everyone's right.. lol
ya awd cars handle as a mixture of rwd and fwd. fwd techniques transfer over to awd turbo really really well. (not the jump i made) I've only raced a FWD 1.8 impreza, awd 2.5 impreza (non turbo), and awd Turbo . (have driven rwd around in a drift practice, some dirt and snow playing around, but not in a serious on the lock way)
ya final drive makes a BIG difference in your cars acceleration, and thus makes it easier to be competitive.
Ultimately you do need a pick a car that's affordable for you to campaign , like a few people have said. look at your local pick and pulls, and craigslist, cars.com blah blah to make sure your area has some. you can definitely go out of region to buy your car. despite being in tahoe (loaded with subarus) i went 4 hours away to SF to pick one up , cause that was the best deal i could find.
if your pick and pulls have a lot of volvos driving off far to buy a running one isn't a problem. (same for any other make/model that works)
really we can't give the perfect advise with out knowing what cars are in your area, if you have access to cheap labor for any particular car , what past driving experience you have (or didn't) , cash to throw at rally per month, etc... how patient/determined you are is also a big factor.