Snow Driver: Hot Wheels for Cold Roads

Mountain Life
Snow Driver 0104

First, let's dispense with the myth that skiers need SUVs. Fact: Most of us drive from 1) our driveway to 2) the highway to 3) the ski area parking lot. Asphalt, asphalt and (usually) asphalt, respectively. Four-wheel-drive SUVs are great on dirt and mud. But on pavement, they're top heavy, more likely to roll and harder to stop than most cars—in any weather.Every vehicle, no matter how expensive, is only as good as the relatively small patches of tire that actually touch the pavement—four areas of contact the size of your palm. Lose traction on any of those patches due to water, leaves, ice or snow, and you lose ameasure of control. Lose enough traction, and you're headedfor the guardrail.

That's where all-wheel-drive cars come in. They're your best all-weather bet, powering all four wheels simultaneously and holding sharp corners with tenacity. The best AWD systems feature traction and stability controls, which sense when a tire begins slipping. The system then brakes or powers individual tires as needed to regain traction. Here are three top-runner AWDs—each with its own style and sticker price.

Click on the links below to view some great cars.