I own a 1998 Toyota RAV4 (bought new)which I've been very happy with and have begun researching a new vehicle. I plan to purchase in the next year or so. My top criteria are good fuel economy, AWD for snow/icey weather, contained space for two 60# dogs, reliability, price around 25,000 with some flexibility. I am looking at Toyotas or a Subarus so far, but would like any advice you can provide.
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Als, you might want to look into the Suzuki XL7, Subaru Outback (Subaru vehicles are known for the AWD feature), or Honda Element.
As far as AWD for icy weather, that is a good idea, however don't be afraid of getting a FWD (front wheel drive) vehicle because it will handle really well and better than a RWD (rear wheel). In icy conditions you want the weight of the vehicle to be on the wheels that give the traction (in this case, if it is a FWSD, the front ones would). When the weight of the vehicle is on those whells, you will get the best traction, therefore being the safest.
For example, when you apply the breaks, your weight transfers to the front of the vehicle. If you are driving an AWD or FWD car, you will be safest (most traction) when this happens!
It is also VERY important to use winter tires instead of all-season tires on your car. Check out this article on the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 tire:
I hope this info helps! Also, check out www.epinions.com for consumer opinions on vehicles.