EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 23, 2012

All-wheel drive makes models stand out

In mid October I evaluated a Nissan Juke, a brash, sassy, one-of-a-kind runner that Nissan classifies as a “sport cross.” There is no sport cross category in the auto business, but the label serves to show that Juke is like no other model. Its sport aspect comes from Juke’s quick, small-car maneuverability and from its peppy, turbocharged four-cylinder engine – and also from Juke’s rowdy, stand-out appearance that draws attention because it is so unique. The cross elements of Juke are attributes of a crossover SUV, especially generous road clearance and all-wheel drive available as an option.

But October is a mixed-weather month that is nothing like the harsh season we’re now just entering. Driving a Nissan Juke then, I couldn’t test those cross characteristics that would make the model an appealing winter fighter.

A second chance came last week, when I happened to be driving a Juke during our first snowfall that stuck. I ventured out early Monday morning to push the sprite, spunky Nissan over roads that wore enough snow, ice and heavy slush to delay the opening of schools in Salem and Windham, N.H. Sure, we’ll see mornings far worse. But Monday’s snow was enough to try the traction of an all-wheel-drive Juke.

There’s no mistaking the fact that, around here, all-wheel drive is a primary selling point for most vehicles that offer it. That includes the whole SUV and crossover-SUV class, from hulking seven-passenger sport-utility vehicles that are closed-in pickup trucks, like the Ford Expedition, Dodge Durango and Nissan Armada, to more petite, compact crossovers that are cars with high-wagon bodies, like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue. It includes all Subarus, which owe their local popularity to adept all-wheel traction. It includes the increasing number of luxury cars that augment their allure with an all-wheel-drive option, like the Mercedes-Benz C-300 4Matic, BMW 328i xDrive and Infiniti G37x AWD.

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