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Slide Show | November 2011

10 Best All-Wheel Drive Car Values

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Courtesy of Acura

New-fallen snow, as it wraps everything in downy whiteness, has a way of slowing the world down -- and your vehicle is no exception. When you have to drive on the white stuff, you want to feel confident in your ability to get where you're going.

All-wheel drive can give you that assurance. By powering all four wheels at the same time, all-wheel-drive systems provide better traction than two-wheel-drive ones. Plus, all-wheel drive is always on and adjusts automatically to changing road conditions -- unlike four-wheel-drive systems typically found in trucks, which require you to make a selection for the conditions or type of terrain.

In preparation for colder weather, we recommend ten 2012 vehicles that offer a shovelful of value -- as measured by our annual rankings -- as well as all-wheel drive. Our rankings reflect resale value, fuel economy, safety and more, so these vehicles are well rounded. Eight of the ten were awarded Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


10 Best All-Wheel Drive Car Values

Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium hatchback

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Courtesy of Subaru

Sticker price: $20,045

Invoice price: $19,150

MPG: 27 city, 36 highway

Heated front seats: Included in $500 All-Weather option package

The Impreza is one of the least expensive all-wheel-drive vehicles on the market. Redesigned for 2012 to be edgier inside and out, it gets 30% better fuel economy -- and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The Impreza employs two versions of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive: Manual-transmission models get "Continuous AWD" that initially splits power 50-50 between front and rear wheels, and automatics (which cost an extra $1,000) get "Active AWD," which sends power to the wheels based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction.

Both systems will transfer power to the wheels with the best grip. The All-Weather package includes heated seats and exterior mirrors, as well as a windshield wiper de-icer.

Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium hatchback

Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD

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Courtesy of Hyundai

Sticker price: $24,655

Invoice price: $23,727

MPG: 21 city, 28 highway

Heated front seats: Standard

Hyundai's baby ute is one of the most fuel-efficient small crossovers you can buy -- even when equipped with all-wheel drive, which takes a small toll on fuel economy.

One reason: a smart all-wheel-drive system that sends all the power to the front wheels in normal driving conditions and distributes power equally between front and rear wheels when needed. On a chilly morning, you may appreciate the optional remote-start feature ($350). Good fuel economy (for an SUV), a low price and plenty of standard safety features (and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick) earned the Tucson a Kiplinger's Worth a Look designation.

Hyundai Tucson GLS AWD

Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

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Courtesy of Subaru

Sticker price: $29,470

Invoice price: $27,688

MPG: 19 city, 27 highway

Heated front seats: Standard

Kiplinger's named the Outback Best in Class last year, based on its fuel economy, stellar resale values and bragging rights as an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive comes in three different versions (all standard) on Outback models, depending on the transmission and engine -- the 2.5i automatic uses "Active Torque Split AWD," which distributes power to the wheels depending on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. The Outback also includes as standard equipment a windshield wiper de-icer; remote start costs $424.

Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited

Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD

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Courtesy of Mazda

Sticker price: $31,570

Invoice price: $29,299

MPG: 16 city, 22 highway

Heated front seats: $490

Rain, shine or snow, the three-row CX-9 crossover's nimble handling will get you over the river and through the woods in style. In normal driving, the all-wheel-drive system sends torque only to the front wheels, but if it senses slippage, up to 50% of the power will be directed rearward. To warm up for a morning commute, choose remote start ($350). Kiplinger's named it Best in Class Crossover last year.

Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD

Ford Explorer XLT 4WD

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Courtesy of Ford

Sticker price: $34,805

Invoice price: $32,566

MPG: 17 city, 23 highway

Heated front seats: Included in $3,520 option package 205A

Redesigned for 2011 as a crossover instead of a truck, the Explorer drove away with Kiplinger's Best New Crossover award. Ford's "Intelligent 4WD" not only adjusts power delivery automatically in normal driving mode but also allows you to select mud, sand or snow mode to tailor throttle response and gear shifts for the best traction. The Explorer earned a Top Safety Pick award from IIHS.

Ford Explorer XLT 4WD

Volvo S60 T6

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Courtesy of Volvo

Sticker price: $38,775

Invoice price: $36,501

MPG: 18 city, 26 highway

Heated front seats: Included in $800 Climate option package

Volvo's reputation for safety is well deserved, and last year's redesign made the S60 even safer (and earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick designation). The S60 T6 is equipped with standard all-wheel drive that's front-wheel biased in normal driving (to save fuel) but distributes power rearward when needed.

An "instant traction" feature preloads torque to the rear wheels when at a standstill so you have plenty of traction on takeoff. In addition, the anti-lock brake system automatically redistributes torque to the outer wheels while cornering to prevent understeer (that is, when the vehicle doesn't turn as much the driver intends). Volvo's City Safety feature, which helps avoid or mitigate low-speed collisions, is standard equipment. The Climate package includes heated seats, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers and heated windshield washer nozzles.

Volvo S60 T6

Acura MDX

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Courtesy of Acura

Sticker price: $43,815

Invoice price: $40,296

MPG: 16 city, 21 highway

Heated front seats: Standard

The MDX can handle almost anything Mother Nature throws its way while providing a luxurious ride. Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system directs torque to the front and rear wheels and, as driving conditions change, varies the amount of power sent to each wheel.

For example, it sends more power to an outer rear wheel when cornering to improve handling, and it adjusts power between the front and rear wheels based on the incline of the road. The MDX earned a Worth a Look nod from Kiplinger's last year.

Acura MDX

Cadillac CTS 3.6L Performance AWD

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Courtesy of Cadillac

Sticker price: $45,065

Invoice price: $42,635

MPG: 18 city, 26 highway

Heated front seats: Standard

Cadillac, the go-to brand for American-made luxury, seamlessly blends standout design and track-worthy handling with value in the CTS. The 3.6-liter V6 is tweaked for 2012, with more power -- 318 horses -- but less weight to keep fuel economy high. The all-wheel-drive system sends power to front and rear wheels equally in normal driving and adjusts as needed for road conditions. The CTS made Kiplinger's Worth a Look list and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, too.

Cadillac CTS 3.6L Performance AWD

Lexus RX 450h AWD

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Courtesy of Lexus

Sticker price: $47,700

Invoice price: $43,486

MPG: 30 city, 28 highway

Heated front seats: $640

Part socialite, part tree-hugger, the Lexus RX 450h's luxury roots give the plush-with-amenities vehicle a comfy ride, while its hybrid powertrain makes it the most fuel-efficient crossover of its size.

The RX's all-wheel drive adjusts automatically. At steady speeds, only the front wheels are powered. But if the system senses slippage when you're accelerating on a slippery road, it adjusts the power delivery. Kiplinger's rated the RX Worth a Look, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Lexus RX 450h AWD

BMW 535i xDrive

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Courtesy of BMW

Sticker price: $55,425

Invoice price: $51,060

MPG: 19 city, 29 highway

Heated front seats: $500

Bimmers have a reputation for good handling, and the 5-series is no exception -- it glues itself to the road and keeps you centered in the driver's seat. Redesigned last year, it rated a Kiplinger's Worth a Look and an IIHS Top Safety Pick.

When equipped with BMW's xDrive all-wheel-drive system, most of the power is sent to the rear wheels -- so it retains its sporty feel -- but power delivery is adjusted based on driving conditions. If the system senses understeer, for example, it will correct it by shifting power to the rear and applying a combination of throttle and braking to individual wheels.

BMW 535i xDrive

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