Once upon a time, only farmers would consider a four-wheel drive vehicle, but now, there are four-wheel drive versions of pretty much every type of car, which is handy when it comes to driving in slippery conditions.
Don’t forget, however: just because a car is sold as an SUV, which typically means a raised ride height and some chunky styling, it doesn’t necessarily have four-wheel drive (known also as 4x4 and 4WD). Most smaller SUVs come as standard with front-wheel drive, and a few have four-wheel drive as a more expensive option.
Some are marketed as four-wheel drive but send power to the front wheels only in normal conditions, with some power going to the rear wheels too when the car senses a loss of grip. It tends to be only at the more expensive, larger end of the SUV scale that four-wheel drive becomes a permanent feature.
One final tip: adding winter tyres to the powered wheels provides even more grip in cold conditions.
So with all that in mind, these are our favourite 4x4 cars for 2020.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The new Land Rover Discovery Sport looks very similar to the previous model but it’s a smarter gig altogether, with a choice of smartly stitched leathers or sustainable materials inside, a new infotainment system, and fantastic tech such as ClearSight, which turns the rear-view mirror into a camera image of what’s behind.
Tow Assist does the counter-steering for you when reversing a trailer. And you cannot beat Land Rover’s off-roading prowess: take the car to a Land Rover Experience centre to try it out.Read the full review
and find your Land Rover Discovery Sport on Auto Trader here
The Eighties are calling, but in a good way. The Jimny is a small, back-to-basics, light, cheeky SUV, with a small, frugal, eager engine and a crude but perfectly formed off-roading system, including a low-range transfer box which keeps the wheels turning through the steep, slippery mud and sends the car skipping over hills like a Welsh lamb. Also available in lime green
: oh yes.Read the full review
and explore the Suzuki Jimny range on Auto Trader here
Audi A4 Allroad
A sublime estate car with a raised ride height, chunky styling, quality interior and four-wheel drive. That means you get the benefits of an SUV (albeit you don’t sit quite as high up) but with better handling because the car is lower to the ground. A range of diesel and petrol engines, including some fast ones…Preview the Audi A4 Allroad here
and explore the existing Audi A4 range on Auto Trader here
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Still one of the most popular plug-in hybrids in the UK
, and great value for money. This is a large SUV with manually selectable four-wheel drive via a button for the driver; at other times it’s front-wheel drive. You should also get about 28 miles on electric power, and with 40g/km of CO2 it makes sense for business drivers.Read the full review
and explore the Mitsubishi Outlander range on Auto Trader here
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
The sexy Italian one. Choose the Quadrifoglio (the little four-leaf clover badge) version for a truly amazing engine with an incredible sound from sister company Ferrari, and four-wheel drive instead of the standard rear-wheel drive. Power only goes to all four wheels in extremis, however. Buy it in red, naturally.Read the full review
and explore the Alfa Romeo Stelvio range on Auto Trader here
The Jeep Wrangler is the fun 4x4; a true slice of rugged Americana, with massive exposed hinges and bolts, squared-off wheel arches, and a roof that comes away completely, leaving a roll cage for the kids to swing from. It feels underpowered with a lot of body roll and noise, but despite its many weaknesses, we absolutely love it. Read the full review
and explore the Jeep Wrangler range on Auto Trader here
The X5 45e is BMW’s plug-in-hybrid 4x4 SUV. It’s a large family SUV with a luxury cabin decked out in soft leathers and good sound systems if you pay the money, and the plug-in hybrid version is good for about 55 miles on electric power only, which is a very decent range. Combined with the already quiet drive at speed, the result is a restful journey. BMW’s xDrive badge denotes four-wheel drive.Read the full X5 review
and explore the full range of BMW X5s on Auto Trader here
Porsche Cayenne Coupe
This is the sporty take on the already performance-focused Porsche Cayenne SUV. So instead of a boxy rear, you get a sleek coupe silhouette and a fixed spoiler that together make a very handsome car.
All versions get four-wheel drive although the clutch ensures that, unless the tyres are scrabbling around for grip, all power goes to the rear wheels. Go for the day-glo orange paintwork. You know you want to.Preview the latest Cayenne Coupe
and explore the wider Porsche Cayenne range on Auto Trader here
A small city-focused SUV, that nonetheless has seven seats, from Mercedes. Add to that interesting little package Mercedes’ four-wheel drive system, which sends up to half the power to the rear wheels, and you have pretty much a one-off that’s worth exploring if this niche ticks your boxes.Sneak a peek at the new Mercedes GLB here
and explore the rest of the GLB class on Auto Trader here
Aston Martin DBX
It’s been a long time coming: this is Aston’s crossover SUV, with Aston design and performance but raised ride height and four-wheel drive. It’s a crossover so it’s no Land Rover, but it should be capable enough for towing boats and horse boxes across wet grass. The power split can send power in any percentage between the front and rear wheels, depending on grip loss. A plug-in hybrid and electric versions are sure to follow pronto.
Explore the full Aston Martin range on Auto Trader here
, or see more of 2020’s most anticipated new cars