10 Best AWD Sedans in Canada: Cheap & Expensive Models
If you’re shopping for a 4-door car sporting all-wheel drive (AWD), here are 10 sedans to keep on your shortlist – from mainstream and affordable to more premium models.
First, a quick history of the AWD sedan and its advantages
The concept of offering all-wheel drive as part of an automobile is far from new. In fact, the idea turned 50 this year, but it took a while for most mainstream automakers to embrace the technology.
Subaru and Audi paved the way for mainstream all-wheel drive cars
Truth be told, the advent of SUVs is partially to blame for the delayed introduction of AWD in “average” cars. More upscale automakers have offered AWD with most if not all of their cars for a long time. It was long considered a premium feature despite Subaru being one of the first car companies to make it available in one of their regular cars. Perhaps it was Audi and its legendary quattro AWD system that influenced our collective thinking.
Audi’s rise to global rallye glory is without a doubt the best portrayal of an all-wheel drive system’s superiority. The short of the long is that the engine’s power can be split over four wheels compared to two, meaning that twice as many tires are working towards making the vehicle move.
No matter how the onion is peeled, having four-wheel- or all-wheel drive is an advantage, even in ideal driving conditions. Traction and stability control technologies have made two-wheel drive vehicles, be it rear- or front-wheel, far more efficient than ever before. Even so, these same technologies are adapted to working with four drive wheels. We talk more about the different drivetrains here.
There are numerous different types of AWD layouts, however, the most common are reactive types or full-time systems. The former typically relies on the front wheels for traction and should slippage occur, the rear axle is automatically engaged.
The latter involves a configuration where there’s a constant even torque split between the front and rear axles. Should speed differences be detected between the front and rear wheels, the AWD system’s brain will vary the amount of power accordingly.
Winter driving advantage
Either way, the advantages of AWD are manifold. The most obvious are during winter when, with a good set of winter tires, even a 20 cm dumping of snow won’t slow you down. Less evident is when driving in the summer. So sophisticated are some systems at managing power transfers between drive wheels that drivers do not notice their operation. The result is comforting and infallible handling.
Now more than ever, automakers are offering sedans equipped with an AWD system. To help you out with your shopping, here are the top 5 best affordable AWD sedans and the top 5 best AWD luxury sedans:
5 best affordable AWD sedans
- It’s the last internal combustion engine, large sedan sold by an American automaker
- The Charger is roomy and quite comfortable
- It is ageing well, and we still think it’s great
The Dodge Charger isn’t exactly a spring chicken, but the bottom line is that it is the last large American sedan. Its retro-modern style remains appealing – it’s really about nostalgia, and we get it. Both the SXT and GT trims can be specified with AWD however don’t expect a V8 as it comes fitted with the still smooth-running 3.6-litre V6 and a determined 8-speed automatic transmission.
The Charger, and its non-identical twin the Chrysler 300, are not long for this world, at least with an internal combustion engine. They’ve received regular updates and upgrades over the years meaning that they feature the latest in infotainment and driving aid technologies. We will miss this one when it’s gone although we have a feeling Dodge has plenty coming up that will help us get over the loss.
- It is incredibly attractive
- Surprisingly sophisticated i-Activ AWD system
- Refined and sporty driving experience
Since its introduction nearly 20 years ago, the Mazda3 has straddled the line between mainstream and premium compact cars. The fourth and current generation 3 was launched for the 2019 model year and it was clear then that Mazda had pulled nearly all the stops. Not only was the sedan’s (and hatchback’s) design to die for but its level of refinement elevated it beyond all others in the segment. The Mazda3 made our list of the best used 2019 sedans.
Now, while other more recent compact cars manage to match the Mazda3’s poshness, it remains a very rare offering in the segment that can be specified with AWD. The naturally aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission serve the car well, but performance is not quite sport-compact-like. However, ticking the Skyactiv-G 2.5 T option box transforms the 3 into a bonafide sports car, albeit a civilized one.
- Its styling is as bold as ever
- The Altima’s cabin is extremely spacious
- It is value-packed
The Nissan Altima went from super-hero in the 1990s and early 2000s, to zero up at least until very recently. The sixth-generation Altima, which launched for the 2019 model year, picked up where the third generation left off. Most notably, the current Altima is once again racy-looking, sportier in its ways, and far more premium than it’s been in a long time. The Altima’s included features, for the price, deliver unexpected value in the segment.
In a bid to compete in the still relevant midsize sedan segment, Nissan includes AWD as standard in Canada. It’s not the fastest of sedans mostly due to its 182-horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) but it still has enough power where it counts. Ride quality is very good. Overall, it’s a pleasant car to drive.
- One of the least expensive new AWD cars in Canada.
- It almost feels like a low-spec WRX.
- Smartly laid-out cabin.
The Impreza is like a go-to tool in the box that has all the answers and that serves almost every purpose. The little Subaru will effortlessly take on any road trip, anywhere, and at any time of the year. The included legendary Subaru symmetrical full-time AWD system means that there’s never any reason to worry about road conditions. Its 152-horsepower horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is efficient and generates plenty of passing power. As well, the Subaru’s ride quality is good.
The Impreza’s occupant quarters are adequately spacious and despite being an affordable compact car, it features all the necessary gear we crave today.
Subaru essentially pioneered the idea of AWD being a common feature for an everyday car. The Impreza’s roots go as far back as the 1972 Leone 4WD Estate Van and although the compact car has evolved considerably, its utilitarian yet civilized soul is intact.
- It’s a Camry
- AWD is just one of the many ways to get a Camry
- The Toyota Camry is one of the safest purchases in the industry
For decades now, the Toyota Camry has stood on its four tires as not only the best car but the best vehicle to buy for its reliability, strong resale value, and low ownership costs. None of this changed when the Camry rolled into its 8th generation for 2018. In fact, it’s never been more refined, quiet, erudite, or better to drive. As well, the Camry’s cabin is well assembled and offers plenty of room for five adults.
Selecting AWD with the midsize Toyota sedan entitles the driver to a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, which produces up to 205 horsepower, and an 8-speed automatic transmission. Together, they provide the Camry with easy forward momentum. The ride quality is near-impeccable with a definite focus on comfort over all-out handling. Even so, the latest Camry is more fun to drive than any before it.
5 best luxury AWD sedans
- Embodies elegance and prestige
- Standard quattro AWD system
- The S8 is an exceptional performance luxury sedan
Among German flagship luxury sedans, the Audi A8 may not be the best seller but this reason alone makes it more special and exclusive. The large sedan’s design is subtle, timeless, and projects confidence. The cabin is about opulence and living one’s best life.
On the road, the A8 is tank-like in its poise and performance. And by performance, we mean efficiency and comfort. The standard air suspension eliminates any road harshness while the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 delivers effortless power without the need for massive quantities of fuel thanks to its included 48V mild-hybrid technology.
The S8 is a true tower of power. Its turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine produces a staggering 563 horsepower and like the A8, its adaptive air suspension delivers an impossibly surefooted ride. Speaking of surefootedness, both versions feature Audi’s quattro AWD that is designed to take everything on, from the next apex to a massive snowfall.
BMW 3 Series
- It remains one of the most aspirational cars in the world
- The 3 Series comes in many flavours including the M3 which can include AWD for the first time
- From affordable to more than 500 horsepower, there’s a 3 Series for all
Few cars evoke thoughts of the open road, high rates of speed, and luxury as can the BMW 3 Series. Born into legend in the mid-1970s as the E21, the then-compact car evolved into a bonafide high-performance luxury sedan or coupe from the very next generation. And since then, the legend has only grown as has the number of versions.
BMW’s xDrive AWD system is included with nearly all iterations of the premium sports sedan. The recently added hyper-efficient plug-in hybrid version and the supercar-like M3 can both be specified with the innovative AWD technology. Designed for both safety and performance, BMW’s AWD puts the sedan’s power to good use no matter the driving conditions.
The BMW M3 has always stood for speed and handling but no other M3 has ever decimated the competition quite like the M3 Competition xDrive. Thanks to its 503-horsepower turbocharged inline-6-cylinder engine and AWD, this M3 is capable of hitting 100 km/h from a standstill in only 3.9 seconds. For something a little larger, there’s also the 2022 M4 Competition we reviewed here.
- It challenges all other luxury sedans on every point
- It combines performance, technology, and a unique head-turning design
- For the money, the G80 has no equal
The Genesis G80 is another example of the Hyundai Auto Group’s might. With almost disconcerting ease, Genesis has created a large, midsize premium sedan that can effortlessly tango with the best the Germans, Japanese, and Americans have to offer. Same goes for the smaller Genesis G70 sedan we compared to the Lexus IS 350.
No matter the selected version, the G80 is fitted with the brand’s AWD system. As standard, and for far less money than expected, the luxury sedan gets a 300-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine – that’s more power than the equivalent Audi and BMW offerings. The next version offers a 375-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 and it costs only a few thousand dollars more.
Value is also at play when it comes to features. The level of included equipment is beyond compare and puts most of the Genesis sedan’s competition to shame.
Beyond performance or even content, the G80 is about styling. Its unique design language sets it apart from all others and the cabin radiates opulence and luxury on par, or greater than more expensive luxury sedans.
- The Lexus ES embodies luxury and comfort
- AWD is included with the base model
- The value-features-luxury quotient is surprising
Too many of us are hung up on massive screens, 46-way power-adjustable massaging seats, and 400+ horsepower powertrains that we tend to forget what true luxury is meant to be: comfort and well-being. Lexus, in its sedans, has perfected the art of putting its customers at ease.
Luxury is also about peace of mind and the knowledge that the car being driven is unlikely to leave them stranded by the side of the road. The Lexus ES is essentially a dressed-up Toyota Camry, but this is selling it way short. The cabin is premium, smartly configured, and extremely roomy.
With AWD, the Lexus ES is powered by a naturally aspirated 203 horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Performance is better than decent while fuel efficiency is surprisingly good. The Lexus ES’ claim to a spot on this list is related to how easy it is to live with, how effortlessly luxurious it is, and how surprisingly agreeable it is to drive.
- Porsche is the standard-bearer where performance and technology are concerned
- Despite its size, the Panamera drives like a Porsche
- Like all other vehicles from the brand, there’s a Panamera for all
The Panamera may have faced scrutiny from Porsche purists, like the Cayenne before it, but it has evolved into a highly-desirable ultra-premium flagship performance sedan. In true Porsche fashion, a potential owner can spend $100,000 or 2.5x that much on an impressive automobile or one of its truly exclusive versions. If we exclude the Sport Turismo version, there are nearly 20 ways to get a Panamera sedan in Canada.
No matter the Panamera purchased, a “4” model with AWD is either offered and, if not, then it is included. The “lowliest” Panamera is delivered with 325 horsepower while a Turbo S E-Hybrid pounds the pavement with 690 ponies. All of the above are truly special to drive and can be configured to your absolute tastes.
The Panamera may be fast and capable of carving up a track on weekends, but its primary goal is to pamper with comfort, exceptional technologies, and attention to detail worthy of the brand’s pedigree.
Ready to buy a used AWD sedan?
We outlined 10 solid choices for Canadians looking for a 4-door – and we’re not talking SUVs and crossovers here. From more affordable options to the pricier, premium models like BMW, Audi, and Porsche.
Sedans in general offer great driving dynamics, loads of cargo, and ample cabin space. If you’re in the market for a used, certified 4-door car, check out our inventory of used sedans here.