Characteristics of The Best AWD Vehicles
Since you can find new all-wheel-drive cars in just about every classification, the similarities are not as clearcut as you may expect. That being said, there are still some qualities you can expect from the best AWD cars, for better or worse:
- Rugged design: Since all-wheel drive is meant to help cars overcome difficult road conditions, it only makes sense that many cars that include it as standard look more rugged than their run-of-the-mill front- or rear-wheel drive brethren. This is evident in the case of SUVs, crossovers, and even some wagons, where you can expect a bit more ground clearance to improve approach/breakover/departure angles.
- Performance: Many of the best all-wheel-drive cars are high-performance sports sedans or coupes. Sending power to all four wheels helps them accelerate fast while still maintaining excellent traction for superior handlingat speed. Also, to overcome the added weight of the AWD system, they often employ a potent V6 or V8 engine, or high-output hybrid powertrains.
- Fuel economy: Unfortunately, that added weight of all-wheel drive components harms gas mileage. If you’re looking for cars with the best mpg, you’ll want to compare with those that are front- or rear-wheel driven. Top performance models with high-displacement engines are even greedier, especially if they come equipped with a manual transmission - most smart-shifting autos and CVTs are a little more efficiency-minded.
- Price: If you’re buying new, the best all-wheel-drive cars will always cost more than their two-wheel-driven variants. In most cases, the difference is sometimes small can be a few thousand dollars. When you add this to higher fuel bills, the overall cost of ownership can be quite high. Of course, you can always buy used, with many older models selling for under $10k, assuming you’re willing to make sacrifices in terms of modern features.
What to Consider When Buying Cars With AWD
As you can see, you have to take the good with the bad when buying an AWD car, but if it’s something you need, the sacrifices are usually worth it. Here are the things to keep in mind when you're considering buying one of the all-wheel drive cars on our list:
- Confident handling through corners
- Traction on wet, slippery roads and in adverse weather conditions
- Improved acceleration
- Ability to go off-road (at least a little)
- Limited availability
- Poor fuel economy
- Not as cheap as standard models
- Heavier curb weight
Which AWD car is best?
Subaru makes some of the best all-wheel drive systems out there, so it’s no surprise that the Subaru Crosstek, Impreza, Forester, and Outback all rank highly. Other great all-wheel drive cars in the USA include the:
Ford Bronco Sport
Dodge Challenger GT
Is AWD better than FWD?
The answer here depends on your needs and what purpose your car’s drivetrain will serve. All-wheel drive cars have much better traction, and the fact that power is sent to all four wheels is beneficial to faster acceleration times and grip through corners. However, if that’s not important to you, the lower fuel costs of rear- or front-wheel drive cars make them a more attractive option.
Can AWD go off-road?
All-wheel drive should never be confused with four-wheel drive. While it is true that cars with AWD can more easily handle rough terrain than those without, this doesn’t qualify them as true or reliable off-roaders. All-wheel drive provides more traction, but it doesn’t offer the off-road gearing and drive modes that real 4WD vehicles have that make them adept at handling the road less traveled.