Here’s a little secret: The most important things about getting through snow aren’t all-wheel drive or traction control: all you really need is a real limited-slip differential and good tires. I learned that early on when a family friend got me up a steep, winding, snow-covered hill in a four-door Mercury sedan. I watched Tony pilot this barge past a fleet of stranded cars with ease and while he had chains on, the principal is the same.
I admit, all-wheel drive is good for getting you unstuck. But as the owner of several Subarus, I can say with authority that AWD plus all-season tires is meaningless.
I can also say with authority that with traction control is inferior to a real differential, at least brake-control systems. Limited-slip or positraction gangs the driving wheels together and is the ultimate tool for going places.
With these criteria in mind, these 10 cars will get the job done in snow, rain or whatever else is on your roads.
1. Audi A8. Quattro with an optional sport differential make this a great winter highway car. The only problem is the Sport plus package comes with 20-inch wheels. Go -1 for snows.
2. BMW M3. Heck, specifying the 6-speed will even save you $2,900.
3. Fiat 500 Abarth. It’s not the most reliable car on the road, but both the car and its 16-inch snows are cheap and you can option a plug-in block heater.
4. VW Golf GTi. The Performance Package gets you not only limited slip, but big brakes and 220hp. Imminent hoonage.
5. Cadillac ATS. Spec the FE3 Sport Suspension and you get 18-inch summer tires, but it also has limited-slip, heavy-duty cooling and there’s available AWD.
6. Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. Talk about a forgotten car, but the 237hp Ralliart is the little brother to the 300hp Evo. It’s actually a great car and more-or-less unstoppable. Photo by Ian Gulinao
7. Lexus LS 460 F SPORT. If you want a less-troublesome alternative to the A8, this thing is your Torsen limited-slip baby, with AWD optional.
8. Volvo S60 T6 R-Design. Volvo’s Haldex AWD and electronic limited slip are marvelous and often overlooked. As is the fact you can get an amazing, compact 325hp sedan from Volvo.
9. Nissan Juke NISMO RS. AWD, 215hp and a helical front differential. How fun is that?
Cover Photo: Ian Gulinao