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The Top-11 Cars For Winter 2023 - Subaru’s 3 Snow-Loving Models Aren’t The Best

What are the best cars and SUVs in the snow and the best all-wheel-drive cars this winter? Subaru scores three new vehicles in two different rankings. Is Subaru losing its winter advantage to the competition? Check out the results here.

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In two different rankings of the best cars and SUVs for driving in the snow and who has the best all-wheel-drive vehicles, Subaru scored the 2023 Forester, 2023 Outback, and 2023 Impreza models. But the results say some models score higher than Subaru.

Kelley Blue Book says the Forester and Outback are among the best new SUVs in the snow. A ranking from U.S. News says the Impreza and Outback are among the best all-wheel-drive cars and SUVs for winter driving. But neither ranking says they get the best scores. Is Subaru losing its winter advantage?

2023 Subaru Outback
photo credit: Subaru of New England

Kelley Blue Book says vehicles should have an effective drivetrain, the array of components from the transmission to the tires. KBB says, "Look for safety and driver-assist technologies, such as stability control and blind-spot monitoring. Then, consider comfort or convenience features, such as heated seats and rain-sensing windshield wipers that can make driving easier in snowy weather."

Keely Blue Book says the 2023 Subaru Forester and 2023 Outback are among the best and should be on your shopping list this winter. Here are the vehicle's scores.

2023 Subaru Forester
photo credit: Subaru of New England

Best Value for Snow: $29,395 | Forester Premium
Base Price w/AWD: $26,395 | Expert Rating: 4.3

Best Value for Snow: $30,695 | Outback Premium
Base Price: $28,395 | Expert Rating: 4.6

What does KBB say about the Forester?

"Every Subaru Forester has standard AWD. It has impressive ground clearance (8.7 inches). Included are adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, a rearview camera washer, and a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking."

"You can move up to the Premium trim to get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Also included in Premium are fog lights, windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats, and heated outboard mirrors. A 182-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine sends its output to the wheels via an automatic transmission (CVT)."

What does KBB say about the Outback?

"Every Subaru Outback comes right out of the box with AWD as standard plus 8.7 inches of ground clearance. That's what makes this a great, and the best, car for snow. Included are a snow/mud X-Mode transmission setting, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive LED headlights, and automatic high beams. Stepping up to the Premium grade gets you heated front seats, LED fog lights, and automatic climate control. Move up to the Limited grade for heated rear seats."

U.S. News rankings say the vehicle's all-wheel-drive system is what new car and SUVs shoppers need to consider. Here are the vehicle's scores, according to U.S. News.

2023 Subaru Impreza

2023 Subaru Impreza: Price with AWD: $18,795 | Overall Score: 7.8/10 | Safety Score: 9.8/10

2023 Subaru Outback: Price with AWD: $28,395 | Overall Score: 8.0/10 | Safety Score: TBD

What does U.S. News say about the Outback?

"The Outback comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Subaru Outback is unique compared to the other AWD cars in this article and most cars on the market today. This is because it's a wagon, though it competes with compact and midsize SUVs."

What does U.S. News say about the Impreza?

"If all-wheel-drive SUVs are too pricey, the all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza may do the trick. The Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive and is a solid winter car."

"The Impreza's mediocre 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine should be okay for city driving, but it's a bit lackluster to handle capable highway passing maneuvers. This Subaru returns good gas mileage for an AWD vehicle and delivers sporty handling, precise steering, and a coddling ride."

U.S. News top eleven all-wheel-drive vehicles that are best for winter driving

2023 Hyundai Kona: Price with AWD: $23,490 | Overall Score: 8.4/10 | Safety Score: 9.8/10
2022 Mazda CX-30: Price with AWD: $22,200 | Overall Score: 8.5/10 | Safety Score: 9.8/10
2023 Hyundai Tucson: Price with AWD: $27,950 | Overall Score: 8.7/10 | Safety Score: 9.8/10
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Price with 4WD: $41,000 | Overall Score: 8.3/10 | Safety Score: TBD
2023 Kia Telluride: Price with AWD: $37,690 | Overall Score: 8.7/10 | Safety Score: TBD
2022 Subaru Impreza: Price with AWD: $18,795 | Overall Score: 7.8/10 | Safety Score: 9.8/10
2023 Mazda3: Price with AWD: $26,150 | Overall Score: 8.6/10 | Safety Score: 9.9/10
2023 Kia K5: Price with AWD: $28,190 | Overall Score: 8.2/10 | Safety Score: TBD
2023 Subaru Outback: Price with AWD: $28,395 | Overall Score: 8.0/10 | Safety Score: TBD
2023 Honda Ridgeline: Price with AWD: $38,800 | Overall Score: 8.3/10 | Safety Score: TBD
2023 Ford Expedition: Price with 4WD: $56,925 | Overall Score: 8.2/10 | TBD

Subaru Outback and Impreza don't get the best overall scores in the list above. What sets the Subaru Forester and Outback apart from the competition?

Our Take

Subaru has always had competition from Jeep for its all-wheel-drive and winter driving capabilities. But Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, and Honda have added new models with all-wheel-drive systems that compete with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.

2023 Subaru Outback Wilderness
photo credit: Subaru of New England

The 2023 Subaru Forester, 2023 Outback, 2023 Crosstrek, and 2023 Ascent SUVs add another layer of winter driving capability. They all offer X-Mode for severe weather capabilities and dual-function X-Mode for all-terrain and extreme weather performance on some trim levels.

The Forester compact SUV, Outback midsize SUV, and Impreza compact car earned the highest safety scores from the IIHS. They all feature Subaru's EyeSight driver assist safety technology.

The Forester and Outback come with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, exceeding the competition. The Forester Wilderness (9.2 inches) and Outback Wilderness (9.5 inches) offer even more snow-clearing ground clearance.

The three Subaru models offer a winter driving package with heated seats, heated outside mirrors, and heated windshield wipers for additional winter driving comfort. Some models come with a heated steering wheel.

Is Subaru losing its winter driving and all-wheel-drive advantage?

Subaru created the small all-wheel-drive SUV segment and still offers the best all-weather vehicles for new car shoppers this winter. Kelley Blue Book and U.S. News rankings include three new Subaru models; the 2023 Forester compact SUV, the 2023 Outback midsize SUV, and the 2023 Impreza compact car. New car shoppers should also check out the Crosstrek subcompact SUV and Ascent 3-Row SUV this winter.

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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.

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Photo credit: Subaru of New England

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BrierFox (not verified)    December 27, 2022 - 3:25PM

Curious why the 2023 Subaru Legacy isn't included on this list. If the list includes more vehicles where / what # would the Legacy be at. Have a Very Healthy Happy New Year everyone

Nikolay Dildin (not verified)    December 28, 2022 - 8:33AM

None of the other cars are less than $22000 .
Impreza is less than $19000. Is there another AWD car that costs less than $20000?

Tanner Michels (not verified)    December 29, 2022 - 8:30AM

I don't know. I agree that a Subaru is great in the snow, however depending on my snow tires, I have always trailed the snow better with my Toyota than my friends have with their Subis. And we all live in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. Cars have a lot to do with how well it drives in the snow, but I'd argue that the main and major deciding factor are the chosen type of Snow Tires as well as if they are studded or not.

Rick (not verified)    December 29, 2022 - 10:46PM

In reply to by Tanner Michels (not verified)

X mode is effectively a low range and if you don't have low range you're not going anywhere in the snow and ice. I'd put my 2015 Outback with x-mode up against any Toyota except maybe their pickups with low range. If by Toyota you meant RAV4 or whatever that ain't going to cut it. If you don't believe me just go to YouTube for comparisons

Mark (not verified)    January 3, 2023 - 5:46PM

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

With all due respect, you, I think that may be a misrepresentation of xmode.

Low range would imply a transfer case, and completely different gearing. X-mode is simply a modification of the slippage algorithm.

There are two versions: single and dual mode Xmode.

Dual mode mode's first Xmode is the same as regular single x-mode. It allows for increased slippage while still keeping traction and stability control active.

Neither is meant for regular driving, and the feature comes at the expense of normal economy.

X-mode 2 ( only available in certain trim levels of certain Subarus ) retards slippage even more than the standard all-wheel drive algorithm.

Never ever is there any different gearing other than what the CVT can supply at any given point in time, regardless of mode.

oban Cameron (not verified)    December 30, 2022 - 6:59AM

This is just a misleading article. Look into who benefits from this.

The article simply point out that other cars rank higher that are AWD. It's doesn't explain the ranking system. They could have been ranked on number of 12v outlets or the stitching on the seats. What a garbage article. If you write fluff you could at least include the metrics that are used to judge your decision.

Tmag (not verified)    March 2, 2023 - 1:00AM

Lol, you guys clearly do not live in a snowy location, if you did you would know what’s up. Go to Tahoe and see what everyone drives. Subarus rule in the snow and ice, not even a competition