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The Best AWD Cars Available in Canada

The Best AWD Cars Available in Canada

Canadian winters are notoriously harsh, with heavy snowfall, icy roads, and frigid temperatures being the norm from November through March in many parts of the country. As a result, Canadians have a strong appreciation for vehicles with serious winter performance capabilities. This is leading to a surge in popularity of all-wheel drive (AWD) cars, which excel at maintaining control and traction in slippery conditions.

This guide will provide a comprehensive look at the best AWD cars available in Canada for 2024. We’ll cover key factors to evaluate like drivetrain capabilities, pricing, reliability, and availability. You’ll find top picks across affordable, luxury, performance, and electric AWD options. By the end, you’ll know which AWD vehicles can confidently handle whatever winter throws your way while fitting your needs and budget.

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What is AWD?

All-wheel drive, commonly abbreviated as AWD, refers to a vehicle drivetrain capable of sending power to all four wheels. This is different from two-wheel drive (2WD) vehicles that only send power to either the front or rear wheels. The key components of AWD are:


  • A center differential that splits engine power between front and rear axles
  • Left and right differentials to allow wheels on the same axle to rotate at different speeds
  • A viscous coupling or computer-controlled transfer case that manages torque distribution


AWD systems work by automatically directing torque to the wheels with the most traction. This provides enhanced grip and control on slippery surfaces like snow, ice, gravel, and mud. The benefits of AWD over 2WD include:


  • Better traction and acceleration in low grip conditions
  • Improved handling and stability
  • Increased safety during inclement weather
  • Added capability for light off-roading


With power delivered to all four corners, AWD gives drivers superior control and confidence when driving in Canada’s harsh winters.


Why AWD is Great for Canadian Winters

All-wheel drive vehicles are exceptionally well-suited for Canada’s harsh winter climate thanks to their enhanced capabilities on snow and ice. Unlike two-wheel drive cars that only power either the front or rear wheels, AWD systems can transfer torque between all four wheels automatically. This provides major advantages for winter driving:


  • Better traction – By powering all four wheels, AWD vehicles can better grip slippery surfaces like snow and ice. More contact patches from all four tires improves acceleration, braking, and cornering control.
  • Improved stability – Sending torque side-to-side between wheels counteracts oversteer or understeer. This keeps the vehicle balanced and headed in the intended direction.
  • Ability to handle more extreme conditions – Deep snow, steep icy hills, and blizzard conditions overwhelm regular 2WD vehicles. AWD allows driving with confidence in more adverse circumstances.


AWD gives drivers extra assurance when commuting in the winter or traveling to snow-covered destinations. The enhanced traction, stability, and capability provide peace of mind along with added safety.


Key Features of a Great AWD System

All-wheel drive systems vary widely between manufacturers, with some focused on on-road performance and others optimized for off-road driving. However, there are some key features that the best AWD systems have in common:


Automatic Power Transfer

The hallmark of a great AWD system is the ability to seamlessly transfer power between the front and rear axles as needed, without any input from the driver. Sophisticated AWD systems use an array of sensors to monitor wheel slippage and distribute torque accordingly to maintain optimal traction.


Advanced Traction Control

Working hand-in-hand with AWD, today’s top traction control systems can brake individual wheels to send more power to wheels with grip. This allows AWD vehicles to make the most of available traction on slippery surfaces.


All-Wheel Lock Modes

While not found on all AWD vehicles, having a selectable all-wheel lock mode can be extremely useful for maximizing traction in deep snow or mud. This locks the front and rear axles together for improved off-road capability.


Off-Road Prowess

The best AWD systems strike a balance between on-road comfort and off-road ability. Features like higher ground clearance, skid plates, hill descent control, and all-terrain tires equip certain AWD vehicles to competently tackle rough terrain when needed.


The Best Affordable AWD Cars

For drivers seeking all-wheel drive on a budget, there are several excellent options from mainstream brands that balance capability and value. These affordable models offer the traction and control needed for Canadian winters without breaking the bank.


Subaru Impreza

The Subaru Impreza is a long-time favorite for affordable AWD. Starting under $30,000, the Impreza comes standard with Subaru’s acclaimed symmetrical full-time AWD system. This provides great traction and control in snow and rain, while still delivering up to 36 mpg highway. The Impreza sedan and hatchback models offer ample cargo room and modern tech features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.


Toyota RAV4

As Canada’s best-selling SUV, the Toyota RAV4 pairs popularity with capability. The RAV4 starts around $30,000 and is available with hybrid powertrains for improved fuel efficiency. Toyota’s AWD system automatically adjusts power distribution between front and rear axles for optimal grip. With ample passenger and cargo room, the RAV4 is a practical choice for young families.


Nissan Rogue

The Nissan Rogue delivers strong value with its roomy interior, user-friendly tech, and available premium features. Nissan’s intuitive AWD system constantly monitors conditions to shift torque between front and rear wheels as needed. Priced below $30,000, the Rogue provides great utility for the price.


Mazda CX-5

For drivers wanting AWD along with sporty handling, the Mazda CX-5 is a top pick. It starts around $30,000 and employs a predictive AWD system that works proactively to distribute power and enhance agility. With an upscale interior and engaging driving dynamics, the CX-5 is among the most fun-to-drive options.


Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is a time-tested compact SUV that balances practicality, efficiency, and value. Starting under $30,000, CR-V models come equipped with Honda’s Real Time AWD system that continuously monitors and redirects torque to maintain traction. With ample cargo space and available hybrid powertrains, the CR-V is a smart AWD choice.


The Best Luxury AWD Cars

For drivers seeking enhanced performance and prestige along with all-wheel traction, high-end luxury brands offer some standout AWD options. These refined vehicles blend supreme comfort with advanced engineering to master slippery conditions while cocooning passengers in an upscale interior.


Audi A4 Quattro

The legendary Audi Quattro all-wheel drive system gives the A4 sports sedan tenacious grip even in heavy snow or rain. With the latest iteration of Quattro able to shift power rapidly between axles, the nimble A4 provides sports car-like handling with luxury appointments inside. Turbocharged engines and available adaptive suspension further enhance the driving experience.


BMW 3 Series xDrive

Few vehicles exude driving enjoyment like the BMW 3 Series, and adding xDrive all-wheel drive only amplifies its performance. When taking corners at speed, BMW’s advanced xDrive system proactively shifts torque to maintain composure. The refined cabin and potent turbocharged engines make the 3 Series xDrive a four-season thrill ride.


Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Providing a gateway into the Mercedes-Benz brand, the subcompact GLA SUV delivers style, luxury and all-weather traction at an attractive price. The GLA 250 uses a sophisticated 4Matic system to route power smoothly between axles, ensuring grip on slippery roads. With a posh interior and bold styling, the GLA 250 makes luxury accessible.


Porsche Macan

Porsche imbues the Macan compact SUV with exhilarating performance thanks to powerful turbo engines and all-wheel drive. Adaptive air suspension teams up with Porsche Traction Management to dispatch power ideal for any scenario. Inside, drivers get treated to impeccable fit and finish with available luxury touches like massaging seats.


Volvo XC60 T8

Volvo’s reputation for safety extends to its all-wheel drive system, providing the XC60 SUV surefooted capability. As a plug-in hybrid, the T8 model can propel itself on electric power alone for local emissions-free driving. With minimal body roll and Scandinavian simplicity inside, the XC60 T8 supplies comfort and control in a stylish package.


Buying Considerations for AWD Vehicles

When shopping for an AWD vehicle, there are several key factors to keep in mind beyond just capability in snow and ice:


Intended Use

Consider how and where you plan to drive the vehicle most often. Frequent highway driving at higher speeds may warrant a different AWD system than a vehicle purposely built for off-road adventures. Know whether you need enhanced ground clearance or features like hill descent control.


Fuel Efficiency

The added weight and mechanical complexity of AWD impacts fuel economy ratings. Shoppers concerned about efficiency may want to look at AWD hybrid models or smaller crossover SUVs optimized for lighter duty use.


Cargo and Passenger Capacity

Make sure to choose an AWD vehicle with interior space, cargo volume, and seating to match your family or lifestyle needs. More compact CUVs offer versatility without the bulk of larger truck-based SUVs.


Advanced Safety Features

Look for modern driver assistance technologies like automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. These can enhance safety in slippery conditions.


Long-Term Maintenance Costs

The AWD system does add more moving parts and components to service and replace as the vehicle ages. Research expected repair costs and check warranties before purchase.

Maintenance Tips for AWD Cars

Proper maintenance is crucial for AWD vehicles to keep all systems running smoothly and prevent premature wear. Here are some key maintenance tips for AWD cars:


Regular Tire Rotations

Rotating tires every 6,000-8,000 miles ensures even treadwear across all four tires. The varied roles of each wheel in AWD require regular rotations to maximize tire life.


Monitoring Tire Tread

Check tire tread depth regularly and replace tires promptly when they reach 2/32 inches of remaining tread. Having mismatched tread depth can impact AWD performance.


Checking Drivetrain Fluids

The transfer case, differentials, and transmission in AWD systems need fluid changes more frequently than standard 2WD vehicles. Follow the severe use schedule in your owner’s manual.


Replacing Tires in Sets

Always replace all four tires together, even if only one is worn. AWD depends on evenly sized tires to avoid drivetrain damage.


Following Severe Use Schedules

Treat an AWD vehicle as operating under severe conditions and follow the accelerated maintenance schedule. This includes more frequent oil changes, inspections, and fluid flushes.


The Best AWD Systems by Brand

When shopping for an AWD vehicle, it’s important to understand the different AWD systems used by various automakers. Certain brands have become synonymous with advanced AWD capabilities. Here’s an overview of some of the top AWD technologies from major manufacturers:


Subaru Symmetrical AWD

Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system has earned a reputation for its simple yet effective design. By placing the transmission and transfer case in a straight line, it allows equal distribution of power to all four wheels. This results in excellent traction and stability in all conditions. Subaru uses a planetary center differential with a viscous limited-slip coupling to actively distribute torque.


Audi Quattro

The legendary Audi Quattro system uses a self-locking center differential to dynamically shift torque between front and rear axles. Originally designed for rally racing, Quattro provides tenacious grip and handling. Audi continues to refine Quattro by adding elements like torque vectoring and predictive active control based on road conditions.


BMW xDrive

BMW’s intelligent xDrive system utilizes an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch center differential to vary front and rear axle torque distribution. xDrive is adept at adjusting power delivery for optimal traction and control in all road conditions. Advanced systems can even shift torque side-to-side between rear wheels for sharper handling.


Honda RealTime AWD

Honda RealTime AWD uses electronically controlled hydraulic pumps to send power to the rear wheels when needed. This allows for 100% front-wheel drive in normal conditions to save fuel. When slippage is detected, it quickly engages the rear axle for enhanced traction and stability.


Toyota Dynamic Torque Control AWD

Toyota’s Dynamic Torque Control system actively manages torque transfer between front and rear axles using electronic sensors and software. It optimizes front/rear torque split based on driving conditions to improve handling, traction, and control on all road surfaces.


AWD with Hybrid/Electric Cars

Hybrid and electric vehicles are quickly rising in popularity, and automakers have responded by introducing more AWD options. Combining AWD traction with the fuel efficiency of a hybrid or the instant torque of an EV can make for an appealing package.

Toyota pioneered hybrid AWD systems, first in the Prius and now also available on models like the RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid. These use a separate electric motor to drive the rear wheels when needed, while still maintaining high fuel economy. Subaru also offers AWD on hybrid models like the Crosstrek Hybrid and Forester Hybrid. AWD helps optimize handling and stability of the additional weight from hybrid battery packs.

Among electric vehicles, Tesla’s Dual Motor AWD provides instant response by using independent motors to drive both axles. The latest generation Rivian R1T pickup and R1S SUV also showcase sophisticated electric AWD powertrains with torque vectoring abilities. Chinese automakers like NIO are following suit with AWD performance EVs.

AWD and electric propulsion are a natural fit thanks to the immediate and consistent torque output. Expect even more capable and refined electric AWD systems as the technology continues advancing in coming years.


AWD Options by Vehicle Type

When searching for an AWD vehicle, it’s important to consider what type of car or truck will suit your needs. Here’s an overview of some top AWD options across vehicle categories:


Crossovers/SUVs with AWD

Crossovers and SUVs make up a large portion of AWD vehicles, as their extra ground clearance and cargo space lend well to winter driving. Top options include:


  • Toyota RAV4 – The best-selling AWD SUV with available hybrid powertrain
  • Subaru Forester – Capable compact SUV with Subaru’s renowned symmetrical AWD
  • Honda CR-V – Practical AWD crossover with great value and fuel efficiency
  • Mazda CX-5 – Fun-to-drive compact SUV with predictive i-Activ AWD
  • Jeep Cherokee – Rugged AWD midsize SUV with available 4WD for off-roading


AWD Sports Cars

Performance cars with AWD provide extra traction and control for spirited driving. Notable options include:


  • Subaru WRX – Rally-bred sports sedan with a powerful turbo engine
  • BMW M3 – Iconic performance sedan now available with xDrive AWD
  • Porsche 911 Carrera 4 – Legendary sports car with advanced AWD performance
  • Nissan GT-R – Supercar that utilizes advanced ATTESA AWD technology


AWD Sedans

While less common, AWD provides key benefits for sedan owners needing winter traction. Top picks are:


  • Subaru Legacy – Roomy midsize sedan with standard AWD
  • Chrysler 300 – Powerful full-size sedan with available AWD
  • Volvo S60 – Premium sport sedan with Haldex AWD system
  • Audi A4 Quattro – Luxury compact with renowned Quattro AWD


AWD Minivans/Wagons

For those needing AWD along with maximum cargo and passenger space, top options are:


  • Chrysler Pacifica – Family-friendly AWD minivan
  • Toyota Sienna – Spacious AWD minivan with available hybrid
  • Subaru Outback – Rugged AWD wagon with generous cargo room
  • Volvo V60 Cross Country – Luxury AWD wagon with added ground clearance


Off-Road Capabilities of AWD

AWD systems provide a number of advantages for light off-roading and rough terrain compared to traditional 2WD vehicles. The main benefit comes from the increased traction provided by directing engine power to all four wheels. This allows AWD vehicles to better climb over obstacles, power through mud or sand, and maintain control in slippery conditions.

Many AWD systems have locking differentials that can direct equal torque to both wheels on an axle. Locking the front and rear differentials helps prevent wheel spin and improves traction in extreme situations like deep snow or steep inclines.

Trucks and SUVs with AWD tend to have higher ground clearance than regular passenger cars. This allows them to clear rocks, branches, and other obstacles when driving over uneven terrain. The underbody is also protected with skid plates to prevent damage if the vehicle bottoms out.

While AWD enables better off-road performance and control than 2WD, trucks and SUVs designed for serious off-roading typically have four-wheel drive (4WD) systems. 4WD has extra capabilities like low-range gearing for rigorous challenges. But for light recreational off-roading, overlanding trips, and winter cabin getaways, AWD provides excellent traction and handling capabilities.


AWD Considerations

While AWD provides key benefits in winter driving, there are some tradeoffs to consider before choosing an AWD vehicle.

Generally, AWD systems reduce fuel efficiency. The additional drivetrain components and extra weight of AWD systems mean more energy is required to propel the vehicle. This translates to higher fuel consumption, especially in city driving. Expect most AWD vehicles to have 10-30% lower fuel economy compared to a 2WD version of the same model.

The sophistication of AWD systems also adds to the purchase price of vehicles. Shoppers can expect to pay $1,500-$3,000 more for an AWD version versus the front-wheel or rear-wheel drive variant. Luxury AWD systems on high-end SUVs can add $5,000 or more to the sticker price.

While AWD excels in snow and ice, it is not necessary for all conditions. In regions with minimal snow and well-maintained roads, a 2WD vehicle with winter tires may suffice. AWD also does not provide benefits in deep snow where ground clearance becomes a bigger issue. Understanding local conditions will determine if AWD is a must-have or not.

The added complexity of AWD systems also means more potential maintenance. Owners will need to periodically change AWD-specific lubricants and replace additional drivetrain components like transfer case seals and bearings. Factor in these extra ownership costs when shopping for an AWD vehicle.


AWD Safety and Accident Avoidance

One of the most important benefits of AWD is improved safety and accident avoidance in hazardous conditions. The enhanced traction and stability of AWD systems give drivers better control, allowing them to steer and brake more effectively. This can be crucial for avoiding collisions, especially in low-grip situations like snow, ice, rain, and gravel roads.

Compared to 2WD vehicles, AWD systems provide superior traction when accelerating from a stop. This allows drivers to get moving smoothly without wheel slip, which is key for safe starts on slippery surfaces. AWD also maintains traction when turning, keeping the vehicle stable through corners and curves. The even distribution of power to all four wheels via AWD enhances grip and reduces the chances of fishtailing or spin outs.

In emergency maneuvers, AWD enables more controlled braking and steering inputs from the driver. The improved stability helps drivers avoid hazards or steer out of skids more capably. In addition, advanced AWD systems utilize traction control and anti-lock brakes to optimize stopping distances on low-friction surfaces. This gives drivers a better chance of slowing down or coming to a complete stop safely when road conditions are poor.

Overall, the enhanced traction, acceleration, cornering stability, and emergency handling of AWD systems provide drivers with more control behind the wheel. This allows them to maneuver safely through hazardous conditions and avoid accidents that 2WD vehicles would be more prone to. For Canadian winters and unpredictable weather, AWD can give drivers extra confidence and peace of mind all year round.



With winter lasting up to 6 months in parts of Canada, all-wheel drive capability provides traction and control that makes driving safer and more enjoyable. This comprehensive guide has outlined the top all-wheel drive vehicles across all price ranges and categories. From affordable and practical options like the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Outback to luxury sedans like the Audi A4 Quattro and performance crossovers like the Porsche Macan, Canadian drivers have diverse AWD choices for any need and budget.

Key factors to weigh include your intended use, whether mostly city and highway driving or frequent off-roading, as well as cargo capacity needs and fuel efficiency priorities. Advanced AWD systems from brands like Subaru, Audi, and BMW deliver greater traction management through features like torque vectoring and active differentials. While upfront costs are higher, the stability, control, and peace of mind AWD provides pays dividends, especially for families in snowy regions of Canada.

By understanding the capabilities of leading AWD systems and how different vehicles utilize AWD, you can find the optimal blend of performance, safety, and value. A little research goes a long way in ensuring your next AWD vehicle provides capability you can rely on in any weather and road condition.

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Questions About The Best AWD Cars in Canada

The best AWD cars in Canada provide traction and control in winter conditions while remaining affordable and fuel efficient. Top options include the Subaru Legacy, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue. The Subaru Legacy offers standard symmetrical all-wheel drive at a reasonable price point, starting around $27,000. Meanwhile, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid pairs AWD capability with excellent fuel economy of 41 mpg in the city. For a sportier small SUV, the Mazda CX-5 provides agile handling and an upscale interior. Those needing more cargo room could consider the Nissan Rogue, one of the most popular and value-packed compact crossovers. When researching AWD vehicles, prioritize winter traction, ride comfort, interior space, and advanced safety features.

The most affordable AWD car in Canada is the Subaru Impreza. In its basic Convenience trim, the 2023 Impreza starts at $26,795 including destination fees. Standard features include Subaru’s full-time symmetrical AWD system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, lane departure warning, and a rearview camera. Moving up trims adds amenities like heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and 18-inch wheels. Though economical, the Impreza still provides an impressive amount of traction and stability in wintry conditions. Drivers praise its comfortable ride quality and spacious cabin as well. For those wanting an ultra-low cost way to gain AWD capability, the no-frills Impreza is a top choice.

Several affordable and dependable AWD cars suit Canadian drivers needing winter traction without breaking the bank. Top options for a reliable AWD vehicle include the Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Mazda CX-5. Subaru is renowned industry-wide for its symmetrical AWD systems and rugged vehicle construction. The Crosstrek compact crossover provides ample ground clearance for snowy backroads and an Economical yet spirited 152-hp engine. Toyota’s reputation for durability also makes the RAV4 a wise pick. Its available hybrid powertrain balances fuel efficiency and AWD traction. Similarly, Honda and Mazda models like the CR-V and CX-5 offer value pricing backed by long-term reliability and crash test safety. Savvy shoppers should research projected maintenance costs in addition to sticker pricing when comparing reliable AWD cars.

Several family-friendly vehicles also equip Canadian parents with capable AWD systems for winter driving, including the Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Kia Telluride. The Ascent’s spacious 3-row layout provides seating for up to 8, combined with a gutsy 260-hp turbo engine and a 5,000-lb tow rating. Shoppers focused on comfort and technology may prefer the Atlas or Santa Fe. VW’s largest crossover boasts European styling and luxury features like heated/ventilated front seats and digital cockpit gauges. Meanwhile, the value-packed Santa Fe offers available captain’s chairs and an upscale Calligraphy trim. The Kia Telluride also warrants consideration thanks to its refined ride quality, generous cabin space and high safety scores. Any of these family haulers checks the boxes for all-weather traction and interior versatility.

Drivers wanting a sporty kick from their AWD vehicle can find compelling options without breaking a $40,000 budget. Top contenders for an affordable AWD performance car include the Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Golf R, Mazda 3 Turbo, and Kia Stinger. Subaru’s rally-bred WRX delivers thrilling acceleration and handling courtesy of its 268-hp turbo flat-4 engine and quick-shifting manual gearbox. Prefer European styling and refinement? The 316-hp Golf R hatchback rivals luxury sport sedans for pace and technology. Mazda’s hot hatch 3 Turbo also brings all-wheel grip to a nimble chassis with up to 250 horses under hood. For added practicality, the 365-hp Kia Stinger fastback combines potent V6 muscle with ample cargo room. While these models differ in packaging and dynamics, all offer serious performance credentials along with foul weather traction.

Subaru is considered the most reliable brand for AWD vehicles, thanks to its standard symmetrical AWD system and history of durability. Across its model lineup of crossovers and sedans, Subaru consistently achieves above-average predicted reliability scores, warranty coverage, and resale value retention. The brand’s flat-4 “boxer” engines are renowned for longevity, with many owners reporting over 200,000 miles of faithful service. This reputation for dependability extends to Subaru’s full-time AWD systems as well, requiring little to no maintenance besides routine fluid changes and tire rotations. While other automakers have caught up in terms of cabin tech and interior quality, Subaru remains a go-to choice for shoppers focused on reliability and retained value above all else.

The ultimate AWD vehicle for tackling harsh Canadian winter conditions blends cold weather traction with durability and cargo practicality. As such, the Subaru Outback stands out as a top pick thanks to its spacious interior, generous ground clearance, and advanced safety technologies. Standard features such as heated front/rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, roof rails and integrated crossbars also make the Outback well-suited to cold weather and outdoor gear. Meanwhile, Subaru’s proven symmetrical AWD system adapts power distribution between all four wheels to maximize grip. Further enhancing the Outback’s winter capabilities, the optional X-Mode setting optimizes throttle response and transmission tuning for slippery surfaces like snow, mud or ice. For Canadian drivers needing an AWD vehicle as comfortable plowing through snowdrifts as it is commuting year-round, the Outback hits all the marks.


The cheapest SUV equipped with all-wheel drive is the Nissan Kicks S. Thanks to its bargain $21,698 CAD MSRP, the subcompact Kicks beats out rivals like the Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos and Mazda CX-3 for value. The Kicks S comes decently equipped too, with features like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and automatic emergency braking. Buyers simply need to opt for the $2,300 AWD package to send power to all four wheels instead of just the front two. While the Kicks prioritizes affordability over performance, its ample safety tech and compact, city-friendly dimensions make it a practical choice as an entry-level AWD SUV. Only needing basic connectivity and foul weather traction, urban drivers can save thousands over conventional crossovers by choosing the most budget-friendly Kicks.


Truck-based SUVs with robust body-on-frame construction tend to make the best tow vehicles, and models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer offer formidable AWD towing capacities under 5,000 lbs. But some crossovers like the Toyota Highlander also haul impressively thanks to their stout V6 engines and optional towing prep packages. When properly equipped, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs, matching or beating truck-based competitors. Towing-friendly enhancements like an auxiliary transmission cooler, upgraded radiator and integrated trailer brake controller give it an edge over other car-based AWD models. Shoppers should also research tongue/hitch load limits and Gross Combined Weight Ratings to choose a well-matched AWD SUV for their needs. And vehicles with load-leveling rear suspension help maintain ride comfort and control while towing as well.

Hardcore off-road enthusiasts and overlanders demand unmatched 4WD capability and customization potential from their vehicles. Few options match the rock crawling grip and modification versatility of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Its sturdy frame, locking differentials, and detachable roof/doors enable drivers to tackle remote trails while hauling plenty of gear on-board. But shoppers wanting better reliability and fuel mileage can consider the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro pickup. Toyota outfits this mid-size truck with upgraded suspension, all-terrain tires, and a locking rear differential straight from the factory. Family overlanders may also appreciate the interior space of a 4WD SUV like the Land Rover Defender. Its short overhangs, generous ground clearance and optional pop-up roof tent prepare the Defender for extended adventures away from paved roads. With the right tires and skid plates, these rugged off-roaders can follow adventurers nearly anywhere their hearts desire.

The main difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD) lies in the mechanism for delivering power to the wheels. AWD systems have the ability to transfer torque between front and rear axles automatically to maintain grip. Drivers typically leave AWD engaged at all times without any intervention. In contrast, 4WD relies on the driver manually shifting between 2WD and 4WD high/low modes depending on conditions. 4WD systems incorporate extra gearing allowing for higher torque multipliers and slower crawl speeds necessary for challenging off-road conditions. AWD offers better on-road handling and fuel efficiency for everyday driving, while heavy duty 4WD performance caters to serious off-road enthusiasts. Understanding these key differences helps shoppers pick the optimal drivetrain for their vehicle needs.

The answer depends significantly on which region of Canada you call home. While AWD or 4WD vehicles may seem like winter necessities across snowy northern areas, drivers in temperate southern cities can potentially get by with 2WD cars. Equipping all-season or dedicated winter tires makes a much bigger difference in snow and ice traction than drivetrain alone. That said, the extra stability and foul weather capability provided by AWD or 4WD systems grant valuable peace of mind for drivers regularly facing Canadian winter conditions. Additionally, trucks or SUVs with higher ground clearance and skid plates shield vital components from contact with snow or debris during everyday commutes. Unless you reside in a relatively snow-free locale such as Vancouver or Victoria, Canadian drivers can benefit from researching AWD and 4WD vehicle options for added traction and capability during winter months.


To confidently tackle harsh Canadian winters, an AWD vehicle should feature a combination of cold weather enhancements to maintain grip and comfort from snowfall through springtime thaws. Heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control bring welcome warmth to passengers after exposure to bitter temperatures. Meanwhile, remote start functionality allows drivers to preheat interiors and defrost windows prior to departure. Water-repellent upholstery also makes cleaning up winter slush simple between adventures. Drivetrain-wise, vehicles displaying higher ground clearances avoid bottoming out in deep snow. Finally, advanced AWD systems utilizing torque vectoring and terrain modes optimize traction by dynamically distributing engine power to wheels with grip. Prioritizing these features when shopping for an AWD vehicle ensures happier driving through the most challenging winter conditions Canada has to offer.



The AWD vehicle currently delivering the best fuel efficiency on Canadian roads is the Toyota Prius. Thanks to its highly efficient hybrid powertrain, the Prius AWD-e achieves a stellar 4.5 L/100 km combined. That works out to over 50 mpg, allowing the popular hatchback to drive farther on less fuel than any competitor. The Prius AWD-e’s advanced lithium-ion battery pack and front/rear electric motors supplement its 1.8L Atkinson cycle gas engine. Together with its low aerodynamic drag, the hybrid components help this unlikely off-roader drive up to 800km between fillups. While arguably lacking traditional crossover cargo flexibility or all-out performance, the Prius AWD-e’s frugal credentials make this eco-conscious wagon a smart choice for Canadians focused on fuel savings and winter weather traction alike.

Choosing between an AWD car or AWD SUV depends chiefly on individual driving needs. Those wanting a blend of winter weather traction and fuel efficiency may lean towards cars like the Subaru Impreza, Toyota Prius AWD-e or Volkswagen Golf R. Sedans’ sleeker profiles contribute to better gas mileage during everyday commuting. Small crossovers and SUVs offer the ride height and available ground clearance that some buyers prefer for deep snow and rough roads. Options like the Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V also provide more cargo space than comparably priced cars. Take into account typical passenger and gear hauling duties before deciding. Remember, AWD systems deliver proven improvements in slippery condition grip regardless of vehicle body style. Weigh priorities like fuel costs, seating capacity, driving dynamics and feature availability while picking the best AWD car or SUV.

Enthusiasts seeking maximum grip during high performance driving have lots of AWD sports cars available when shopping Canadian Subaru, Audi and BMW dealerships. The Subaru WRX STI wields a rally racing-bred 310-hp turbo flat-four engine sending torque to all four wheels via a driver-controlled center differential. Prefer German engineering? The Audi RS3’s 400-hp five-cylinder provides supercar pace with quattro all-wheel drive traction. Not to be outdone, the BMW M3 Competition xDrive cranks a 473-hp twin-turbo straight six through an advanced AWD platform tuned on the famous Nurburgring circuit. These exciting performance machines prove that AWD and track driving can coexist beautifully. Their intelligent drivetrains translate prodigious power into tenacious grip lap after lap, making the most of available traction between their specially developed high performance tires.

The current crop of luxury AWD vehicles sold in Canada spans body styles from sporty coupes to three-row SUVs. But few match the elegant design, crafted cabin, and balanced performance offered by the Genesis GV80. Motivating this midsize luxury crossover is a 300-hp or optional 375-hp twin-turbo V6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Genesis optimizes the GV80’s standard all-wheel drive platform for enhanced cornering agility or slippery surface traction at the turn of a dial. Inside, available quilted Nappa leather seating and open pore wood trim pair beautifully with cutting-edge tech features like fingerprint authentication and facial recognition. With a base price under $70,000 CAD, the richly-equipped GV80 also represents strong value in its segment. Drivers wanting a premium vehicle blending athleticism, refinement and foul weather capability need look no further than this upstart luxury crossover.


In the most basic terms, AWD takes a vehicle’s capability beyond what is possible with only two driven wheels. All-wheel drive systems allow engine torque to be distributed across both axles, typically utilizing electronics and clutches to continually apportion power where it’s needed most. Front-wheel drive vehicles often struggle for traction accelerating on slippery hills or curves. Similarly, rear-wheel drive cars have difficulty putting power down in low grip situations. AWD enhances stability and grip in these compromised conditions by routing torque fore and aft. Sophisticated AWD platforms found in performance cars actively shift torque side-to-side as well to improve cornering. Additionally, the improved foul weather traction lent by AWD gives drivers extra confidence to safely navigate snowy and icy roads during Canadian winters.

The additional cost of equipping a car or crossover with all-wheel drive ranges widely depending on vehicle class and brand, but buyers can typically expect to add between $1,500-$3,000 CAD at dealerships. Mainstream brands like Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai generally charge in the neighborhood of a $2,000 premium for optional AWD across compact and midsize SUVs and sedans. For example, upgrading from FWD to AWD on the CR-V adds $2,000 to Honda’s popular crossover. Some domestic truck-based SUVs also follow this pricing model when comparing 4WD versus 2WD drivetrains. Certain brands renowned for AWD systems like Subaru only build vehicles with standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, absorbing associated costs into sticker pricing across all trims. While not insignificant, the benefits of increased foul weather traction and resale value make AWD a smart investment for many Canadian shoppers.

Over the long run, keeping an AWD vehicle running at peak capability costs very little over comparable two-wheel drive models. Unlike heavy duty 4WD systems, most modern AWD platforms require no routine maintenance apart from scheduled oil changes, tire rotations, and belt/brake pad replacements. That said, the additional mechanical complexity of AWD does translate into potentially bigger repair bills should components like differentials, transfer cases or specialty couplings fail. Tires wear more evenly thanks to AWD’s dynamic power sharing, but some packages require owners source matching brand/model replacements to prevent premature wear. Additionally, fuel mileage inevitably decreases slightly relative to 2WD counterparts. All factors considered, expect to budget an extra $100-200 in annual ownership costs for fluid changes and added fuel expenses to enjoy an AWD vehicle’s superior traction and control.

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