Best minivan in snow

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All-wheel drive is a lighter-duty system used for cars and car-based SUVs. AWD systems operate continuously, and they automatically vary power delivery to the front and rear wheels when needed. Some systems remain in front- or rear-wheel-drive mode until slip is detected, then power is routed to all four wheels. Other systems send power to all four wheels continuously.


Good for:
Seamless acceleration in slippery conditions. Needs no driver intervention to engage.

Drawbacks: Can’t improve braking or cornering performance in snow; lacks heavy-towing ability; lacks a low range for slow-crawl situations; fuel economy suffers; and there’s a price premium compared with front-drive cars.

Four-Wheel Drive

This refers to the heavy-duty drivetrain components found in pickup trucks and truck-based SUVs. The truck usually sends power to the rear wheels, and the driver engages four-wheel drive with a dashboard knob or button, which sends power in equal proportion to the front and rear axles. Most current SUVs and some pickups have a permanent or “auto” 4WD mode.

Good for: Grunt work like hauling a boat trailer up a launch ramp. Most systems have a low range and locking differentials for extreme terrain.

Drawbacks: Can’t improve braking or cornering performance in snow; driving in locked 4WD mode on clear roads can damage the driveline; and there’s a wider turning circle in 4WD mode.

Front-Wheel Drive

Used in most cars, minivans, and wagons, front-wheel-drive systems send engine power to the two front wheels. The drive shaft doesn’t extend to the rear of the car, leaving more room for rear-seat and trunk space. Traction control limits wheel spin in certain inclement conditions.

Good for: Good traction in most driving situations. And it doesn’t carry the price premium of all-wheel drive. It’s also better than rear-wheel drive on slippery roads because there’s more weight on the front wheels, which propel and steer the car.

Drawbacks: If the road is too snowy or icy, the front wheels will slip and you’ll be stuck. Winter tires are recommended for snowy conditions.

Rear-Wheel Drive

This system places less demand on the front wheels, freeing them to be used primarily for steering. It’s often used in basic pickups and traditional truck-based SUVs that are designed to handle towing and other chores. Traction control can help improve the performance of those vehicles as well. Rear-wheel drive is also the preferred setup for sports cars and high-performance sedans because of its con­tribution to ideal weight distribution, which aids in handling.

Good for: Handling balance and cornering in dry conditions.

Drawbacks: If the road is too snowy or icy, the rear wheels will slip and you’ll get stuck. Rear-drive cars tend to spin out in snowy or icy conditions. Winter tires are recommended.

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