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10 Best AWD Cars This Winter - Subaru Dominates The List With 4 Models

What are the best all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs for winter commutes? Subaru has four models on the list; The 2021 Outback, Crosstrek, Impreza, and Legacy.


Does Subaru make the best all-wheel-drive vehicles? A CarMax report says the Subaru brand is the best and has the most cars and SUVs on the new 10 Best AWD Cars for 2020 list. CarMax, which sells previously owned vehicles, SUVs, and pickups, compiled a list of the ten best all-wheel-drive cars for 2020 shoppers, based on its vehicle data from November 1, 2019, through April 30, 2020.

The 2021 Subaru Outback wagon is ranked number one, Subaru Impreza compact sedan and hatchback number two, Subaru Legacy sedan is number three, and Subaru Crosstrek scores number five best all-wheel-drive cars.

2021 Subaru Outback, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

The Ford Fusion is number four on the list. Lincoln MKZ (6th), followed by the Dodge Charger (7th), Mini Cooper Clubman (8th), Ford Taurus (9th), and Hyundai Genesis (10th).

Why are Subaru models ranked high in all-wheel-drive capability?

If you live in a cold-weather climate, you want a capable all-wheel-drive car to get you safely through snow and icy conditions on your commute. Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is considered one of the best among automakers.

2021 Subaru Outback, 2021 Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru was the first and is still the only automaker to offer all-wheel-drive standard equipment on all its cars and SUVs. The 2021 Outback, Forester, Crosstrek, Ascent, Impreza, Legacy, WRX, WRX STI all come standard with its all-wheel-drive system. The BRZ sports coupe is the only model with two-wheel rear-drive.

It's not a one type fits all AWD system

Subaru offers four different all-wheel-drive systems in its current stable of vehicles. Subaru doesn't have a "one type fits all" approach with its multi-purpose vehicles. The 2021 Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and other models get a "tailored" version to fit a particular powertrain or model.

The four all-wheel-drive versions are what sets Subaru all-wheel-drive system apart from most other automakers that offer all-wheel-drive adapted to its two-wheel-drive models. You can read our detailed explanation of all four here.

What Consumer Reports says about Subaru AWD

The Consumer Reports Annual Auto Survey (by subscription) revealed Subaru scored four vehicles in the top-ten models who were rated best all-wheel-drive SUVs in the snow. Here are the Top-10 models starting from number one. Subaru Ascent, Audi Q5, Subaru Outback, BMW X5, Volvo XC60, Audi Q7, Subaru Forester, Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Crosstrek, and Cadillac XT5.

Subaru created the small SUV segment with all-wheel-drive. The 2021 Subaru Outback, Crosstrek, Impreza, and Legacy are ranked 10-Best AWD Cars for shoppers this winter.

You Might Also Like: Subaru Vs Jeep - 3 Reasons Why Subaru Is Now The Best Off-Road Brand

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Subaru Report - We’ve got you covered! Check back tomorrow for more unique, informative SUBARU news, reviews, and previews you can trust.

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Photo credit: Subaru


mircea munteanu (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 2:14AM

Rav 4 is a way better AWD vehicle the a Subaru Crosstrek (Impreza) or Forester, better build, more reliable, I own both

Neto (not verified)    May 29, 2021 - 4:54PM

In reply to by Nick (not verified)

That is false, almost all but definitely CRV and Rav 4’s are all time. Even first gen CRV’s have ‘All Time’ decals on their cars. That is the main difference between AWD and 4WD. It uses a system with a transfer case which splits power front to back all the time. AWD vehicles rely on slip detection before deciding on the distribution of torque to each wheel. Some models of the Rav and other similar AWD vehicles have the manual ability to engage a 50/50 split of front and rear.

David W Haile (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 11:00AM

I remember a snowstorm that left 18" of heavy wet snow in the neighborhood. The Subaru's were the first to get out. The tall trucks with knobby mud tires were the first to get stuck! We have a 2003 Subaru Forester. It is way more controllable in snow and ice than any of our other 4WD cars. There's just something better about the way a Subaru handles snow. I live in northern Wyoming. We are driving on snow 3 months a year.

Julian Popescu (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 11:53AM

Can you please elaborate and describe the plusses and minuses for the two brands. I am considering both for my next car and I owned both in the past. I am impressed by Toyota reliability and Subaru's road performance however I never had a FWD Toyota.

mircea munteanu (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 10:49PM

In reply to by Julian Popescu (not verified)

I have both a Impreza 2017 top model (direct injection - 150 bhp)(same car as a current Crosstrek other then the ground clearance) and a 2021 Rav4 Adventure or Trail (AWD) (depending on market) (since last Monday).
The Rav 4 is: faster, way bigger car, more reliable track record, same fuel economy, warms up quickly, no carbon build up issues because of dual injection (port and direct), better build, and almost as capable AWD ( not sure yet only 60 Km on the car)
If you want to be cheap go for LE AWD is you want tow Trail or TRD Rav are more capable (both AWD).
Current Crosstrek 150bhp ,or the Outdoor-Limited comes with a 2.5L 182 bhp, and Forester has less power and torque then the Rav4 (204 Bhp) can tow less, carbon build up issues, weak transmission a CVT, poorly build paint issues, rattles since day one of ownership.
I find the CVT automatic transmission super annoying and slow to launch quickly, jerky at times too, not fuel efficient when bellow -10 Celsius on the Subaru's. the opposite is true on the Rav4 quick to shit a classic 8 speed automatic.
I had 6 recalls on my Impreza 2017, 4 warranty repairs, and some that have not been fixed, passenger door and hatch that are hard to close (slam shut works :( ), also I got a letter for Extended the Warranty on my transmission to 100.000 miles or 10 years ... maybe a future recall too yeah :( .
Previous Subaru I had had only one recall (takada airbag) and no repairs, still fuel efficient in middle of winter, for over 185.000 Km 2008 model ( no CVT just a classic 4 speed automatic).
Good luck with your endeavors, and don't buy the first year or a new platform unless you want to be their test dummy ( aka me ).

Michelle (not verified)    April 12, 2021 - 4:57AM

In reply to by Julian Popescu (not verified)

We have owned 4 Subarus now (a1998 Outback, a 2012 Outback, a 2016 Forrester that my son totaled sadly in a rollover recently and now a 2021 Ascent) and one 2010 Rav 4. We live in Michigan and my job involves a lot of driving. For me what I need in a vehicle is reliability and longevity plus fuel economy, Comfort and importantly the ability to handle snowy and icy roads including some 2 track driving periodically. For me the Subaru wins hand down in competition with the Rav 4. My husband actually traded in his Rav 4 for the Forrester after he spun out on the freeway one early Spring. The Subaru AWD system is far superior in our experience. The Rav 4 was faster but frankly I find my 2012 Outback seats more comfortable and the car more maneuverable in comparison to the RAV4. In the end buy what suits your needs but if it’s for the AWD Subaru wins IMO. One winter a coworker and I were to do a joint visit. The family lived on a 2 track up a hill. Her Jeep could not make it up the hill that day. My older Outback had no trouble at all reaching that home on the icy road.

James (not verified)    November 6, 2020 - 6:19PM

We have owned many full sized trucks, SUV's, 5 Jeep Wranglers and several Subaru's... the Subaru's perform best for us in all but fairly extreme off-roading, which I did for over a decade in my Wranglers but no longer do. My brother had a RAV4, I drove it, it is a nice car. Last winter he drove my latest Subaru (my first Crosstrek model) during a family ski trip, and he was shocked how much better the Subaru performed. To remove the driver variable we traded cars on and off all week during our trip in the northeast around town, to and from local skiing, visiting extended family in the mountains, and exploring some muddy and snow covered fire roads. He traded his Toyota in the following week and has been loving his Subaru Outback ever since. I always say... to each their own, I suggest doing some test drives and see what you like best and figure out what works best for you as there is no best choice for everyone... anyone telling you that is simply stating their preference. Best of luck and have fun test driving. :)