December 17, 2013 | by Joe Phillips
All-weather rides

When the weather outside is frightful, then four-wheel drive is so delightful. That’s true for all the rides below, some of which also offer front-wheel drive for slightly better gas mileage. But why go for two, when four-wheel is best in all kinds of weather?

So, let it rain, let it sleet, let it snow. It’s all good.

 

Audi Allroad, weather

Audi Allroad

AUDI ALLROAD

$42,000

MPG: 20 city/27 highway

0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds

Cargo space: 51 cu. ft.

 

A station wagon. Really? The label sounds so dowdy these days. Yet just when you thought crossovers were putting a final nail in the wagon’s coffin, along comes this tire-screecher. Like a towel snap to the butt, the Allroad jolts you alive with punchy acceleration, quick braking and a hearty exhaust rumble. The steering wheel is so responsive, you may be tempted to steer with only your pinky finger. But use both hands to get the full effect of cornering and slaloming (er, safely, of course). Inside the whisper-quiet cabin, it’s easy to imagine NASCAR wannabes loving the form-fitting seats. And while the backup camera is great, there’s so much visibility from the driver’s seat — even with the side and rear pillars — you don’t need it. Sure, the Allroad may be built on the same platform as the smallish A4 sedan, but the extra cargo space and long panoramic sunroof make this sport wagon feel much bigger.

 

Ford Escape, weather

Ford Escape

FORD ESCAPE

$28,000

MPG: 22 city/30 highway

0-to-60 mph: 7 seconds (for AWD or 9.4 seconds for FWD)

Cargo space: 36.9 cu. ft.

 

Based on the same platform as the popular Ford Focus, the Escape has similar styling, high-quality materials and superb handling. While the lack of real power is typical for most compact crossovers, you can step up to a turbo for more gusto. Standard features on all models include blind-spot mirror, rearview camera, Bluetooth and Sync voice-command interface. The top-of-the line Titanium model even has Benz-like comforts: remote start, 10-speaker stereo, ambient interior lighting and an automated parallel-parking system.

 

Subaru Forester, weather

Subaru Forester

SUBARU FORSTER

$22,000

MPG: 24 city/32 highway

0-60 mph: 9 seconds

Cargo space: 74.7 cu. ft.

 

The Forester — a popular gay icon — has been fully redesigned, with more room and better gas mileage. Design-wise, the same recipe for success is still here: car-like ride, high ground clearance and user-friendly hatchback. This is no true off roader, yet it handles potholes and back roads with ease. The cabin is much hipper now, with updated gauges and trim, though the overall feel remains utilitarian rather than luxe. But compared with, say, the glitzy Audi Allroad, a base Forester is half the price. High-end options include power liftgate, heated seats/mirrors, lane-departure warning and nav system with voice controls.

 

Nissan Pathfinder, weather

Nissan Pathfinder

NISSAN PATHFINDER

$28,000

MPG: 20 city/26 highway

0-to-60 mph: 8 seconds

Cargo space: 79.8 cu. ft.

 

Nissan just remade its truck-based Pathfinder into a comfortable crossover, with less road vibrations and nimbler handling. The look is softer, too, with rounded edges and large chrome grille. Gone is any real off-road capability or towing capacity. But there’s plenty of interior room, with second row seats that slide forward to easily access the third row. And storage bins abound, with three — yes, three — bottle holders in each rear door panel. The interior is just a notch below Infiniti’s high-end standards, and there are plenty of options: heated front/rear seats, large eight-inch touchscreen display, dual panoramic sunroof and 360-degree parking camera. There’s even a hybrid, with a 500-mile range and fun energy-flow diagrams on the info screen.

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