Winter tires. Black SUV car rear view on snowy forest road. Winter conditions.

Winter can be hard on vehicles, even in warmer Southern climates.

Winter can be an exhausting time of the year depending on where one lives, with even the shortest automotive excursions being fraught with peril from ice and snow. Warmer months and southern climates don’t fare much better with rain-soaked roads and the occasional mudslide inflicting their own measure of vehicular havoc.

While the safest solution might be to purchase a full-size pickup or big and heavy truck-based SUV and equip it with a four-wheel-drive system that includes selectable low-range gearing that would enable it to plow through the deepest snow drifts and mud ruts, that’s not necessarily the most amenable or affordable way to go for many motorists.

That’s why automakers are now offering all-wheel-drive on their rear-drive sedans and sports cars – not to mention crossover SUVs, wagons and even a growing number of what would otherwise be front-drive autos – for improved foul-weather performance and added peace of mind.

Some AWD vehicles will drive only one axle under normal circumstances, while others will operate permanently in all-wheel mode, usually on a 50/50 front-to-rear split, with the ability to send additional torque to the wheels that need added traction. Many AWD-equipped sport sedans bias the engine’s power to the rear wheels, typically on a 40-front/60-rear ratio, for livelier handling that replicates a rear-drive vehicle, but with added wet-road traction and enhanced stability through the curves on dry pavement.

Each either comes standard with or offers optional AWD, and features a much higher-than-average ground clearance (the distance between the pavement and the lowest part of a vehicle) that enables them to traverse moderately snow-packed driveways or muddy loose-surface unpaved passages without unduly scraping the undercarriage or otherwise becoming stuck.

Finally, it should be noted that adding AWD to any vehicle does not enable a driver to violate the laws of physics. Always slow down as the weather worsens. Driving all four wheels might help dislodge a car or crossover from a snowed-under parking space, make it go faster on wet pavement and afford extra grip in other low-traction situations, but it does little to improve its steering on slick surfaces and does nothing to bolster a vehicle’s braking.

© CTW Features