Category Archives: Audi

2010 Audi A3 Quattro (783)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2010 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Auto S-Tronic. We’ll look at the A4 next week. Can you believe it is 2010 already? I don’t think I’ve even filed my ‘08 tax return yet … like so many others.

Well, here we are with German product reviews after so many weeks of Japanese cars. GM and Ford have pulled way back on promoting their products in keeping with all their other stupid management decisions. One has to wonder how long they will be around. Don’t you wonder also if they still fly around in company owned jets? If you’ve been wondering what their doing with our bail out tax dollars you don’t have to look very far. Indiscriminate spending, golden parachutes, parties and bonuses to undeserving execs. Now that is the nice version. My liberal friend and auto engineer Merkel unloads with even more passion.

The bottom line is that journalists are writing about cars from automakers who still consider critical review of their cars as important. Yes foreign car press fleets are being cut back as well but not as deeply as American car companies – therefore there are fewer cars available for review. Chrysler has been the exception in this area and I continue to do reviews on those. Merkel would chime in with “we’ll see if Fiat can influence Chrysler in a positive way”. One can only wait and wonder.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 1%, Germany 75%

Assembly – Ingolstadt, Germany

Class:  – Small Station Wagon

Cars: – A3, A4, A5, A6, A8, Q5, Q7, R8, RS4, S4, S5, S6, S8, TT

Handling & Performance:

Surely a lovely driving experience always. Merkel reminds me often that foreign (especially European) car companies seem to be able to get 100 hp out of each liter. US car makers have seldom got close to that kind of engineering. I suspect it has more to do with cheaper gas in the US so necessity forced the Europeans to be thriftier with the gooey substance that costs at least twice what it costs still in the US. Merkel says it is inferior engineering talent.

Styling:

This is their utility model but for most others in the lineup you couldn’t get prettier designs at any level and from any other car company. Good job Audi. Probably the most striking design from Audi is the classic R8. That is very special and a wonderful driving experience on or off the race track – but to keep this in perspective you could buy 4 A3’s or competitive cars for the price of one R8. Pretty always cost you . . . a lot.

Engineering and design includes a clearly superior balancing of the rear hatchback. It is well balanced so it closes with almost no effort. Fabulous. And then I have to say where were those genius’ when it came to designing the accelerator pedal made for a teency weency feet, being way to close to the brake pedal.

Fit and Finish:

German quality in my view is every bit as good as the best of what is produced in any country in today’s world. Workmanship doesn’t get any better.

Cost:

Not bad and right in the middle of the range of cars in this class – and that is good.

Conveniences and comfort:

No question that creature comforts built into this Audi is really nice. On the negative side I have never been fond of the electronics controls from all German car makers. They just think differently from us simple Americans. They are so “foreign” – as in strange, unfamiliar or alien relative to all other makes of cars. It seems to be a German thing-eeee. They simply can’t simplify.

For some features complex is ok and can even be a good thing. The seats, for example, are super comfortable and easily adjusted. The keyless entry and smart key in particular is really nice. I haven’t taken the key out of my pocket since I got the car because it is well thought out and works flawlessly.

Consumer Recommendation:

I haven’t been in the auto repair business for many years, but back in the 90’s Audi had some mechanical issues… along with Fiat (Fix it againTony) and Jaguar was an engineering disappointment in many areas until Ford got involved and we noticed a marked improvement in the product. Remember the old mechanics refered to a “Ford Tool”. When dad would ask me to get one I knew he meant a Hammer. And if it were a really tough job you just got a bigger one.

VW has always been more pragmatic in their approach to the products they build and I think that has carried over to Audi way less than it needs to be. So my concerns for the mechanical side of Audi in the past are probably just that… in the past except for the controls for radio, Navigational for example. All my testing on and off the track is surely impressive for the brand and in fact I just looked at an A6 for my own use. I didn’t buy it because of some body damage I didn’t want to fool with.

If you own an Audi and care to share your experiences with our readers send your comments to me at joe@atthewheel.com.

I think this buying decision would be a tougher one if it weren’t for the pricing. My choice in order from first to last would have to include Volvo, Acura, Audi, BMW, VW, Infiniti, Mazda & Mitsubishi. Now throw price into the mix and the picture is much different because they are all tough and capable competitors. Note the absence of American made cars in this class.

Recognized Competition:

Audi A3 $27-31,000, Acura TSX $29-38,000, BMW 1-Series $29-40,000, Infiniti EX $34-37,000, Mazda 3 $15-22,000, Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback $19-28,000, Volkswagen Rabbit $16-19,000, Volvo C30 $24-26,000.

Good News:

Good fuel economy, a joy to drive, comfy seating and powerful.

Bad News:

Electronics controls drive me bonkers & accelerator pedal is ill conceived.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 200 hp 4-cylinder engine, Auto S-tronic transmission, Quattro all wheel drive system, ABS, Electronic Stabilization program, 17” alloy wheels, auto dual zone climate control, power windows & locks, cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seat, manual adjust front seats, tilt and telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM with in dash CD player & Sirius satellite radio, leather seating, trip computer, front and side and side curtain airbags, power mirrors, anti-theft alarm system, LATCH for children, tire pressure monitor.

Options: 

Nav system plus ($2050), titanium sport package including sport suspension, front sport seats, 18” titanium optic wheels & high performance tires ($2000) , Premium plus model – Xenon headlights, modified leather steering wheel, Illumination package, 17” ten spoke alloy wheels ($2000), Convenience package – auto dimming interior mirror w/ compass, rain and light sensor, Bose premium sound system ($1000).

Gas Stats:

$2.98/ Gal avg. October 25, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

21 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30,850 plus options packages noted amounts.

2006 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro Review (2001)

2006 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro Review

BY Mike Mavilia

Overview:

Since the release of the 2005 model, the Audi A4 is new from the ground up and even more improvements in the 2006 models with new engines and new equipment packages. The A4 is a amongst the top luxury sports cars with similar cars being the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Lexus IS.

Road Test:

The 2006 Audi A4 is fun to drive and comes with all the sporty features you would expect in a luxury car. It feels like it’s riding on rails going around corners and the High-quality construction is evident inside and out. The all-wheel drive (Quattro) and the latest in active safety features helps keep the driver on the road no matter the conditions or situation. Driving in rain or snow is truly no match for the gripping power of the Quattro.

The A4 and its state of the art powertrain benefit greatly from the intercooled turbochargers, multi-stage intake manifolds, variable valve timing and direct injection (which seems to be the cleanest and most efficient means of blending fuel and air in an engine’s cylinders). The first thing I noticed on our test drive was how well the turbocharger converted this tame 4 cylinder into a zippy animal. Fuel economy is sacrificed somewhat for the ability to access the additional 30+ horsepower but if you need to get out of a tight jam on the highway or want to power through a windy road, it’s well worth the extra cost.

Each of the three transmission choices are good. The standard model comes with a six-speed manual, while options include a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and a continuously variable transmission (as we tested). There is also a normal mode and Sport Mode which made an obvious difference in performance when switched over to Sport. Shifting tightened up quite a bit and made first gear jump.

The Four-wheel independent suspension was amazing. With geometry that keeps tires on the ground and augmented with standard electronic stability assistance, keeping the car going where the driver wants is never a problem.

Fit and Finish:

The 2006 A4 comes in a range of models. Drivers who need to carry gear or cargo will appreciate the Avant wagon, which offers the cargo bay of a wagon while maintaining the A4’s sporty driving character. Enthusiasts who just can’t get enough power and want race track handling may prefer the S4, which features a powerful V8 engine and high-performance underpinnings.

Good News:

Excellent drive with All-wheel drive helps the A4 Quattro hug the road in turns. Fuel economy is good for local around town driving or highway roads. Ample horsepower to accelerate with ease.

Bad News:

Expensive to repair and maintain compared to Audi’s domestic competition. Requires the more expensive 91 Octane gas.

Standard Equipment:

2.0L I-4 Engine
6-speed manual w/OD Transmission
200 @ 5,100 rpm Horsepower
207 @ 1,800 rpm Torque
All-wheel Drive
ABS and driveline Traction control
16″ aluminum Wheels
Front air conditioning, dual zone automatic
AM/FM/Satellite-prep, seek-scan Radio
Keyfob (all doors) Remote keyless entry
Front and rear Fog/driving lights
Heated mirrors
Driver and Passenger Lumbar support

Gas Stats:

MPG up to 22 City / 31 Highway

Pricing:

MSRP $30,340

2006 Audi A3 3.2 S Quattro DSG6 (587)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Audi A3 3.2 S Quattro DSG6. If you’ve read previous reviews of mine on cars with DSG you know my feeling is that it is Bad News. Booo to Audi! Be very careful about accepting that Direct Shift Gearbox. Watch for how it works when you test drive the car and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve asked others if I’m koo koo about DSG. Car guys agree with my concerns. Try to parallel park (preferably downhill) for example and when you put it in reverse be sure there isn’t a car behind you.

Anyway aside from the lousy transmission it is truly a nice car. Oh heck I forgot to find out if a regular automatic trans is available. What with the hype they’re throwing out about how good the DSG trans is they may not even offer an option beside manual transmission. Let me know.

I was a taken aback at the interest people have shown in this car. Sometimes people are obvious in their interest in the cars I test as they were with this Audi. Several people actually took the time to get my attention and say how much they liked the car. Chrysler’s PT Cruiser was also one of those that turned heads when first introduced. Now they are a very common sight on the roads, but you know – they still turn heads.

 

Handling & Performance:

German engineering is quite superb in handling. That is perhaps the most noticeable quality of these designed for the Autobahn cars. I’ve owned a couple of Mercedes Benz cars over the years and developed a bias in favor of German cars generally, especially when it comes to how they handle. My Jewish boss got me started and when I asked why he supported German cars (Hitler and all that) his reply – I’m compelled to. Mercedes is the Germans legacy to the Jews.  Handle that one.

Styling:

Ok but it doesn’t instantly grab me. It will take a little time to warm up to.

Fit and Finish:

Very good but I did notice a design deficiency of the latch on the moon roof sunshade. It was broken and clearly not strong enough. I was startled when it let lose and slammed loudly from the spring-loaded mechanism. Nice thought but not well engineered.

Cost:

Not so good. Sure it has a generous supply of standard equipment included but the price reflects that. I’m always concerned that too much of the price tag is based on the “Badge” alone. But then I’m biased. Owning a foreign car repair shop for many years made me cautious about recommending Audi’s of the past. Cost, after all, has to include the cost to repair and maintain them. BMW and Audi were always real spendy.

Conveniences:

I have to tell you Audi is one of less than a handful of carmakers who will allow auto up and down power windows on all windows. Truly very convenient and it is amazing to me other car makers fail to trust us to be mature enough not to cut our heads off while putting the windows up. Hello! We’re not really all that stupid… are we? Anyway Audi provides “Pinch Protection” so we don’t hurt ourselves.

Consumer Recommendation:

If it appeals to you here are a few considerations. Don’t get the DSG transmission; determine if the Audi badge is worth the extra dough over the competition and test drive the small list of competitors listed here.

Recognized Competition:

Audi A3 $25-34,000, Pontiac Vibe $16-20,000, Toyota Matrix $15-19,000, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, Saab 9-2X $23-27,000, Subaru Impreza Wagon $18-27,000, Acura TSX $28-30,000, Lexus IS 300 Sport Cross $31,105.

Good News:

Great array of standard equipment (that you’ll pay for in the MSRP), auto up and down power windows and it handles wonderfully.

Bad News:

DSG transmission (truly bad news), broken latch on the sunshade (design flaw), front sun visors don’t extend, jerky brakes and throttle (due to the transmission clutch system) and controls are overly complicated.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter 250 hp 6 cylinder engine, 6-speed DSG Direct Shift Gearbox auto trans, all wheel drive, power ABS anti-lock braking system, ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program), 17” alloy wheels, compact spare tire, sport suspension, fog lights, power driver seat with lumbar support, center console w/ 2 power outlets (or his and her cell phone power slots), auto dual zone climate control, power windows with one touch up and down w/ power locks, electronic cruise control, 3-spoke multi function steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, Bose sound system w/ 6 in-dash CD player, electronic fuel door release, sport leather seats, front and side airbags with curtain bags, power mirrors, auto door locking, anti theft alarm system, child anchors and tethers, 4 year / 50,000 mile maintenance protection and limited warranty with 12 year corrosion protection and 4 year 24 hour roadside assistance.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,980.

2006 Audi A4 3.2 FSI Sedan (583)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Audi A4 3.2 FSI. I like German cars but I have to say I don’t care for their electronics. They just tend to be more complicated to operate than the rest of the world’s cars. Ok so my son, daughter and grandchildren of all ages would have no problem, but the average buyer who plunks down the bucks don’t want to be “Techno-nerds.” They simply want to use the equipment for the purpose intended. Examples: Nav and sound systems, cruise and climate controls, and you name it. They just seem to make it more difficult to operate them than it needs to be. Of course they plaster warning messages to say you should never operate while driving. HELLO! Is anyone at the manufacturers listening? Are they awake?

I used to think it was just me, but I have driven almost every car made and when I find the Japanese and American employ more (I hate the term) “User Friendly” I warm up to them and turn off ones like the electronics used in most German made cars.

Ok now, that being said, I have to say mechanically and handling this is a very capable car.

Handling & Performance:
Too good… I can say that because the radar Highway Robocop’s tell me I was going much too fast around the curves through the mountains. I want to make that perfectly clear since there are other curves I enjoy even more where going slow is as fun as going fast in a car. Know what I mean? I have two favorite mountain test areas that are top secret but I would like the Crest more if it were less heavily patrolled. Won’t you just love it when satellites track your speed, read the serial numbers and send you a citation on email or simply deduct the fine from your bank account? The benefit will be we won’t need those damn robots on motorcycles and we can save a ton of money on traffic law enforcement.

Fast is a good description for this 3.2-liter FSI. Like 0-60 in about 5 seconds. And it takes the curves effortlessly. You’ve got to hand it to Audi engineers. On the other hand I have another complaint. The throttle and brakes are both jerky and grabby. That would give me cause to test drive competitive cars all the more. It really was annoying.

One last footnote on handling: as good as this Audi handles I was blown away by the Corvette Z06 on the same mountain curves. Amazing. Look for that review upcoming.

Styling:
German cars look great on the whole. Consider the Mercedes Benz, Porsche, and yes the Audi and close cousins Volkswagen.

Friend Merkel hates the grille on this Audi but I think it grows on you – in a good way. Sorry Merkel.

Fit and Finish:
Outstanding! In this big world of automakers attention to detail doesn’t get much better. Mercedes for example has rubbed off on Chrysler cars, don’t you think? I’m really proud of what Daimler Chrysler has grown up to be.

Cost:
Ok, I guess, but in this class it is still a lot of money. The good news is for American automakers these pricey imports make domestic cars even more competitive. That, in turn, puts pressure on our European friends to price their cars better. Sharpen you pencils Audi.

Conveniences:
As I said the electronics are too complicated and operation can be distracting. I hate jumping through hoops to simply change channels.

Consumer Recommendation:
Boy this is tough competition. Me – if I had to choose I would likely end up with a Cadillac CTS. I’ve simply owned too many of them and love driving the CTS in particular. Beautiful.

Recognized Competition:
Audi A4 $28-45,000, BMW 3-Series $31-45,000, Chrysler 300 $24-40,000, Cadillac CTS $29-51,000, Volvo S40 $24-29,000, Mercedes Benz C-Class $29-34,000, Saab 9-3 $26-42,000, Volkswagen Passat $23-32,000, Subaru Legacy $22-34,000, Acura TL $33-36,000, Jaguar X-Type $32,330, Lexus IS $30-35,000, Infiniti G35 $31-34,000.

Good News:
German built, fun to drive, fast.

Bad News:
Lousy electronic features – too complicated

Standard Equipment:
3.2 liter 255 hp 6 cylinder engine, 6-speed auto trans w/ tiptronic shift, all wheel drive, power steering, 17” alloy wheels, brake assist, climate control, power windows, electronic cruise control, 3-spoke leather wrapped sport steering wheel with controls, power heated side mirrors and washer nozzles, radio with 6-disc in dash CD player and satellite radio, dual front and side air bags, auto door locking, anti-theft alarm, child anchors and tethers.

Gas Stats:
19 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:
MSRP $36,040.

2004 Audi S4 Cabriolet Quattro MT6 Convertible (510)

Overview:

This week I returned from the Pacific Northwest and was greeted at the airport by the 2004 Audi S4 Cabriolet Quattro MT6 convertible.

Now I know some would prefer being greeted by a spouse, significant other person but I didn’t hear one word of disagreement – no complaining about getting in late. This S4 waited patiently for me to come home. It is easy to understand why we Americans have a love affair with our automobiles.

But this is a very special automobile. And trust me, this is coming from a guy who had a passionate disregard for Audi not so many years ago. When brother John and I owned a foreign car repair shop in California, we found a lot of problems with Audi and lemons were plentiful in the 1970s and 1980s. But things have been changing over the past decade or more and like Nissan, there has been a welcomed turn around and fresh ideas and management. I have been testing Audi’s for the past ten years for publication and have come to change my opinion.

This is especially true of this S4. What a lovely automobile. It is solid, fast and fun. This is one of the finest cars of the year.

 

Handling & Performance:

Seamless perfection between the car and driver. It is easy to get connected with this car. The 340 horsepower V8 delivers smooth power through the 6-speed manual transmission that is super friendly and easy to shift. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said it was Turbocharged. I found I didn’t need to go completely through the gears, which is so necessary with many others. Uphill I used 1st, 3rd and 5th. Downhill I found 2nd, 4th and 6th worked great and cut the number of shifts substantially.

Styling:

You’ll be style’n in this S4, and it has subtle touches of class such as the piping on the seats that give a sense of quiet elegance while also giving that sporty look.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

I misread the price – forgot my glasses – and thought it said $68,000. Oh, I thought, that sounds about right after I drove from Los Angeles International airport home. Pretty classy. Not many cars give you that instinctive feel of quality. But then when I put my glasses on I looked again and it was “Only” $58,000. Funny how that gives you a sense of “Bargain”.

Conveniences:

The top goes down as easy as they get. You don’t even have to unlock, move a lever or anything. You simply push one button and the top slides and tucks away perfectly. The built in boot conceals the top from view. Ok, so it has a very small trunk. And the worst of that is it will not hold a set of golf clubs.

Customer Recommendation:

If your kids are grown or are nonexistent this cozy 4 seater is just the ticket for the outdoor type. Even with the top down it is extremely solid for a convertible. And with the top up you wouldn’t know you’re in a convertible. The liner looks no different from a hard top sedan. The sportiness and fun to drive Audi S4 is a wonderful auto experience and makes a great addition to any stable. The closest competitor is the BMW M3.

The Competition:

Audi S4 Cabriolet $46-55,000, Saab 9-3 $26-43,000, BMW M3 $47-56,000, Mercedes Benz C-Class $26-51,000, Infiniti G35 $28-33,000.

Good News:

Classy, fast, fun, convertible.

Bad News:

Not everyone can justify the cost of a car with such limitations – meaning only fair fuel economy, small trunk, little rear seat legroom.

Standard Equipment:

4.2 liter 340 horsepower 4 V8 engine, 6-speed manual trans, permanent AWD (all wheel drive) and ESP (electronic stabilization program) power 4-wheel ABS braking system, power steering, power retractable soft top with heated rear window, automatic dual zone climate control, power windows and door locks, cruise control, silk Nappa leather seats with 12 way power settings, real wood trim, leather wrapped sport steering wheel, concealed headlight washer system, AM/FM with in dash 6-disc CD changer and tape player, front and side air bags, power heated mirrors, anti-theft system, active rollover protection system, child anchors and tethers and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 21 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $53,850.

2004 Audi A8 L Quatro AT6 (500)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2004 Audi A8 L (for Long wheelbase) 4 door sedan Quatro AT6. The short wheelbase version is not available in the US for 2004. Although I loved the sister to this A8, the VW Phaeton, I have to give the nod to this A8. I like it better from a design standpoint but don’t care for the electronics any better than the Phaeton or any German product. The Japanese electronics, specifically the Navigation systems, are far superior. They are so bad you are encouraged to use the manual.

Audi provides an alternative display on the instrument panel, I suspect because even they know lots of folks will find it difficult to use the main presentation. I tried but struggled with Audi’s obvious first choice, even if it is more dangerous at worst or simply aggravating at best. It is so user-unfriendly it is literally enough to dissuade me from buying the car. Why, because it is a big part of the pleasure of driving a touring sedan. Second, it makes me wonder what other poor choices the company made in the process of building other components on the car.

What they refer to as MMI for Multi Media Interface, a fancy name and fancy presentation on a colorful visual screen what I consider functionally poor. It is dangerous because it forces you to take your eyes off the road and to add insult to injury you are prompted repeatedly to read and acknowledge the disclaimer warning on the screen. It acknowledges that by you using it while driving you are engaging in dangerous behavior behind the wheel. But if it is the primary interface, and when you push the button to say “I Accept” you are doing exactly what Audi says you shouldn’t do.

Audi… just between us, you need to do something about your electronics. The system is problematic and someone’s head should roll on this one. More importantly, such difficult systems detract from an otherwise wonderful automobile.

Handling & Performance:

Wonderfully responsive, fast, smooth and one of the most comfortable cars you’ll ever drive. I understand a W-12 engine will be available in future models. But I felt the 8 cylinders are sufficient for the car. 0-60 mph is impressively 6.3 seconds.

Styling:

Lovely. Quiet elegance describes its presence on the road. It is as invisible as the Hummer is visible.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent. Beautiful burl wood accents.

Conveniences:

Most controls are intuitively well placed and the others you don’t see are numerous and all well worthwhile, except the Navigation system. It ranks down there with nothing at all. If you decide to use the Navigation feature, be prepared to consume as much time inputting as it will take to reach your destination. Put in the country, city, street and address. That is, if you can ever figure it out at all without reading a space shuttle size manual. Ok, so I’m being a little silly but it wasn’t funny to me at the time. I’m still fuming. In fact, while driving I asked daughter Jenny, who has a Nav system in her Acura TL was nearly as frustrated as I was and finally gave up too. Trust me, if you have seen the Japanese Navigation systems you’ll know what I mean when you try a German made versions, which are all lousy.

The electric parking brake is easy to operate and I expect it is ok to eliminate, over time, what they used to refer to as an “Emergency Brake”. I guess those manually operated brakes are no longer needed.  Come to think of it, I haven’t had to use one since I drove a Model A.

Cost:

The MSRP is $68,500 and the model I tested included the a special convenience package including Electric Rear Sunshade, rear vanity mirrors, tire pressure monitoring, air conditioned front seats and power trunk open and close feature for $2,500. The Adaptive Cruise Control adds $2,100. It is one of the most useful new features and it will surely be standard equipment one day, 18” wheels $1,100 and for those cold days in California a Cold Weather Package that includes Heated front and rear seats and a ski sack and heated steering wheel.  Just goes to show you the rich and famous are expected to spend enough time driving to the ski areas such amenities are readily available.  Grand total is just over $76,000. Well priced for what you get, minus $40,000 for the lousy Nav system. Just kidding, I’m still upset.

Consumer Recommendation:

There is no question the ladies will fall in love with this car. It pampers you. I suspect it will appeal as much to them as the Jaguar has for many years. If they’d put a Japanese audio and navigation system I’d consider buying it.

The Competition:

Audi A8 $68,500, Volvo S80 $35-49,000, Jaguar XJ Series $60-75,000, Lexus LS 430 $55,375, BMW 7 Series $69-117,000, Mercedes Benz S-Class $74-123,000, Infiniti Q45 $52-62,000.

Good News:

Decent mileage for a top of the line luxury car, elegant, super comfort and great performance.

Bad News:

HORRIBLE electronics system enough to prevent me from buying one.

Standard Equipment:

4.2 liter aluminum alloy 330 hp V8 engine with 5 valves per cylinder, 6-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic shifter, all wheel drive with EDL (Electronic Differential Lock), anti lock braking system, vehicle speed sensitive power steering, ESP (electonic Stabilization Program), multi media interface with color screen, leather seating, 12 speaker Bose surround sound system, climate control, 16 way power front seats, power glass sunroof, polished walnut Birch wood inlays on dash and console and doors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, slide sunshades, trip computer, dual front air bags, front and rear side and curtain airbags, front knee air bags, (if you get in an accident it sounds like if the crash doesn’t kill you, you’ll be suffocated), child safety anchors and tethers, anti theft alarm system, high pressure headlight washer system, front and rear fog lights, dual power mirrors with defog feature.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $76,070.

2004 Audi TT V6 Roadster (494)

Overview:
This week I tested the 2004 Audi TT V6 and must say I love convertibles but I hate the poor visibility of convertibles generally when the top is up. Top down is great and putting it down is easy too. Even with the top down there is a small trunk but if you’re a golfer, forget about it, because you can’t get a set of clubs in there unless you cut them in half. Could it be that car designers at Audi don’t play golf?

I do love sports cars and have owned several, but I gotta tell you it is scary to drive one in today’s world. The roads are filled with big or bigger SUV’s like the bigger you are, the better you are. That spells danger for motorcycle riders and anyone in a small car. And most everything in the sport class is like a bug to all those big monsters hell bent on squashing the little guys.

How rude!

Handling & Performance:
Well, it’s a sports car, built low to the ground and as you’d expect it corners nicely especially with the all wheel drive, but I didn’t care for the “Cushman” motor scooter centrifugal clutch feeling. That transmission needs some work. Hello Audi, you listening?

They did a nice job with the exhaust that fits the car with a throaty sound that signals performance to those around you. 0-60 is pretty snappy at about 6 seconds, once the clutch engages fully.

Styling:

Only a mother could love this face… but then that is true of everything and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m just not real attracted to the ladybug look, although I like those cute little insects. I feel the same about the Nissan 350Z, by the way. I’m also partial to blondes but you may be in love with brunettes. I like short hair; you may feel it can’t be long enough. I don’t like a lot of make up in my women and fewer embellishments in my cars, but I still love ‘em both.

I do like the racing touches like the aluminum accents on the controls, pedals, etc. but do not consider them embellishments. They are simply statements that fit the overall design and purpose of a racecar.

I didn’t like the position and latch on the small storage compartment above the console between the seats. It kept popping open when I brushed up against it with my elbow.

My car design friend Merkel felt the braces on the center console were annoying and didn’t look particularly good either. I must agree on this point and wondered why they did that. I didn’t have time to ask but if Audi is reading this, perhaps they will respond with an answer. Merkel and I do agree on many things, but how the ride is isn’t one of them. Merkel felt it was “too smooth” and I wondered if we were driving the same car. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need to pull out the Kidney Belt but it is close to 20 miles of bad road. Ok so I know the suspension has to be stiff to perform well, but it still seemed a little rough to me. Then I get into a Jeep Wrangler Sport, more on that later, but you do need the kidney belt on that one.

The seats are extremely robust and rugged looking and remind me of the feel of a saddle when horse back riding. These seats will surely outlive the rest of the car and most of its owners.

Fit and Finish:

Very good actually.

Conveniences:

The trunk is “Inconvenient” quite frankly and I DO play golf and think they could have done more to accommodate them.

Cost:

A little too much for this car.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are truly interested in this car, you need to test drive all noted here to get a good feel for cost-to-value. Prices vary greatly and for a two seater you may find price will be a big influence on your decision, especially if it is a second car.

The Competition:
Audi TT $33-43,000, Mercedes Benz SLK $40-55,000, Mazda MX-5 Miata $22-26,000, Toyota Celica $18-24,000, BMW Z4 $34-41,000, Honda S2000 $33,000, Porsche Boxster $43-60,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-29,000.

Good News:
Decent fuel economy, sporty and fun to drive, easy top down convertible.

Bad News:

Poor visibility, slipping clutch feels like Cushman motor scooter.

Standard Equipment:
3.2 liter 250 hp V6 Engine, 6-speed auto trans, quarto all wheel drive system with EDL (electronic differential lock), ESP (electronic stability program), climate control, power one touch windows, AM/FM radio with in dash CD player, remote keyless entry, cruise control, leather seats, tilt and tele steering column, power soft top with heated rear glass window, dual front and side air bags, anti theft alarm, headlight washer system, power mirrors & Xenon headlights.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:
MSRP $42,900.

2003 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 CVT Convertible (468)

Overview:

This week’s test car was the 2003 Audi A4 Cabriolet 3.0 CVT Convertible. So, you guessed it, it started to rain. I hate when that happens, but I got lucky one day when it cleared for a few hours while I was downtown LA to see the new Symphony house next to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. It was Saturday and unique to Los Angeles, relative to many other large cities, like New York City, the streets are barren in LA. You could fire off a cannon and not hit a car, truck, bus or people. LA is strictly a business district with the exception of a few dwelling structures. New York has no respit from activity since so many people live right in the city. It was really cool, but also errie at the same time. Anyway it was a great clear day to put the top down and sight see.

Convertibles are really my favorite model of any car because of the free feeling you get driving with the top down. And the convertibles of today are wonderfully easy to drop or raise. One button controls the process on this Audi A4 and although it takes longer than other automatic tops, it tucks the top away under a hard boot. Very classy. It literally couldn’t be any easier. Plus, when the top is up you’ll forget you’re driving a convertible because the headliners are as good as other sedans. It’s easy to fall in love with this little A4 convertible. Little is good. But if you have need to transport more than two adults, little isn’t so good. With the front seats adjusted for a comfortable position there is almost no leg room for rear passengers. Not as bad as a Porsche or other smaller sport cars, but enough for you to look carefully at when considering your needs. 6’4” tall Norm had no problem getting behind the wheel but that made the rear seat nearly unusable.

Todays Audi is light years ahead of those that brother John and I experienced in our automotive repair shop for over 12 years. If you have experience with Audi repair and maintenance please share your feelings with me at joe@atthewheel.com.

Handling & Performance:

Sol-lidddd. I love driving and appreciate a car that is tight and exacting. Not such a surprise for German made cars, but when you get that same feeling with a convertible it is an added bonus. Nice job Audi.

Styling:

Outstanding. This is a car that will look in style for a long time. It has lines that are pleasant to the eye and history proves that quality lasts from generation to generation.

Fit and Finish:

Very nice. I can’t help recalling Audi’s of 20 years ago and how poor they were. Audi is a class act today and reminds me so much of Mercedes quality that has led the way and set a standard for other German cars. In particular, this Audi reminds me most of BMW that has also improved over recent years.

Conveniences:

Customary equipment and all very easily accessable. But then in cars this size it’s hard to put controls out of reach.

Cost:

Competitive.

Consumer Recommendation:

All things considered, I like the Volvo, but they don’t make a convertible so it would be toss up between this Audi and the BMW M3 convertible if I didn’t mind spending a few more dollars for the BMW.

The Competition:

Audi A4 Cabriolet $25-44,000, Infiniti G35 $28-32,000, VW Passat $22-38,000, Saab 9-3 $26-40,000, Nissan Maxima $27-29,000, BMW 3 Series $28-44,000, Acura TSX $26-28,000, Volvo S60 $27-37,000, Lincoln LS $32-43,000, Cadillac CTS $30,140, Mercedes-Benz C-Class $25-51,000, Honda Accord $16-25,000, Lexus IS 300 $29-31,000, Jaguar X-Type $29-33,000.

Good News:

Solid, nice design, comfortable, fun to drive, great convertible top and a radio with a knob tuner (yet another car maker with common sense to realize low tech is sometimes better).

Bad News:

Poor visibility with top up both side and rear.

Standard Equipment:

3 liter 220 hp V6 engine, automatic trans, power ABS (anti locking) braking, front wheel drive, power steering, power convertible top with glass rear window, climate control, power windows, cruise control, leather, 12-way power front seats, real wood trim, radio with in-dash 6-CD changer, dual front & side air bags, power heated mirrors, anti-theft with ignition immobilizer and rollover protection.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $41,500.

2000 Audi A4 1.8T Avant quattro (298)

Overview:

Well, this Audi A4 1.8T (for Turbo) Avant is a great little wagon. When I was very young my wife and I bought one of the first Datsun (now Nissan) station wagons. It was part of the rebellious acts of that decade. Buy Japanese and snub the American Automakers. That Datsun wasn’t like this Audi, but neither was the Audi like this Audi. In fact, back then I guess I would have rather had the Datsun even if the price were the same. The year was 1968 and the paint job on the Datsun was almost as bad as this Audi Red.

I wonder whether cars have come all that far in 30 years. When one considers that Datsun would get you from here to there for a lot less money. In contrast the Datsun wagon would have cost about $12,000 in today’s dollars.  I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a Datsun. I just make the observation that it’s good to look at the real world in perspective.

Enough of the “good old days”. There are a lot of wonderful car choices as we launch into the new century and the unbelievable new millennium. This Audi is one of those wonderful cars. Today’s cars have been fine tuned to peak performance. Like getting 83.33 horsepower per liter. Pretty amazing, eh! Audi takes 1.8 liters and puts a Turbo on it to make it fly. Fun to drive for sure. 5 valves per cylinder, 3 being intake valves to provide more air helps to make that happen. Obviously there are many enhancements to the engine technology that allow so much for so little.

Handling & Performance:

Today’s technology also extends to better suspension and in the case of Audi, all wheel drive makes this car hug the road better than most. And that contributes to the higher cost.

Styling:

It is an attractive car, but if they don’t get rid of that Audi red they have to have their heads examined. I didn’t talk with one person who liked the color. Baby poop comes to mind.

Fit and Finish:

Bravo to the assemblers in Germany.

Conveniences:

You get what you pay for, and compared to the Ford Focus the extra $15,000 price tag buys the following: ABS brakes, power windows, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, CD player, tachometer, 40 more horses assisted by a turbocharger, twice the towing capacity. In balance, however, you give up a few things too, like: $15,000, a luggage rack, 18% less fuel economy, 2 inches front and 4 inches rear legroom and 6 cu. ft. of cargo space. Wow, go get ‘em Ford.

Cost:

You pay for the nameplate, but the Volvo V40 gives you more for the money with an equally impressive nameplate. Subaru is ok but lack the perceived “class” of this Audi or the Volvo for that matter. The Ford Focus lacks the “class” but must be considered on price alone.

Recommendation:

If you’re an Audi fan, you’ll love this car. If you’re not because of past quality sins, be comforted in that Audi has improved a lot. I don’t hear the negative comments I did when brother John and I owned a foreign car repair shop in the 1970’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s.

I haven’t tested the new Ford Focus, but after looking at the differences in the two cars I want to drive it. You should too, if only for curiosity. Volvo by the way is assembled in Belgium. Overall, it’s my pick since it’s the closest in features, is priced better and has a longer running good reputation.

The competition:

Ford Focus $12,055 – $15,475, Subaru Legacy Wagon $18,400-23,695, Subaru Outback $18,095-26,095, Volvo V40 $24,400.

Good News:

Great ride, comfortable, everything first cabin, lots of power from the turbo and good mileage. Galvanized steel body resists rust. Quattro AWD provides great traction especially noticeable in winter.

Bad News:

Not a lot of room, which is something you buy a station wagon for. Rear windows don’t go all the way down. You’ll notice a bothersome lag in acceleration before the turbo kicks in. Lousy placement of the power window buttons.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 150 horsepower DOHC Turbo 4-cylinder engine with 5 valves per cylinder, 5-speed manual transmission, quattro permanent all wheel drive system, power steering front and side air bags, anti-theft alarm, climate control, power windows, cruise control, tilt and teli leather steering wheel, sound system with cassette and CD player, remote keyless entry, pre-wired for CD changer and telephone and trip computer.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $26,740.

2000 Audi TT Coupe (276)

Overview:

This 2000 Audi TT has a lot to offer to the sports car enthusiast but there are some things to consider before you put thirty grand on the table. Is there trouble lurking around the ownership corner reminiscent of some cars from Audi in the past?

I wonder if making a fashion statement is worth the cost. Surely the handling is very capable and you’d have to spend double the dough to improve on it. Yes it’s fun to drive much like the VW Beatle is fun to drive. Since the designer is the same, you too will see the resemblance. It’s like they mashed down and stretched out the Beatle, took the Vaase out and put in a bunch of aluminum tinsel for highlighting.

Cynical, I guess, but there were some things that turned me off. This 1995 concept car turned production has some bugs to be worked out. I recommend waiting for future versions. That was the case with the Dodge Viper. It was a bucket of bolts in the first days of production but has turned the corner, big time, for 2000. If the demand for this TT is good enough now, I predict that it will be a fabulous car in the future.

What will strike you is that it feels solid and although some feel it is a road hugging car, I felt a little less confident in that area. Some of the competition is much more comforting in the corners. In particular the Mercedes SLK, Corvette, and the Acura NSX come to mind. But the price tags loom ominous as well. Like I say, for the dough it ain’t bad. Perhaps the cost control comes from the fact that it shares the same platform as other VW products like the new Beatle and the Golf. VW products, you say! Well that may be good news to many and even reason enough to buy the Audi over other competitors at any price.

I think you’ll be as impressed with the power you get from the 1.8-liter 180-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It’s quick, with acceleration of 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds. It’s a version of the engine in the VW Passat and Audi A4. But you won’t find much use for the rear seat except to put the seatbacks down to enlarge the trunk. Visibility is only average and rather poor for shorter drivers who will find themselves stretching their necks to see over the nose. The rear roof pillars also cause blind spots. And I know it’s a little nit picky but the cupholders are awkward to reach.

While I was driving this car, it drew a lot of attention for sure, because it’s a one-of-a-kind auto. The first question I got was “is that one of those electric cars?” Another was – “does that come in a convertible?” I got lots of thumbs up so the popular vote is positive. The real ooo’s and aah’s come when they look inside at the truly imaginative and artful interior and an exaggerated attention to detail. Other things are almost invisible, like the power window switches on the doors. By the way, the car doesn’t come in an electric model but will arrive convertible likely in the spring of 2000. Also, TT” stands for the Tourist Trophy races in Europe during the early part of the “soon to be” last century.

The competition:
Porsche Boxster, BMW Z3, Mercedes Benz SLK.

Good News:

Fun to drive, fast, unique styling, true sports car look and feel, space age imaginative and simple interior.

Bad News:

Wouldn’t want to own early release, troublesome shifting, poor visibility.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 4-cylinder 180 horsepower turbocharged engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive, sport suspension, 8-speaker sound system, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, automatic climate control, power/heated mirrors, power windows, trunk and fuel-filler releases, anti-lock disc brakes, traction-control system, front and side airbags, power steering.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 31 Highway MPG.

Pricing:
MSRP $30,500