base Price: $34,995

Best Sports Car: Porsche 911 Turbo S

Porsche produces precisely engineered supercars. Their practicality distinguishes Porsche from other manufacturers. Porsches are comfortable. Porsches are robust. Most 911 owners won’t use their car as a daily driver for investment reasons, but they could. The 911 Turbo S will do everything you expect from a $190,000 sports car. It has 580hp. It accelerates from 0-60mph in just 2.8 seconds. But, with all-wheel drive, it can also go well beyond what you’d expect. The 911 Turbo S will not just get you to the ski slopes; it can drive up the slopes. One could argue AWD makes this car a bit too accessible to be a “proper 911.” But, that sweet 911 message-board cred won’t count for much when you wind up in a ditch.

Engine: 3.8L Twin-Turbocharged Boxer 6
Transmission: PDK Automatic
Horsepower: 580 hp
Torque: 516lb-ft
Weight: 3,528lbs
0-60: 2.8 sec
Top Speed: 205 mph
Base Price: $190,700

Best Electric Vehicle: Tesla Model S P100D

Tesla has been in the headlines. You’ll read much about its dear leader, its stock price and its ad hoc methods of reaching Model 3 production targets. Forget all that. We’re here to discuss the Model S, the sedan that redefined the electric vehicle. Tesla describes its acceleration as “ludicrous,” which is an apt description. Motor Trend clocked it at 2.28 seconds, their fastest production car on record. When not doing that, the P100D Model S can achieve a 315-mile range on a full charge. It also has a 17-inch touchscreen, autopilot and over-the-air software updates if you’re into the newfangled things. It’s easy to see how driving this car could be addictive, perhaps too addictive. Ensure your friends are ready to stage an intervention when you’re loitering in coffee shops clad head to toe in Tesla gear waiting for someone to ask you about your Tesla.

Engine: Dual Motor AWD
Transmission: 1-speed Direct Drive
Horsepower: 680hp
Torque: 791lb-ft
Weight: 4,891 lbs
0-60: 2.5 sec
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
Base Price: $122,000

Best Sedan: Mercedes E 63 AMG S

Most Mercedes-Benz cars are elegant. A few are downright diabolical. The E 63 AMG S merges the two. Its 4.0L handcrafted bi-turbo V8 unleashes an astounding 603hp and 627lb-ft of torque. The German sedan will accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds and reach a governed top speed of 186mph. Under less mental driving conditions, the E 63 AMG S will deactivate cylinders for better fuel economy. Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD will offer all the grip a sensible driver could want. If you’re not so sensible? Mercedes still has you covered. The E 63 AMG S can be switched into a 100-percent RWD “drift mode” to let you shred the hell out of (hopefully someone else’s) expensive tires.

Engine: Handcrafted 4.0L Bi-turbo V8
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Horsepower: 603hp
Torque: 627lb-ft
Weight: 4,587lbs
0-60: 3.3 seconds
Top Speed: 186mph (governor limited)
Base Price: $105,395

Best Wagon: Volvo V90 CC T6 AWD

Volvo produces premium practicality. The Volvo buyer shares common concerns with the Subaru buyer but needs a more sophisticated aesthetic and that little bit of extra pampering. The V90 Cross Country wagon hits that note perfectly. It’s like a Subaru Outback, but fancy. Motoring editor Nick Caruso believes the V90 CC is the ideal car on the road today. The turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder T6 engine delivers power (316hp) and torque (295lb-ft). Its AWD system is tuned to master all reasonable terrains and weather conditions. Volvo produces the safest cars on the road. A base price north of $50,000 isn’t cheap. But, this car feels like it should be much more expensive.

Engine: 2.0L I-4
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 316hp
Torque: 295lb-ft
Weight: 4,232 lbs
0-60: 5.9 sec
Top Speed: 131mph
Base Price: $56,100

Best Sport Sedan: Audi RS3

Audi changed the game for racing and, by extension, road cardom with its World Rally Championship-winning all-wheel drive, turbocharged I-5 Quattro in the early 1980s. Nearly 40 years later, a turbocharged I-5 paired with Audi’s Quattro AWD continues to be a devastating combination with the RS3. With 400hp and 354lb-ft of torque, the sporty little German sedan will accelerate from 0-60mph in about 3.5 seconds and reach a governor-limited 174mph. Phenomenal grip is great, whether it is in adverse weather conditions or favorable conditions on a track. Who said an exciting Audi was an oxymoron?

Engine: 2.5L I-5 Turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Horsepower: 400hp
Torque: 354lb-ft
Weight: 3,593
0-60: 3.5 sec
Top Speed: 174mph (limited)
Base Price: $54,900

Best Crossover: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Car people don’t like crossovers. Cars that do everything decently tend not to do anything particularly well. Crossovers are functional but boring. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the crossover for car people. It looks like an Alfa Romeo on the surface and is powered by a Ferrari under the hood. The Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the world’s fastest production SUV, with a sub-eight-minute lap around the Nurburgring. Getting from 0-60mph in only 3.6 seconds, it is quicker off the line than its sedan sibling the Giulia Quadrifoglio. When you want to turn the volume down, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio returns to being a charming, comfortable and nimble kid hauler.

Engine: 2.9L Twin Turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 505hp
Torque: 443lb-ft
Weight: 4,360 lbs
0-60: 3.6 sec
Top Speed: 176mph
Base Price: $79,995

Best Hot Hatchback: Volkswagen Golf R

When you need a hot hatchback, it’s best to stick with the classic that invented the category, the VW Golf. The Golf R is the hottest variant. VW had a performance variant for the Golf, the GTI, which could make a claim to be the best all-around car. VW added about 60hp to create a super-performance version, the Golf R. Spot on steering and handling. The option for a manual transmission. Like the Audi RS3, VW’s 4Motion AWD gives it spectacular grip. It is $40,000-plus for a Volkswagen that does not look that much different from a standard Golf. But, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things low key, especially when driving quickly.

Engine: 2.0L Turbo I-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic
Horsepower: 288hp
Torque: 280lb-ft
Weight: 3,373 lbs
0-60: 4.8 sec
Top Speed: 150mph (limited)
Base Price: $40,395

The 10 Best SUVs Under $50,000

This list of the 10 best SUVs under $50,000 serves as a guide to one of the most popular consumer automobile segments and includes important terminology and recommendations for almost every driver.Read the Story

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