Wow... I'd like to thank both Pescakl1
of the timely replies and insight.
Update: Also thanks to kerrton
for his added insight... evidently squeeked in between me typing my reply and hitting the save button)
Both of you made a good point in the arena of "Do I really need it?". The answer to that question is "No". I leave in the southeast US. In the last 15 years we've only had snow twice that might have required snow tires or 4WD and I got around fine in my FWD Honda.
As to the AWD impact on gas mileage... while its true the extra mile per gallon will add up over the years, I felt the savings (approx $400/year) seemed like it might be a good trade off... providing the AWD didn't increase my risk factor for additional time in the repair shop. I've been leaning towards the FWD only because of my own knowledge and history with automobiles. I'm a semi-retired shade tree mechanic... have pulled and overhauled plenty of engines and have done several restorations. Heck I even did my own transmission overhauls. But, over the years have grown to hate working on cars. Besides, keeping up with the computers and the required diagnostic equipment has become cost prohibitive. So... with the Rouge I'll now be at the mercy of the mechanic who tells me;
"We got your tires rotated and we topped off all the fluid levels but I'm afraid the computer identified your Waffleator is pulling high resistance levels. It will be $520 to replace it today. If you don't replace it today be aware it could cause unnecessary wear on the Zinger valve and then you're looking at a $1200 repair!" It's can be pure B.S. but unless you have a mechanic you trust 100%... that's the reality of the situation.
That said... I'll admit I've been unable to find any definitive proof, statistics or complaints regarding known trouble spots or issues with the AWD. It appears to be solid design. However... my knowledge of cars over the years, along with the transfer case and electronically controlled clutch in the AWD model (as reiterated by philipa_240sx
)... have been a major part of my hesitation. In the old days (a couple decades ago) Consumer Reports magazine warned people to avoid the new fangled options like power windows and power seats because it was just another item that could malfunction and be expensive to repair. (i.e., the more features you add... the more features there are to malfunction) Unfortunately cars today are becoming so complex the law of averages is working against us. In other words we should expect unwelcome malfunctions from time to time... but... I prefer to keep the maintenance to a minimum whenever possible.
NET: It appears I'll be applying the savings gained with the FWD version towards the cost of the premium package. Modified by Elton Noway at 7:39 PM 5/4/2009