Winter Car Buyer’s Guide: AWD Without an SUV or Truck

You don't need a high-riding SUV or crossover to get the winter traction benefits of four-wheel drive. There are myriad sedans, wagons, coupes, and even convertibles that offer four-wheel drive (usually called all-wheel drive in passenger cars) either as standard or optional equipment. We've gathered up a complete list of AWD passenger cars; the list is long and the choices are many. Although the advantages of four driven wheels are obvious in slippery road conditions, the technology comes at a cost. There is usually a cost premium associated with all-wheel drive, and sometimes a fuel economy penalty as well. So for each car listed we've indicated the extra cost of the all-wheel-drive option, or the cost differential compared with the equivalent two-wheel-drive model, as well as its EPA gas mileage ratings, and the fuel economy penalty versus the two-wheel-drive version of the same car.

Acura's flagship RL may be often forgotten about, but it certainly belongs on this list as it comes standard with Acura's superb Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD). SH-AWD can shuffle power, not only between the front- and rear-wheels, but also between the rear wheels themselves. Acura claims it was the first company to debut such a system in North America on the 2005 RL, but the technology, and variations of it, has proliferated to a number of automakers over the last five years. Unlike a number of other systems that use selective braking to simulate a torque-vectoring rear-diff, Acura uses a real mechanical linkage. The system might have been introduced on the 2005 RL, but trickled down to the TL when it was redesigned in 2009.

Base price: $48,000 (est.)
AWD cost: standard
Cit/Hwy: 17/24
AWD penalty: N/A

Base price: $39,715
AWD cost: $3550
Cit/Hwy: 17/20
AWD penalty: 1 mpg city and hwy

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And, what about the Nissan Juke? I drove the AWD version. Neat little car, albeit a little quirky looking.
Phil Floraday moderator
Suzuki specifically calls the SX4 a crossover when it has awd. But we think it's a cool little vehicle.
What about the suzuki sx4?

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