All-wheel-drive (AWD) and cars have had a relatively brief history together. They were usually limited to specialty models or high-end luxury AWD sedans that came and went and didn’t earn much of a following.
But now, sedans of all prices and sizes offer the system, which helps not only in tricky weather conditions but also can deliver crisper handling in tight corners or under aggressive driving.
Here are ten new sedans with standard or optional all-wheel-drive that can tackle icy roads or light snow without having to live with the added bulk and cost of an SUV on days with perfect weather. They range in price from just under $20,000 to nearly $200,000 and are powered by gas engines, electric-only, or a combination of both.
The 2021 Acura TLX has been completely redesigned and gets an aggressively styled exterior and interior, along with a boost to its technology offerings.
For the first time, buyers no longer need to spring for an engine upgrade to get all-wheel-drive because it’s available with the standard 272-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. That, teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission, already makes the TLX more exciting to drive than before, even if it isn’t the sharpest in its class that includes the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Lexus IS. A 335-horsepower, turbo V6 with standard all-wheel-drive is due with the Type S model.
Acura’s so-called Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) drivetrain not only shifts power between the front and rear wheels but distributes it between left and right wheels depending on which has better traction in corners.
The TLX also scores highly for safety and includes standard driver-assist technologies such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, and a road departure mitigation system.
It received a Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and five stars in overall testing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — both top scores. From $40,525 MSRP with the all-wheel-drive option, the TLX is a fine choice for a luxury sedan that offers a balance of performance and practicality.
Audi was an early trailblazer in all-wheel-drive in road cars, first with the Quattro rally-inspired coupe in 1980. Since then, the Quattro all-wheel-drive system has made an appearance in all of its product offerings.
Every 2021 Audi A6 model, whether it’s powered by the 261-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder or the 335-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, gets the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. While it aids in traction in inclement weather, the Audi’s AWD setup can also shift power between the front and rear wheels to increase grip in the corners.
It’s not all about traction, though, as the A6 is packed with technology features. Inside, the A6 features two dashboard touchscreens to control the infotainment and climate systems, plus the fully digital Audi Virtual Cockpit (instrument panel for normal people) for vehicle information and speed.
The A6 also comes standard with driver assistance technology and top scores from the IIHS and NHTSA. Prices for the A6 start from $55,945 MSRP.
The S6 is a more powerful variant with a 444-horsepower, turbocharged V6 engine, which also carries performance-oriented modifications to the steering, suspension, and brakes. It starts from $75,445. Wagons are also available as the A6 Allroad and ultra-high performance RS6 Avant.
The Cadillac CT5 doesn’t exactly carry the torch for the brand’s long-gone models like the DeVille and Fleetwood. Instead, its characteristic traits center around something that used to be the domain of European luxury sedans: Performance. While it’s still not as razor-sharp to drive as some rivals from Alfa Romeo or BMW, the Cadillac CT5 balances agility with comfort reasonably well.
A 237-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine powers most CT5 AWD models, and it’s paired with a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission. A more robust 335-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 is an option, though, with the sporty CT5-V receiving a 360-horsepower version of that engine.
All models get an interior that functions better than in some recent Cadillacs, although the material quality is bettered by rivals from Audi and Volvo. Cadillac’s Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system is a new option for 2021 and allows the driver to do some hands-free highway driving and lane changes — provided their eyes are on the road because the system can tell.
With pricing that ranges from $40,590 to $51,390 MSRP, the CT5 cuts right into the heart of the luxury sedan market, which has plenty of competition from brands that have had this segment cornered for decades. But the Cadillac is certainly worth consideration if every other similarly priced all-wheel-drive sedan seems too ordinary.
New for 2021, the Kia K5 replaces the old Optima as the brand’s midsize sedan offering. At the top of the changes over the Optima is the K5’s striking exterior styling. The sharp lines and zig-zag detail of the LED running lights are just a couple of items that set it apart from mainstay rivals like the Chevrolet Malibu and Honda Accord.
And unlike those sedans, the new Kia K5 is also available with all-wheel-drive, something the mechanically related Hyundai Sonata doesn’t even offer. Offered on mid-grade LXS and GT-Line trim levels, the option also comes with the 180-horsepower turbo 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The K5 is also spacious inside, with an interior made from reasonably nice materials and which is spacious for adults in either the front or rear seats. All-wheel-drive models also include a 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and rear USB charging ports, in addition to the long list of standard features.
GT-Line AWD models add full LED exterior lighting, a panoramic moonroof, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, and even more features. A shame, then, that all-wheel-drive isn’t offered on the more powerful K5 GT with its 290-horsepower engine.
While all-wheel-drive may offer added peace of mind in poor weather, the K5’s stellar safety scores, receiving top honors from both the IIHS and NHTSA. It also comes with features like automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, driver attention monitoring, and automatic high beam assist on every model. All-wheel-drive K5s range from $27,685 to $30,185, making the K5 AWD a stellar value.
All-wheel-drive is unusual in compact mainstream sedans, but it’s available on the Mazda3. One of the nicest to drive and nicest to sit in compact sedans on the market, the Mazda3 offers all-wheel-drive on models equipped with the 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and it comes standard on the newly offered 250-horsepower turbo-four. All models with AWD get a six-speed automatic.
While that may give the Mazda an edge over most of its competitors in snowy conditions, it was always a cut above the class average in the way it drives on just about any road. Its interior is also far better designed than a car in this price range, and the Mazda3 is highly rated by safety agencies.
All models receive driver-assist tech like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. With AWD-equipped models ranging in price from about $25,000 to $35,000 depending on equipment, the Mazda3 represents a highly cost-effective way to get an all-wheel-drive sedan.
While the Porsche Taycan demonstrates the storied sports car brand’s foray into all-electric propulsion, it’s no stranger to all-wheel-drive. For more than three decades, Porsche has been using the technology to sharpen the handling of its iconic 911 and make its successful line of Cayenne and Macan SUVs surprisingly adept off the pavement, too.
On all but the base Taycan, there are two electric motors to power all four wheels. Battery sizes range from 79 to 93 kWh units, and horsepower outputs range from 522 horsepower to 750. Naturally, the range varies, too, with between 199 and 227 miles on a full charge based on EPA estimates.
While that won’t have the similarly priced Tesla Model S worried, the Taycan is easily a match for it in the way it drives, with blistering performance and typically precise handling from Porsche. Its interior is also beautifully assembled but also packed with technology that includes up to three digital displays and even animal-free upholstery for the seats.
Being a Porsche, however, no Taycan is inexpensive. A Taycan 4S, the least-expensive all-wheel-drive sedan model, starts from $105,150 MSRP, while prices for the most powerful Taycan Turbo S begins at $186,350. And that’s before any of the many options are selected.
The Taycan Cross Turismo was announced in March 2021, comes standard with all-wheel-drive, and is a slightly more practical version of the sedan. Prices for that model start at $92,250.
At less than $19,720 MSRP to start, the Subaru Impreza is the least expensive new car with all-wheel-drive. In fact, it comes standard on every Impreza in keeping with the brand’s tradition of AWD cars. It’s made Subaru popular in parts of the country where all-wheel-drive is as obligatory in the winter as a North Face coat. But the Impreza is also a well-rounded compact sedan.
A five-speed manual transmission comes standard on the base model, with an automatic offer as a $1,300 option. With 152 horsepower from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, it doesn’t stir up as much excitement as the Mazda3 or Subaru’s own WRX, but it returns up to 36 mpg on the highway based on EPA estimates.
The interior is logically laid out and decently roomy, and even the base model comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The Impreza also scores extremely well in crash evaluations, and driver assistance features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist are widely available across the line. For additional cargo flexibility, a five-door hatchback model is also available.
While it’s not flashy, the pragmatism of the Impreza earns it respect, and the price and efficiency make it a stellar new car buy. For those who must have all-wheel-drive without incurring a cost and fuel economy penalty, the Subaru Impreza is probably the way to go.
Tesla Model 3
For fans of better range or quicker acceleration, picking an all-wheel-drive Tesla Model 3 represents something of a win-win situation. While the dual-motor long range is a cool $9,000 more than the least expensive Model 3 (as of this writing, because Tesla pricing regularly changes), it adds 90 miles to the EPA-estimated range. At 353 miles on a full charge and with access to the expansive Supercharger network, the Tesla Model 3 shouldn’t give people much anxiety about running out of electricity.
And for performance fans, there’s the aptly named Model 3 Performance. Range drops to 315 miles, but the 0-60 mph run is done in 3.1 seconds — deep into sports car territory.
The Model 3 is also full of technology, with its simplistic interior dominated by a large digital display for the infotainment system. The available Autopilot advanced driver assist system can change lanes and follow navigation instructions without much input from the driver, among other functions, for an extra $10,000. But the Model 3 is also a star performer in crash test evaluations, scoring top marks from the IIHS and NHTSA.
Ranging from roughly $46,990 to $56,490 before options, the Model 3 is competitively priced with compact luxury sedans like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. For those interested in an electric sedan with all-wheel-drive, it’s a viable option.
Full-size sedans have been on a downward spiral as buyers flock to SUVs. The Toyota Avalon has managed to hang on, but in a bid to stay afloat while rivals like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus have disappeared, it’s now available with what SUV buyers like: all-wheel-drive.
For 2021, the Avalon has a new all-wheel-drive option across the line. All AWD-equipped Avalons use the same system found in a number of Toyota models, including the Camry midsize sedan.
A 202-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine does the propulsion rather than the V6 or hybrid powertrains found on front-wheel-drive variants, and acceleration predictably suffers by giving up almost 100 horsepower to the V6. At least fuel economy rises a bit over that gasoline-fueled model, to 25 mpg city and 34 highway. That makes the AWD-equipped Avalon relatively efficient for a large car, although not as frugal as the hybrid.
What doesn’t suffer, however, is the Avalon’s spacious interior, high-grade materials, and an almost overwhelming sense of comfort. There is generous space for five adults and a reasonably spacious trunk. All Avalon’s are generously equipped, but the top-grade Limited model comes with leather and wood trim that wouldn’t look out of place on a high-end luxury sedan.
While all-wheel-drive is only available on the Avalon XLE and Limited trim levels, it doesn’t incur any price penalty over the equivalent V6 model. Prices start from $36,970 to $43,270 MSRP, also making the Avalon considerably less expensive than the mechanically similar Lexus ES 250 AWD.
For 2021, every Volvo S90 comes with all-wheel-drive. The gasoline-only S90 T6 AWD comes with a 316-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s supercharged and turbocharged. The S90 Recharge plug-in hybrid uses that engine along with two electric motors for a combined output of 400 horsepower.
These engines may not be as slick as six-cylinder equivalents on competing luxury sedans from BMW and Lexus, for example, but the S90 has a stunning interior and modern design.
It also has an enormous amount of rear legroom that allows even tall adults to stretch out. Ventilated front and rear seats, massaging front seats, and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system are available on some versions.
Volvo’s commitment to safety also comes with the S90, and features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist, and large animal detection come standard, along with blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist.
The company’s Pilot Assist advanced driver assistance system is also standard and works with the adaptive cruise control to not only maintain a safe distance from other cars or come to a complete stop in heavy highway traffic but perform minor steering corrections to keep the car in the intended lane.
With the T6 starting from $52,595 MSRP and the Recharge PHEV from $61,095, the S90 is a strong value among large luxury cars, giving buyers more car for the money than the Audi A6 or Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It also shows that going at least partially electric doesn’t have to force too many sacrifices. The related V90 and V90 Cross Country wagons also offer all-wheel-drive.