As you may have noticed, our survey of $30,000-plus SUVs doesn't spend a lot of time on the intricacies of four-wheel-drive. It's available on all of the vehicles mentioned.
The question is, do you need it?
That may seem like a no-brainer for skiers, but consider this: "How often do you actually drive in snow?" Even if the answer is "I live at Grand Targhee, you moron!" at least consider the drawbacks: Four-wheel-drive is more expensive to begin with; it's more expensive to repair; and it will not improve any SUV's gas mileage or performance-limiting porkiness.
On the other hand, a good all-wheel system may improve your SUV's resale value, save you in snow and ice, and give you a sense of security.
Unfortunately, most SUV owners overestimate the limits of their vehicles and that sense of security may be false and dangerous.
Dangerous? I once did an interview with a gypsy tire-chain installer by the side of the road on the way to Mammoth. When I asked him about SUVs, he laughed. "They keep all the tow truck operators happy," he said. "SUV owners think just because they're big and have four-wheel-drive and ABS brakes they can go anywhere. What they don't realize is they can't stop or steer as fast as almost everything else on the road. Ninety percent of the rescue calls around here are SUVs. We find them upside down a lot."Just a thought.