Top 10 Cars & SUVs for Winter


Winter-ready and raring to go.

10 Cars and SUVs for Winter | CarMax

When you've got a vehicle that's prepped for seasonal driving, you can face winter head-on. This makes running daily errands much easier in inclement weather and can make winter driving a lot of fun, too. A winter-ready car will keep you warm while confidently leading the pack when the season hits.

To help you on your search, we've compiled an updated list for 2021 shoppers of the top 10 cars and SUVs for winter. To meet the strict criteria of a good winter car, every vehicle on this list has heated front seats, rear defrost, traction control, and remote start.1

  1. Infiniti QX60

  2. Ford Escape

  3. Jeep Compass

  4. Nissan Altima

  5. GMC Terrain

  6. Jeep Cherokee

  7. Ford Explorer

  8. Chevrolet Equinox

  9. Jeep Grand Cherokee

  10. Nissan Rogue


Infiniti QX60

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Infiniti QX60 | CarMax

Infiniti's QX60 is the people-hauler for your big trips to the snow states. You can all travel in comfort (equipment and bags included) thanks to some nifty passenger and cargo configurations. 2017–2019 models have a powerful 3.6L V6 engine and available all-wheel drive for any journey that takes you into less-than-favorable conditions. The 2017–2019 QX60 seats seven people over three rows, with 15.8 cu-ft of standard cargo storage space, which can expand to a maximum of 76.5 cu-ft. Both 2017–2019 QX60 trims have a deluxe-finish cabin, which is well insulated from road noise. The 2017–2019 QX60 features:

  • Heated front seats

  • Tire pressure monitoring

  • Leather steering wheel

  • USB port

  • Hybrid model availability


Ford Escape

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Ford Escape | CarMax

Ford's Escape crossover SUV is a five-seater with spirit. It's ready to keep you moving this winter, reaching your destination with class and composure. The 2017–2019 Ford Escape's base S trim is aimed at fleet buyers, so look for the SE, SEL, and Titanium trims instead; this is where you'll find your cold season champion. The 2017–2019 Escape is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder turbocharged engine (SE, SEL, Titanium), with traction control and stability control as standard (all trims), and optional all-wheel drive (SE, SEL, Titanium). Expect all 2017–2019 models to have:

  • Heated Mirrors

  • Rearview camera

  • Electric power steering

  • External temperature display

  • Heated front seats (2018 SE trim and above)


Jeep Compass

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Jeep Compass | CarMax

The Jeep Compass entered its second generation in the second half of 2017, and it's easy to see why this compact crossover SUV has to be a contender if you enjoy winter sports activities where off-roading might be required. This second-generation (2017–2019) is built around a 2.4L four-cylinder engine delivering a steady 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque (all trims). The Compass has four trim levels (Sport, Latitude, Limited, Trailhawk) with front-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive optional for all, except the Trailhawk which only comes as an all-wheel drive model.

Look for a 2017–2019 Trailhawk if you know you'll be taking in some rocky mountain adventures. It has specific functional features for off-road enthusiasts, including a raised suspension and front fascia to maximize steeper approaches, underbody protection shields, and the trim-exclusive Selec-Terrain system to help navigate rocky paths. All late 2017–2019 Compass models offer an estimated 2,000 lbs of towing capability with the 2.4L engine, when properly equipped.2 Other features of the 2017–2019 Jeep Compass include:

  • 27.2 cu-ft of fixed rear cargo storage

  • Front and rear head airbags

  • Rear door child safety locks

  • USB connection

  • Front and rear cup holders


Nissan Altima

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Nissan Altima | CarMax

The only midsize sedan to make this list, the Nissan Altima keeps you steady and sure on city streets during the cold snaps that hit unexpectedly. The 2017–2018 Altima has stability and traction control as standard (all trims), with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard from 2018. For a city driver in winter crosstown traffic, these can prove to be invaluable aids. For your passengers, this might be the car the group votes for when it comes to longer trips this winter. The front seats are super comfortable, while the rear seats have generous dimensions and an elevated seating position for better visibility. Add in the dual-zone automatic climate control that's standard on the 2017–2019 SV upper-mid trim and above, and you've got a toasty warm sedan that your friends and family can't wait to settle into for weekend trips to country cabins. All 2017–2019 Nissan Altima S trim models feature:

  • Keyless entry and ignition

  • 60/40 split-folding rear seats

  • Bluetooth® connectivity

  • Rearview camera

  • Six-speaker sound system


GMC Terrain

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: GMC Terrain | CarMax

From its inception in 2010 to the second generation of the GMC Terrain that debuted in 2018, this eye-catching SUV is a capable winter adventurer. The 2018–2019 Terrain seats five passengers, is equipped with front-wheel drive as standard (or optional AWD) and has three engine options.

The Denali trim has a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine, which is paired with larger wheels, making it an ideal companion on country roads. The turbocharged 1.6L diesel-powered engine (SLE, SLT) is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is the fuel-sipping choice for road trips, with an EPA-estimated 38 mpg on the highway (2018–2019 models).3 For longer trips (or your weekly grocery store run) the 2018–2019 Terrain is equipped with 29.6 cu-ft of rear cargo storage and plenty of entertainment options to keep your passengers amused. The 2018–2019 GMC Terrain base SL trim has:

  • Four USB ports

  • Seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system

  • Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto compatibility

  • Six-speaker sound system

  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel


Jeep Cherokee

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Jeep Cherokee | CarMax

Uncomplicated, upscale, and solidly constructed, the Jeep Cherokee is as comfortable off-road as it is on the daily commute. 2017–2019 Cherokee models are available in five main trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, Limited, and Overland. Each has its own personality, through engine choice, onboard equipment, and available options or packages. As a potential buyer, the choice is phenomenal and you're likely to recognize your own driving style in at least one or two of them.

If you like to head off-road, look for the Trailhawk and Limited trims, which are both well-equipped for winter. The 2017–2019 Cherokee Limited has these cold-weather conveniences:

  • Remote ignition1

  • Heated side mirrors

  • Wiper de-icer

  • Heated front seats

  • Heated steering wheel


Ford Explorer

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Ford Explorer | CarMax

If your daily duties include long days on the road, you'll want to be confident that your vehicle can deliver responsive handling whatever the weather. The 2017–2019 Ford Explorer is built for exactly that and has the kind of in-cabin features and upscale finish that makes sure you look forward to getting behind the wheel.

For 2017–2019 the Explorer comes in five trims: the Sport and Platinum trims are both all-wheel drive, while the Base, XLT, and Limited models are available in front-wheel- or all-wheel drive. Configured for six or seven passengers over three rows, the Explorer is an adaptable family SUV that is just as happy serving you as being a work-hauler. With road noise that's barely noticeable and some plush padded seating throughout, this is a working SUV that your family loves too. The 2017–2019 Ford Explorer base trim benefits from:

  • 18-inch wheels

  • Rearview camera

  • 7.8 inches of ground clearance

  • Front, second, and third-row cup holders

  • 4.2-inch display screen


Chevrolet Equinox

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Chevrolet Equinox | CarMax

Entering its third generation in 2018, the redesigned Chevrolet Equinox is a smart choice for families and ride-sharers that want to be active in any weather. Well-equipped for passenger enjoyment, this five-seater has the modern touches that elevate a journey. You can confidently share the Equinox with younger drivers; Chevrolet equips the 2018–2019 models with a driver monitoring system, allowing you to set speed and audio volume limits.

The Equinox is an all-rounder when it comes to practicalities, too. Its fixed rear cargo area measures 29.9 cu-ft on 2018–2019 models. If you're heading off for a winter weekend, fold down the rear seats to increase your cargo capacity to 63.5 cu-ft, perfect for your hiking or skiing equipment.

The 2018–2019 Equinox base L trim comes standard with:

  • Seven-inch infotainment touchscreen

  • Four USB ports

  • Bluetooth capability

  • Six-speaker audio system

  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto


Jeep Grand Cherokee

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Grand Cherokee | CarMax

For winter sports enthusiasts and anyone that enjoys exploring off-road trails, the 2017–2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee is your ideal high-spec companion. This is a five-passenger midsize SUV that's ready for anything that winter can do. With three impressive engine options (a 3.6L V6 engine is standard) the 2017 Grand Cherokee is well equipped no matter which trim suits you best. For the 2017 Grand Cherokee, four of its five trims come with the option of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

From 2018, Jeep added more choice to the line-up, with two more trims, including the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – a deluxe top of the range edition ready for the harshest of winter conditions. Thanks to adaptive suspension, Brembo® brakes, and a supercharged 6.2L V8 engine that delivers 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft of torque, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is a top pick. All 2018–2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo models are equipped with:

  • 17-inch wheels

  • Seven-inch touchscreen

  • Six-speaker sound system

  • Rear parking sensors

  • Dual-zone automatic climate control


Nissan Rogue

Top Cars and SUVs for Winter: Nissan Rogue | CarMax

Taking our top spot is the fuss-free Nissan Rogue, the five-passenger compact crossover SUV with a robust set of features that make winter driving simple. The 2017–2019 Nissan Rogue has three trim levels (S, SV, SL). All are paired with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the front wheels.

All 2017–2019 trims also offer available all-wheel drive, a feature that includes hill descent control, and front and rear brake-lock differentials. To increase your passenger capacity to seven, look for the 2017 Rogue's S and SV trims with the available third row. For clear winter nights spent stargazing, there is an optional panoramic sunroof for the two upper trims (2017–2019).

The Rogue can also handle all your daily cargo. 2017–2018 models have 32.0 cu-ft behind the second row, which increases to 70.0 cu-ft when the rear seats fold away. For your winter driving checklist, the mid-trim 2017–2019 Rogue SV model would likely suit your needs. Its relevant features include:

  • Automatic headlights

  • Heated mirrors

  • Remote ignition1

  • Heated front seats

  • Roof rails

These ten capable vehicles demonstrate that year-round driving confidence is possible, even in the winter months. Find and compare the features and configurations that will serve you and your passengers well, so your next vehicle will be a star performer, whatever the weather has in store.

If the winter-ready vehicles on this list have sparked your interest, take a look at some other helpful resources:

1Remote start functionality may require the purchase of a subscription plan and/or a compatible device like a smartphone. See the owner's manual or manufacturer website for more information.
2Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.

^##3Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates when vehicles sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history.

* Price excludes taxes, title, registration, and fees. Applicable transfer fees are due in advance of vehicle delivery and are separate from sales transactions.

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