Originally Posted by HRPufnStf
I used to poo-poo awd as a few have done above, until I got one. It is a huge myth that "awd only helps get you going". Even application of power and compression/friction braking are a significant help in all aspects of snow driving, period. My wife has an awd Sienna minivan. Toyota uses a neutral 50/50 front-to-rear split, and the difference between ours and a friend's fwd version with absolutely identical snow tires (except his aren't run flat) is astounding. It's a huge help for getting through unplowed snow, too. I'll never go back to fwd with snows. I'm too old to put on chains.
So, we want a wagon with awd and a stick and a reasonable price. The good news is that there are almost no options other than Subaru, so a lot of shopping is not required. My personal favorite would be a Legacy GT, even though I'm not a huge Subie fan. There is a new X1 coming from BMW that is really more wagon the crossover, and SHOULD be available with a stick, but it will be two years until the new ones start getting turned over on leases, and become available at reasonable prices.
And if you've got some extra coin to play with -- for me anyway -- it is VERY simple. A low mileage Audi S4 Avant, complete with small V8 and stickshift!
Probably no choice but a Subaru with those criteria.
I came close to buying a Mitsubishi Evo X but the active yaw control electronics and some bracing blocks the trunk pass-thru. Really hurts the car's usefulness for skiing. Has an aluminum roof too I think which I would be a little worried about putting stuff on. The WRX STi was only a hatch until this year and I can't stand the look so I never considered it.
With regard to the AWD stuff... It's not a huge myth, it's physics. You cannot stop any faster by applying torque in the direction of travel to any wheel, period. You don't need any compression braking, the fact that you can easily lock the brakes up shows you have more than sufficient force to overcome the grip the tires have.
About the only thing it would be good (other than moving) for is in an advanced traction control system to help compensate for understeer. Unfortunately good torque vectoring implementations are limited at the moment to a few vehicles on the road. One of them being the new S4 when you get the sport-diff option.
You're comparing your Sienna to another which probably has an open differential and weighs slightly less in the FWD model, and has different tires with unknown amounts of wear. I know you said the tires are identical but the fact that they aren't RFT means they are not the same exact model. Even among RFT vs non RFT with the same model number, differences can be found. There are at least 3 versions of Bridgestone RE050A, for example.
Don't get me wrong though, I dislike FWD a lot... AWD and RWD are a hell of a lot better in general.