It used to be that only a handful of cars, mostly foreign, came with all-wheel-drive capabilities. (America’s contribution- the AMC Eagle!?!) But as more and more people flee from SUVs, this number has continued to increase, no doubt driven in large part by those not blessed to live in a warm weather climate. At any rate, while the calendar says it’s summer, it is never too early to add either a little AWD performance to your life or plot your AWD strategy for winter. Here are 7 AWD choices that satisfy either fix at any budget.
Under $20,000 – 2009 Subaru Impreza
Another solid choice is Suzuki’s SX4, but it disqualifies itself with its “crossover” designation, a term so freely tossed around by those too scared to admit that they either drive or make a wagon. Not so at Subaru, who have proudly turned out AWD wagons for Birkenstock-wearers since the ’70s. At just $17,495, the 2009 Impreza (here in sedan guise) may be the cheapest Subaru, but you still get a sturdy 2.5 liter 170 horsepower Boxer engine and the automakers legendary Symmetrical all-wheel drive.
Under $30,000 – 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
It would be hard to leave Mitsubishi off of this list. Along with Subaru, Mitsubishi has consistently banged the AWD drum for several years. But although the EVOs are beloved around here at RideLust, it is hard to wrap your mind around the sticker shock and realize you’ve just plunked down damn near 35 grand for a car with an interior that looks like it was made by Chrysler. (Ouch!) But in the Lancer Ralliart and with a price tag of $25,910, it is certainly easier to swallow. It may not have the ridiculous power of the EVO but it has enough (237 hp), and the same could be said of its attractive exterior which carries off substantial EVO-DNA. As an alternative, those looking for something made here stateside should check out the 2009 Fusion, one of the few domestic cars to offer AWD.
Honorable Mention: 2009 Ford Fusion SEL/Sport
Under $40,000 – 2009 Volkswagen CC VR6 4Motion
The CC is pricey at just under the $40,000 mark ($39,000). However, this is alot of car. And despite its hefty-for-a-V-dub price, we have yet to find anyone who thinks it is over its head. The V6 engine has variable valve timing and produces 280 hp, good for a 0-60 mph time of just 6.6 seconds. Contrary to its sleek and refined outer style, the CC is no dainty flower though, with a seemingly endless capacity to tackle rough roads and snow. Those that want to tap into their inner-muscle car may want to take a look at the Cadillac CTS which also just squeaks in under the 40-G mark.
Honorable Mention: 2009 Cadillac CTS
Under $50,000 – 2009 Volvo S80
We aren’t going to lie, the S80 is clearly not the sporty winner among this, or any other field. But for those that value safety above all else, is there any denying this automaker’s pedigree? As the flagship vehicle of the brand, the S80 gives you the all-you-can-eat Volvo safety buffet starting in the mid-$40,000 range. Notable exclusive technologies include an adaptive cruise control system, collision warning system, blind-spot information system, and the ever-important Personal Car Communicator (PCC), which among other things, is able to detect if a beating human heart is in the vehicle. (The un-dead may or may not be detected)
Under $60,000 – 2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 550
At this price point and above, the cars tend to be a blur of power, leather, and unfortunately, white-haired drivers. Yes, we are jealous. There are really not any BAD cars priced above 50 grand, just good and better. The E-class is the latter. It’s also big, though it wears its girth well with exceptional performance and better handling than you’d expect for a car this large. With a smooth 5.5 liter V-8 under the hood, the E550 generates 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque with an unbelievable 75% of peak torque available at just 1,000 rpm. For 2009, Mercedes makes 4Matic all-wheel drive a no-cost option for the first time, helping bring down the cost into the merely expensive range of around $59,675.
Under $70,000 – 2009 Lexus LS 460
AWD is a new addition to the Lexus LS model. Perhaps it is because our recent review is still sweetly rolling around in our heads, but it is not often that a car costing around $67,000 is considered a bargain. Yeah, we said it…bargain. The AWD system features a highly compact center TORSEN limited-slip differential that can instantly distribute drive torque between the front and rear wheels depending on driving conditions. It’s actually quite boring when you are behind the wheel, and that’s the way Lexus likes it. Power comes via a 4.6-liter V8 mated to the world’s first eight-speed automatic transmission that produces 357 horsepower and 344 lb.-ft of torque good for zero-to-60 mph times of about 5.9 seconds. Interior = Nirvana.
Under $80,000 – 2009 Audi S6
Our final stop along the all-wheel drive highway is with the $75,000 S6. How can you dislike a sedan that has Lamborghini Gallardo’s 5.2-liter V10 under the hood AND Audi Quattro technology? Like a Siren song lulling us all to our doom off of a cliff, the S6’s 435-horsepower V10 makes a stereo almost irrelevant as it rockets the car to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. Ok. That isn’t incredibly fast for $75K, but again, it’s engine is from Lamborghini! Keeping things simple is the one-size-fits-all single trim level that includes 19-inch wheels, performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and LED daytime running lights. Admittedly, it’s more sports car than sedan, but if you can afford it, you can probably spring for an extra Audi just for the snow.