Mountain Cars For Ski Bums On A Budget

subaru legacy

Photo: Subaru

After a long slowdown, auto sales have made a comeback.According to Zacks Investment Research, in September 2012, 14.9 million vehicles were sold, and that was the highest monthly number since March 2008.

Check out these mountain-ready cars >

If you’re looking for a new car and you and your family crave the ski slopes or frequently take trips to the mountains, Bankrate has come up with five great vehicles for you.

Several factors were considered when deciding on these selections:

  • Performance.
  • Cost.
  • Safety.
  • Cargo capacity.
  • Other winter weather features.

We queried our friends at Edmunds.com, the car experts, for suggestions. Then Bankrate narrowed the list down to five fabulous mountain cars for winter driving.

Here’s a secret to keep in mind when shopping: “A good set of snow tires and a dash of driver’s common sense will get just about any front-wheel-drive vehicle most places that an all-wheel-drive model will go when the snow flies,” says Bill Visnic, a senior editor at Edmunds.com.

Here are our choices listed according to base price, with the least expensive first.

This story was originally published by Bankrate.

Subaru Legacy

Base price: $20,295
Gas mileage: City -- 21 mpg, Highway -- 28 mpg

The 2013 models are available in four-cylinder or six-cylinder engines.

Subaru says the Subaru Legacy handles better and drives more smoothly than in previous years, making it one of the most reasonably priced mountain cars.

Performance: This is the only car in its class to offer all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, which helps with making a quick response in slippery conditions.

The car's stability control helps keep it on the driver's intended path.

Safety: The car's EyeSight system, an option on some models, comes with two cameras mounted on the rearview mirror and alerts the driver if the car wanders out of its lane or if the driver should brake to avoid a collision.

Four-wheel antilock brakes come standard on the Subaru Legacy model.

Cargo capacity: The cargo volume is 14.7 cubic feet, and the rear seat folds completely down or you can split it, allowing you to carry large items and one passenger at the same time.

Features: A dual-zone climate control lets the driver and passenger set their own ideal temperatures. Heated seats, a ski attachment and accompanying hardware that holds six pairs of skis can be added.

Ford Taurus

Base price: $26,600
Gas mileage: City -- 19 mpg, Highway -- 29 mpg

A new hood design and bold new grille plus a wide stance and refined suspension mark the major changes to the new Taurus.

Performance: A four-cylinder engine combines direct injection with a turbocharger, making the Taurus comparable to a car with a V-6 engine.

Front-wheel-drive comes standard, but you can opt for all-wheel-drive. Antilock brakes and Curve Control, which slows the car when it senses you're cornering too fast, come standard on all models.

Safety: Projector-beam halogen headlamps focus more light in front of the car, giving the driver greater visibility. Adaptive cruise control monitors traffic ahead and automatically adjusts speed to maintain a safe distance.

Cargo capacity: The Taurus seats five. The trunk measures a generous 20.1 cubic feet, and for even more room, the rear seat folds forming a 60/40 split.

Features: Ford Taurus comes with 10-way power adjustment for the driver and front passenger seats, and optional heated front passenger seats, and optional heated front and rear seats -- perfect after a day on the slopes.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Base price: $27,495

Gas mileage: City -- 17 mpg, Highway -- 23 mpg

Performance: You have three four-wheel-drive systems to choose from.

Hill Descent Control with grade sensing allows a controlled hill descent on rough terrain, while Hill Start Assist helps when starting from a stop on a hill.

This near-luxury crossover offers a spacious interior, a standard 3.6-liter 24-valve V-6 engine and an optional all-wheel-drive system with five different settings including 'snow,' a great option for mountain cars.

Safety: Dual radar sensors monitor blind spots. Driver- and passenger-seat-mounted pelvic and thoracic air bags are standard.

Cargo capacity: Standard towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. Cargo space behind the second row is 35.1 cubic feet. With rear seats folded down, it's 68.7 cubic feet.

Features: Grand Cherokee's Quadra-Lift Air Suspension adds up to 4.1 inches of lift supported by four-corner air springs for a smooth ride. Heated front and rear seats are optional.

Ford Explorer

Base price: $29,135
Gas mileage: City -- 20 mpg, Highway -- 28 mpg

The power of a 3.5-liter 290-horsepower V-6 engine makes merging, accelerating and pulling a trailer easy.

Performance: With Hill Descent Control, you push a button, and the vehicle maintains a steady speed going down a hill while you focus on steering.

Curve Control increases the driver's control in turns, a reason to add it to your list of mountain cars.

Safety: The Explorer XLT model features inflatable rear safety belts that distribute crash-force energy across more of the torso and provide greater support for the head and neck.

All Explorers come with front passenger knee air bags, four-wheel antilock brakes, and stability and traction control.

Cargo capacity: With three rows of seats, this sport utility vehicle easily carries seven passengers. The third row split-folds 50/50 into a flat space. With the second and third row of seats folded down, you'll have 80.7 cubic feet of storage space.

Features: An optional remote start button with automatic climate control provides a comfortable 72-degree interior with heated seats and defrosted mirrors. The power lift-gate, also optional, is convenient if your hands are full.

Acura RDX

Base price: $34,320
Gas mileage: City -- 20 mpg, Highway -- 28 mpg

Slightly more expensive than our other mountain cars, the Acura RDX has been fully redesigned with a new look, new engine, roomier interior, increased fuel economy and revised all-wheel-drive.

Performance: The RDX comes with a 3.5-liter 273-horsepower V-6 engine and antilock brakes. It's available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive models.

Safety: Safety features include an antilock braking system, child-seat anchors, and driver and passenger head restraints.

Cargo capacity: The roomy cabin allows for the seating of five adults. Storage available behind the rear seats measures 26.1 cubic feet. With rear seats folded down, the RDX gives you 76.9 cubic feet of space.

Features: The front seats have dual-level heaters. You can add a voice-activated navigation system and a power tailgate. Press a button on your key fob, and the tailgate opens automatically.

When you're finished loading your ski equipment, press the button again, and the tailgate lowers and latches.

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