You’re an hour late to the Christmas get-together, but not because that red velvet blazer you love so much is nowhere to be found. No, instead you’re trapped in a snowdrift in your vintage AMC Gremlin. No fruitcake for you.
You could’ve fared better this holiday season with some better wheels. May we suggest some truly treaded steeds for your hapless self? These are vehicles that laugh in the face of cold fronts, that frolic in any fresh, two-foot-deep present left by Old Man Winter. Whatever your choice from our carefully selected lot, next year’s trip will easily be more fun, and you just might be the envy of the party (for something other than your reindeer sweater, we mean).
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR
There’s a reason this rallying bad boy does so well in muck and snow. It’s got raw power going to all four wheels to the tune of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder good for 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. If you’re smart enough to throw on some thinner winter tires, you’ll be downright unstoppable. Snow rally, anyone?
Porsche Panamera 4S
As fast and furious as the big Porsche sedan can be, it’s also ridiculously practical — that much more so in the all-wheel-drive configuration found in the 4S. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is good for 420 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque and means you won’t be wanting for any power; Porsche Traction Management (PTM) continuously monitors driving conditions, your wheels’ rotation speed, acceleration and steering angle and also adjusts power distribution while reducing wheel slippage and generally keeping you shiny side up. Oh, and the awesome hatchback will hold all those thoughtful gifts you get well-meaning relatives.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
What would a winter vehicles list be without a Jeep Wrangler? Woefully incomplete is what. The always-reliable Wrangler is made more holiday cheerful with two extra doors, seating for five and more cargo space to hold all of your red-nosed, eggnog-slogging buddies and their gear. The Rock-Trac 4WD system and Tru-Lok front and rear locking differentials make quick work of the white stuff, and the powerful 285-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine will keep you moving along both paved and unpaved roads with ease. If that’s not enough standard bells and whistles, stability control with roll control, traction control, brake assist and hill hold control ratchet up the safety levels. We suggest you keep the hard top on this winter to make your Jeep the perfect fortress for unplanned snowball fights.
Ural Yamal LE
What’s better than experiencing the beauty of the winter wilderness in the open air? Doing it in a sidecar motorcycle with two-wheel-drive. We should know. The Yamal Limited Edition has all the reliable construction of a classic bombproof vintage Russian motorcycle with the modern technology to bring it into the 21st century. On-demand two-wheel-drive, Sachs suspension bits, Brembo front brakes and reverse gearing will have you in and out of just about anywhere you can think of. Added amenities like twin yellow fog lights, knobby tires with full spare and an accessory paddle make the Yamal LE even more versatile (you know how to use an oar, right?). And even in the off chance you do get stuck, the flat orange paint job will ensure solid visibility on a blanket of white.
Subaru XV Crosstrek
It might not be the biggest Subaru out there, but won’t make you look like a suburban housewife heading for the gluten-free grocery store. Even in its most basic trim, it’s got the goods. The 2.0-liter DOHC boxer engine is good for 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque and, paired with Subaru’s Symmetric All-Wheel-Drive system, handles the winter’s worst. The 8.7-inch ground clearance (that’s without a corpulent Santa on board) is plenty to get you over the river and through the woods, while the 5-speed manual transmission comes standard for driving fun no matter what the conditions. 30 mpg highway also makes it a great long-hauler. May we suggest the orange paint scheme? We’re biased that way.
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME
If your idea of a good time is trying to color inside the white winter lines with a near $200K exotic car, then you’re right up there with Juha Kankkunen and the Bentley Continental GT V8. His World Rally Championship chops are evident as he makes ice driving look as easy as falling off a log. Our hats are off to Mr. Kankkunen for hitting nothing but apexes and nailing a particularly good rendition of the Governator’s accent and emotive tone.
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
We’ve driven it, and we’re convinced that there’s pretty much no madder stock 4×4 on the planet. If getting to that hilltop holiday party in a foot of snow is the task at hand, then look no further than the Raptor. The Electronic-Shift-On-The-Fly 4×4 is powered by a big 6.2-liter V8 with a fire-breathing 411 hp and 438 lb-ft of torque. And lest you think it’s only capable of bringing a couple of friends and a few loads of firewood, the 11,300-pound tow rating means that dragging the abominable snowman you just ran over is no sweat. A fully boxed frame and Fox Racing Shox means the Raptor’s both ironclad strong and over-obstacle flexible. The hard part is actually stepping out of the terrain thrasher to do something less exciting.
Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
You guys picked a minivan? We did. When it comes to hauling the family when the crappy frozen stuff hits the streets, this is your creature comfort vehicle. All-wheel-drive means the kids will get to the festivities on time, and you can keep them occupied with the Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio on the 16.4-inch color screen, which includes wireless headphones and the ability to simultaneously broadcast two streams side-by-side from separate devices. With voluminous capacity for eight passengers it’s the most spacious pick on our list. Plus, its mesh grille and wide front fascia provide an infusion of testosterone. You don’t have to trade in your manhood for this van. Well, at least not all of it.
Sometimes you just gotta go big in both the snow and style department, and nothing does it with panache and power quite like the family-focused Ferrari FF. Sure, you won’t want to risk a fender bender by using it for your crowded morning commute, but it’s so game for winter blasts on wide open country roads. You’ll want to let its beautiful, bellowing V12 with 651 horsepower and 504 lb-ft of torque stretch out. The nifty all-wheel-drive system uses a separate gearbox to route up to 20 percent of power to the front wheels when things get dicey. Just don’t try hitting the top speed of 208 when the snow is blowing sideways. Did we mention it can transport four six-footers in comfort (and one in extreme happiness)? Plus, the cargo section expands from 16 cubic feet to 28 cubic feet when you ditch the two scrooges in back and fold the seats down. Firewood has never traveled faster.
Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6×6
If Armageddon happens to take place during winter, this is the one vehicle that will get you through (and over) it all. The G63 AMG 6×6 ($525,000) is about as crazy and capable as a sport-ute can get — if you can really call it a sport-ute. It’s more like a street-legal, bespoke half-track. The 5.5-liter twin turbo V8 makes 536 hp and an earth-warping 561 lb-ft of torque, which is delivered to all six 18-inch wheels via a seven-speed transmission. Its 9,000+ pound curb weight makes Santa and his reindeer seem like fasting champs, but the big 6×6 gets to 60 mph in a respectable 8 seconds.
What’s more impressive is its ability to drive through 39 inches of water/slush, its five differentials, a 13.2-gallon secondary fuel tank and the on-board, high volume central air compressor that can fully inflate or deflate the two front tires or rear four in mere seconds. The Designo diamond quilted leather seats are just there to remind you to dress up on your way to the Christmas party.
Ski-Doo Skandic SWT
When roads fail and you’ve got to take the completely unbeaten path, a snowmobile is hard to beat. The Ski-Doo Skandic SWT is the sport-ute of snowmobiles with a trail and powder capable SC-5U rear suspension, a smooth shifting Synchromesh transmission, the fattest snowmobile footprint available and a potent 60 hp Rotax ACE inline four-stroke engine. The extra tall windshield shields you from at least some of the elements — you don’t want to arrive home with a completely frozen mug. You can also lock out the rear articulated rail for enhanced towing capabilities in case you’re sent on a holiday mission. We don’t, however, suggest that you drag the much-awaited family Christmas tree while simultaneously trying to nail the top speed.