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Breckenridge, CO played host to our recent driving experience with Toyota and their fleet of four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles. The mountains in this part of the United States offer some of the highest lift accessible snowboarding around. When conditions are strong, Breckenridge becomes a play ground for both ski and snowboarders, making it a perfect destination for this writer. The opportunity presented itself to join Toyota in Breckenridge to test drive their fleet of winter crossover and SUV vehicles. It was a difficult one to pass up.

Photography: Shawn Parkin

With a big snow fall scheduled to hit the area, the driving experience offered the perfect opportunity to drive the Toyota winter line-up on semi-snow covered roads as well as snowboarding on some of the best terrain in the are. The deal was only sweetened when we learned that Olympian and Toyota team rider, Elena Hights would be joining us on the adventure. Hights, spent a good day with our crew of journalists just days before heading to Vail, CO for the Burton US Open.

If you grew up driving in New England as I did, four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles are a necessity. While cold weather brings snow to the region during good years,  it most certainly always bringsblack ice that turns the ordinary road into a danger area. I’ve driven through it all and recognize the value of the traction and control these vehicles provide. While the annual snowfall in the mountains of Colorado may be higher than New England, the driving conditions were similar.

Toyota delivered to our group of journalists their winter fleet of vehicles including the RAV4, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Land Cruiser, and the Venza – a smaller all-wheel drive vehicle in the Toyota SUV family that performed very well for a small crossover.

As a fan of the Toyota Land Cruise vehicle and Toyota 4Runner, I spent most of my time exploring these two vehicles. I later played some with the Venza.

The largest SUV in the Toyota fleet, the Land Cruiser is a beast of a all-wheel drive, four-door vehicle. With 381hp under the hood and a 6-speed “electronically controlled automatic transmission,” the Land Cruiser is a proper vehicle for a family looking for power both on the flats and uphill/downhill with the interior room to keep everyone comfortable. Driving the Land Cruiser, you could feel the weight of the vehicle and the power required to move it. Sitting inside of it, you feel relaxed in your surroundings.Gas-conscious reader will not 13mpg in city and 18mpg on the highway. The Toyota Land Cruiser is a high-end luxury SUV that handles all conditions well while offering interior luxury options to make it sweeter.

Those looking for a more rugged, off-road experience will turn to the Toyota 4Runner and its four-wheel drive 240-horsepower V6 engine. This all-terrain SUV is a mid-sized affair. Smaller than the Toyota Land Cruiser and with a modest interior feature set (choose the Limited model for a more luxe leather option), the 4Runner will power through areas most vehicles cannot. You can feel that in the drive. While our drive did not take us too far off the paved road ways, we sensed that like all 4Runners prior, the 2013 would go harder and father than most in the back country.

While my expectations of the Toyota Land Cruiser and 4Runner were as expected, the real surprise was the time I spent with the all-wheel drive, Toyota Venza. The Venza is a small crossover in the Toyota winter fleet. Not exactly an SUV, the Venza offers the performance of all-wheel drive with the amenities a commuter would need to rough it on snow covered roads: stability and traction control along with 20mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. The car is well roomy allowing for decent stow capacity. While the Venza has been dubbed a “mommy mobile” by some, we believe it a suitable option for those in need of a five-passenger vehicle, low profile vehicle that handles the elements as well as most in this class.

We of course spent a good deal of time on the slopes of Breckenridge when outside of the Toyota vehicles. We thank Elena Hights for taking the time out to snowboard with our crew. Yes, the snow did fall and I for one had one of the best pow days in recent memory. Thanks to Toyota and their staff of drivers and guides for letting us put their fleet through the paces.

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