5 Vehicles You Want to Drive in a Rainstorm

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Basing a car-buying decision around a weather-related variable such as rain may not be the wisest decision, but as spring stretches toward summer it'll seem far more sound with each passing squall.

According to the Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, wet roads account for roughly 1.13 million crashes each year, 75% of all weather-related crashes and 18% of vehicle crashes overall. That number shrinks only somewhat to 707,000 crashes, or 47% of weather-related crashes and 11% of all crashes, when you narrow wet-pavement incidents down to just rain.

Still, those crashes in rainy conditions injure more than 330,000 people each year and kill 3,300. That's roughly 50% of all weather-related injuries and deaths. To put that into perspective, that makes rain more dangerous to U.S. drivers than snow, ice and fog combined.

Even if you make it through the worst rainstorms unscathed, they're more than enough to affect your commute severely. Light rain reduces traffic flow 2% to 13% percent in light rain, while heavier rain slows things down 6% to 17%. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, where rain is a much an absolute truth as the sun rising and setting, or in Florida or along the Gulf Coast where even storms just passing through can wreak havoc, everybody else's spring showers are just your standard nightmare.

Despite what sunny, coastal car commercials may lead you to believe, automakers are well aware of wet weather woes and have made tweaks such as rain-sensing wipers and bigger features such as all-wheel drive part of their arsenal. We spoke with Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book and got his take on which automobiles are best built to survive multiple outings on slick roads. With his help and a bit of digging on our own, we came up with five vehicles that can help you drive straight through those spring downpours:

Subaru Legacy
MSRP: $20,295

As Nerad points out, standard all-wheel drive makes just about any Subaru a great rain ride.

The Legacy gets a leg up for being the standard sedan-style utilitarian-mobile that U.S. commuters love, which makes it a bit of rarity among the larger all-wheel-drive crossovers on this list. Combined with a stability control system that maintains traction by distributing steering and braking controls evenly and a brake assist feature that provides more stopping power in emergency situations, that all-wheel-drive gives the Legacy a better grip on the road than its midsized competition. In weather for which stopping and skidding are key concerns, the sturdy Legacy's nimble braking and suspension have you covered.

Acura MDX
MSRP: $43.280

So begins the parade of big, honking, all-wheel-drive crossovers.

The MDX draws eyes with its 300-horsepower V6 engine and seven-passenger seating, but it's the Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive that keeps power distributed to the wheels that need it the most and makes the MDX a monster on slick roads. An optional Active Damper System lets drivers adjust shock absorbers to sharpen handling, while an optional Collision Mitigation Braking System warns drivers when they need to apply more pressure to the brakes. It's Honda's ( HMC) pricey luxury brand, so you're paying more for climate control, GPS, navigation and speakers than you are for safety, but the vehicle's overall stability is the sweetest perk of the bunch.

Ford ( F) Explorer
MSRP: $29,100

Tons of cargo capacity, room for seven and a variety of road-grabbing suspension features? That's basically a rainy day school bus and grocery getter.

Its available Terrain Management System allows for a more aggressive throttle and less sensitive stability control in the mud, throws maximum torque to the wheels in sand and minimizes wheel slippage in the rain. The accompanying Intelligent Four-Wheel-Drive also includes Hill Descent Control to keep your car at a steady speed on steep grades and Curve Control that automatically slows the car on wet pavement when it senses you're going too fast. On top of all of that, the standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control uses gyroscopic sensors that detect wheel slippage and rolling motion to prevent catastrophic skids in wet weather.

Range Rover Evoque
MSRP: $42,040

Considering it was built to ford streams, the Evoque compact luxury crossover is undeterred by a little drizzle.

The Evoque comes standard with Range Rover's Terrain Response system that shifts power and stability when the driver chooses conditions including rain, mud and sand. The system's stability control, traction control and Hill Start and Descent Assist keep it moving forward in the most adverse conditions and keep it from losing balance with the blacktop gets too slick. Again, this is a luxury model, so your cash is going more toward the leather interior, aluminum finish, speakers and touchscreen communications and entertainment system, but the Range Rover is built primarily for the elements. With all that stability control, you're in good hands.

Volvo S60
MSRP: $31,900

The Swedish may know just a little bit about building cars for slick surfaces. Snow is Volvo's most hated foe and accounts for many of the safety features and stability options on its automobiles.

Even the S60 sports sedan comes equipped with all wheel drive to go with a powerful 250-horsepower engine. Options such as Adaptive Cruise controls that warns drivers about their following distance, a collision warning system that detects pedestrians and brakes automatically, a sensor that lets drivers know when they've drifted out of a lane and City Safety to help drivers brake automatically in stop-and-go traffic all also come in handy during a downpour.

Don't let that sporty exterior fool you: The S60 is just as safe as its boxier Volvo predecessors.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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