Compact SUV: Subaru Forester

Click to enlarge picture2009 Subaru Forester (© Subaru of America)

2009 Subaru Forester

Yes, another Subaru. The Forester was entirely redesigned for 2009, and where its predecessor's boxy styling stood out, the new model now just blends in. But its ability to hold its own in the slick stuff is simply impossible to overlook. Meticulous development and attention to detail mean that the fundamentals have been fully covered. The new Forester is utterly solid, safe and comfortable, with a well laid-out, roomy and practical cabin. As a bonus, it now shares its larger siblings' PZEV-rated 2.5-liter boxer engine. That said, 2.5 XT trims fully qualify as all-weather performance Q-ships with their 224-horsepower turbo power unit.

Honorable mentions: The affordable Kia Sportage and the Toyota RAV4 with its surprisingly frugal 269-horse optional V6.

Crossover / SUV: Ford Edge

Click to enlarge picture2009 Ford Edge Sport (© Ford Motor Company)

2009 Ford Edge Sport

The smooth-bodied Edge was a good surprise and has been a solid success for Ford since its introduction in 2007. It was the first to get Ford's all-new and impeccably modern 3.5-liter 265-horsepower V6 engine and 6-speed automatic gearbox. The Edge is roomy, solid and well-built, with suspension geometry and settings that strike a good compromise between ride and stability. Its automatic four-wheel-drive system is not quite as unflappable as some of the competition's all-wheel-drive technology, but the Edge is safe-handling and gets the nod here for its competitive pricing and reliability.

Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Traverse and Subaru Tribeca

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Luxury SUV: Acura MDX

The distinctly styled MDX gets its own version of Acura's exceptional Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system as first used on the automaker's RL luxury sedan. It can perform continuous torque transfers between the driving wheels, front to rear and side to side, as the conditions warrant. The SH-AWD system is an important key to its winter prowess, backed up by the 300 horsepower of its 3.7-liter V6 engine. The MDX has impressive safety equipment and the full array of accessories expected of a luxury entry, and it can seat seven.

Honorable mentions: BMW X5 and Lincoln MKX

Sports Car: Audi TTS

There is no reason you should park your sports car for the winter if you live in the Snowbelt with cars such as the all-wheel-drive Audi TT. We pick the new TTS, offered as a coupe or convertible, because it is now the feistiest of the family with its 2.0-liter turbocharged 265-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual gearbox. If your budget is a bit tight, go for the 200-horse 2.0T quattro rather than the ponderous 3.2 V6.

Honorable mentions: Volkswagen R32

In the market for a new car? Would the inclusion of AWD affect your purchase decision?

Exotic Sports Car: Audi R8

Yes, you can also drive exotic sports cars in winter — this one at least. The Audi R8 is as civilized, comfortable and drivable in 6 inches of snow as it is on dry pavement. With a front/rear weight balance of 44/56 percent and a quattro all-wheel-drive system that can transfer up to 35 percent of driving torque to the front wheels, it can be driven on snow with great confidence, even with the stability system shut off, using the 4.2-liter 420-horsepower V8 engine's linear torque delivery to full advantage. Bring on the white stuff.

Honorable mentions: Nissan GT-R

A professional auto journalist for more than 25 years and the founding editor of Sympatico / MSN Autos, Marc Lachapelle is a two-time winner of the Canadian Journalist of the Year award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, an accomplished photographer and licensed racer.

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