The 2019 Lexus RS450hL AWD hybrid shown near Leavenworth, Wash., handled skillfully in winter weather conditions.The White Knuckle exterior paint on the 2019 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop is a deceiving moniker as this beast plows through winter snow and ice.

This winter’s Northwest snows are no match for these two tigers

It’s been a late but exceptionally harsh winter since early February in the Northwest with more snow still falling.

Fortunately, we had two recent testers that were prepared for wintery roads.

The 2019 Lexus RX450hL AWD was a splendid vehicle to drive across three mountain passes and abundant snowy roads. This luxury hybrid SUV also provided amazing fuel economy even with its 3.5-L 308 HP V-6 engine. EPA/DOT ratings are 29 MPG/overall (29/city and 28/highway). Over seven days and 500-plus miles of road driving, we experienced 30.8 overall.

While the standard RX450h has a starting price just over $46,000, our RX450hL had an MSRP of $54,655 and $8,085 of installed options for a final price of $62,740. Pricy, but our unit was equipped with everything we desired and plenty more.

Standard features we really liked for winter driving included the 20-inch all—season tires mounted on very attractive Superchrome five-spoke alloy wheels, integrated fog lamps, heated front and rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, heated wood steering wheel, and Dynamic Torque Control AWD that worked admirably on snow and ice surfaces.

Of course, to add peace of mind for winter driving we liked the standard 10-airbag system, Lexus Enform Safety Connect & Service Connect systems, as well as the Lexus Safety System+ (lane departure alert, pre-collision warning, all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and more).

Added safety with options on our tester included blind-spot monitoring with Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking, heated outside mirrors, triple beam LED auto-leveling headlamps (superb for nighttime winter driving), and a Cold Weather Package (wiper de-icer and headlamp cleaner).

Other likable standard features included 12-way power and leather trimmed front seats with 4-way lumbar (well used on our 500-plus mile trip), power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, LED interior ambient lighting, power tilt/slide moonroof, power/folding third row seats for added cargo space, power opening rear door, and tri-zone climate control.

And while there is a standard nine-speaker Lexus multimedia system on the RX450hL, our favorite option was the 12.3-inch navigation system combined with a Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio package that was both extremely useful and amazingly soothing for the long and wintery drives we had in the Lexus.

Though the road conditions we experienced with this tester were often challenging, our overall experience was totally pleasurable, in part due to the comfort and safety features, but also its four-sensor/four-channel ABS and EBD system, plus a suspension system that created a powerful but comfortable ride with its independent front (MacPherson struts with coil spring and gas-pressurized shocks) and independent double-wishbone rear (coil spring/gas shocks), both with stabilizer bars.


Durango is beast in wintery weather

     The 2019 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop AWD was made for winter driving, at least from our perspective, but it’s one of about 13 Durango models.

     One can start with a Durango (SXT model starts at $30,195), work up to a Citadel Anodized Platinum model ($46,270 base price) with most models being RWD.

     The Durango GT AWD starts at $37,045 but seven optional equipment packages, including the $1,095 Blacktop package (20-inch high gloss black aluminum wheels, gloss black exterior mirrors, and gloss black badges) nudged it to $53,260.

     Our tester had the 3.6-L 24-valve V-6 engine paired with an eight-speed 850RL automatic transmission (there are optional 5.7-L V-8 HEMI and 6.4-L V-8 SRT HEMI engines available on select models). It provided genuine power (295 HP with dual exhaust) and efficient shifting. EPA/DOT fuel ratings are 21 MPG overall (18/city and 25/highway) and we experienced close proximity to those figures during a weeklong test.

     Standard equipment includes 4-Wheel Traction Control, a sport mode, electronic stability control, ParkView rearview camera, ParkSense rear parking assist, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, leather-trimmed bucket seats, and advanced multi-stage front airbags.

     The optional $4,350 GT Plus Package had some 20 items ranging from heated front seats to a power lift gate, while a $2,495 Technology Group package offered adaptive cruise control (which we really like), Advanced Brake Assist, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning, lane departure warning, and rain-sensitive wipers.

     Other packages include everything from GPS navigation to an upgraded audio system, trailer-tow equipment to a rear seat entertainment system.

     A rear load-leveling suspension and excellent electronic steering provided us exemplary ride and handling on our tester. It performed well is ice, snow, and mud conditions.

     Towing capacity on the Durango with the V-6 engine is 6,200 pounds. Cargo space is 85.1 cubic feet behind the front seat.

     Interior space on the Durango is generous and seating is quite comfortable. Overall, it is a tiger in winter driving conditions and provided us with all the tech, safety, and usability we needed.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.