Most modern SUVs can safely drive on snowy roads as long as their fitted with winter tires.
But when the snow gets deeper or if you have to pass through rougher mountain roads, a good all-wheel drive system and higher ground clearance will keep you from getting stuck or sliding out of control.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best midsize SUVs that not only have lots of space for passengers and cargo, but can also handle extreme weather conditions.
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1. Subaru Ascent
The Ascent is the largest SUV in Subaru’s current lineup and uses the same chassis as the Outback and the Legacy.
Subarus have a huge following in areas that see a lot of snow because their all-wheel drive systems can reliably get you out of really difficult situations where most other systems simply fall short.
All trim levels of the Ascent are equipped with a 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer engine that’s capable of producing 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
The Ascent can easily tackle deep snow and slippery mountain paths thanks to its venerable symmetrical all-wheel drive system and generous ground clearance of 8.7 inches, which is among the best in its class.
The third-row seats allow it to accommodate up to 8 passengers, making it an excellent winter vehicle for larger families or anyone who just wants a lot of room for passengers and cargo.
Going up one trim level from the base model to the Premium model adds heated front seats as standard.
The Onyx Edition adds a heated steering wheel while the Onyx Edition Limited provides even more comfort for your passengers with its heated second-row seats.
2. Subaru Outback
The Subaru Outback carved out its own niche when it debuted in the mid 1990s as an extremely versatile station wagon with a very capable all-wheel drive system.
In 2010, the fourth generation Outback started looking more like an SUV than a typical station wagon, but still drives more like a car compared to other midsize SUVs, including the larger Ascent.
XT models of the sixth gen Outback have the same turbocharged engine as the Ascent, while lower models have a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter that makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque.
The Outback’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive system is similar to the Ascent’s, making it an extremely capable winter vehicle.
A more rugged version of the Outback called the Wilderness model adds even more ground clearance at 9.5 inches and a skid plate to protect the underside of the vehicle from rocky terrain.
It also has an upgraded all-wheel drive system with a low-ratio mode and all-terrain tires.
The Premium trim level, which is just one higher than the base trim, comes with heated front seats and side mirrors.
The Limited trim adds heated rear seats while the Touring model also gets a heated steering wheel.
3. Toyota 4Runner
The 4Runner’s last significant update was in 2010 and it’s one of the few midsize SUVs that still uses body-on-frame construction.
It’s still wildly popular among off-road enthusiasts, as well as people who want a very reliable and spacious vehicle that will last a long time.
The 4Runner also has a real four-wheel drive system that has to be manually selected and comes with a low-range mode for really tough terrain.
All four-wheel drive models of the 4Runner have an impressive 9.6 inches of ground clearance, which is the highest you can get in a midsize SUV that doesn’t have height adjustable air suspension.
All 4Runners come standard with skid plates to protect the underside of the vehicle when driving over rocks and deep ruts.
TRD models also have a locking rear differential that gives you better traction when you’re stuck in snow and mud, as well as a Multi-Terrain Select feature that gives you additional off-road settings.
Heated seats are standard on the SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro, and Limited trim levels.
4. Honda Passport
The Honda Passport is smaller and lacks the third-row seats of the Pilot, but has slightly better off-road potential.
It comes with Honda’s awesome reliability and build quality, and has great on-road manners, agility and comfort.
The Honda Passport, Pilot and Ridgeline are all built on the same platform, but the Passport has the best ground clearance of the bunch at 8.1 inches.
It’s also equipped with Honda’s highly capable i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system which uses clutch packs in the rear to transfer power side to side.
Although it’s not a true four-wheel drive system, it can stand toe to toe with some of the best all-wheel drive systems in the market today.
If you plan on taking the Passport on off-road adventures, there’s the TrailSport model which comes with 18-inch wheels, aggressive tires, roof rails, a 115-volt power outlet and heated wipers that won’t get frozen in place in cold weather.
All models come with heated front seats as standard. The top of the line Elite model adds a heated steering wheel, rear climate controls and a hands-free liftgate.
5. Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee looks like a typical SUV on the outside but has loads of off-road capabilities hiding underneath.
The newest generation of the Grand Cherokee is also more luxurious and comfortable than ever before, and even comes with a plug-in hybrid option.
The standard V6 engine produces a healthy 295 hp while the plug-in hybrid has a total output of 375 hp. Unfortunately, the V8 engine was dropped after the 2022 model year.
The Grand Cherokee can easily drive through unplowed roads with its 8.4 inches of ground clearance.
Higher trim levels like the Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve come with height adjustable air suspension which can lift the truck up to 10.9 inches.
These higher trim levels also come with more sophisticated four-wheel drive systems that have a low-range mode for more difficult terrain.
A heated steering wheel, seats and mirrors are also standard starting with the Altitude trim level.
6. BMW X5
The BMW X5 offers a great balance of luxury, comfort, performance and driving dynamics.
It’s also filled with cutting edge tech and safety features that make it really easy to drive in all weather conditions.
In slippery conditions, BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system automatically adjusts how much power is sent to each wheel to keep you moving in the right direction.
The BMW X5 also has a very generous 8.7 inches of ground clearance which will allow you to easily drive through sections of deep snow.
With the optional air suspension, you can raise the X5’s body up an additional 1.5 inches in Off Road mode.
Other optional features that make the X5 a better winter vehicle include remote start, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and heated armrests.
7. Land Rover Discovery
The Land Rover Discovery takes some of the Defender’s off-road ruggedness, sprinkles in some of the Range Rover’s on-road manners, and adds seating for seven passengers.
It’s not as precious as the Range Rover or Range Rover Sport so you won’t be too afraid to take it through snowy trails and mountain passes.
All trim levels come standard with height adjustable air suspension which allows you to go from just over 8 inches of ground clearance to 11.1 inches, so you rarely have to worry about getting high centered on snow banks and stuck in the middle of nowhere.
It can be equipped with either a turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes up to 296 hp or a turbocharged inline-6 that’s good for up to 355 hp.
When going through rougher trails, you can also switch the four-wheel drive system to low-range mode to get more torque to the wheels and crawl over obstacles at low speeds more effectively.
Heated mirrors and front seats are standard on all models. Higher trim levels also add heated second and third-row seats, and a heated steering wheel.
There’s also the optional Cold Climate package which adds a heated windshield and heated windshield washers.
8. Volvo XC90
The second generation XC90’s hasn’t changed much on the outside since it was introduced in 2016, but it’s still one of the more elegant looking luxury SUVs around.
Being Volvo’s flagship SUV, the XC90 is filled with safety features and driver assists that makes it an excellent family vehicle. It’s also very roomy inside and can easily accommodate up to 7 passengers.
Aside from the standard all-wheel drive, the XC90’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance makes it a great winter vehicle for both commuting and long road trips.
The optional air suspension raises the ground clearance to a lofty 9.9 inches when Off Road mode is selected.
The base mild hybrid engine only makes 247 hp, but there’s also a higher powered version that puts out 295 hp. The plug-in hybrid model has a combined output of 455 hp and gets up to 36 miles in electric-only mode.
All trim levels come with heated front seats as standard. The optional Climate package which adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and headlamp cleaners comes standard on higher trim levels.
9. Audi Q7
If you’re looking for a three-row luxury SUV that’s luxurious, comfortable and has great handling, the Audi Q7 is one of the best options.
The Q7’s interior is extremely refined and filled with the latest tech so you’ll feel right at home even in the worst winter conditions.
It comes standard with Audi’s excellent Quattro all-wheel drive system which will seamlessly transfer power to each wheel to give you the best handling and traction on slippery surfaces.
Ground clearance isn’t too impressive at 7.3 inches. But if you go for the top-of-the-line Prestige model, you get height adjustable air suspension which can lift it up to an impressive 9.6 inches.
Heated front seats are standard on all models. Higher trim levels add heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.
10. Hyundai Santa Fe
The Hyundai Santa Fe is the most affordable midsize SUV in the market but it certainly doesn’t look like it as soon as you get inside.
Its modern tech-filled interior makes you feel like you’re sitting in a luxury SUV at times, plus you get a lot of standard features for the amount of money you’re spending.
The Santa Fe’s all-wheel drive system has different drive mode settings which includes a dedicated Snow mode.
It also features a lock button for the center differential which ensures that power is sent to both front and rear axles at all times.
The Santa Fe’s ground clearance is also pretty impressive at 8.2 inches. The Kia Sorento, which uses the same chassis and powertrains, only has 6.9 inches of ground clearance but does have third-row seats.
The Santa Fe also has several engine options which includes a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The SEL model comes standard with heated front seats and mirrors. The Limited trim adds heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel.
11. Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander is a very popular midsize three-row SUV with an excellent reputation for reliability.
It’s also had a more eco-friendly hybrid version for almost two decades, which has helped elevate its image as a practical family vehicle.
When its fourth generation debuted, higher trim levels also got an improved Dynamic Torque Vectoring all-wheel drive system, which significantly improves traction and handling in snowy conditions.
Instead of using the brakes to shift power from side to side, the rear wheels have mechanical clutches which are more responsive.
This system is only available in the XSE, Limited and Platinum models. Lower trim levels equipped with all-wheel drive still use the older style brake torque vectoring system.
The Highlander’s 8 inches of ground clearance is also quite impressive when compared to many of its rivals, especially considering it doesn’t really have any off-road aspirations.
The XSE, Limited and Platinum models come with heated front seats as standard. The Limited adds a heated steering wheel, while the Platinum also gets heated second-row seats.
12. Ford Bronco
When Ford revived the much loved Bronco nameplate, it pulled out all the stops in the design department.
Fortunately, the highly anticipated return of the Bronco also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to off-road prowess and more than matches its main rival, the Jeep Wrangler.
Aside from the standard four-wheel drive, it’s also got loads of off-road features like low-range mode, locking differentials, upgraded suspension, and bigger tires among many others.
Its independent front and rear suspension also gives it better on road manners and handling which makes it safer to drive at higher speeds when conditions get slippery.
Ground clearance starts out at around 8.4 inches, but with the different suspension setups and tires available from the factory, it can get over 11 inches of clearance.
Heated seats and a heated steering wheel also come standard on higher trim levels for that extra bit of comfort in the winter.
13. Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler is one of the best off-road vehicles money can buy.
Even without any modifications, it can easily handle rough terrain, mud, rocks and snow.
All Wranglers have four wheel drive and have a low-range mode that will help you crawl over obstacles more effectively.
It uses solid axles in the front and rear, which are not only tougher and more durable, but also allow for more suspension travel and articulation on extremely uneven terrain.
The Wrangler’s ground clearance is also very high and starts out at 9.7 inches for most trim levels, but can get to around 11 inches in some configurations.
When plowing through deep snow, most people also have to worry about scratching their bumpers or even risk tearing it off completely.
This isn’t much of an issue with the Wrangler because the bumpers have a pretty short overhang and can handle lots of abuse.
Most people also just replace them with more durable metal bumpers that are designed for off roading.
And despite its rough and rugged nature, you can also get heated seats and a heated steering wheel in some trim levels.