Driving in the Canadian winter can be a challenge and not the most enjoyable experience. Conditions such as cold, snow and ice force us to prepare and drive our vehicles in a harsh environment. In recent years, many advances have been made to make driving easier, such as anti-lock brakes, slippery powertrains, winter tires and, of course, heated seats and steering wheels.
For serious winter driving, four-wheel or four-wheel drive is a must, and most car manufacturers provide such a system that allows a minimum of disruption when traveling in less than ideal conditions.
Here, three examples of vehicles that provide comfort and safety when driving in winter are discussed. This exercise was conducted in conjunction with the AJAC (Automobile Journalist Association of Canada) Winter Rally program to evaluate multiple members’ vehicles. Here are premium vehicles that offer spaciousness, luxury and a variety of connectivity and user applications to get you to the ski slope with a minimum of worry.
Chrysler has been building minibuses since 1984, and the latest version of Pacifica continues this legacy as a popular driver. For 2021, Pacifica is available with a state-of-the-art AWD in several of its models. A new hybrid plug-in is also available.
A three-part drive shaft connects the front engine and driveline to a rear-wheel drive system for maximum drive effort when needed. This system is transparent and is monitored by factors such as weather, wheel slip, avoidant steering and the use of windshield wipers. There are no controls for the driver to decide how to handle the situation, as the Pacific automatically decides.
Pacifica is powered by the PentaStar 3.6-liter V6 coupled to a nine-speed car, which provides plenty of power for all situations. With a wheelbase of 3088.4 mm (121.6 inches), Pacifica provides a smooth and comfortable ride for up to eight people, and this seating configuration can be adapted to almost any load situation with the Stow n Go seating system. With an area of over 2463 liters (87 cubic feet) behind Pacifica’s second seat, it is easy to carry a large amount of winter equipment.
The Pacifica Pinnacle version tested here is the top model, with a number of features in the cabin to make the trip to the ski slope a positive experience. Along with 12 USB ports, the van had a 10.1-inch screen with Chrysler’s Uconnect 5, Nappa leather seats and a unique FAMCAM interior camera that allows the driver to see the rear seat passengers.
Outside, Pacifica has received styling updates and LED headlights and taillights. With a 5.4-inch ground clearance and aggressive winter tires, the Pacifica test passed the winter driving tests with ease, driving through snow as high as the bottom of the door and turning where you pointed it.
Pacifica is mounted in Windsor, Ontario and the AWD Touring edition is available in four trims, from $ 48,295. The version tested here was loaded and listed at $ 68,785.
The Yukon is a large truck-based vehicle with a traditional four-wheel drive system. With 20-inch wheels and up to 10-inch ground clearance on 3070 mm (120-inch) wheelbase, you would be hard pressed to get stuck.
The new AT4 model has the newly integrated independent rear suspension together with automatic 4WD that responds in real time to road conditions, which improves grip when driving in terrain or in slippery conditions such as rain or snow. In combination with a new electronic rear differential with limited sliding, the Yukon is off-road capable and perfect for snowy missions. With its air suspension, the standard space of eight inches can be increased by another two inches.
The new AT4 model reflects the brand new 2021 Yukon, revived in all areas including independent rear suspension, more interior space and exterior styling. Unique to the AT4 are the front towbars, specific interior details and an overall sporty taste to the large SUV.
The new rear suspension with aviation gives the Yukon better, more controlled handling than before, along with a much smoother ride.
Inside the spacious cabin is well furnished with easy to use and well placed switchgear. GMC has taken the Lincoln setting to its gearbox with dashboard-mounted gear selectors and this helps to provide a huge center console. The internal cargo space is 3482 liters (123 cubic feet). The Yukon can tow up to 8500 pounds, which easily handles snowmobile trailers. Or to get to the remote camp in the warmer weather with its manual driving mode selection of two-wheeled high, four-wheeled high and four-wheeled low.
The AT4 tested here is powered by GM’s 5.3-liter V8 at 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, which should be enough. The acceleration is soft through the 10-speed gearbox and the V8’s muffled growling. The 6.2-liter V8 is available, as well as a new 3.0-liter diesel engine. An XL model with extended wheelbase (3403 mm, 134 inches) is also available.
Pricing for the Yukon AT4 starts at $ 74,698, and the price of the test vehicle with all options comes in at $ 88,833.
Genesis has entered the market for luxury SUVs with its GV80, a new vehicle that should make its Japanese and German competitors list. As a logical companion to its sports sedans, Genesis has introduced a medium-sized SUV that goes everywhere with remarkable performance, good road condition and a magnificent and well-equipped interior.
While the GV80 is available as a two-wheel drive in other countries, Canadians can only buy the four-wheel-drive version of the seven-seater SUV. This is not a problem with our harsh climates, and the sophisticated AWD controls monitor driving situations and can split the power to a 50-50 base with a differential with limited sliding rear. The system can also send power to the wheels that need the most help to provide traction for almost any snow or terrain situation.
The exterior of the Genesis is clean, quite robust and without unnecessary embellishments, but it is the interior that gives an aura of luxury in the cabin with real wood and aluminum panels, exquisite controls and seats in nappa leather. Highlighting the interior passengers in the top model Prestige is a 12.3-inch digital screen with a wide range of functions, but there are buttons and switches on the instrument panel and console, which can be used for some of the functions.
The change is made through a knob on the console, a sound system with 21 speakers feels strong enough to blow out the windows, and all doors are closed with a soft-closing function in line with the elegance of the GV80. Most convenience items such as wireless mobile phone charging, proximity key and push button start as well as heated front and rear seats are available in all models.
The GV80 is available in four trims from the $ 64,500 Select with a 2.5-liter 300-horsepower four-cylinder engine to the Prestige with a 3.5-liter 375-horsepower V6 for $ 85,000. Both engines are turbocharged connected to an eight-speed automatic. The rear differential and the advanced suspension system with limited sliding only come with V6. The ground clearance is 205 mm (eight inches) and there is 991 liters (35 cubic feet) of cargo space behind the other seat.
The new GV80 has the ability to take you safely and competently to your destination in extreme winter driving conditions in a luxurious interior just this side of abundance.