Ski Sedans

By The Car Family

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(General Motors does not allow us to test its vehicles and thus they could not be evaluated for this article.)

Ski season is finally here and with it the challenges of driving through snow covered roads where having a vehicle with good traction is a must. But does such a trip require a SUV? Hardly, unless you are traveling in remote areas where snowplows don’t tend to the side roads and need the additional ground clearance. Nope, just your family sedan well do, if properly equipped.

Ski lodge parking lots are filling with all wheel drive family sedans that provide the extra safety features that SUVs don’t offer, such as a low center of gravity, and superior fuel economy.

So which are the better all wheel drive for cold weather fun? Well, there are nearly 75 different sedans available with all wheel drive from the cute $15,000 Suzuki SX4 to OPEC’s best friend, the Veyron from Bugatti for $1.3 million plus. However, the vast majority of all wheel drive sedans are priced in the $30,000 range with the all wheel drive option typically adding $1500 to the cost.

Before buying one of these practical ski mobiles the potential consumer must make some important decisions.First, is there room in the interior for skis? Most sedans now have fold down rear seats that open into the trunk or a ski pass through that can accommodate at least two pairs of skis. It is wise to take your ski’s length measurement to see if they fit. Otherwise you must opt for the roof rack mount, which is time consuming, reduces fuel mileage, and is not as theft-proof.

Subaru Ski Space

Small sedans can have large ski carrying areas

Next, consider headlight washers, traction control, and seat warmers for your option list. For driving at night on winter roads the xenon headlights do a better job, especially in areas that are remote and have little roadside lighting. You should note if the vehicle has a place to plug in your cell phone and other electronics for recharging. This should be located in or near the center console.

The heating and front and rear glass defrosters must work promptly. If there is an optional side mirror defroster so much the better. Some sedans even have a heated steering wheel, which is sometimes overlooked as an option by Valley residents.

The turning radius of the vehicle is frequently ovelooked as a safety feature. When you are on an unplowed two-lane road and have to turn around it is much safer to make a U turn in a sedan that can make a three point turn without leaving the plowed surface. Volvos have an excellent turning radius.

Finally, see how much legroom is back seat and trunk for suitcases, boots, and additional clothing. Most sedans have plenty of room for four adults and their luggage, with the Ford Taurus being absolutely cavernous.

After extensive testing by price category five all wheel drive sedans emerged as the most interesting. First, the large and surprising efficient Ford Taurus. We took this big sedan into the Colorado mountain resorts and found it was not only comfortable, but we averaged nearly 24 mpg on the highway. And the pricing was $27,000 pleasingly loaded.

Ford's All Wheel Drive Ski Car

Ford’s all wheel drive Taurus sedan is a winner

Next was the Dodge Charger, priced close to the Taurus, but far zestier in appearance and with more poke under its bonnet. The Suzuki SX4 Sport is a compact sedan that is a bundle of fun to drive, costs about $16,000, and delivers over 28 mpg. It is not as large as the other sedans, nevertheless, this is an practical car for parking in tight mall spots or trips to the snow. Plus Suzuki offers a 100,000-mile/7 year limited warranty.

Lexus, Lincoln, Infiniti, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Volvo, and Audi all offer all wheel drive options on their vehicles too. There is an interesting feature on the Acura RL and TL and that is what Honda calls a super handling all-wheel drive system that is very impressive. It continuously varies power among all four wheels to aid in poor traction conditions.

Before you consider driving one of these more expensive vehicles into the snow make sure that there is enough room between the tire and fender for chains to be mounted. Remember that wide tires that are designed to enhance handling on dry roads don’t always perform well on slick surfaces.

Of course, the Subaru is a perhaps the people’s choice for winter driving and the much larger Impreza is clearly the best of all worlds. It has a good ground clearance, can get nearly 28 mpg on the highway, comes with a proven all wheel drive system, and you can get one nicely optioned for under $20,000.

Safety tips

When driving in winter always carry chains, extra clothing, food and water, and a charged cell phone. Another rule to remember when driving an all wheel drive vehicle is that its superior traction does not mean shorter braking. In fact, the added weight of the all wheel drive system may require a longer distance to stop. Secondly, check your windshield washer fluid level before you go. The bright sun shinning on slush-covered windshield makes visibility haphazard at best and the fluid and a good set of wiper blades can make it safer to drive.

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