The Best AWD Cars to Buy Before Winter 2021

I know it’s only September, but the next time you blink you’ll be looking at a Starbucks ad with a pumpkin on it. Then, if you blink again, you’ll be shamefully eating the last of that pumpkin pie. Winter is coming, and you need a solid AWD ride to get through it. These are the best AWD cars to buy before everyone else tries to.

Is an Audi S4 a good car?

A blue Audi S4 sits parked on a jagged mountain pass
Static photo, Colour: Turbo blue

While the Audi S4 may not be one of the best AWD cars to buy, it’s certainly my choice. I’m a German car kid at heart, and the Audi S4 is a bucket list car for me. Current S4 models start at $50,500 but you can absolutely get a used one at any price point. However, reliability will drop the cheaper these cars get. Stay away from B7 generation S4 models unless they’ve had a timing chain replacement. You can even get an Audi S4 up to 2015 with a manual transmission.

That said, this is the AWD car you’ll need snow tires for the most. It’s not terribly low, but snow tires will help get you over things and through them. Hell, you ought to be putting snow tires on any of these vehicles. Seriously, all of these cars will need snow tires to be competent in the snow, and that goes for 4WD cars too.

The Toyota Highlander is one of the best AWD cars

A red Toyota Highlander hybrid drives down a country road in the fall

That said, if it’s ground clearance you want, the Toyota Highlander is the way to go. In that regard, it’s certainly one of the best AWD cars on the road today. I’ve had the pleasure of spending hundreds of miles in both hybrid and gas-powered Highlanders, and they are phenomenal. You seriously cannot pick a better mid-size vehicle for skiing. That third row is great for kids and putting on snow pants.

However, just like the Audi, new models can get pricey, especially with the chip shortage. New ones are supposed to start at $35,000 or so, but Limited trim models and Hybrid Toyota Highlanders can easily get up there. Thankfully, they’re still cheaper than the S4.

The Subaru Outback takes the crown

Doug likes the Outback, and so do I | Doug DeMuro

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This is, of course, the best AWD car you can buy. The Subaru Outback packs wagon form factor onto a lifted SUV-esque body. What’s not to like? Again, I’ve had the pleasure of being in one of these for some time, and the interior easily rivals that of the Highlander and the S4. New models run right around $26,000 for starters, but prices can easily go up from there. It is objectively the best car here. You simply cannot go wrong.

However, if you want my opinion, a used Audi S4 will provide 95% of the practicality with 200% of the fun. I’m always more for driving dynamics than anything, but most will want a Subaru Outback. Heck, I kinda want a Subaru Outback. You should too.