I live in Dallas, which is "mostly flat, hot, and non-snowy," at least most of the time. Usefulness of the AWD--more a "nice to have" than a necessity. The roads here tend to fill up pretty quickly with water when it rains a lot, and drainage is poor, so in those circumstances I've found AWD pretty helpful. Also, Dallas has some REALLY badly-maintained surface streets, so there are some places between home and work where I'm basically doing light off-roading some of the time, or where the streets are really slick, so AWD helps there. AWD also makes it easier and more fun to take corners fast ;) Is it vital? No. Could I live without it? Sure. But I like having that extra degree of safety/stability, and it's also great when we drive up to New Mexico or Colorado in the winter.
The a/c is decent, but not phenomenal. It struggles to keep up when the temperature gets in the high 90s, or when there's just a lot of direct sunlight, because those windows are so huge. If it gets too hot out, I have to put the a/c on full blast if I have the kiddo in the rear, and even then he sometime ends up sweating. (I have the premium trim, so no a/c in the rear; the higher-level trims might have vents in the back that would solve that problem.) But that's really only when the temperature really gets up there; the majority of the time it works just fine. I've had it 3+ years now and it always starts up and cools down quickly, and I've had no issues with it (knock on wood).