When a weather system dumps an uncommon amount of snow in your part of the world, thoughts often turn to how you might get about in it.
Provided you've not got a seven-foot drift blocking you indoors, those plans might involve an all-wheel drive car. 4WD is no substitute for careful driving and a decent set of tires, but it can certainly help to get you out of a slippery spot.
Let's say you'd like to avoid sacrificing too much gas mileage too. What should you buy?
The cars below are currently the most efficient all-wheel drive vehicles on sale in the U.S. If you want to get through the snow, but not have to stop at the pump so much, you could do far worse than these five cars.
1) 2013 Subaru Impreza AWD
27 city, 36 highway, 30 combined
Tradtionally, Subarus haven't been known for good gas mileage. But throw all-wheel drive at everything else, and the Impreza starts to look more favorable--30 mpg combined is the best you'll get with AWD, and 36 highway is the highest here too. Manual-transmission cars are a little behind, at 28 mpg combined. Subarus have plenty of rally heritage to fall back on when the weather gets rough outside...
2) 2013 Lexus RX450h AWD
30 city, 28 highway, 29 combined
Some may struggle to meet the official figures in the luxury hybrid RX 450h, but on paper it's one of the best ways to combine all-weather traction and good gas mileage. It has the best city mileage of any car here, thanks to its ability to run around on electric power alone, and you'll be warm and comfortable in the RX's luxurious cabin, however nasty it gets outside.
3) 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD
28 city, 28 highway, 28 combined
It probably isn't a surprise to see the Highlander Hybrid here--after all, it shares the same running gear as the RX 450h above. Like the RX, real-world gas mileage suffers a little but in city driving hybrids excel. You'll be glad of the chunky body and higher ground clearance when forging through snow, too.
4) 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek AWD
25 city, 33 highway, 28 combined
Based on the Impreza, the XV Crosstrek looks a little more "ready for adventure" than the Impreza, though it isn't the greatest of cars--we came away disappointed when testing one last year. It's still one of the greener all-wheel drive vehicles though, with combined gas mileage of 28 mpg, and the second highest highway mileage of our five examples.
5) 2013 Mazda CX-5 4WD
25 city, 31 highway, 28 combined
The CX-5 is another new kid on the block, replete with SKYACTIV gasoline engines to reduce emissions and boost gas mileage. That's not enough to top the list here, but it does beat every other crossover on sale, and drives well too. Heck, you might even have some fun in the snow with the Mazda's sporty handling.