Power through rough roads and terrain in these 10 best AWD SUVs.
Whether you live in a climate that often sees harsh weather conditions or you simply enjoy a little off-roading every now and then, having an all-wheel drive vehicle can provide some additional confidence behind the wheel. Specifically, a vehicle with all-wheel drive can detect road conditions and terrain to make adjustments automatically as you drive; this is the main factor that sets all-wheel drive vehicles apart from four-wheel drive (4WD) options and makes them a lucrative choice for today's drivers.
As automakers build more terrain-sensing tech into their SUVs, you’ll start to see ‘AWD’ and ‘4WD’ used more interchangeably. For more about the differences between the two driving systems, see our AWD Vs. 4WD: Which to Choose article.
If you're looking for AWD in your next vehicle, you might be wondering where to begin your search. To make things a little easier on you, we've compiled our own list of the 10 best AWD cars based on CarMax vehicle sales data from June 1, 2018 through November 30, 2018. Please note that not all model years and trims of the below vehicles have AWD available, so it’s always best to double check before you purchase:
If you're in the market for a luxury crossover with an all-wheel drive option, consider the Lexus RX 350. The 2018 Lexus RX 350 is loaded with standard features that will enhance your driving experience, including plush-simulated leather upholstery throughout, a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and rear privacy glass. And while it is only available in two trims (the base and F Sport), both trims give you the option of all-wheel drive (though front-wheel drive is standard). Aside from the luxurious design and the ability to tackle rough road conditions, you'll also enjoy a convenient 40/20/40 split seatback for additional cargo storage.
Drivers seeking an AWD car with a sporty and sleek design will love the 2018 Toyota RAV4, which was just made available in all-wheel drive for this particular model year. While AWD is not a standard inclusion on any of its trim levels, drivers will appreciate that it's offered as an optional upgrade across all five of its trims. The 2018 RAV4 also boasts plenty of cargo storage space thanks to innovative design that allows its rear seats to fold almost completely flat. And while its standard 17-inch wheels offer a smooth ride in rough terrain, upgrading to the 18-inch wheels in the Limited and Platinum trims affords an even better driving experience.
If an AWD vehicle with a little more passenger and cargo space is what you're after, the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder may be the car for you. This seven-passenger crossover is a real powerhouse in just about any imaginable road condition or terrain, and when properly equipped, it can tow up to 6,000 pounds.1 The 2018 Pathfinder comes in four trim levels, though it is worth noting that all-wheel drive is an optional upgrade on every trim. Still, even in its base S trim, you'll enjoy some nice features like a rearview camera, roof rails for added storage, and keyless ignition/entry. You'll also have nearly 80 cubic feet of storage space with the second and third rows folded down.
Precise handling and an undeniably athletic exterior set the Ford Escape apart in a category that’s chock full of compact vehicles. The leather trim on the 2017 Ford Escape Titanium gives a luxurious feel to everyday commutes. In 2016, the Ford Escape added SYNC® systems for all models to provide a user-friendly, touchscreen experience. With the SYNC 3 system on the 2017 Ford Escape SE and Titanium trims, you can easily pinpoint top restaurants near you and learn about local traffic conditions — all while keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel.
For decades, Jeeps have been known for their ruggedness and ability to thrive in off-road conditions. The 2018 Jeep Cherokee is no exception to this rule! This crossover SUV is a great option for those seeking an incredibly customizable vehicle that's fun to drive. Specifically, the Latitude trim of the 2017 Cherokee comes with an option of advanced four-wheel drive known as Active Drive II; while the name may be confusing to some buyers, it’s similar to AWD, but it lets you select lower-gearing for off-roading. And despite its standard, basic four-cylinder engine, it offers an impressive 184 horsepower.
The 2018 Ford Explorer is consistently topping our lists here at CarMax, and for good reason; it is certainly one of the most practical vehicles with AWD options, performing well in dry or wet conditions thanks to its large wheels and standard 3.5-liter V6 engine. The 2018 Explorer can also be customized to suit your needs, with five different trim options and three engines to choose from. And depending on which trim you opt for, you'll enjoy seating for anywhere from five to seven passengers. The Explorer also offers great handling and its suspension makes for a smooth ride in just about any terrain.
If you liked what you read about the Jeep Cherokee but would prefer something a little bigger and more powerful, you'll definitely want to check out the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee. This vehicle was essentially built and designed around off-roading, and all of its five trim levels are available with optional all-wheel drive (though it only comes standard in the Trailhawk trim). Drivers will also love the wide range of engine options available, ranging from a standard 3.6-liter V6 to an impressive 5.7 liter V8. No matter which trim you select, you'll enjoy some nice standard features, such as rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and even keyless entry/ignition. Passenger space inside the cabin is also generous, offering plenty of space to comfortably seat up to five adult passengers.
Another top contender for best AWD cars comes from the Jeep family. Yes, we know, it’s a Wrangler, more-commonly known to its loyal fans as a 4X4. Stick with us here! The 2018 Jeep Wrangler offers an iconic design, along with many of the conveniences and technological features that are expected in today's vehicle market. Available in a wide range of body styles (including a two- and four-door option) as well as with seating configurations for four to five passengers, there is no shortage of customization opportunity. Those looking for a basic, rugged off-road-ready vehicle without all the bells and whistles will do well with the base Sport trim, which comes with removable doors, crank windows, and on/off road tires. If you want some of today's more modern features, consider upgrading to the Power Convenience Package or the Cold Weather package for equipment like remote start, heated seats, and power accessories.
If an AWD vehicle with options is what you're after, the 2018 Honda CR-V has you covered. Not only is it available in four different trim levels, but each trim is available in your choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Standard equipment on the base LX trim includes a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, Bluetooth® connectivity, and 17-inch wheels. Those who want additional features, such as a power liftgate and leather interior, may wish to upgrade to the Touring trim. For more power behind the wheel, a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine comes standard in every trim above the base.
Earning a position at the top of our list of best AWD cars and SUVs list is the 2018 Nissan Rogue, which offers buyers value and comfort without sacrificing off-roading capabilities. Each of the 2017 Rogue's three main trim levels are available with optional all-wheel drive, with standard features on the base S trim including a rearview camera and convenient split-folding rear seats for added cargo space when needed. The interior cabin is surprisingly luxurious, with plenty of head and leg room for taller passengers and up to 70 cubic feet of cargo space with rear seats folded down.
Do any of the all-wheel drive cars on this list strike your fancy? If so, CarMax can help you locate used vehicles near you so you can start scheduling some test drives.
Need more information? Check out these related articles:
1Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.