With the UK’s extremely changeable weather conditions, cars with all-wheel drive and the security it offers have become increasingly popular.

By sending power to every corner of the car, rather than solely the rear - or more commonly the front – wheels, cornering grip is improved to such an extent that breaking traction becomes very difficult even if you’re pushing on. The benefits are most patent when wet leaves or snow cover the roads, where acceleration is quicker and cornering more stable. Towing is also a lot safer and easier with four driven wheels.

Now is a good time to invest in all-wheel drive as demand drops during the summer months and dealerships are often willing to discount selected models. The bonus is that the residual value of four-wheel drive vehicles is generally higher than their two-wheel drive counterparts.

Here we’ve focused on cars with four-wheel drive rather than SUVs, which more often than not come with the technology as standard. Many drivers value the benefits of four-wheel drive without wanting the enormous footprint of such SUVS. If that includes you then these are the cars you should be considering.

Skoda Octavia Estate 4x4


The Octavia estate is already a brilliantly conceived machine even without four-wheel drive. A powerful but frugal 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, cavernous interior, and bulletproof reliability are the foundations that make the four-wheel drive version massively impressive overall. Few cars offer so much flexibility for such little outlay.

BMW 3 Series xDrive


We recently drove a top-spec 335d xDrive Touring version of the 3 Series and it instantly appealed to us as the ‘only car you’ll ever need’. BMW’s four-wheel drive system is available on both petrol and diesel versions of the 3 Series and also on the saloon version, so there’s plenty of choice. The company’s engines and ergonomics already rank as some of the best, so the security of four-wheel drive means you can enjoy them without worrying.

Audi R8


Those in search of an all-weather, everyday sports-cum-super car for less than £100,000 have two choices: the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S or this, the Audi R8. Both are devastating quick down a greasy B-road, but for many the R8’s mid-engined layout and choice of V8 or V10 powerplants take the biscuit. The R8 also features torque vectoring, carefully sending drive to where its needed most in an instant. They are supposedly impossible to crash (that’s not a challenge).


Mercedes’ new baby saloon gets four-wheel drive on just two models in the range: the ballistic CLA 45 AMG and the similarly styled but more subdued CLA 250 MATIC. It’s a car that tends to split opinion instantly, and while the ride quality and interior isn’t perhaps what you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz, owners love them, and even the slower CLA 250 4MATIC cracks the sprint from 0-60mph in a decent 6.7 seconds.

Subaru Outback


If you’re committed to buying German then the Subaru won’t appeal a huge amount. Look at this car objectively, however, and it’s hard to fault. A recent facelift has made it marginally more attractive, but the real lure of the Outback is the modest price you pay for massive load-lugging potential, limpet-like grip from Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive System, and general toughness. This is a car with its priorities in the right place.

Audi A3 quattro


Both the three-door hatchback A3 and its five-door ‘Sportback’ sibling can be ordered with Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system. Only the top-spec diesel and petrol models get the added security, however, meaning that you’ll have to pay for the privilege, with the S Line 1.8 TFSI starting at £27,720 and the diesel starting at £28,790. That said, few cars reek of quality, both inside and out, more than the new Audi A3.

Fiat Panda 4x4


Equipped with Fiat’s bubbly two-cylinder TwinAir engine, the go-anywhere Panda makes a case as the most entertaining car on this list. It certainly isn’t what springs to mind wheel four-wheel drive ruggedness is mentioned, but off-road ability is reasonably impressive given the tiny tires. For that reason the Panda 4x4 is more about the improved ground-clearance than pure traction in tricky terrain, but it still retains the standard car’s characterful driving traits.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-in Hybrid


If you want a four-wheel drive Volvo estate – in our eyes one of the best multipurpose vehicles ever built – you have to opt for the most powerful, expensive one there is. We reviewed the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid earlier this year and it was hard not to be left open-mouthed with its ability. Nigh-on 300bhp is developed from a frugal diesel engine and compact electric motor. Around 30 miles of electric range means mpge (miles-per-gallon equivalent) on shorter journeys can surpass 150, while the system also boasts four-wheel drive.

Volkswagen Golf R


The most hardcore Volkswagen Golf ever built will operate much of time in front-wheel drive mode, but ask too much of the front tyres and a portion of the power is sent to the rears to ensure the cars goes where the driver tells it. This is just as well given the mammoth 296bhp on tap from a turbocharged 2.0litre petrol engine. Performance is spectacular, with DSG-equipped cars cracking the sprint to 60mph in 4.9 seconds. The Golf R is hideously expensive, but it surely ranks as one of the best all-rounders money can buy.

Suzuki Swift 4x4


The tiny Swift is already rated as a surprisingly good driver’s car, but full-time four-wheel drive and a raised ride-height give it more versatility than before. Its chief rival is the Fiat Panda 4x4 (above), and the two cars cost about the same to buy and own. With inferior fuel economy, however, the jury’s out on whether the Swift 4x4 is worth buying over its winter tyre-equipped front-wheel drive counterpart.

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