AWD Showdown: Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester in Idaho Falls, ID

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Compact SUV models are the hottest segment in the auto industry. They are pitched as affordable, go anywhere mighty-mites. But how well do these small All Wheel Drive SUVs deal with the grizzly winter weather?
Consumer Reports piloted three of the most popular compact SUVs at the Connecticut Auto Test Center in the winter equipped with their standard all season tires around our track to find out.
They performed straight line acceleration, braking, hill climbing , and cornering evaluations of a 2015 Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota Rav4. What they found is that not all AWD systems are created equal.
Vehicles reflect a complete system: tires, stability control, and All-Wheel-Drive setup determine how well they perform in the snow. Their judgement reflects actual experience over weeks of driving in different snow conditions, but there are variables in snow texture consistency and traction based on changing temperature as well as how many vehicles drive through the snow. That makes repeatable tests difficult to create. That said, we performed exhaustive evaluations over weeks of the worst winter in New England’s recent history.

Acceleration test:

On the acceleration test from 0 to 60 miles an hour, all three vehicles were several seconds slower in the snow than an dry pavement. While all three vehicles had nearly identical dry pavement acceleration times of around 9 seconds, there was a 2.3 second gap between the Forester and Rav4 when driving in the snow.

Braking test:

As for braking from 60 miles an hour, the Rav4 and Forester were able to stop at a similar distance. This still takes more than double the distance of what it would take to stop when braking on dry pavement, but the  Honda CR-V took 50 feet further to come to a stop.

Hill Climbing test:

The tests also climbed a steep hill covered with fresh snow. Here, the Subaru did remarkably better than the Honda and Toyota. The Forester’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system allows a certain amount of wheel slip while climbing, which helped it maintain it’s momentum in a pitch. The CR-V and Rav4 seemed less responsive to a foot on a gas pedal.

Ultimate Driving test:

The real differences appeared when we drove the SUVs around the unplowed handling course. The Subaru cornered the way people expect an All Wheel Drive car to drive. The power directed to all four wheels at different times was noticeable to help stay on course. It felt well balanced, and allowed us to make mid-corner adjustments without losing traction. Stability control wasn’t overbearing but helped when needed, according to the tests.
By contrast, the Honda felt like a front wheel drive car. It required more driver input and would initially continue straight rather than steer through a corner. But it could be persuaded to rotate by lifting quickly off the throttle and giving it a stab of steering input. The stability control system prevented the SUV from spinning out, but ultimately, the CR-V inspired less confidence than the Forester.
The Toyota was by far the least able in snow cornering. The Rav4 often didn’t respond to steering, braking and throttle inputs, plowing straight through curves, and all-wheel-drive locking feature sense equal power to the front and rear wheels but it disengages at 25 miles per hour. The only solution that really worked was to slow down to a crawl before reaching a corner.

The Subaru Forester is the clear winner

Don’t just take our word for it, in our survey of nearly 50,000 Consumer Reports subscribers who drove for more than 6 days in the snow last year on their original all season tires, three Subaru vehicles including the Forester topped our list as best in snow. For more on all wheel drive vehicles performing winter weather check out

You can further your Subaru Forester research on reading what Consumer Reports has to say on the Subaru Forester.