The Truth About Cars » a4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » a4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Low-Cost Tesla EV To Use Steel To Hit A4, 3 Series Pricing Levels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/low-cost-tesla-ev-to-use-steel-to-hit-a4-3-series-pricing-levels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/low-cost-tesla-ev-to-use-steel-to-hit-a4-3-series-pricing-levels/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857993 Though Tesla’s low-cost EV won’t be able to put the E in between the S and the X, it will be able to meet its price target thanks an alloy swap in its construction. Autocar reports steel instead of aluminum will make up the low-cost EV, which CEO Elon Musk stated will be 20 percent […]

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Though Tesla’s low-cost EV won’t be able to put the E in between the S and the X, it will be able to meet its price target thanks an alloy swap in its construction.

Autocar reports steel instead of aluminum will make up the low-cost EV, which CEO Elon Musk stated will be 20 percent smaller than the Model S. The steel construction will likely be assembled through bonding and rivets, as well.

The use of steel will allow the new EV — expected sometime between late 2016 and early 2017 — to better compete against the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series on price, backed up by the reduced cost in battery production once the Gigafactory goes online at the same time as the low-cost Tesla arrives in showrooms.

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Piston Slap: The I’s Have it? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-is-have-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-is-have-it/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832618 TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes: I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition. The problem is, last month […]

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TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes:

I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition.

The problem is, last month I put on new front brakes to the tune of $245.00. At that time my mechanic told me of some looming items that will likely need addressing in the next month:

  • Leaking head gasket – $535.00
  • Front axle boots – $385.00
  • Front wheel bearing – $620.00 ( I did the other one last year)

This car has been the most trouble-free I have owned, but I also understand that it is getting on in age and will likely start needing more and more attention. I am very tempted to sell it and get something newer (not new) with less miles on it. Likely another Infiniti or possibly an A4 or older E class Mercedes.

Or should I repair it and just chalk this up to bad timing that all of this is happening at once, and therefore making it seem worse than it is?

Thoughts? Many thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Isn’t it funny how one decision can cause a chain reaction? Or-if you choose wisely-not?

Here’s the deal: if you buy a used A4 or E-class (lacking a handy CPO warranty) you’ll regret not dumping a pile of cash on I35 reconditioning.  The I is certainly an older car needing constant frequent attention, but it’s not a money/time sucking Pit of Disappointment. With those nasty German parts costs and labor rates, that perhaps you aren’t considering.

Perhaps one day we can say a 4-10 year old vehicle from this part of the world is a fair proposition for people living in the USA: perhaps time will tell.

A newer Infiniti is the smarter choice: it keeps you in the premium luxo-sedan game and is less likely to punish your wallet than the German alternatives. But newer Infinitis lack the I35′s inbreeding advantages with the Nissan Maxima. With that in mind, dare I suggest a Camry-bred Lexus ES?

Generalizations are all fine and dandy-it’s at the core of the Internet in general and Piston Slap in particular-but what does it boil down to?

It’s about your time value of money.

Is the I35 gonna leave you stranded more often than a newer car?  Likely. Will it be cheaper to fix those unexpected surprises and the normal wear items? Most definitely.  So will you miss the I35 if it goes bye-bye?

If you replace it with an out-of-warranty Benz/Audi, I can almost guarantee it.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Mounting Problems Amid Audi Uncertainty? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-mounting-problems-amid-audi-uncertainty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-mounting-problems-amid-audi-uncertainty/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 13:16:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=647386 TTAC Commentator jrominski writes: Nice to see you are still at it on TTAC. (Back at it?) So my story is a 2010 Audi A4, Quattro 2.0t Premium. Red, as it should be (No, it should be brown. Duh. – SM). Just turning 60k miles. The engine is an EA888 according to Wikipedia, twin chain driven […]

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TTAC Commentator jrominski writes:

Nice to see you are still at it on TTAC. (Back at it?)

So my story is a 2010 Audi A4, Quattro 2.0t Premium. Red, as it should be (No, it should be brown. Duh. – SM). Just turning 60k miles. The engine is an EA888 according to Wikipedia, twin chain driven counterbalance shafts as is known to work so well on I4s. Production commenced 2008 and its in all US A4 B8s with the 2.0 gas engine. Inside oil cap the gallery is clean as can be, I keep the VW spec Mobil 1 changed with my mityvac. New plugs, NGK of correct part number, air cleaner path is fine. The rest is original unmolested.

The issue is it runs rough. Slightly, as in the car does not shake but I feel it. Worst, dead cold, running at just above idle up a slight incline. A miss. Since 25k. Goes mostly away when warm or when power is asked for. No codes. Sort of feels like a tire flat spot but it did not go away with new tires.

Dealer responses on different occasions from mile 25k through mile 60k (all same dealer.)

  • (15 minutes after drop off, motor still hot) It does not run rough. Our service guys could not replicate the problem. You should be using top tier gas. (I hand him a printout from www.toptiergas.com and suggest generating a handout for the service department to give customers instead of just telling them to go look it up on internet.)
  • It runs rough because you have the old, non-counterbalanced engine. Its a 2010. Buy a new car. The news ones do not do this.
  • It runs rough but does not throw a code. We can’t help. What gas are you using?
  • It does not run rough.
  • It runs rough because of intake sludge. We will fix it for free right after it goes off warranty. Top Tier in the mean tine.
  • You should be using that there top tier gas. Run some Chevron through it. (I buy mine cheap at Costco)

A friend with VAG setup ran a diagnostic and it has no codes, except for a heater flap ran out of limit once. It sat there idling kind of lumpy and no misses were recorded anywhere.

Friend says:

  • All Audis have crap motor mounts. He flexes right mount up on lift with a tire iron, it moves a bit. Its fluid filled, should flex. The mount has a sensor and would throw a code.
  • If it had a miss the O2 sensors would pick it up and if it were serious the Cats would fail. They are fine. Its your imagination. All new cars suck. Freaking Japanese. Buy an old Panther (Obviously, esp in Brown. – SM) or a new Focus.

I am doubtful motor mounts are what it is. This guy makes his living doing off-warranty work for Porsche Audi dealers all around Boston, engine controls and sensors. The dealer warranty payment from Audi is low enough that they will not ever perform any real diagnostics under warranty: no code then OK let’s back it out of the shop!

 

Sajeev answers:

OMG SON! I mean…

  1. Even with my corporate full-time gig, the eldest TTAC scribe’s been reliably posting to the Piston Slap series twice a week, but there’s still a question that I’m not a regular contributor?
  2. Your last paragraph, the section I entered in bold face:  an Audi specialist tested the engine mount, it CLEARLY failed no matter what the sensor reports, and you don’t believe him?

More to the point:

Look, I understand your lack of Audi knowledge (of which I’m guilty too) and our country’s general mistrust of any mechanic (ditto)…but…

I had a similar problem after my (then 13-year-old) Lincoln Mark VIII had a bizarre vibration/miss around idle.  I gave up and went to my trusty mechanic. He fired it up, opened the hood, put his foot on the brake, put it in gear and pressed the gas: the motor lifted up like the nose of an Airbus on takeoff. Granted a Ford liquid-filled mount lasting 13-ish years and 150-ish thousand miles is a little different than your situation, but if your mechanic friend says that Audis have “crap motor mounts” you go right ahead and believe him!

Fact is, just a millimeter (or less) of variance in any powertrain mount is a concern. The sensor hasn’t been tripped yet, but that’s irrelevant.

Case in point: once again, my Mark VIII. The fairly complex aluminum differential/IRS setup had an annoying vibration above 80 MPH. On a whim, I replaced the four rubber mounts because one looked somewhat smushed (technical term) compared to the others. Considering my driving style in a modified, Hot Rod Lincoln, perhaps that fraction of a millimeter meant something.  Lo and behold, it did.

Take it from me and your Audi-wrenching friend: GET NEW ENGINE MOUNTS!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2013 Audi allroad http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-audi-allroad-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-audi-allroad-2/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:26:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463018 If you haven’t been paying attention to my life story (discretely woven into my reviews), I’ll spell it out clearly: I live in what is considered to be a temperate rainforest on the California coast, the nearest asphalt or concrete surface is over a mile away, and I have a deep (some say questionable) love […]

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If you haven’t been paying attention to my life story (discretely woven into my reviews), I’ll spell it out clearly: I live in what is considered to be a temperate rainforest on the California coast, the nearest asphalt or concrete surface is over a mile away, and I have a deep (some say questionable) love for station wagons. If you combine this with liberal political leanings, my DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) status and a passion for Costco runs, I am the target market for an off-road wagon. Enter the 2013 Audi allroad. (No, for some reason “allroad” doesn’t get a capital letter.) Audi invited Michael Karesh to a launch event, event a few months ago, but what’s the XC70′s only competition like to live with for a week? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

If you remember the original A6-based (2001-2005) allroad, this isn’t it. That allroad remains a European delicacy not available on our shores. Instead we get the European A4 allroad (but we drop the A4 prefix in America) which replaces the A4 Avant as the only Audi wagon on sale in the United States. While the new allroad is a bit more than just a jacked up A4 Avant, it’s far less of a transformation than the A6 allroad. First Audi lifted the Avant by 1.5 inches to allow for 7.1 inches of ground clearance, then they borrowed the wider track from the A5 to compensate for the height increase. The added width meant the body was too narrow so they added some rugged plastic wheel arches. To to convince shoppers this is more than just a “jacked-up-station-wagon,” Audi fitted a baleen inspired front grille to the A4, because in Audi-speak cars have horizontal grilles and SUVs have vertical schnozes. Transformation complete.

Interior

While Audi butched up the exterior of the A4 for allroad duty, little has been done to the cabin. Inside we find the same A4 interior introduced in 2008. While the A4′s cabin was class leading in 2008 and it has aged well, it does show its age when compared to the newer Volvo and BMW interiors, especially in the black-on-black-on-black color scheme of our tester. While I found nothing wrong with the trappings, I found myself continually asking if the plastics that surrounded me were fitting of the $40,495-$57,170 price range. One thing is for sure, the camel leather and brown dash combination with oak wood trim make the interior a far more attractive place to spend your time.

The natural competition for a soft-roading wagon that will set you back 50-large is limited to the Volvo XC70 AWD which ranges from $35,450 to $54,754. Comparisons are tricky because the allroad has shrunk over the past 6 years going from an A6 to an A4 based wagon and the XC70 has grown from an S60 to an S80 wagon. As a result the allroad’s seats are more compact than the XC70′s Barcalounger-sized thrones, the difference is most obvious in the rear where the allroad has troubles swallowing four adults comfortably. The cargo situation is similar with the XC70 swallowing 33 cubes of widgets with the seats in place and 72 with the rear thrones folded while the allroad’s cargo hauling rings in at 27/50.

Infotainment

The Germans have cornered the market in joystick based infotainment systems since BMW first introduced iDrive in 2001. Since then Audi has been in a gadget arms race with the Roundel. Taken as a whole, MMI isn’t as intuitive as iDrive with more confusing menus and illogical button placement. While I’m sure you would get used to it over time, even after a week I found myself needing to stare at the array of buttons for way too long to find what I needed. See that little knob in the upper left of the picture above? That’s the on/off button, volume knob and track forward/backward toggle. You probably don’t want to know what happens if you spill your Slurpee on there.

On the flip side, MMI has probably one of the most advanced feature sets on the market thanks to their well-executed Google integration. While iDrive allows you to search for Google results (as do a number of other systems), MMI takes it a step further and overlays your traditional map images with Google satellite imagery and even allows you to zoom in and view Google Street View images so you can creep your neighbors. On the down side, the Google map function requires a $15-$30 a month subscription after the first few years for the built-in cellular modem, and when traveling at freeway speeds the system has troubles downloading maps fast enough to keep up leaving you with a blank screen at times.

Since the XC70 is the logical competition, a comparison to Volvo’s Sensus system is inevitable. Volvo’s system lacks the online data, app integration and Google snazz that MMI brings to the table, but it counters with a considerably easier to use system. Volvo’s screen size and graphic quality is easily on par with MMI and in sharp contrast to MMI, most of the system’s commands can be fully utilized via the steering wheel button which means you eyes are off the road less.

Drivetrain

Nestled inside the “classically Audi” (read: long) front overhand is a 2.0L turbo charged four-cylinder engine. This 2.0L TFSI (in Audi speak) is a rework of the classic 2.0L turbo engine that Volkswagen and Audi have had on the books for a while. Despite having the latest in direct injection and variable valve timing tech, the engine puts out just 211HP. Thankfully torque is on par with the other entries in the Euro D segment at 258lb-ft from 1,500-4,200RPM. Sending the power to all four wheels is a ZF 8-speed automatic and Audi’s Quattro AWD system. Like many in the Audi lineup, this system is now programmed to send 60% of the power to the rear wheels under most situations. The rear bias delivers a driving feel more similar to a RWD vehicle than Quattros of the past.

Pitted against Volvo’s XC70, the allroad is livelier than Volvo’s base 3.2L inline six thanks to the turbo, the XC70′s curb weight and Volvo’s 6-speed automatic. Rather unexpectedly however, the XC70 T6 with 300 turbocharged horses and 325lb-ft of torque is the performance leader in this shoot out. If 300HP in your Swedish sled is insufficient, $1,495 will bump the T6 to 325HP and 354lb-ft. Volvo of course continues to use a FWD biased Haldex system to send power to the rear. While the system isn’t capable of sending more than 50% of the power to the rear wheels, this fifth-generation Haldex system spends more time than ever in AWD mode making the system’s FWD heritage unnoticeable in 99% of driving situations.

Drive

Don’t get too excited about those performance numbers from the Volvo just yet. When you’re out on the road the XC70 is faster in a straight line, dispatching 60 in 5.6 seconds (T6 Polestar) vs the allroad’s 6.3 second time, but the extra 261lbs, taller ride height and skinnier/higher profile tires mean when the road bends, you’ll be seeing the XC70 in the allroad’s rear view mirror. That being said, the allroad feels less confident out on the road than the XC70. Why? Mostly because that engine is hanging out in front of the front axle. The weight balance, coupled with the rear wheel bias makes oversteer and understeer close neighbors in the allroad. While I found the dynamics entertaining, even pleasing, I know a few drivers that found it disconcerting and preferred the XC70′s understeer-all-the-time dynamics.

Road noise and engine noise in the allroad were higher than I expected even on smooth roads. We can probably chalk this up to A4 platform’s age and the wide 245-width tires, but at these price points I expected things to be quieter. BMW’s new 2.0L turbo engine is a pinnacle of four-cylinder refinement, this is not something that can be said of the Audi mill which sent more vibrations into the cabin than a number of modern economy cars. This is another area where the XC70 comes out ahead as even Volvo’s anemic base engine is a smooth inline six.

Out on the trail, its obvious that Volvo and Audi’s missions were different. The XC70′s higher profile tires, 1.2-inch higher ground clearance and shorter front overhang meant that despite having an AWD system that many in the industry describe as “less sophisticated,” the XC70 is better equipped to handle mild off-roading than the allroad. When the road gets icy, the Haldex system is slower to respond than the Quattro’s always-engaged AWD system to send power front/rear but Volvo fights back with a traction control system, that was far more willing to send power left/right on either axle.

With a starting price of $40,495, the allroad is $3,200 more than the 2012 A4 Avant it replaced, $4,150 more than an XC70 3.2 and $395 more than the powerful XC70 T6. Audi’s premium pricing doesn’t just stop at the base points however. Should you want a nav system in your allroad, expect to shell out $46,795 for the Premium Plus trim with Audi Connect which widens the gap to $1,100 over the XC70 T6. Adjusting for feature content further widens the divide to between $2,590 and $4,595 in favor of the Swede. After a week with the allroad I was still unable to figure out who it is really for. Despite my rural lifestyle, I have never honestly felt the need for a jacked-up AWD vehicle that couldn’t tow 7,500lbs. When pitted against the Volvo competition, the Audi has trouble justifying a larger price tag due to an unrefined engine and reduced soft-road ability. If I lived in Europe, the allroad might make more sense to me (taking into account my love of wagons) but as it is, the allroad ends up being an expensive landing at the wrong airport. Maybe it really is time to say goodbye to the Euro wagon?

 

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.9 @ 93 Seconds

Average Fuel Economy: 23.5MPG over 811 miles

 

2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Exteruir, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Engine, 2.0L TFSI Turbo, 211HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, MMI controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, HVAC Controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seat HVAC vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Audi Allroad, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Why Scion Matters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/455888/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/455888/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2012 16:22:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455888   A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion. This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand. “I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.” I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into […]

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A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion.

This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand.

“I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.”

I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into becoming Toyota equivalents that offer fake wood trim exterior panels and trombone case red interiors. As a long-time automotive writer and columnist, he was simply reading the proverbial writing on Scion’s firewall that has been ever deeper ingrained into their product line.

“Mediocrity… is killing the brand.” This inscription ought to be welded onto every frumpish inner panel of Scion’s soon to be defunct models, the Scion xB and Scion xD. Underpowered compact cars that look like SUV’s in 2012 sell about as well as two-seater cars that look like frogs. Or bland plain-jane sport coupes that try capriciously to do battle with the market leaders.

Heck, I recently saw a perfectly fine 2010 Scion Xb with only 28k miles sell for $10,000 at a well attended dealer auction. A near forty percent drop off the original MSRP over just a two year period. In my profit driven world, where nearly every Toyota model represents stiff price premiums and high demand finance fodder, nobody wants to buy these things.

The reason for this market failure is obvious.

If a product is inherently bad or terminally neglected, no name brand will save it. It’s that simple. Every brand out there has market failures. In the case of Scion, they are going from a 2 for 3 boom on their debut generation (xB and tC good, xA not so much) to a 1 for 5 second run (FR-S may likely be the sole survivor.)

Scion is on the ropes if you look at their current model line-up. But the same could have been said for Hyundai back in 1999, Subaru back in 1994, or even the 1st generation Infiniti models back in 1992. All of these brands suffered mortal market wounds of the debilitating type.

But that did not mean the brands could not fill a gaping void in the marketplace. All of them succeeded because they found several niches that no other brand could fully satisfy.

Which brings us to the dire need of the present day.

Right now Toyota and Honda are facing a market exodus in one broad segment that is largely a reflection of their own long-term successes. Where do you go after you have already owned the reliable family car? Or the commuter scooter that has taken you everywhere and back with low ownership costs?

In the old world the move was pretty simple. The automotive world was upwardly mobile and that Toyota or Honda buyer could be just as content in a Lexus or Acura. Unfortunately, something terrible happened to both of these prestige brands between the Clinton era and the modern day.

They became boring, generic, and a bit old fogey in their market reach. These days a middle-aged person generally does not aspire to own a Lexus or an Acura. If they have put in their dues of driving the family car, they are looking for that thrill. As is the younger guy who is not quite ready to settle down, but is finally making the big bucks.

These folks, if they are willing to spend their money, often want the anti-Toyota. The anti-Honda. The car that is more involving to drive… but… with this desire also comes a concern.

These buyers also want a car that is reliable and doesn’t represent a potential black hole in their annual budget. Like everyone else, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Two potential options are out there. The first is testing out a sporty prestige brand. An Audi. A BMW. A sports oriented car that is heavily marketed as a lease vehicle and can provide them with that extra thrill that they certainly won’t get with another Camry or Accord.

My brother Paul is the poster child for this. Two new Toyotas and one new Honda for the family over the last 15 years. The oldest child is about to go to college. The money is in the bank. The sacrifice of ‘fun driving’ for ‘family driving’ has already been made.

Did he want another Toyota or Honda? No, Paul and his wife wanted something different. Something that was not already driven by their senior citizen parents. They bought a 2012 Audi A6 and a CPO Audi A4.

The second option is to get the fun affordable car. Not too long ago fun usually meant two doors and a possible slight engine and suspension upgrade over the plain four door model. This is one of the main reasons why the Toyota Camry remained so dominant during the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. Fun and four doors were few and far between.

These days an affordable four door model can be just as sporty without the past sacrifice at the altar of practicality. A car with an Accent, a Soul, a good Fit, or a Focus, can be every bit as enjoyable to drive as a Veloster, a Forte, a Civic, or dare I say it… a Mustang.

Whether prestigious or plain named, a slew of buyers want the option to buy a fun car that does not share the same emblem of the car that they have been driving ever since the kids were little. Or ever since they were struggling to get established.

It’s not because they are unhappy with that reliable car. Sometimes folks just want something that is ‘not’ what they have been driving. Even if it has been a good car.

I can see Scion becoming the fun side of Toyota. The sporty side of a company that can already register millions in annual sales by harvesting the fertile fields of those seeking the ‘family car’, the ‘retiree car’, the ‘keep my ownership costs low’ car.

Toyota is already losing that buyer who picks the Altima over the Camry. The Mazda 3 and Fiat 500, over a Matrix or a Corolla. The reality is that by attracting a more conservative and older audience, you sometimes have to make compromises in design and interior ergonomics that make a car less appealing to those seeking fun and sport. Or even just simply something different.

There is still a gaping void of ‘fun’ between $15,000 and $35,000 that Scion could define as their specific market. I have no doubt that a car with the Toyota halo of reliability, coupled with sharp looks and exceptional handling, could lead to a new era of success for Scion.

The question is whether Toyota will invest in a Scion worthy of that reputation. To me the FR-S is one of those models. Should there be others?

 

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Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-mercedes-benz-c300-4matic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/2012-mercedes-benz-c300-4matic/#comments Sun, 26 Feb 2012 14:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=432682 People form lasting impressions at an early age. This might explain why, among the general population over 35, neither Audi nor BMW can match the mystique of a Mercedes. Even the bottom-of-the-US-range C300 raises eyebrows from people who’ll give an Audi A7 nary a passing glance (and who’d view spending an extra $8,000 for a […]

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People form lasting impressions at an early age. This might explain why, among the general population over 35, neither Audi nor BMW can match the mystique of a Mercedes. Even the bottom-of-the-US-range C300 raises eyebrows from people who’ll give an Audi A7 nary a passing glance (and who’d view spending an extra $8,000 for a hatchback as lunacy). But will this continue to be the case with subsequent generations, or will Mercedes follow in the footsteps of Cadillac? A brand is only as strong as its weakest link. Does the C300 justify the cachet attached to its three-pointed star?

The previous C-Class, the W203, was a prettier car. But it was also a plainer one. The W204, with its squarer cut, crisper creases, and more complicated graphics, has considerably more road presence and, of at least equal importance, looks more expensive. Most important of all: it’s widely recognizable as a Mercedes-Benz. Proof, in case you need it, that Mercedes retains latitude to break with current convention: a standing hood ornament. A Cadillac that attempted the same would be dismissed as hopelessly out-of-touch.

The interior similarly won’t win any beauty contests but through the sophistication and sheer quantity of details sufficiently suggests you’re not in a mainstream car. Materials were upgraded with this year’s refresh, and generally avoid any charges of seeming cheap (though the HVAC dials could feel more solid). Leather seating is increasingly rare on Mercedes-Benz lots, and you won’t find it inside this $43,980 specimen. But people are prone to assumptions, and the MB-Tex vinyl is hard to distinguish from the standard grade, heavily processed leather. How many people have owned a Mercedes without ever realizing that their upholstery was petroleum-based?

In an attempt to minimize the number of buttons by pairing a console-mounted knob with a multifunctional display, BMW has iDrive, Audi has MMI, and Mercedes has COMAND. That latter is neither as sophisticated nor as easy to use as the latest iterations of the others, but as with all such systems, you’ll eventually sort it out. Or not. More of a bother: Mercedes doggedly continues to position the cruise control lever where other manufacturers position the turn signal (the stalk is mounted just  little lower.) Even towards the end of my week in the car I unintentionally activated the system multiple times per day. Also in need of tweaking: power seat adjustments that react too quickly for frustration-free fine-tuning.

A more positive sign that you’re in a Mercedes: the doors latch closed with a solid mechanical thunk. Though considerable engineering hours were expended refining this sound, the car comes by it honestly. The C300’s body structure oozes rock-hard solidity. Crash tests back up this impression. In a 35 mph frontal offset crash test, the structure deforms by only one to three centimeters. The side impact structural deformation figures are even more impressive. (Note: Lower numbers are better in these stats.) Mercedes are arguably unworthy of their reputation in some ways, but safety isn’t one of them.

The driving position in the C300 could hardly be better, with a more open view forward than you’ll find from behind the BMW 3-Series’s more imposing instrument panel. (My suspicion: Cadillac studied the C-Class very closely when designing the architecture for the new Cadillac ATS.) Opinions vary about Mercedes-Benz’s traditional sehr flach, sehr fest Sitze. Some people will find them properly supportive for hours. Others will simply find them flat and hard. Count me among the latter group, perhaps because I took no long trips in the car. Thankfully the seatback curves more than the bottom cushion, and so provides decent lateral support. Typical of the segment, the rear seat will accommodate adults in a pinch. A little more toe room under the front seats would go a long way. For long distance room and comfort you’ll want to step up to the E-Class or even the S-Class.

The C300 4Matic’s specs aren’t promising. While the V6s in mainstream midsize sedans start at 3.5 liters, that in the Mercedes is a mere 3.0. The mill’s 228 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 221 pound feet of torque (from 2,750 to 5,000) must contend with 3,737 pounds of curb weight. And yet, through whatever magic that made the 1990s S300 viable, acceleration feels more than adequate even right off the line, and spirited with a heavy foot north of 4,000 rpm. The seven-speed automatic isn’t the quickest or slickest, but the right ratio is always in there somewhere. Two modes are provided, E and S. I could detect no difference between them. Though much has changed over the decades, the engine note retains traces of Mercedes’ traditional mechanical thrum—it doesn’t sound like any old six.

All-wheel drive is exclusively available on the C300 and no rear-drive option exists. The rear-wheel-drive C-Class is offered with either a 201-horsepower, 229-pound-feet turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder or a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Though the latter is no doubt a strong performer, few dealers stock it. If even the 3.5 isn’t strong enough for you, there’s also the AMG C63 with a 451-horsepower V8.

The argument against the six: fuel economy. A larger, heavier, and more powerful BMW 528i xDrive manages EPA ratings of 22 city, 32 highway. The next 3-Series xDrive should do even better. An Audi A4 quattro: 21/29. And the 333-horsepower Audi S4: 18/28. The C300 4Matic: only 18 city, 25 highway. The trip computer backed up these subpar numbers, reporting about 20 in suburban driving. The C300’s six might punch above its specs, but this comes at a price.

The C300 is available in both Sport and Luxury trims. I’ve steered people towards the former over the years, as it adds a body kit and more athletic suspension tuning at a very un-German price: free. Scratch that: this year the better looking, better handling C-Class variant actually costs a little less. For their own reasons (that I cannot fathom) Mercedes provided the latter. Even in Luxury trim the suspension is firm enough to remain composed in enthusiastic driving—and to fidget on some roads, despite shocks that allegedly adapt to road conditions. Power is shunted to the front wheels only when the rears slip, and even then the torque split is 45/55, so the feel remains that of a rear-wheel-drive car—complete with tail-out oversteer on slick surfaces. (Don’t worry, the apparently undefeatable stability control will intervene.)

The biggest problem, in either trim: light steering that feels numb even compared to others I’ve described as numb. As in the current E-Class, the steering wheel conveys virtually nothing about the direction the front wheels are pointed or the degree to which they’re slipping. As a result there’s little joy—and even less confidence—in exercising the capable chassis.

Don’t care to exercise the chassis? Simply want to quickly consume mile after mile of concrete slab stretching straight as far as the eye can see, and beyond? Then the Mercedes is in its element and performs admirably. The C300 isn’t silent as a tomb inside, but low quality noises are filtered out. Should you become drowsy, a standard system will detect this and do its best to wake you up.

The tested car listed for $43,980, including $1,515 for sparkly white paint (another sign that Mercedes was trying to handicap the car). A different metallic shade will set you back only $720. Don’t need the embrace of a telematics system? Then you can shave another $660, bringing the sticker down to $42,525. For fancy features like nav, xenons, and passive entry you’ll have to tick more boxes. Seem steep? Well, a similarly-equipped four-cylinder Audi A4 is only about $1,000 less, a much smaller difference than in past decades. While Mercedes still has a sizable edge in cachet among the masses, they’re no longer trying to charge more for it.

And costs down the road? While some Mercedes remain notoriously unreliable (e.g. the SUVs), the C-Class isn’t among them. The W204 C-Class consistently has been about average, based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

Mercedes-Benz’s image isn’t entirely in its favor. As with Cadillac in the past, many people who could afford a Mercedes—and who do buy similarly-priced competitors—simply cannot picture themselves in one. If these people got over their preconceptions and took the C300 for a drive they’d find…a car with a very solid structure, but little else to separate it from the crowd. The seats might prove supportive on long drives, but around town they just feel hard. The 3.0-liter V6 feels like a larger engine, but will also drink some much more powerful engines under the table. The chassis is sure-footed, but the steering is disconcertingly numb. The electronics are sophisticated, but the same can be said of German competitors. We’re back to that solid structure and safety. Seeking a rolling bank vault with tidy dimensions? Then the C300 is your car. But is this enough, when even Volvo feels the need to talk naughty?

Mercedes-Benz provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail C300 front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 front quarter 2, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 instruments, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh C300 engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

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New or Used: Wagon + Stick = Trouble? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/new-or-used-wagon-stick-trouble/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/new-or-used-wagon-stick-trouble/#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2012 13:32:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425712   Aaron writes: Hi! I’ll try to be concise. I have a 2003 A4 manual sedan with 78K. I wanted a wagon but couldn’t find one and was in a hurry for wheels. Well, now I found one: 2003, manual, 107K. It’s at a dealer lot. Plus it’s got some desirable performance modifications, including exhaust. […]

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Aaron writes:

Hi! I’ll try to be concise.

I have a 2003 A4 manual sedan with 78K. I wanted a wagon but couldn’t find one and was in a hurry for wheels. Well, now I found one: 2003, manual, 107K. It’s at a dealer lot. Plus it’s got some desirable performance modifications, including exhaust.

The question: what will the dealer think of a trade? If my mechanic likes it i wouldn’t object to a straight trade, maybe even a (very) little cash from me if the timing belt is new. But are wagons with sticks and rumbly exhaust desirable? What’s it worth relative to mine? It seems like the similarity of the cars (same drivetrain, options, etc) should make this comparison location- and current market- independent.

I’m going to take the car for an inspection tomorrow, and offers may be made thereafter.

Steve Answers:

It depends on the condition and the history.

On the surface you would assume that a wagon with a stick would be a less desirable vehicle. But when it comes to a sporty oriented vehicle, there are plenty of buyers willing to row their own gears and go for the ‘unpopular’ body style.

Unfortunately for you Audi wagons aren’t popular. Just expensive.

When it comes to premium brands like Audi, I always look at condition first. Why? Because when it comes to picky buyers the condition is what sells it. I can convince a buyer to move from a station wagon to a sedan if that vehicle comes with something that most others do not.

Dealer records. A clean car with a perfect history. You may chuckle at all these dealer derived cliches, but the ease of sale and extra cash these models bring is very real in the retail marketplace.

Which brings me to the prior owner for this wagon. Do you know him yet? Do you plan on getting to know him? A thorough inspection will always uncover a few things. But the most important question to consider is, “Why did the guy get rid of his vehicle?”

I would strongly suggest that you try to get in touch with the prior owner and weigh it all in. Many dealers will tell you what you want to hear. But the prior owner can tell you what you need to know.

Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

Steve covered all the dealer angles of this, except for one: modified cars are death for resale and a nightmare on floorplan costs on a normal dealership.  This car is excellent fodder for a specialty tuner/hot rod shop, because they have an appreciation and the patience to wait for the right buyer. I am sure this car is awesome, it sounds like it’d certainly ring my bell. But I will play devil’s advocate for one reason: personal experience.

Even a Hot-Rod Lincoln fanatic like myself was a little put off when a supposedly “mint, granny driven” Lincoln Mark VIII at a local Hyundai lot actually had Flowmaster mufflers upon closer inspection.  Very few grannies want to hear the rumble of “flowbastards” in their ride, no matter how sweet it may sound on a 4-cam Ford V8. It seemed like a proper granny car that was bastardized by a second owner. My gut suggested I didn’t want to be the third owner of such a machine.  Which isn’t totally relevant to your situation, but there’s more.

The mufflers made the other minor flaws (interior trim abuse) a little more worrisome. The Mark VIII I wound up owning was truly stock, had a bona-fide service history (with recent repairs on typical fail points) but had cosmetic issues the flowmaster-Mark did not have…even then, I bought it. I modded it to my tastes and was much happier. And almost 10 years later, I have no regrets. Zero.

So when you combine these things:

  • Station Wagon
  • Old Audi, no warranty (i.e. this isn’t a cash cow like a CamCord, Tacoma, etc)
  • Stick shift
  • Modifications, including a “louder than stock” exhaust

You wind up with a vehicle that’s very hard to shift off a car lot. Odds are you are one of the few people interested in this vehicle.  But, if the car is as cool as you make it sound, the dealer might have you by the short hairs. That is, if you showed any interest in the modifications.

For your sake, I hope you frowned upon those modifications. I also hope the mods don’t imply that the car was abused: many a modified Audi is driven hard, making for a powertrain that’s frightfully expensive proposition to keep running. Clutches, axle shafts, transaxles, you name it! If you haven’t already, be a regular on the forums and get good with tools and service manuals.

My advice? Unless you are totally amazed by how it sits, get a stock one and modify it later.

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Review: 2011 Audi S4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2011-audi-s4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2011-audi-s4/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 20:10:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418664 I needed a suitable car for a spirited 500-mile run to the “coolest small town in America,” and back. One leaped to mind: the Audi S4 with its optional active differential. In our first encounter, the current “B8” S4 underwhelmed me. Though quick and capable, it just didn’t feel special. “A4 3.0T” seemed more apt. […]

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I needed a suitable car for a spirited 500-mile run to the “coolest small town in America,” and back. One leaped to mind: the Audi S4 with its optional active differential. In our first encounter, the current “B8” S4 underwhelmed me. Though quick and capable, it just didn’t feel special. “A4 3.0T” seemed more apt. But that car lacked the trick diff. And metro Detroit’s roads aren’t the most challenging. A re-test was warranted. The roads of Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia would provide it.


My first reaction upon seeing the imola yellow sedan: “So much for stealth.” I needn’t have worried. Though subtly attractive, the S4 is nevertheless a four-door sedan that’s decidedly less sexy than the related S5 coupe. Even in yellow it doesn’t attract unwanted attention from law enforcement the way a sports car would. Scratch the “even in yellow:” against a background of fall foliage the bright hue serves as camouflage. The wheels’ $150 “titanium” finish attractively contrasts with the yellow, but could be obtained for free by simply not washing the regular 19s (the brakes’ plentiful dust is nearly the same color). The tested S4’s black leather interior is similarly tasteful to a fault and all business, with only some dark gray alcantara and aluminum trim to liven the place up. (Silver/black and red/black are available interior color options, though the latter does nix the butt-restraining alcantara and require another $1,000 for this favor.) Audi’s “MMI” interface is much easier to operate here than in the Q5 crossover, as the shifter serves as an armrest while working the system’s knob and foursome of buttons.

The biggest problem with the drive from Detroit to West Virginia: with roads running straight to the horizon (and far beyond), the first 250 miles are mind-numbing. The S4’s performance tires clomp and roar on Michigan’s pockmarked concrete highways, less so on Ohio’s smoother asphalt. Luckily even the S4’s base sound system is quite capable of drowning them out without distortion. The car’s ride, though far from harsh, jiggles enough that putting off rest stops is not an option. Every ripple gets reported to the ears and bladder. Even the S4’s rearview mirror is stiff. The driver’s seat includes four-way power lumbar and provides very good lateral support, but I can’t get comfortable in it. Put less delicately, the seat often puts my ass to sleep. If there had been passengers in the back seat, they would have found it livable but tight. Though the S4’s body structure and interior possesses the solidity and refinement expected of a premium car, it’s not the ideal turnpike cruiser.


A bright spot: hitched to a six-speed manual and driving all four wheels in a 3,847-pound sedan, the 333-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 covers 25 highway miles on each gallon of gas (the trip computer reports 25.8 while driving nearly 80 MPH, but manual calculations suggest it’s about one MPG high). Drive it like you stole it down a mountain road, and you’ll still observe mid-to-high teens. The previous-generation S4’s 340-horsepower 4.2-liter V8 was far thirstier, with EPA ratings of 13/20 vs. 18/27. Unfortunately, what the engine giveth the fuel gauge taketh away: the latter reliably reported a 0-mile DTE with about three gallons left in the tank.

Once south and east of Columbus the roads become increasingly entertaining, and with Ohio 555, full of tight curves and blind knolls, the fun really begins. The V6, though it lacks the soul of the previous-generation S4’s 340-horsepower 4.2-liter V8, produces an encouraging mechanical whir when revved, some of it courtesy of the supercharger, along with a modest amount of exhaust roar. (With no lag, the blower’s muted whine is the only sign that boost is in play.) The “3.0T” engine is louder here than in the A6 and A7, but still far from too loud. There’s no drone when cruising at highway speeds. Oddly, the six is least refined at idle, where it suffers from a touch of the shakes.

 

The V6 is so strong through its wide midrange that deep downshifts are rarely called for—a sharp contrast to the Mazda RX-8 I’ll drive the rest of the long weekend. Push down on the accelerator, and the six rockets the car smoothly out of curve exits. This broad torque curve proves especially welcome on West Virginia 14, which is much more heavily traveled than I had hoped. Half the state drives pickups, the other half drives Chevy Cavaliers (which I hereby nominate as the Official State Car of the mountain state). The blown six is ever ready to jump past clots of them whenever the briefest passing zone pops up.

If you need to shift, or simply want to, the S4’s slick, solid, moderate-of-throw stick serves better than Audi shifters of years past. Second can be a bit hard to hit when rushing a downshift, but this is the full extent of its shortcomings. Unlike in late model Volkswagens where the tach was numbered in hundreds, the S4’s rev-meter is numbered in the thousands with a large font and is consequently far easier to read at a glance. A light and/or beep 500 rpm short of the redline would be even better, but wasn’t much missed. Don’t care for a clutch? A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual is optional here—and the only transmission Europeans can get. On the other hand, they can still get an S4 wagon, while we’re limited to the sedan. An S4 wagon with a manual transmission? No longer offered anywhere.

I take a side trip to hilly Charleston to sample a couple of R-Design Volvos—you’ll read about them later. Afterwards, the S4 is a perfect match for the more convoluted sections of US60 east of Gauley Bridge. At Rainelle I take a shortcut, miss a turn (no nav in this lightly optioned $49,625 car), and end up on a delightfully undulating single-lane ribbon of asphalt. Later, on the way back to Detroit, with a nav system lifted off my old man to warn of impending hairpins, the S4 chews up WV16 (with an especially glorious stretch after it splits from 33) and OH26 once across the Ohio. If anything, the S4 makes driving all but the twistiest bits of these roads too easy.

The Audi’s steering deserves only second billing in the credits. It’s fairly quick, naturally weighted, firm at highway speeds (especially in “sport” mode), and finds its voice as the car’s high limits are approached. Placing the car precisely never poses a challenge. But luxury was clearly a top priority, and the system doesn’t feel as nuanced or as direct as the best. You do your part, and it will do its. Melding as one? It’d rather not.

The S4’s suspension takes up some of the steering’s slack. As mentioned above, though far from harsh it’s communicative even when you don’t care to chat. Firm springs and taut damping keep body motions under control, with just a hint of float in quick transitions to remind you that this isn’t an extreme sport machine. Partly because the V6 weighs less than the old V8, and partly because the differential is now ahead of the transmission (enabling a 55/45 weight distribution), the current S4 doesn’t plow through tight curves like the previous one did. Instead, it feels almost perfectly balanced. The 255/35ZR19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires grip the tarmac tightly as long as no snow is falling. Add in all-wheel-drive and strong, firm, easily modulated brakes, and even the most challenging roads can be tackled with extreme confidence.

 

The resulting lack of drama can get a bit boring, as discovered in my first drive. But with the optional active differential, progressive, easily controllable oversteer is just a dip into the throttle away. Unlike with the Acura TL’s SH-AWD system, driving sideways isn’t happening without an unpaved road surface or extreme steering inputs. But a tighter line is there for the taking, just dial in the desired number of degrees with your right foot. This agility enhancement should be standard equipment in an “S” car. As is, it’s $1,100 very well spent. I would not buy an S4 without it.

Ultimately, the S4 proved a perfect choice for the trip to Lewisberg. Some other cars would have been more engaging and entertaining. Others would have been more isolating and comfortable. But for moving rapidly along an unfamiliar twisty byway with never a wheel out of place, rain or shine, the S4 could hardly have been beaten. It’ll get you there, quickly and securely and even somewhat efficiently, with plenty of smiles along the way.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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New or Used: Wants, Needs and Bathwater http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-wants-needs-and-bathwater/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-wants-needs-and-bathwater/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:14:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409271 Steven writes: Sajeev and Steve, I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all […]

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Steven writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all wheel drive and Turbo=bad gas mileage, I drive about 40,000 miles a year and betwen the gas and the upkeep I am getting killed, hence time for a new car.

This is what I want, good to great on gas,auto, 4dr or wagon  safe and comfy on the road, no suv, no RWD,( drive from NY to Boston year round, I am in sales so it needs to be somewhat presentable.  No americian cars, sorry no faith that they will hold up in the long run, and need some soul (hence no Camry) since I live in the car, budget anywhere from 15k to 30 k, I would perfer used but with prices this high not sure if it makes sense, I like Saabs, Audi,Acura, had a bunch of Accords but not since 2006. Lately have been very tempted by a 2011 VW Jetta TDI, great MPG but VW does not have a great rep. It seems VW TDI hold their value very well so that is why I am considering a 2011, love Saabs bc they do not hold their value so a great used buy ( had 2 in the past) I need some quick help from you and the board, before the volvo needs another $1500 in repairs/ maintance. thanks

Sajeev answers:

I’d definitely gravitate to a new vehicle, given your budget, career and high prices of lightly used vehicles. Which pushes me (you) to the mainstream sedans that you might hate. You need to test drive a bunch of them to see what really speaks to you: important for someone in your line of work.

Okay, so no Camry, but you should at least drive the SE model. Ditto any Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu: I know, I know! The Accord is also worth a look, but I am gonna recommend two sweethearts in this class: the Hyundai Sonata (SE or Limited) and the Mazda 6. Both are rather cool for their class, and the Hyundai has a great warranty (with roadside assistance) for a road warrior.

Steve answers:

I wouldn’t throw out the Camry with the bathwater just yet. Last Tuesday I test drove all the new Camrys and found the Hybrid model to be the absolute embodiment of everything you likely want. Plenty of power and comfort. Exceptional fuel economy (43 city, 39 highway). Surprisingly tight handling and ‘healthy’ road feel in what is supposedly a traditional conservative car.

I would put that model near the top regardless of the bulbous marshmallow nature of the outgoing generation.

The rest of the results are pretty much in line with what Sajeev suggests. On the new side there is the Fusion, Sonata, 6, and Altima. On the used side it depends on whether you’re willing to consider any unpopular cars. Yes, SAABs are cheap now. So is the Infiniti G25 which is one of many near luxury sedans that fall through the cracks due mostly to ‘spec junkies’ wanting the more powerful model.

If you’re willing to consider a 1 to 2 year old CPO car that offers a fantastic warranty, I would opt for a step up. The C-Class, Audi A4, and Infiniti G25 would be on my list as well. Although to be frank, I would likely just go with the new Camry Hybrid if I had to drive all those miles in the pothole marred northeast. Good luck!

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: The Short and Pokey Commute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-the-short-and-pokey-commute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/new-or-used-the-short-and-pokey-commute/#comments Mon, 06 Jun 2011 09:03:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=397170 Brady Writes: Dear Steve/Sajeev, I’m a 35 year old physician with wife and 2 kids, who has happily made do with a succession of automatic VW Passat wagons, first a chipped 2000 and now a 2010 I use to reverse commute out of my large metro region. We’ll be moving to the oceanfront suburb of […]

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Brady Writes:

Dear Steve/Sajeev,

I’m a 35 year old physician with wife and 2 kids, who has happily made do with a succession of automatic VW Passat wagons, first a chipped 2000 and now a 2010 I use to reverse commute out of my large metro region. We’ll be moving to the oceanfront suburb of a small New England city this summer and I’ve got to select car #2. My commute will by short and pokey–7 miles each way, some of it along beautiful marshland and ocean, some of it not. Long haul family trips can be done in the Passat, but the second car should safely carry the kids in a pinch. Budget is 30-35k max. I’ve been thinking new v6 mustang convertible, but then again, is it time to invest in the future and, say, lease a volt? Or practical, comfortable fun in a new GTI/Golf TDI? Revisit a heavily depreciated bug convertible we used to love despite it’s crude underpinnings and tight back seat? Or take advantage of some older interesting vehicles–S4 cabriolet, 3 series convertible, or something I’m too boring to have considered?

Steve Answers:

What will make you happy?

 

That’s what you will have to figure out. The answer is almost limitless and you should take plenty of time to test drive whatever strikes your fancy. Since you already like Passats, I would start off with a 2008-2009 Audi A4 Cabriolet with low miles. Maintenance is absolute critical on these machines due to the overall fragility of VW products (don’t get me started).

 

But like a lot of ‘second car’ models, you can find a fair share of them with low miles in today’s market. Many of which will have CPO warranties and the all too essential books and records. Both the A4 and the more powerful S4 cabriolets can seat four people in the real world. The 08′-09′ time period I mentioned is also right about the time when Audi started making strides in their overall quality.

As for top of the line convertibles and hardtops, I have a very soft spot for the M3 convertibles. However so does every yuppie between Boston and San Francisco. The Audis will cost less money and will tend to not be nearly as abused as the M’s. Given your short commutes and beautiful scenery, I would play the field but start here first.

Sajeev Answers:

Brady, you need to see what you really want in a second car. Reading between the lines it needs to be topless, not insanely powerful with VW-sized proportions (Corvette LS3-FTL) and of premium intentions. That said, always buy a German ride with a factory warranty covering your entire ownership period.  The Mustang is a good long term value, but I don’t see you liking it over the long haul. Then again, prove me wrong.  Or really blow our minds and buy an LS-1 powered Miata, as that’s what you really need.  I’m serious!

My even more serious choice?  A MINI droptop, preferably a Cooper S.  And most definitely in Hot Chocolate paint, as the autobloggers-turned-Facebook-Admins at the Brown Car Appreciation Society demand it. The MINI is small, upscale, eco-friendly in appearance (though not really in practice) and drives like a firecracker.  You can fit kids in the back seat, especially if they must be punished for misbehavior.  And when the inevitable “repairs trump resale value” argument happens, the MINI has a strong following and hold their value quite well.  Especially compared to any and all Audis.

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

 

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