Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars winter driving top picks insights advice auto articles auto consumer info
Subaru XV Crosstrek. Click image to enlarge

Subaru XV Crosstrek
This is the only crossover on my list, mainly because it’s little and feels more like a small car. A few simple attributes got it here.

First? As a Subaru, Crosstrek’s AWD system is among the best out there. Even stopped on an icy hill, my tester found enough traction to get going again, and it never feels like it’s spinning a wheel wastefully.

Second? You can get a five-speed manual—which ups driver control and entertainment value. Third? Despite a commanding forward view of the road ahead and a small-SUV stance, Crosstrek feels compact, sporty and agile while blasting through the snow. It’s a refreshing bit of athleticism compared to so many crossovers that feel big, heavy and clumsy.

Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars winter driving top picks insights advice auto articles auto consumer info
Subaru XV Crosstrek. Click image to enlarge

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Sure it’s bad on gas and has a rough ride, but the Lancer Evolution is one of the most purely entertaining cars I’ve ever used in a blizzard. Heated seats and automatic climate control add a comfortable edge, and the factory xenon projector lights are powerful. But it’s the AWD system that really shines here. Drivers can select ‘Snow’ from one of three drive modes, altering centre-differential lockup calibrations and stability control intervention points to fine-tune the drive. In any drive mode, all four wheels get equal portions of the engine’s available torque, so maximum traction is delivered with every rotation of the wheel.

Though confidently able to extract maximum grip from slippery surfaces, the S-AWC system also turns up entertainment value when drivers find an empty back-road to play on. You’ll feel the system working to make you grin at every stab of the throttle. Oh, and the Rockford Fosgate stereo is a welcome companion when weather forces you to relax and enjoy the ride.

Northern Exposure: Best Winter Highway Cars winter driving top picks insights advice auto articles auto consumer info
Porsche 911. Click image to enlarge

Porsche 911
The radio was advertising a massive snowstorm that would hit later in the day, and me and a basic, barebones 911 sat at a coffee shop for hours waiting for it to hit. The storm was as advertised: cold, windy, and very generous with accumulations.

Numerous folks this week asked how ‘scary’ the 911 was to drive in the snow, but it wasn’t. The rear-wheel-drive tester has its engine sitting on top of the drive wheels—just like the front-wheel-drive cars most Canadians drive in the snow. It gets up to speed just fine. Steers just fine too, since the front wheels don’t also have to drive the car. A nicely calibrated PSM allows enough wheel-slippage to keep moving in the deep stuff without tail-sliding all over the place, too. Of course, the rear-heavy design also helps things feel planted and stable.

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