I owed it to myself to check out the A3 wagon since I’m already in an Audi and I love it so much. I found myself stopping by the Santa Monica location and hitting up the internet and fleet salesman who emailed me about my lease expiration. Abtin was friendly, and it was instantly clear that I’d be dealing with a car salesman for this transaction. I hate haggling. I hate negotiating for things that have clear manufacturing costs and ought to be priced statically. There’s not two Audi dealerships next to each other competing for the sale, so it’s not like there’s a free market effect. No, when you start wheeling and dealing with car salesmen you’re in for a giant waste of time in order to try and save money. This is nothing against Abtin personally – two years ago I came in on an ad for zero down, zero up front payments, and $325/mo for my A4. I drove it, loved it, signed papers, and had my car in a week. There would not be a repeat performance of that transaction.
Audi redesigned their A3 and A4 line for 2009 giving it the LED mascara eyeliner in the headlamps that debuted in the R8. The body style looks much the same as last year, and it comes in a 200hp 2.0 liter turbo model with or without quattro all-wheel-drive. My personal experience with quattro is that it makes the car run on rails but drops the fuel economy by 5 miles per gallon. I’ll be quite content with front wheel drive, thank you in order to save a few hundred dollars a year in gas. In addition to the tiptronic automatic transmission, the premium package also provides paddle shifting on the steering wheel.
The interior is slightly different than my A4 with dials instead of buttons to adjust cabin temp, an AUX input instead of the $500 iPod interface that completely sucked in my A4, and in the premium package a dual sunroof – one for the backseat passengers, too. All in all a wonderful car, small enough to park anywhere, meaty enough to get you there in complete happiness.
Even without the quattro the A3 still runs on rails. Floor the accelerator and the A3 feels like it tightens its muscles and starts tearing into the pavement with cleats on. Use the paddle shifters to drop the gearing and you can fudge engine braking instead of wheel braking, just like a manual transmission. The wagon feels nimble, in all likelihood because there is little difference between the A3 and the A4 with almost identical engine package. It is everything I love about German engineering, as long as we’re talking about machines and not the extermination of a people. (Speaking of which, there is no small irony in having a home with a Krups coffee machine, Braun coffee grinder, an Audi in the driveway, and a mezzuzah on the doorjamb.)
The next day I had to drive to a client in Calabasas on a Friday afternoon. On a good day on the freeway it takes an hour for me to get there, leaving mid-morning. This would be 3pm on a Friday afternoon facing the worst traffic LA has to offer – workers heading home to the valley. Instead of the freeways I opted to take PCH north to Malibu, then cut over the canyons into Calabasas. The mileage would be longer, but it could be much shorter. Google plotted out a course I’d never been on and it looked intriguing.
PCH was a breeze, easy traffic, and I made it to Malibu quickly. I turned right at Pepperdine on Malibu Canyon and headed into the mountains. I started to open up the A4, thinking that it was a good opportunity to remind myself of the car I’d been enjoying for two years. Google took me off Malibu Canyon and onto Piuma, a road loved by cyclists working on mountain skills. Before long I found myself whipping through switchback turns on Dry Canyon Cold Creek Road, rollercoastering through drops and turns, and climbing twisting roads in a thrilling driving course. I was alone on the road, free to play through the tiptronic transmission and wind out the engine. Accelerating through a descending turn and letting the all-wheel-drive tear through the pavement. Going fifty miles per hour through a turn rated at twenty never felt so good.
Google guided me to a road that felt very familiar and as I passed a cyclist climbing his heart out I realized I had biked this stretch of Dry Canyon before, only descending from the other side. As I peaked and prepared to make my turn I thought I remembered there was no turn where Google wanted me to turn. I was right – my client lives in a gated community and the road Google wanted me to turn into was gated, padlocked, and restricted with no way in. I called my client who confirmed that all their friends have ben sent there by Google and I had to go around the entire city to use the main entrance. This meant taking Mulholland Highway out to Las Virgines Canyon north to the 101, then dropping south on the freeway to Parkway Calabasas. A half an hour drive on winding, twisting back country roads.
I floored it and smiled.
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