Five Underrated Winter Cars
This week, a whole lot of people in places where it doesn't usually snow got some on-the-job training about driving in the winter. Unless you're in Hawaii, the winter months can always throw you a curveball, so it's good to prepare with something that actually works winter and summer. We've got five vehicles you probably haven't thought about in a while that will cut through the snow and ice and still give you something fun to drive the rest of the year. 1990-Present Mazda Miata
Yes, the Mazda Miata can be an exceptionally good winter car, especially if you live in an area where ice is more of a concern than the depth of the snow. You can buy a new one, of course, or you can dip back into its 25 year history and grab something cheap. If ice is your enemy, look for a Miata with a limited slip differential, and for God's sake, buy four good tires. A good example is the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, a tire built specifically to grip hockey rinks.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2012 Mazda Miata Special Edition
1979-1995 Saab 900 Convertible
At a time when Saabs were still a novelty in America, a guy named Bob Sinclair, who was the president of Saab-Scania of America, demanded that the Swedish manufacturer turn out something Americans would like. The original prototype had its roof cut off by those butchers at the American Sunroof Company (ASC), but at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1983, Saab showed a 900 Convertible of its own design. It went on to be the darling of the Northeast, with its perfect combination of summer enjoyment and front-wheel drive winter capability. They were expensive then, but good examples are around for $2,000 today.
PHOTOS: See More of the Saab 900
1990-2005 Chevrolet Astro AWD
We guarantee you've never given an Astro a second thought, but the all-wheel-drive Astro from 1990 on can be a winter killer, especially if you like to haul kids or dirtbikes around. They're a unibody with a bolt-on subframe up front and leaf springs at the rear, so be conscious of rust issues. The 4.3-liter fuel injected V6 takes modifications pretty well, and you can lift them a bit for better ground clearance. The best Astros are from between 2003 to when production ended in '05, when they got 16-inch wheels, bigger brakes and better suspension components.
1979-1985 Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado
The single greatest winter car we ever experienced firsthand was the 1979 to 1985 Cadillac Eldorado. Good fuel mileage, superb comfort and incredible deep snow performance made it a winter killer. The only problem was the horrible, aluminum 4100 Cadillac V8. With the Riviera and the Toronado, you got the same car with a proper smallblock V8, displacing as much as 350 cubic inches.
Buick Riviera T-Types featured the turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 out of the Regal T-Type. They're becoming relatively collectible now, but considering Buick sold them at a rate of around 65,000 a year, there are still plenty around. For summer, you could find a Riviera convertible, too.
PHOTOS: Future Riv - See More of the 2013 Riviera Concept
1995 to 1999 BMW 318Ti
BMW sold 350,000 318 Compacts around the world, but only managed to get rid of a handful here in the United States between 1995 and 1999. Like the 2002 Touring, they're an abbreviated hatchback based on the more popular sedan, but the E36-based 318Ti features the semi-trailing arm rear suspension from the old E30. The know-nothing media of the mid-1990s thought it oversteered too much, but with its 138hp four and a good set of snow tires, you can leave your foot right to the mat and drift your way from November to April. Rare 318Tis featured a Webasto-style, fully opening canvas top, and some editions were equipped with M-Sport packages just like the normal 3 Series.
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