Hi Jeremy and Michael: I've enjoyed reading your column and have been searching for the right car for the past three months and can't come to any solution. I'm looking for a fun-to-drive car/hatchback/crossover/SUV that can handle itself in the winter with no problem, which typically means AWD/4WD. I'm trying to get it for less than $25,000 used or new. I would also prefer a manual transmission.
I'm focused on getting AWD/4WD because I drive to Mt. Tremblant regularly from Toronto. When it snows two feet and everyone else stays home, I'm out there trying to get to the slopes before everyone else for some fresh tracks. What would you recommend or should I just give up and buy a 2011 Impreza with a five-speed and maybe throw on a few mods down the road? – Clayton in Mississauga, Ont.
Vaughan: Clay, what are we here? A used car lot? I want you to get to Tremblant, but what can I possibly know about any particular car that's been beaten around since 2008 or even 2006? Some could be cherries, some could be dogs.
I refuse to give an answer based on what they once were when they came out of the factory four or five years ago. Ask one of those guys on the radio. They'll BS anything.
Cato: It's Clayton's budget that baffles me. He's zipping off to Mt. Tremblant every weekend, yet he has only $25,000 to spend on a new ride? What up with that?
For a bit more money – but just a few extra bucks in a monthly payment – he can get something brand new, something slick and comfortable and fun and fast, and with all-wheel drive, and with a four-year factory warranty, so he's not worried about the problems created by a past owner. BMW's outgoing 323i xDrive, for instance.
Vaughan: Exactly. Clay, there are deals galore at year-end. That's right now. Don't be such a cheapskate; that's my territory.
Go shopping for something brand new that hasn't been driven into the ground previously by someone like you.
The Bimmer that Cato mentioned will last forever and it will fit right in with all the other Bimmers in that cold, cold parking lot at Tremblant.
Cato: Clayton, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are in a duel to the death to win bragging rights in Canada. Both want to be No. 1 in luxury cars. This is a take-no-prisoners bloodbath that's costing them a bundle in sales sweeteners, and it's a delicious war for you.
And because there's a reinvented 3-Series coming next year, BMW has some super-juicy year-end offers on the 328i xDrive: a $3,100 or $4,100 factory-to-dealer rebate, depending on the model. That's on cash purchases. Plus BMW Canada has a $1,600 Option Credit factory-to-dealer rebate, which might be advertised as a free automatic transmission, though it applies to all 3s regardless of transmission.
Or if you want the financing route, take 0.9 per cent for three years, a $1,500 factory-to-dealer rebate, that other $1,600 credit and whatever dealer discount you can wrangle.
You'll need to work a little negotiating these offers, but they're in place to take down the car's $44,000 sticker to something you can manage, Clayton.
All in a sporty car with all-wheel drive; no worries about missing a single weekend while everyone else is spinning tires in the snow.
Vaughan: When I used to cut class at Queen's to go up there for a couple of days mid-week, when there were no lift lines, I wished I had AWD. Horrible blizzards. Even snow tires would have helped. Even tread on my summer tires would have helped.
I was too poor to afford a Lexus IS250 AWD – actually they hadn't been invented then – but if they had been it would have been perfect. If I were ever to buy a Lexus it would be the IS250 AWD.
Cato: Another steal. The IS250 with AWD starts at $38,000, but Lexus is throwing $3,500 at dealers to move this nifty sedan and you should get all of it, plus some sort of dealer discount, Clayton. And then there is that "boring" G37 AWD sedan – $43,450, but that's just the starting point for your negotiation. And the G is not boring at all.
Vaughan: I like the G37. I don't like the name – Infiniti with that stupid spelling sounds like a cheap nightclub – but I do like its cars. Japan's Bimmer includes Japanese attention to detail like the beautiful interior. Yes, that would get me up L'Autoroute des Laurentides in fine style.
Cato: Superb engineering and reliability and resale value. And did I mention Infiniti has a $3,500 factory-to-dealer offer here?
Vaughan: My choice would depend on the deal and what I could squeeze out of the dealer. Ceteris paribus, I'd take the Infiniti (and hide the nameplate), then the Bimmer and then the Lexus IS in that order.
Cato: The Bimmer. Clayton, you'll enjoy the drive more than the skiing.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2011 Infiniti G37x
2011 BMW 328i xDrive
2011 Lexus IS250 AWD
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
11.7 city/7.8 highway
12.3 city/7.6 highway
10.5 city/7.4 highway
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.