Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient AWD Cars and Crossovers

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad
25 Years All-Wheel-Drive Expertise – BMW 5 Series Sedan model year 2010 (10/2010)

Fuel efficiency is quickly becoming one of the most sought after elements in a new car. However finding a car with good fuel efficiency usually means you have to make a few compromises.

Today’s list is of cars with the best fuel economy that are equipped with a no-compromise all, or four-wheel drive system. You’ll find a wide variety of vehicles making up this list, from luxury cars, crossovers, SUVs and even a sports car.

First on our list comes from Germany, with the new BMW 528i. The 528i is equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out a solid 240-hp and 230-lb. ft. of torque. That’s quite a bit of output for a four-cylinder, but the real story is the mpg numbers. Even when equipped with BMW’s xDrive AWD system the big 5-series can get a combined 26 mpg, and a significant 32 mpg on the highway. BMW obviously went to great lengths to ensure that the 8-speed transmission and turbocharged four-cylinder were able to make that kind of impact at the pumps, but be warned, this car has a thirst for premium fuel. Check out our review of the 528i right here.

Thanks to Audi‘s quattro all-wheel drive system, the peppy Audi TT is more than qualified for this list. Using a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine the Audi TT nets a whopping 211-hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque. Combine that with Audi’s quattro AWD and the little roadster or coupe launches to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. That’s not bad for a car that’ll get you 26 mpg in combined driving conditions. In the city though, the little Audi gets 23 mpg, while on the highway that turbocharged four-cylinder earns an acceptable 31 mpg. Audi achieves that using Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) technology that’s derived from endurance wins at LeMans.

Subaru doesn’t get much credit for it’s Lineartronic CVT. The Outback seen here, is one of three Subarus on this list, and it has a lot to do with the company’s fuel-friendly CVT. When equipped with the smaller 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, the Subaru Outback can get 24 mpg in the city, and 30 mpg on the highway. The combined 26 mpg, is tied with the cars at the number 9 and 10 spots, but the Outback gets away with slightly better city numbers. Additionally, because the Outback can run on regular octane fuel, you’re going to be saving a bit more money at the pumps than the European competition at those spots.

Our second Subaru vehicle on the list is the slightly smaller Legacy. The Legacy uses the same platform, engine and transmission as the Outback. However, since it’s a sedan, rather than a crossover, the Legacy is capable of getting slightly better fuel economy in both city and highway driving. We’d chalk that up to the 100 lb weight difference and the slightly more aerodynamic body style. The Legacy gets 27 mpg, a whole 1 mpg better than the Outback, in combined conditions and 24 mpg city, and 32 mpg highway.

The quirky Nissan crossover shows up on our list at number 6, and that’s mainly thanks to its small size and tiny, turbocharged engine. The Nissan Juke’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine produces a hefty 188 hp. That, equipped with Nissan’s torque-vectoring AWD system helps the little, economical Juke get to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. Thanks to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT the Juke can even get some impressive fuel economy numbers. In fact, the Juke’s 25 mpg in the city is pretty impressive, and while the highway fuel economy is rated at just 30 mpg, the Juke still has an attractive overall combined number of 27 mpg. Take a look at our review of the Juke right here.

Mazda’ s new CX-5 was designed from the ground up to incorporate the company’s new SkyActiv technology. It should come as no surprise that the crossover sits at number 5 on our list, even when equipped with AWD. It’s also pretty impressive to note that the CX-5 also gets a combined 28 mpg with a six-speed automatic transmission, and not a fuel-economy-minded CVT. The CX-5 can achieve it’s impressive fuel-economy thanks to it’s lower weight, and an engine with the highest compression ratio for a mass-produced car. The CX-5’s EPA-tested 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway puts it in the same company as some hybrid gas-electric crossovers. Read, or watch our review of the CX-5 right here.

MINI Countryman (02/2010)

Crossovers really do dominate this fuel-efficient AWD list, and to prove the point, we have the big- MINI countryman making it to the #4 spot on our list. When equipped with a manual transmission the Mini is able to provide 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, which comes to 28 mpg combined. This is all done thanks to the Mini’s turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which puts out 181 hp. MINI claim’s that the All4 permanent all-wheel-drive system can split torque between the front and rear axles instantaneously, which is a great handling advantage for the car. We’ve got a review of the Cooper S Countryman that you can check out right here.

Toyota‘s Highlander Hybrid hasn’t seen much attention lately, but that’s probably because it’s meeting expectations already. The Highlander Hybrid features Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy drive, which utilizes a 3.5-liter V6 and two electric motors (each one powering an axle) which combines for 280-hp. While the Highlander isn’t fully up-to-date with Toyota’s latest developments in hybrid technology, it still is able to get an impressive 28 mpg across the board in city, highway and combined driving conditions. It’s also the most efficient seven-passenger vehicle on our list. Look for Toyota to revamp the Highlander in the future, and hopefully push the envelope a bit further with the Hybrid model.

The popular Lexus RX crossover should be known by now as the most fuel efficient crossover. But even when equipped with AWD it gets pretty impressive numbers, which put it just below our number one most efficient AWD vehicle. The AWD-equipped RX450h features the latest version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy drive system, which has three electric motors. Pair those three electric motors with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and the RX450h packs a total of 295-hp. The total package means that the big Lexus can still get a combined 29 mpg, an impressive 30 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Of course, this fuel efficiency isn’t cheap, as the Lexus still costs $47,310 and requires premium fuel.

Coming in at number one on our top 10 list is the 2012 Subaru Impreza. Although with just 148-hp, the latest version isn’t as powerful as last year’s Impreza, but such is the trade-off when looking for good fuel efficiency. The Lineartronic CVT-equipped Subaru Impreza is capable of getting 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, which comes to 30 mpg combined. All this fuel economy also comes with the added benefit of Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive. Check out our review of the 2012 Subaru Impreza right here.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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2 of 15 comments
  • Chris Chris on Feb 19, 2013

    What about TDI?

  • Bozeorbust Bozeorbust on Sep 14, 2013

    I have a '99 legacy Brighton wagon that is less than 3000 lbs and has a 142 HP 2.2 engine that does better mpg than most of these selections plus has better cargo space. Why doesn't the this type of vehicle exist anymore??? Also, why don't we have the 2.0 turbo diesels like in Europe? The 2.0 diesel seems to be very popular there including in the Toyota 4x4 trucks.