Before front wheel drive, traction control and all-wheel drive systems were introduced, it used to be the sole domain of tires that controlled how a car performed in bad weather with wet, slick conditions. Now, most cars come with an option for “All Wheel Drive,” presented in any form of intelligent or driver assisted packages.
And tires are still important. While our list below doesn’t include tire options, if you live in a rainy environment, and, particularly if you’re nervous about driving in slippery conditions, you’ll want to outfit any car with high rated rain tires. Tires like Cooper’s Discoverer A/T3 All-Terrain Tires, Michelin’s Pilot Sport A/S Plus All-Weather Tires or MXV4 All-Season Tires would be great options.
Audi pioneered Quattro®, its award-winning all-wheel-drive system, in 1980 when it launched the eponymous Audi Quattro. It later distributed the system throughout its entire lineup of vehicles. It took a decade or more for other manufacturers to catch up, but catch up they have. All manufacturers at least offer AWD vehicles now if not include the drivetrain in all vehicle options. Some are better than others, while all handle better in slick conditions, with power going to all 4 tires than standard front wheel drive or rear-wheel drive cars. (We’ll have another top 10 list for best performing rear-wheel drive cars with traction control in the future.) With snazzy names like Honda’s Real Time All-Wheel-Drive™, Volkswagen’s 4MOTION®, BMW’s xDrive and Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive™, manufacturers have clearly adopted the stance that all-wheel drive is important for safety as well as sales. People want AWD vehicles.
Our list focuses on those manufacturer’s who’ve focused on safety, particularly in advancing AWD and choosing the vehicle in their lineup that best reflects their brand.
#10. Acura RLX
Acura’s RLX sedan is the manufacturer’s flagship vehicle. Introduced in 2013, and taking over for the 2-generation RL model (the previous flagship), the 2019 Acura RLX features Acura’s SH-AWD. This stands for, are you ready for it, “Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive.
Acura’s RLX a 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick, and it’s SH-AWD is designed to boost high-performance dry-road handling by continuously directing engine power to match weight distribution, available traction, driver input while also taking care to be careful when the system senses wet conditions.
The 2019 model comes with tech and luxury features that will please everyone including Krell® Premium Audio System with 14 speakers, heated & ventilated front seats, a power rear sunshade, manual rear door side sunshades, auto-dimming, power-folding side mirrors, and a remote engine start.
#9. Honda CR-V
Honda is known for its safety and quality, and wet-condition, road-handling is right up there with other features of the brand. Utilizing Honda’s “Real Time” AWD, the 2019 Honda CR-V in indeed a safe vehicle. Honda also offers it’s Honda Sensing®, an intelligent suite of safety and driver-assistive technologies designed to alert you to things you might miss while driving.
Honda offers 2 types of it’s Real Time AWD System: the Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ (i-VTM4™), and the one offered on the CR-V, Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System™. This system uses sensors at the rear axle. If the system detects a loss of traction at the back wheels, it will begin diverting power to the rear wheels.
The CR-V offers luxury, safety, and tech that include hands-free access power tailgate led headlights with auto-on/off, a 330-watt premium audio system with 9 speakers, including subwoofer, Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System™ with voice recognition and Honda HD digital traffic and HD radio.
#8. Mercedes-Benz S Class
Paul Daimler began research on AWD vehicles as early as 1907. This world-renowned luxury brand has a stellar track record for safety, and with its 4MATIC® AWD system in its 3rd decade of advancement, and paired with new, advanced piloting options, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is an excellent choice to be sure of your safety on any road and in any condition.
The basis of 4MOTION® is simple and powerful: A limited-slip center differential provides balanced power between the front and rear axles. The 4-wheel Electronic Traction System (4-ETS) uses sensors already in the vehicle for its Antilock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP®), to precisely manage the torque demands of each wheel.
#7. BMW X1
BMW has been a leader in AWD and safety tech for generations and has been developing its xDrive for decades. We’ve been a fan of the 2019 BMW X1 for a few years now and wanted to highlight its safety features this time around.
The latest version of BMW’s xDRIVE works by distributing drive power between the front and rear axles in a 40:60 ratio. And BMW Pairs this with Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), using sensors to monitor road conditions and providing brake force when it detects wheel spin is likely to occur.
When the BMW xDRIVE system detects oversteering, it can send more power to the front axle. If it detects understeering, drive power to the front axle can be reduced. This helps ensure that vehicle stability returns to normal quickly, often before the driver even notices any slippage occur in rainy weather.
For looks, you can’t beat it. Now in its second generation, the BMW X1 features BMW’s new interior and exterior architecture; bold, sweeping folds in the sheet metal that give it a more aggressive stance, updated front end with BMW’s new large (and in charge), beautiful grille, chunky, and off-road-looking lower side panels for off-roading.
#6. Cadillac XT4
Cadillac was late to the small crossover game, announcing a change in its focus/direction towards the popular type of vehicle in 2018. The XT4 is Cadillac’s first answer to the popular Mercedes Benz GLC, BMW’s X1 and Audi’s Q3. Finally, Cadillac has a beautiful entry crossover that is indeed safe.
The 2019 Cadillac XT4 uses the brand’s all-wheel-drive system. The XT4 also utilizes Auto-Dry™ brakes that automatically position the brake pads closer to the rotors, sweeping away moisture and improving performance.
#5. Ford Fusion
Ford’s smaller, midsized sedan, the Fusion, is an approachable vehicle that has some impressive safety features. While it won’t knock your socks off, trimmed out appropriately, with Ford’s intelligent all-wheel drive, the 2019 Ford Fusion is a great option for someone who wants surety when driving in slippery conditions.
Ford calls the Fusion “The Cure for the Common Car.” And in some regards this is true. Ford’s AWD system comes standard on the Sport trim level V6 and is optional on the SE, SEL, and Titanium versions of the sedan. The system offers comparable safety features to GM models and substantially helps with wet weather driving.
The 2019 Ford Fusion also comes with available luxury features like 10-way Heated and Cooled power front seats with fore/aft, up/down, tilt, recline, 2-way power lumbar.
#4. Volkswagen Atlas
Volkswagen’s larger, cheaper replacement for its flagship Touareg is proving to be a popular seller for the brand. Introduced in 2018, Volkswagen enthusiasts have been snapping up the crossover. And for good reason: It’s larger, cheaper and better in many aspects than its predecessor.
The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas utilizes VW’s 4MOTION™ all-wheel drive technology, a solid safety performer.
The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas offers up-to-date safety and tech like an 8" touchscreen navigation system and Park Distance Control. It also introduces the 3rd row to VW's Crossover Lineup. And when folded down, the rear two rows give a good 96.8 cubic feet of space. Leather appointments and upscale inserts up front make this vehicle feel luxurious.
#3. Subaru Outback
We’ve featured the Outback on several of our lists, and because it’s such a highly rated safe vehicle, and has outstanding performance features and a superb all-wheel-drive system, we had to repeat ourselves and give it a high ranking here.
Subaru is known for safety. And its Symmetrical AWD System is different in that it is comprised of a longitudinally mounted Horizontally-Opposed Boxer engine which achieves the low center of gravity and a symmetrically designed AWD drivetrain. For the 2019 Subaru Outback, X-Mode is also available which utilized electronic braking paired with the AWD system to enhance control in slippery conditions.
The most recent Outback has tech features that include an 8” multimedia display and STARLINK with Apple CarPlay™, Android™ Auto, and Pandora® integration, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, 8.7 Inches of ground clearance so you don’t get stuck in the snow during winter driving.
#2. Nissan Altima
Now in its sixth generation, the popular 2019 Nissan Altima comes with new styling, new luxury, and tech, and for the purposes of this list, new safety features, and Nissan’s Intelligent AWD System. While not the most exciting in our group, the Altima offers a sound base in tech and safety, at an affordable price, that is comparable to models that cost much, much more.
Nissan not only has a solid AWD system, but it also offers Nissan Intelligent Mobility™, a package of technology that helps keep the car on the road and safe in all sort of conditions. Including Active Ride Control™ and Intelligent Trace Control™ (both utilizing electronic braking), Safety Shield 360™ and many more, this system is normally found on more expensive cars.
#1. Audi A8 L
We saved the best all-wheel drive system, Audi’s Quattro, for last. As mentioned, Audi pioneered its Quattro system in 1980 with the introduction of the eponymous Audi Quattro Sedan, the flagship of the brand until the introduction of the A8.
The Quattro AWD system for the 2019 Audi A8 is now in its 6th generation. This generation includes the Audi vectoring system, which uses a complex computer system to push power to any of the 4 wheels, and the ability to fully manage the vehicle dynamics in all traction situations, whether in cornering, acceleration, braking, snow or in any combination of these.
Standard luxury features on the 2019 Audi A8 include adaptive air suspension, Bang & Olufsen® sound system with 3D sound, and Audi’s award-winning MMI® Navigation plus and Virtual Cockpit. Available items that are among these vehicles coolest are Audi’s Air Aense filtration and high tech Audi Pre-Sense® 360 safety monitoring system.