Cars to take to the mountains
Bankrate picked the five best 2014 cars for ski bums on a budget because it is convinced you don’t necessarily need a big sport utility vehicle to get to the slopes. And an SUV might not fit the everyday needs of many car owners, who prefer a sedan, wagon or even a minivan.
For tackling snow-packed or ice-caked roads to get to your favorite run, all-wheel drive is a must. Every pick on this list offers AWD, and the listed price includes it. Each pick also has a variety of winter-weather features.
Because this list is a mix of vehicle types, Bankrate didn’t set a miles-per-gallon minimum. Yet, all but the minivan deliver at least 27 miles per gallon on the highway. Also, every pick was named a 2013 top safety pick or top safety pick plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Despite AWD increasing a vehicle’s purchase price, Bankrate considered only vehicles with a price—not including delivery charges—below $35,000.
In addition to AWD, each vehicle on this list features power windows, power locks, power outboard mirrors, trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity and an iPod interface for its audio system.
So, bundle up in your winter’s finest, pack your skis and head to the slopes.
All text by Heather Larson, Bankrate.com contributor
Dodge Charger SXT
Fuel economy:City—18 miles per gallon / highway—27 miles per gallon / combined—21 miles per gallon
A full-size sedan, the Dodge Charger SXT excels in hauling five adults wherever they need to go, whether it’s heading to the ski lodge or downtown to dinner. Although it does have a 60-40 split fold-down rear seat allowing you to stow your skis inside the cabin when the people load is only two or three, the Charger doesn’t offer a trunk pass-through. With a full complement of passengers, a roof rack will be required to haul your skis.
However, the AWD Charger SXT does have heated outboard mirrors, as well as heated front seats and a remote-start system for warming the car before entering.
When the transparent AWD system isn’t dividing output from the 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 to all four wheels via an eight-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission, it sends it to just the rear wheels.
Other standard equipment includes seven air bags, dual-zone automatic climate control, Uconnect interface with 8.4-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker Alpine audio system with satellite radio capability.
Ford Fusion Titanium
Fuel economy:City—22 miles per gallon / highway—31 miles per gallon / combined—25 miles per gallon
Titanium is the top-of-the-line Fusion model, and the only one offering all-wheel drive. But that’s OK because it comes loaded with all sorts of high-tech features, as well as some popular winter-weather equipment, such as heated front seats, heated outboard mirrors and remote start for warming the car before entering.
With AWD comes a 240-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine. A six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission transparently funnels engine production to either the front or all four wheels.
A midsize sedan, the Fusion provides plenty of passenger space. It does have a trunk pass-through, allowing skis to be stowed inside the car when the passenger count is no more than four. Leather seating is standard with Titanium. Also included in the price are Ford’s Sync voice-activated technology, MyFord Touch interface with 8-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight air bags, backup camera and a 12-speaker Sony audio system with satellite radio capability.
Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited
Fuel economy:City—24 miles per gallon / highway—30 miles per gallon / combined—26 miles per gallon
The Outback comes with AWD only. In fact, it’s sort of Subaru’s specialty. There are those who will argue the Outback is a crossover, but it was around as a wagon long before anyone ever uttered the term “crossover.”
A roof rack is standard, but a 60-40 split fold-down rear seat allows for carrying skis inside the cabin with less than a full load of people.
Bankrate chose the 2.5i Limited because of its extra winter-weather features such as two-stage heated front seats, heated outboard mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer. Also on its standard gear list are leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, 4.3-inch display screen and nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
Under the hood is a 173-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission that has a six-speed manual mode.
Toyota Sienna LE
Fuel economy:City—16 miles per gallon / highway—23 miles per gallon / combined—19 miles per gallon
When it comes to transporting people and their stuff, nothing is more effective than a minivan. If you want an AWD minivan that can get where you need to go in winter weather, the only choice is Toyota’s Sienna. It would be even more utilitarian if the second-row seats folded onto the floor like the third row does, but for hauling people and skis to the slopes, it will get the job done.
A 266-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 turns the front or all the wheels by way of a six-speed automatic transmission.
The cabin is roomy and comfortable. Seating seven, it can hold gobs of luggage even with the third-row seat in place. Standard features include seven air bags, heated outboard mirrors, power-sliding side doors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 3.5-inch display screen, backup camera and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio capability.
Volvo S60 T5
Fuel economy:City—20 miles per gallon / highway—29 miles per gallon / combined—23 miles per gallon
The priciest of Bankrate’s picks, the S60 T5 is also the only car on this list from a luxury brand. Volvo has a well-earned reputation for safety. In addition to its six air bags and other safety features, the S60 has a few extras, such as Volvo’s whiplash protection seating system, or WHIPS.
Heated outboard mirrors are standard in the S60 T5. Volvo conveniently groups other popular winter-weather equipment, not included in the listed price, into one optional $1,550 climate package with heated front and rear seats, steering wheel, windshield and washer nozzles.
Thanks to the trunk pass-through, skis can be transported inside the car. Other standard gear includes dual-zone climate control, 7-inch color display, and eight-speaker audio system with HD radio and satellite radio capability.
A 250-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder turbocharged engine with six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission turns the wheels.
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