12 Best AWD and 4×4 SUVs for 2021
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When you need extra traction while driving, all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD or 4×4) may be a good option. Both drivetrains supply power to the front and rear tires, which gives you better control. A 4×4 SUV is largely intended for off-road situations, but the best AWD SUVs can be especially useful for people who regularly drive through snow or rain. These drivetrains are also helpful if you live in a place where the roads are uneven or unpaved.
|Best AWD and 4WD SUVs|
|Best AWD SUVs|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E||4.59||$45,595|
|Best 4×4 SUVs|
|Ford Bronco Sport||4.60||$26,820|
|Jeep Grand Cherokee||4.23||$36,395|
How we chose the best AWD and 4×4 SUVs
We ranked a total of 20 new SUVs based on expert and consumer reviews from Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book (KBB). We narrowed the list to the six best AWD SUVs and the six best 4WD SUVs, and ranked them from highest to lowest based on their average score.
Best AWD SUVs
2021 Kia Sorento
- 4.67 out of 5
- $31,190 starting MSRP
- 26/24/29 MPG combined/city/highway
The Kia Sorento is a muscular midsize SUV that offers optional all-wheel drive on the base LX trim for the starting price listed above. The Sorento comes with a 191-horsepower four-cylinder engine for daily driving or an optional 281-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder on the EX trim and above (starting MSRP: $36,790, including AWD). When equipped with AWD, the Sorento stays planted on slippery roads thanks to four performance modes, including Snow Mode to increase traction. The three-row Sorento seats seven people. All models come with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an 8-inch touch screen and safety features like lane keep assist and driver attention warning. If a hybrid all-wheel drive SUV is on your shopping list, you may want to wait until Kia releases the plug-in hybrid Sorento, which is in production (a hybrid Sorento is available now, but there’s no AWD option).
2021 Mustang Mach-E
- 4.60 out of 5
- $45,595 starting MSRP
- 93/100/86 MPGe combined/city/highway
Inspired by Ford’s iconic Mustang muscle car, the Mustang Mach-E joins the brand’s lineup as its first all-electric crossover SUV. Buyers can add all-wheel drive to improve the Mustang Mach-E’s performance and handling and provide additional traction in bad weather, but doing so ups the starting price to the above figure. All-wheel drive also shortens the SUV’s range. In its standard configuration, the Mustang Mach-E’s rear-wheel-drive models can travel 230 miles on battery power, while all-wheel-drive models get only 211 miles on a full charge. The Mach-E is a stylish, if expensive, addition to the EV market, with comfortable seating for up to five people. All models come with an impressive 15.5-inch touch screen, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and a reverse sensing system.
2021 Kia Telluride
- 4.52 out of 5
- $34,190 starting MSRP
- 21/19/24 MPG combined/city/highway
The Kia Telluride is an energetic three-row SUV with a 291-horsepower V6 engine that offers an optional Active On-Demand All-Wheel Drive System starting with the base model. Selecting the system adds to the price for the starting MSRP, listed above. It monitors road conditions using electronic sensors and redistributes power to the tires to improve traction and control. The Telluride is spacious inside and seats up to eight people on synthetic leather upholstery. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Kia’s UVO infotainment system (with an 8-inch touch screen) come standard. Advanced safety features, including automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert are also included.
2021 Hyundai Palisade
- 4.42 out of 5
- $34,375 starting MSRP
- 21/19/24 MPG combined/city/highway
The Hyundai Palisade is a large SUV powered by a V6 engine, which comes with the option to add the HTRAC All-Wheel Drive system to the base model for the listed starting price. With Snow Mode and AWD Lock, the Palisade can drive over snow, water and gravel without losing control. The Palisade has a roomy cabin that can seat up to eight people comfortably, and has a generous amount of cargo room. Upper trims feature leather upholstery, heated seats and second-row captain’s chairs. All models come with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an 8-inch touch screen. The Palisade is equipped with standard safety features, including smart cruise control and a parking distance warning system that’s utilized when backing up.
2021 Nissan Rogue
- 4.42 out of 5
- $27,150 starting MSRP
- 29/26/33 MPG combined/city/highway
Newly redesigned, the 2021 Nissan Rogue delivers a smoother ride and better handling — especially when outfitted with the brand’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, which does add to the base price for the starting MSRP listed above. When traveling over gravel, uneven pavement or wet roads, AWD distributes power for added traction and control. On smooth surfaces, the AWD Rogue automatically shifts power to the front wheels to improve its efficiency. Of its five drive modes, the Snow Mode and Off-Road Mode help the driver stay in control. The Rogue has a handsome cabin with comfortable seats. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and the NissanConnect infotainment system, which comes with an 8-inch touch screen, are standard in all trims.
2021 Audi Q5
- 4.42 out of 5
- $43,300 starting MSRP
- 25/23/28 MPG combined/city/highway
The Audi Q5 comes with a choice of three engines: a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a twin-turbo V6 engine and a plug-in hybrid powertrain consisting of a turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor. All models come with Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. Audi’s AWD gives you the extra control and traction you need when traveling in bad weather or on rougher roads. Even in dry conditions, AWD enhances the Q5’s handling and cornering ability. The Q5 features an upscale cabin trimmed with leather upholstery and wood inlays. All models get a 10.1-inch touch screen and advanced safety features, such as adaptive cruise control.
Best 4WD SUVs
2021 Ford Bronco Sport
- 4.60 out of 5
- $26,820 starting MSRP
- 26/25/28 MPG combined/city/highway
The Bronco returns with three models to choose from: a two-door, a four-door and a small Sport SUV, which we’ll focus on here. The Sport has a standard 4×4 drivetrain at the lowest price among our 4WD SUVs, and comes with more standard features than the Wrangler (which we’ll discuss in a minute). The five-mode Terrain Management System helps the Bronco Sport handle muddy, rocky and dusty terrain — and with 8.8 inches of ground clearance, the SUV can drive over wet, snowy and jagged surfaces. The Bronco Sport is also available in five trims. Its five-passenger cabin is outfitted with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot and the SYNC3 infotainment system, which comes with an 8-inch touch screen. The standard Ford Co-Pilot360 package of advanced safety features includes pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking and a lane-keeping system.
2021 Ford Expedition
- 4.47 out of 5
- $53,045 starting MSRP
- 19/17/22 MPG combined/city/highway
Ford’s largest SUV comes with a 4WD option that increases the starting price for the MSRP shown above. The 4×4’s terrain management system tunes the suspension to help the Expedition drive across sand, snow and uneven surfaces. When properly equipped, the 4×4 Expedition can tow up to 9,200 pounds. All trims come with the SYNC3 infotainment system and an 8-inch touch screen, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Ford Co-Pilot360 package of advanced safety features includes blind spot monitoring and automatic high-beam headlights.
2021 Jeep Wrangler
- 4.32 out of 5
- $28,475 starting MSRP
- 21/20/24 MPG combined/city/highway
The Jeep Wrangler was designed for driving off-road — which is why 4×4 comes with even the base two-door Sport trim — and draws its power from one of four available engines. The compact SUV also offers three 4×4 drivetrains to suit different driving conditions: Command-Trac provides torque to all four wheels when necessary; Selec-Trac shifts power based on efficiency amidst weather conditions; and the Rock-Trac system stays ready for off-roading. The cabin features water-resistant and durable materials that are easy to clean, but the base model is pretty Spartan. Upper trims come with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot and an 8.4-inch touch screen. Car buyers can add advanced safety features such as blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 4.22 out of 5
- $36,395 starting MSRP
- 21/18/25 MPG combined/city/highway
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is an excellent off-roader with four-wheel drive available on the base Laredo E trim, for the starting MSRP above. Its standard V6 engine is sufficient for daily driving, but if your heart is set on off-roading, upgrade to one of its three V8s. (Be warned, though, that a fully-loaded Grand Cherokee won’t come cheap.) In the middle of the pack, the Trailhawk trim is equipped with the Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, which can transfer all of the engine’s torque to a single wheel, giving the Grand Cherokee incredible traction. You might want to consider moving to the Laredo X trim (at least) for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and the Uconnect infotainment system with 8.4-inch touch screen. Safety features like blind spot and cross path detection and rear park assist with stop come standard, though shoppers can add advanced safety features like lane-departure warning and parallel and perpendicular park-assist.
2021 Jeep Cherokee
- 4.00 out of 5
- $28,255 starting MSRP
- 24/21/29 MPG combined/city/highway
Seeing a trend here? Like the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, the Cherokee offers a choice of engines, ranging from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a V6. The compact SUV also has three available 4×4 systems designed to improve traction in bad weather, when towing a heavy object or on rocky terrain — they distribute power to the wheels when necessary to give the driver more control. The five-passenger Cherokee’s tech features include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice recognition and the Uconnect infotainment system, which comes with a 7-inch touch screen. Standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning.
2021 Toyota 4Runner
- 4.00 out of 5
- $38,465 starting MSRP
- 17/16/19 MPG combined/city/highway
The Toyota 4Runner delivers off-road performance with a V6 engine and part-time 4WD drivetrain on its base 4×4 SR5 model (a 4×2 SR5 starts at $36,590). This lets you turn on the 4WD capacity when it’s needed. If you want full-time 4WD, you’ll need to upgrade to the Limited or Nightshade Special Edition. The top-of-the-line TRD Pro comes with multi-terrain select, which allows you to control wheel spin based on the driving condition and crawl control, automatically adjusting the speed and braking when navigating a difficult path. All models come with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an 8-inch touch screen. The 4Runner is equipped with a suite of driver assistance technologies, including pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic high-beam headlights.
AWD vs. 4WD: What’s the difference?
An all-wheel drive (AWD) drivetrain sends power to the front and rear tires. This is different from a front-wheel drive vehicle, which supplies the power to just the tires in the front. Supplying power to all four tires improves traction and helps the driver stay in control — which is especially helpful if the weather is bad or the quality of the road has deteriorated.
Similarly, a four-wheel drive (4WD) sends power to both the front and rear tires. However, 4WD drivetrains are typically more robust than AWD systems — in other words, it may be more power than you need. While 4WD is helpful when the roads are slick, it’s typically intended for more rigorous situations, such as off-roading.
Ways to finance the best AWD and 4×4 SUVs
Before you buy a new AWD or 4×4 SUV, it’s a good idea to shop around for an auto loan. Having your financing in place before you buy a car can save money. Start with your bank, credit union or online lender, or fill out a single form at LendingTree: There, you can get up to five auto loan offers from lenders in just a few minutes, depending on your creditworthiness.