Last week the polar vortex plunged southward, blanketing much of the United States in frigid temperatures and depositing healthy doses of snow on many states. In Colorado, this resulted in nearly a foot of fresh powder, causing a crisis for many drivers.

Snow, especially in a state like Colorado, should not be a crisis; it is an occasion for blissful snow-day motoring fun.

The snow-day arrow in my automotive quiver is a Zinnoberrot (red) 1989 BMW 325iX. In my opinion, the E30-generation 3 Series is the one model more than any other that earned BMW its Ultimate Driving Machine reputation—and the all-wheel-drive iX takes that reputation to the powder. It was BMW’s first all-wheel-drive model and is simply unstoppable in the snow. This is thanks to routing its 168 horsepower through a 37:63% front-to-rear-biased viscous-coupling transfer case and a rear limited-slip differential employing the same Silly Putty technology.

But it isn’t all-wheel-drive that makes the iX so good, it’s the E30’s perfectly balanced and telepathically communicative chassis. It is light, tossable, and wonderfully controllable. All-wheel drive is just the icing on the cake.

The 325iX is delightfully mechanical, and unfettered by the numbing effect of computers or stability control. The driver has only his or her talent to remain free of trouble. With just the slightest amount of talent, it is capable of staggering performance on snow-covered roads, performance that can result in terrifying speed differentials with the hordes of white-knuckling crossover and SUV drivers who are merely surviving the snowstorm. Where others survive, the E30 325iX thrives!

But there’s a problem. For the remaining 300 days of the year, when it is sunny in Colorado, the 325iX is terrible. It’s noticeably slower, 145 pounds heavier, and frustratingly more complex than a rear-wheel-drive E30 325i. At highway speeds, the added drivetrain noise (at least in my 200,000-mile example) is deafeningly loud, and at a pitch that my ears find particularly offensive. On a fair-weather day, when there is no opportunity for winter heroism, all I get from the iX is a set of bleeding eardrums.

And then there is the price. The day of the cheap E30 has passed. A properly sorted 325iX commands a significant premium, especially in Colorado. Most iX’s have been exposed to climates that are not friendly to ’80s-era BMW sheet metal, making rust a common issue. Clean examples are rare, and even more expensive. A mechanically sorted and cosmetically presentable 325iX can command well over five figures, regardless of mileage.

What if there was an alternative? A car that offered the same classic style and mechanically organic driving experience as the E30, yet one that also had German engineering and all-wheel-drive? A car that was as equally capable of negotiating the hordes of slow-moving crossovers in the snow, but cost only a fraction of the price of the BMW 325iX? Well, there is! It’s an Audi—specifically, the 1986 to 1991 Audi 90 Quattro (known as the B3 in Audi-speak).

Blasphemy, perhaps, to the BMW crowd. But this winter I happened to purchase a Tornado Red 1988 example with slightly more miles on the odometer than my 325iX for a fraction of what the E30 was worth. 1988 model years were less desirable than the later twenty-valve B3 Audi 90s, but the price made this one a good alternative.

The Audi 90 Quattro was an evolution of the very successful Audi 4000, and the 325iX’s direct competitor. The ten-valve, five-cylinder engine powering my Audi 90 produced 132 horsepower, 36 less than the 325iX. Its Quattro all-wheel-drive uses a Torsen-based transfer case and open differentials for a 50/50% power split that can vary up to 75% front or rear. The rear differential is lockable via a console-mounted switch that also disables the anti-lock brakes.

The Audi lacks the confidence-inspiring telepathy of the E30 chassis, but it is communicative compared to a modern car. It understeers more than the E30—Satch finds it hard to believe that anything can understeer more than a 325iX, but he’s biased—but the all-wheel-drive does negate this in cornering. In several of my own acceleration tests, it was dead even with the 325iX. Although it isn’t as silky-smooth in its power delivery, it has that unique, aggressive sound that only an Audi five-cylinder engine makes. It sounds good—very good! At highway speeds and beyond, it is noticeably quieter, and more composed, too. Inside, it is roomier, and it’s equipped with luxuries never available in the 325iX, like power seats. The body was galvanized, too, so rust is less of an issue than with the E30.

My Audi 90 does bear some scars from its age and mileage, but rust is not one of them. The word Quattro spelled with the rear-window defroster elements is a cool detail that has no equal in the E30.

Make no mistake, the BMW 325iX is the better car. But a Quattro will get you by if you don't have one of those icons of BMW AWD.—Alex McCulloch