Driving in the Canadian winter can be a challenge and not the most pleasant experience. Conditions such as cold, snow, and ice force us to prepare and drive our vehicles in a harsh environment. In the last few years there have been many advancements made to make driving easier, items such as anti-lock brakes, limited-slip drivetrains, winter tires, and of course heated seats and steering wheels.
For serious winter driving, all-wheel or four-wheel drive systems are a must, and most auto makers provide such system which allow a minimum of consternation when traveling in less-than-ideal conditions.
Discussed here are three examples of vehicles which provide comfort and safety in winter driving. This exercise was performed in conjunction with AJAC’s (Automobile Journalist Association of Canada) Winter Rally program of evaluating several vehicles by members. Shown here are premium vehicles offering roominess, luxury, and a host of connectivity and user applications to get to the ski hill with a minimum of worry.
Chrysler has been building mini vans since 1984, and the latest version Pacifica continues this legacy as a popular people mover. For 2021, the 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-piece driveshaft connects the front engine and powertrain to a rear-wheel drive system for maximum drive effort when needed. This system is transparent, and is monitored by such factors as weather, wheel slip, evasive steering, and windshield wiper use. There are no controls for the driver to decide how to handle the situation, as the Pacific decides automatically.
The Pacifica is powered by the PentaStar 3.6-liter V6 coupled to a nine-speed auto, providing lots of power for any situation. With a 3088.4-mm (121.6-inch) wheelbase, the Pacifica provides a smooth and comfortable ride for up to eight people, and this seating configuration can be adapted to almost any cargo situation with the Stow n Go seating system. With over 2463 liters (87 cubic feet) of area behind the Pacifica’s second seat, carrying a large amount of winter gear is a snap.
The Pacifica Pinnacle version tested here is the top-line model, with a host of in-cabin features to make the trip to the ski hill a positive experience. Along with 12 USB ports, the van featured a 10.1-inch screen with Chrysler’s Uconnect 5, Nappa leather seating, and a unique FAMCAM interior camera which allows the driver to see rear seat passengers.
Outside the Pacifica has received styling updates and LED head and taillights. With a 5.4-inch ground clearance and aggressive winter tires the test Pacifica passed the winter driving tests with ease, driving through snow as high as the door bottoms and turning where you pointed it.
The Pacifica is assembled in Windsor, Ontario and the AWD Touring edition is available in four trims, starting at $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 inches of ground clearance on the 3070-mm (120-inches) wheelbase, one would be hard-pressed to get stuck.
The new AT4 model features the newly integrated independent rear suspension paired with automatic 4WD that reacts in real-time to road conditions, improving traction while driving in off-road or in slick conditions like rain or snow. Combined with a new electronic limited-slip rear differential, the Yukon is off-road capable and perfect for snowy missions. With its air ride suspension, the standard eight inches of clearance can be increased another two inches.
The new AT4 model reflects the all-new for 2021 Yukon, revitalized in all areas including independent rear suspension, more interior space, and exterior styling. Unique to the AT4 are front towing hooks, specific interior styling cues, and an overall sporty flavor to the large SUV.
The new rear suspension with air ride gives the Yukon better, more controlled handling than before along with a much smoother ride.
Inside the roomy cabin is well-finished with easy to use and well-placed switchgear. GMC has taken the Lincoln approach to its shifter with dash-mounted gear selection and this helps to provide an immense center console. Interior cargo area is 3482 liters (123 cubic feet). The Yukon can tow up to 8500 pounds which will easily handle the snowmobile trailering. Or getting to that remote camp in the warmer weather with its manual drive mode selection of two-wheel high, four-wheel high, and four-wheel low.
The AT4 tested here is powered by GM’s 5.3-liter V8 of 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, which should be adequate. Acceleration is smooth through the 10-speed transmission and the subdued growl of the V8. The 6.2-liter V8 is available, as is a new 3.0-liter diesel engine. An extended wheelbase XL model (3403-mm, 134 inches) is available as well.
Pricing for the Yukon AT4 starts at $74,698, and the price of the test vehicle with all the options comes in at $88,833.
Genesis has entered the luxury SUV market with its GV80, a new vehicle which should make its Japanese and German competitors take note. As a logical companion to its sports sedans, Genesis has introduced a mid-size go-anywhere SUV with notable performance, good road manners, and a grand and well-appointed interior.
While the GV80 is available as two-wheel drive in other countries, Canadians are only able to purchase the all-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 basis with a limited-slip differential at the rear. The system can also send power to the wheels that need the most help providing traction for almost any snowy or off-road situation.
The exterior of the Genesis is clean, quite robust-looking, and devoid of unnecessary adornments, but it is the interior that provides an aura of luxury in its cabin with real wood and aluminum panels, exquisite controls, and Nappa leather seating. Highlighting the interior occupants in the top-line Prestige model is a 12.3-inch digital screen with a huge variety of functions, but there are buttons and switches on the dashboard and console, which can be used for some of the functions.
Shifting is through a dial on the console, a 21-speaker sound system feels strong enough to blow out the windows, and all doors shut with a soft-close feature in keeping with the elegance of the GV80. Most convenience items such as wireless cellphone charging, proximity key and push-button start, and heated front and rear seats come in all models.
The GV80 is available in four trims from the $64,500 Select with 2.5-liter 300-horsepower four-cylinder engine to the Prestige with a 3.5-liter 375-horsepower V6 at $85,000. Both engines are turbocharged connected to an eight-speed automatic. The limited-slip rear diff and advanced suspension system comes only with the V6. Ground clearance is 205-mm (eight inches), and there is 991 liters (35 cubic feet) of cargo area behind the second seat.
The new GV80 has the capability to get to you safely and competently to your destination in extreme winter driving conditions in a luxurious interior just this side of opulence.