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Buying used: Luxury sedans with AWD that can handle winter for less than $30,000

In your advice to a reader looking for an all-wheel drive vehicle for country winter roads, you skipped the sedans. Is that because big SUVs are better for winter? Are there newer, decent, luxury sedans can still crush winter roads for less than $25,000 or $30,000? Audi seems like the obvious choice. But are there any North American options? – Chris, Kelowna, B.C.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to winter driving.

“A big SUV sometimes offers a false sense of security because of the size and the weight, but they are not necessarily the best choice,” said Carl Nadeau, with Michelin’s winter driving academy. “As with any all-wheel-drive or four-by-four vehicle, they will accelerate quicker in most situations, but the added weight will make them harder to stop in emergency situations.”

If you want those three letters – AWD – you’re not necessarily stuck with an SUV, or a wagon. There are compact sedans, like the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer. And there are mid-sized luxury sedans with AWD like the Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS 250 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Any AWD sedan should give you enough ground clearance – unless your driveway isn’t plowed after a serious snow storm, Nadeau said.

For your price and needs, we’re pitting Europe (well, Germany) against North America – the 2013 Audi A4 vs. the 2014 Buick Regal.

2013 Audi A4 Quattro sedan

Audi

Fourth generation: 2008-2015, refresh in 2013

Average price for base: $24,545 (Canadian Black Book)

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission/drive: six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city; 7.5 highway; premium gas

A 2013 facelift made the Audi’s slick entry-level sedan even slicker. With Audi’s Quattro, you probably won’t get stuck in your driveway, but you might get mired in complicated controls while trying to find a radio station – although Audi did make the controls simpler.

“The [multi-media interface] now has four buttons instead of eight, which makes it easier to operate the telephone, navigation, radio and media functions,” Globe Drive’s Petrina Gentile said.

There are three trims: premium, premium plus and prestige. You get leather seats, automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers with the base trims, but you need to go fancier to get heated seats and keyless entry.

“While the cars in the entry-level luxury segment lack the presence of their flagship brethren, there’s plenty they offer in the way of comfort, features and performance,” Edmunds said. “Overall, the 2013 Audi A4 offers a wider range of appeal than its competition where performance and luxury are concerned.”

Consumer Reports said “handling was agile and very secure, the ride was firm but supple and interior quality was first-rate.” It gave the 2014 A4 above-average predicted used car reliability.

There was a recall to fix a programming problem that might not let airbags deploy properly.

2014 Buick Regal base AWD

GM

Fifth generation: 2011-2017, refresh in 2014

Average price for base: $28,603 (Canadian Black Book)

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission/drive: six-speed automatic/all-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city; 8.7 highway; premium gas

Maybe you had an uncle who drove a Buick Regal coupe in the 1980s. The ride was like hitting the highway in a La-Z-boy – it was no king of the road. But the fifth-generation Regal, sold as the Opel Insignia in Europe earned a little royal swagger with a 2014 refresh that gave it all-wheel drive.

“It’s a surprisingly well-engineered, handsome sport sedan,” said Globe Drive. “And if it were a bit less expensive, it would be an overall class leader.”

The base has an eight-inch touchscreen (which reviewers say can be slow to respond), rearview camera, heated front seats and leather.

“Buick has positioned the refreshed 2014 Regal against luminaries like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series,” Edmunds said. “The Regal can be good fun, particularly in playful GS guise, but lacking that je ne sais quoi, it’s not a serious threat to purpose-built sport sedans, including GM’s own entry, the Cadillac ATS.

Consumer Reports said the Regal had “a taut, steady ride and well-done interior.” It gave the 2014 Regal its highest rating for predicted used car reliability.

There was a single recall for five GM models, including the Regal, for 2014 – to fix 21 vehicles where the shifter might not shift into park and could roll away.

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