The popularity of truck-based SUVs slumped when gas prices first spiked last decade, and never recovered. Filling their places in America's driveways came a new legion of vehicles offering similar practicality, but smaller and more economical. Termed crossovers, these vehicles come with independent suspensions for a more comfortable ride and better handling. And although they may not be as rugged as their predecessors, the five here feature all-wheel drive for extra grip when the going gets slippery.
Audi's Allroad is a somewhat lifted wagon, a good choice if you favor a more car-like driving position. It relies on Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, made famous in World Rally Car competitions, designed more for cornering at speed on gravel than tackling a 30-degree rutted ascent. The car is a bit of a technical marvel and appeals to gadget heads who want to explore the back country.
The X1 looks like BMW's bigger Sports Activity Vehicles (BMW's name for its crossovers) but it has the dimensions of a wagon. BMW's xDrive all-wheel drive works as a rear-biased system, yet sends torque to the front wheels when needed. The X1 appeals to anyone who appreciates BMW driving dynamics but wants more-practical interior space than offered in a sedan or coupe, plus the extra grip afforded by all-wheel drive.
The Flex is an oddly shaped vehicle, not fitting easily into any category, but it does recall wagons of yore in its style. Its large interior space makes it an easier leap from an SUV than the previous two cars here. The front-wheel-drive platform on which the Flex is based does not prevent Ford from giving it a very capable all-wheel-drive system, able to shunt 100 percent of its torque from front to rear axles. Ford sweetens the deal with torque vectoring, which enhances handling.
The relatively recent GLK-class is Mercedes-Benz's response to America's desire for smaller, more-fuel-efficient vehicles. It has the upright character of a traditional SUV but boasts a comfort-tuned suspension. With Mercedes-Benz compact 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, it defaults to a 45 percent front and 55 percent rear torque split. Depending on conditions, 70 percent of its torque shifts to either front or rear wheels.
Subaru was making all-wheel-drive crossovers before anyone came up with the term. Joining its popular Outback and Forester is the new XV Crosstrek, an attractive and practical vehicle benefiting from Subaru's years of boxer engine and all-wheel-drive development. Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive delivers a 50/50 torque split between front and back wheels.