BUYER’S GUIDE: Should You Buy an AWD Sedan or Crossover?

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The simple answer to AWD is “yes,” but which body style will work better for your specific needs?

Crossovers are taking over most segments once dominated by sedans. At the same time, manufacturers are expanding their sedan offerings to include AWD on many models. Which to select depends partly on taste but also on how you plan to use the vehicle. Let’s break down the options based on driving style and conditions rather than by manufacturer or model.


Snowpocalypse Driving

If you drive where it snows a lot, and snows often, crossovers have the advantage. Crossovers are raised up higher than are sedans. This has two big advantages in real-world driving when the snow comes often and deep.

First, one can see better. Crossovers offer a better view of the road and traffic conditions all the time, but as the snow deepens and plows run out of places to put it, intersections can get dicey. A crossover gives one a better chance of being able to see over snowbanks at intersections, which is a real-world safety advantage.

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Also, snowplows work while we sleep and while we are at work. Crossovers have more ground clearance than sedans, except in very rare cases, like Volvo’s S60 Cross Country Sedan. Most crossovers also have front-ends designed to ride up and over snow that is plowed up at the end of your driveway. There are limits of course, but you stand a better chance of getting into your driveway without having to shovel if you have the added clearance afforded by crossovers.

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Mild Winter Driving

In mild winter conditions like snow and ice that don’t pile up, both an AWD sedan and crossover are about equal. Some may say that the sedan, being lower to the ground, may have an edge due to a lower center of gravity. However, in such conditions, one should be driving slowly and with extra care, negating that benefit for the most part. Many crossovers are easier to enter and exit. In real-world living exiting onto an icy driveway may be easier in the crossover. Many cars now have a snow mode. Be sure to use it if it does.

Sporty Driving

Once automakers like Acura, Audi, and other premium brands began to add torque vectoring to help rotate a car in corners, AWD became a performance upgrade over rear-wheel drive, and a decided advantage compared to front-wheel drive. For dry-weather sporty driving, the sedan’s lower center of gravity and possibly lower weight is always an advantage. Coupled with a torque-vectoring AWD system the sedan (or coupe) will always be able to put down more power and turn better than a front wheel drive vehicle and even better than a rear-wheel drive car in many cases. These technologies can help crossovers too, but for sporty driving sedans are clearly better.


All-wheel drive is almost always an asset. Sedans offer a look many prefer, and crossovers offer the advantages of added cargo capacity, ride height, and ground clearance. For serious winter weather, we say go with a crossover. For mainly dry conditions and sporty driving, sedans have a clear edge. For driving in mainly mild winter weather, make your choice based on style.

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