I live in NW Colorado and the snow is extream and the drifts are tall. I am on call 24/7, and the roads I have to drive (36 miles one way) are twisty, hilly and un-plowed. The mountian top I live on is 1000’ difference from town which is only 4.5 miles away, very steep and icy. I currently own a 1991 Chevy 2500 with 310,000 miles and the original tranny. I need something new…soon. My fear is that an all wheel drive will get me up the hills and over the dales but will not fair well with the sometimes 2 to 3 foot drifts that I need to break thru. What is the differance between 4 wheel drive and all wheel drive and are all all wheel drives built the same and preform the same? I see a lot of Subarus out here but most are in town and drive on plowed roads. I sometimes have to leave my house in the middle of a snow storm before I can plow so just getting out with my 4 wheel can be iffy at times. One more thing to consider is my Dad worked for GM for 41 years and I get his discount so I would like to lean toward a GM, Pontiac, Chevy, or Saturn. Fuel economy is important too. Help!
It sounds to me like you need a real (part time) 4WD truck with plenty of ground clearance and serious M&S tires. I have an old jeep with part time 4WD that will claw through just about anything (it’s a complete POS otherwise). I doubt that full time AWD or a car (less ground clearance) is going to meet your needs. What do the other folks around there drive? I’m not familiar with the current GM models.
The only two AWD vehicles to consider IMHO are Subaru & Audi if best traction is your interest. Both offer excellent clearance in the Subaru Outback model and the Audi All Road.
There are many tests showing these systems excel in extreme conditions while other AWD paling. I have seen many “AWD” vehicles pale in ski slope parking lots during snow dump days (I only really ski those days).
If you want AWD price out getting dedicated four winter/snow tires. If you want GM discount and AWD I would consider the new Saab 93.
I’m not sure you understand what the OP means by “deep snow” (it would be over the hood of either the Subaru or Audi). Buying a AWD for those conditions isn’t much better than a FWD.
You mention having a truck and plowing. If it were me, I’d probably get another 2500 and a V plow. The V plow will help get you through just about any drift and as a bonus, you can plow your drive immediately when you get home. V plows can be positioned to be a lot more aerodynamic than a straight blade too so if you leave it on for extended periods, it’s not so bad a hit on the fuel economy as a straight blade.
I would suggest that in your situation the difference between AWD full time or part time 4WD is far less important than the ground clearance and the tyres. All weather tyres are not going to do it. Chains might be something to think about as well.
Perhaps the most important item would be a good cell phone.
The difference between 4 wheel drive and all wheel drive is when all four wheels are driven. Essentially, 4WD is a part-time system (you have to turn it on) while AWD is always on.
In your case, I would recommend a diesel Silverado or Sierra with 4WD, preferably a 3500 series version, since plowing is tough on a truck, as I’m sure you know. Also, make sure you get good snow tires, maybe even a set of chains, if that’s necessary.
I’m afraid your “breaking through 3 foot snow drifts” requirement is not really compatible with your “fuel economy” requirement. That requires a high-powered vehicle with lots of ground clearance. A diesel pickup would be better than most, but they don’t get anything near what I would consider acceptable fuel economy for a commuter car.
My suggestion would be an older v8 powered 4x4 with agressive tires and possibly permanently-mounted chains to get you up the hill and an AWD or FWD car with snow tires to get you everywhere else. If it’s practical you could get a snowplow for the truck and try and keep the hill passable for your commuter, or you could just find a parking spot down below and swap cars on your way up the hill.
After reading this entire thread I still vote for an AWD Subaru Outback(best fuel economy of AWD’s) or other AWD car(new 93 Saab AWD with GM discount) equipped with winter tires. This will get you out likely 90% of your winter conditions.
Keep the old truck for those terrible days and as a plow truck.
The OP doesn’t live in NH.