Best cars for the snow
June 12, 2009
And there is likely to be more of it so with all the top resorts reporting big falls of crisp fresh white stuff, enthusiasts are dusting of their ski gear and talking snow talk.
Carsguide this week takes a look at some of the newer off-roaders and others we think are some of the more desirable partners in snow.
Price: From $28,990
IT is a big seller overseas, but the compact Dualis has been slow to take off with buyers here.
But it is a competent snow companion. It's not too big, nor too small, has composed on road manners and reasonable soft-road ability.
In keeping with the current crop of smaller off-roaders, the Dualis has a wagon-style design, upright driving position and cabin that will swallow a decent amount of gear.
The rear seats split fold 60/40 and the four-wheel drive system has a lock function that splits drive 50/50 front and rear when the going gets tough at lower speeds.
The Dualis is powered by a 102kW/198Nm 2.0-litre four that delivers acceptable, but not outstanding performance.
The Ti gets standard stability control, six airbags and heated leather front seats.
Tick: Compact styling.
Cross: Still relatively unknown.
Price: From $33,990
THE Tiguan is essentially a grown up Golf and takes on all the attributes of its smaller brother, adding all-wheel drive into the mix with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or turbo-diesel engines.
It's slightly longer than the Golf and comes with the 4Motion Haldex all-wheel drive system.
There is no low range but the Tig will get you out of most trouble in the snow.
One of the impressive things about this off-roader is its handling. Anyone familiar with the Golf will be perfectly at home.
Like all VW's the Tiguan is well equipped and gets standard stability control, six airbags and optional hill-descent system.
Roof rails are standard and you will need them for a luggage pod because boot space is limited. However, the rear seats do fold almost flat. If you specify leather, the front seats are heated.
Tick: Badge and handling.
Cross: Luggage space and firm ride.
Price: From $30,990
LIKE the previous model, the Forester is a top seller and popular among skiers.
The new-generation wagon answers the criticism of limited luggage and rear seat legroom by being bigger and even more practical.
However, by growing 90mm in wheelbase and up in overall size the Forester has lost some of that on-road precision that marked the previous model as a standout. Some aspects of the cabin, like the dashboard execution, are not of the quality we expect from Subaru either.
Pluses are its size and 2.5-litre boxer four cylinder engines. Subaru build quality is generally good too, as is the constant all-wheel drive system.
The Forester has a five-star crash rating and raft of safety features that includes anti-skid brakes, stability control and brace of airbags. Manual Foresters get hill-start assist, which stops the car rolling backwards while first gear is engaged.
Tick: It's a Subbie.
Cross: Soggy SUV feel.
Price: From $29,990
TO dismiss the Koleos as just a French car over the top of Nissan mechanicals is missing the point.
The Koleos is well executed, solid and safe. It has six airbags, stability control and hazard lights that come on after an emergency stop.
The "All-Mode 4x4i" all-wheel drive versions also get hill-start assist and hill-descent control.
In auto mode, the torque split between the front and rear is automatically determined by the amount of available grip.
Entry models are two-wheel drive while all-wheel drive buyers get a choice of the smooth Renault-sourced 2.0-litre dCi turbo diesel or 2.5-litre Nissan-sourced petrol four cylinder.
There's plenty of room. The rear centre armrest is removable to allow skis to be pushed through and there are storage bins under the front seats and rear floor.
Like the Tiguan, the range topping models with leather get heated front seats.
Tick: Better looking than an X-Trail.
Cross: Renault badge.
Price: From: $59,900
IT seems that just about any vehicle Audi launches at the moment is a sellout.
The Q5 is one of them.
Smaller than a Q7, the Q5 has the same off-road attributes in a smaller sharply styled package with good luggage space via the 40/20/40 split rear seats and optional cargo barrier that separates luggage.
Two petrol and two turbo diesels are available and the S-tronic seven-speed gearbox contributes to good fuel figures.
Audi's permanent quattro all-wheel drive system splits torque 40/60 front and rear, which gives the car relatively neutral handling.
For those looking for something bigger, there's the A6 Allroad and the Q7.
Unfortunately Audi is becoming just like its German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz when it comes to equipment.
Tick: Space and diesel.
Cross: Expensive options.
Price: From $39,490
THE Territory has just undergone a recent update to bring it into line with the rest of the Ford range.
However, the cabin remains largely the same, and that's not a bad thing. It's good for a family and has seven-seater capacity.
The Territory's cabin is well thought out and there is lots of storage space.
Buyers have a choice of four AWD models or three rear-drive models.
Stability control is standard, as are four airbags and anti-skid brakes.
The TS and Ghia four-wheel drive models get seven seats as standard. Mum and Dad will also appreciate the standard DVD player in the Ghia.
The reversible rear-load floor and compartment for storing wet items is handy.
Tick: Practical and good looking.
Cross: Getting on despite update.
Price: From $57,950
THE XC60 is one of the best handling Volvo wagons around and one of the most attractive.
The new City Safety feature is more than just a gimmick. The system applies the brakes if you are about to rear-end another car in low-speed situations up to 30km/h.
Other Volvo strengths are the lane change warning system and blind-spot warning system. Volvo seats are renown for their comfort. 40/20/40 split rear seat is practical.
There is a choice of either the 2.4-litre D5 turbo-diesel, which is about to be upgraded to a twin-turbo for better economy and efficiency, or the 3.0-litre turbo petrol six.
Tick: Styling and equipment.
Cross: Rattly diesel.
Price: From $81,900.
THE RX350 has grown slightly, which translates into more interior room.
This wagon, like all Lexus models, is packed with equipment that is optional on its rivals like satellite navigation, power rear hatch and rear reversing camera.
The Sports Luxury gets active headlights that follow the curve of the road, plus a heads-up display.
The safety package consists of stability control with cooperative steering function (VSC+), traction control, anti-skid brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
There is also, hill-start assist, 10 airbags and a first-aid kit.
The rear seats split 40/20/40 and there is a wet-storage area in the luggage load floor. Thule luggage pods are also available.
Tick: Standard equipment.
Cross: Looks bloated.
Price: From $51,990
It looks big and feels big but once under way, the CX9 shrink-wraps around you.
It's well sorted on the road, has a host of safety gear and with seven seats, has plenty of room for the family.
The cabin quality is better than the CX9 too.
The 204kW/366Nm 3.7-litre V6 has plenty of poke but slurps petrol like a celebrity lining up for a free drink during Melbourne Cup week.
The 60/40 split fold rear seats can be released from the luggage area.
Tick: Rear seating, quality.
Cross: Fuel economy.
Price: From $48,600
THE Prado is the ideal family load-lugger if you need serious space and room for the family.
It comes with eight seats and long-range fuel tank of 180 litres.
The full-time 4WD system has a low-range setting for heavy off-roading.
However only the higher spec Prados get standard stability control, anti-skid brakes, hill-descent control and six airbags as standard so it pays to check the fineprint.
GXL, VX and Grande buyers get foglights and roof rails with satellite navigation and height-adjustable air suspension standard only on the top-of-the-range Grande.
Tick: Standard and GX lack standard safety gear.
Cross: Clunky styling.
Price: From $45,990
THE previous-generation Murano was a sleeper.
In a lineup dominated by the Navara and Patrol, it never really stood out other than a competent family wagon and its soft curves alienated many potential buyers.
But Nissan hopes to change that with the new-generation Murano.
The styling is sharper, the 191kW/336Nm 3.5-litre V6 a sweet engine that delivers good fuel economy. The packaging is good. The automatic All Mode 4x4-i all-wheel drive system can distribute torque on demand to where its needed.
The luxury Ti gets all the fruit, from navigation system to heated front seats, reversing camera, automatic rear hatch and Bose sound system. The 60/40 split rear seats on both the ST and Ti can be flipped forward from the back of the car.
Tick: Engine, equipment.
Cross: Cheese-cutter grille.
RANGE ROVER SPORT
Price: From $90,900
THE Range Rover brand has a strong following and is the preferred luxury chariot for seriously well-heeled snowgoers.
Like the bigger Range Rover the Sport gets the nifty "Terrain Response" off-road system which means you just have to twist the switch to get the required off-road mode.
The Range Rover Sport has real off-road capability but we don't think too many owners would ever go bush bashing in the leather-line luxury off-roader, particularly with the stylish 20-inch wheels available some models.
The 65/35 split rear seats also have folding cushions and the full-size spare is easily accessible under the car. However, some of the bigger wheel/tyre options make do with a spacesaver.