What cars have the best four-wheel drive systems?

A reader is keen to find out which makes and models are both comfortable on-road and capable of driving in snow and ice...

Off-road 4x4 mega test

My family and I live in a part of Scotland where it helps to have a four-wheel drive car in the family. We used to own a Range Rover Evoque and its all-wheel drive system was excellent but its poor reliability has put us off another one. We currently own a Mazda CX-5, which is a great car overall, but I wasn’t impressed with its performance in some recent harsh winter weather. 

We are due to renew our car soon, so can you advise if there are brands that do better four-wheel drive systems and are also decent overall family cars?  

On a related note, I have read a lot about Evoque's poor reliability record, but I’ve not seen anything about how Land Rover is responding to this. Do you know? It's such a shame, as it’s a great car in other respects. 

Stephen Donnet

What Car? says…

One brand you may want to consider is Toyota because it has an excellent reputation for building models that are highly capable off road. Its Land Cruiser impressed our road testers in a recent mega test of 4x4s, bettering the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport on our arduous off-road test track. The 2.8 diesel Land Cruiser uses traditional body-on-chassis construction; it does come with air suspension, but its ride and handling aren’t as refined as the monocoque (no separate chassis) SUVs from Audi and BMW. However, it has a superb reputation for reliability, so it’s unlikely to break down.

Our overall off-road test winner was the latest Mercedes G-Class, which is supremely capable off road and extremely comfortable for passengers, but it’s also prohibitively expensive to buy.  

Land Rover and its associated Range Rover models are consistently among the top performers off-road, too, and like you we think the Range Rover Evoque is a great car. We voted the latest Evoque our top family SUV in 2020, but couldn’t do so again this year because of its poor reliability record, as highlighted by owners in our annual Reliability Survey.

The only good news for owners is that Land Rover is very good at trying to fix faults and at covering the cost of repairs, even on a large percentage of cars that are out of warranty. This means that while some cars may spend a fair amount of time in service departments, the cost of fixing faults should be minimal in many cases.  

One alternative to swapping cars may be to stick with a comfortable four-wheel drive SUV like the CX-5 and and fit it with all-season tyres, such as Michelin Cross Climates. These tyres came top in our test to find out which are the best all-round tyres. Although they won’t cope with the most extreme winter weather, they were able to drive up a snow covered hillside, and they didn’t have the disadvantages of poor traction that traditional winter tyres do in warmer, drier conditions.  

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Next: Read our full off-roader mega test >>