Thursday, November 10, 2011

More on Audi...

I've had the TT-RS for just over a week now, I have mostly driven it around town but also taken it on a longer highway drive to Redmond for work. So far so very good. The car so far is turning out to be the perfect mix between a more comfortable luxury vehicle and a snarling, chomping at the bit little monster that is just waiting to be let out of it's cage. The difference from the Boxster couldn't be more stark. The Boxster is a hard-core driving machine that was very mechanical and stiff with every rattle and squeak telling you this. There is nothing wrong with that mind you, especially when taking it on a windy back road but for everyday use and especially longer drives it would become quite punishing and tiring.

The TT however, is far more forgiving and surprisingly smooth and comfortable around town and on the highway. It too, has a sports button, this one has much more of an effect on the driving experience however. The suspension is tightened up, the throttle response is heightened and a valve opens somewhere in the exhaust system to enhance the already very impressive and unique sound this car produces. This makes me very happy since the car can be quite civilized when needed but also rough and tumble when taking it out for a joyride. As for the latter however, I'll have to be patient since the back road driving season is entirely over and won't start until at least May of next year. The other thing is that the smooth ride is dangerous in terms of speed, I have had several occasions where a slight throttle indulgence leads to double the speed limit without trying or really noticing. That engine sound is so enthralling that it is hard to notice much drama in terms of how fast you are going. But that is hardly something to complain about!

Now for a different story, still Audi related. This is a short account of the Audi driving weekend I did back in 2007. My friend Eric Pateman from what used to be Edible British Columbia, now Edible Canada managed to snag the Audi press fleet for a weekend of driving and eating through the Okanagan. It took me about 1/10th of a second to decide I was in when he asked me and I ended up helping out with choosing a route for optimum driving fun. The car lineup was impressive:

From left to right: A3, A4 cabrio, TT, S8, A8L, RS4, A6 and Q7

We picked up the cars at the Audi center in Richmond. The plan was to stop at pre-determined locations and pick keys out of a hat to determine who got which car. With 14 people and 8 cars, there was plenty of opportunity to get to drive all of them. I picked the RS4 as my first ride which I of course was very happy with. I drove it through Vancouver, along highway 1 and finally into Manning Park where it got interesting. The RS4 is relentlessly fast, handles like a go-kart and is simply brilliant. I was grinning madly all the way. After that we got into the A8L which was quite the experience with massaging seats, an astonishing $6,000 B&O sound system with tweeters that rose out of the dashboard and a very, very comfortable ride. We made our way along the Crow's nest highway to Osoyoos, then up to Summerland while eating ourselves silly along the way. In the evening we were treated to an incredible meal prepared by private chefs at a very nice B&B called La Punta Norte.

The next day we drove around the area visiting cheese makers, wineries and other food related places of interest. After another sumptuous evening at the B&B we headed back home, I fondly remember taking the incredible S8 across the Okanagan connector (it was snowing a bit on the pass!), then down from Merritt to Princeton. This car, with the 500hp V10 impressed me greatly, a big, heavy full-sized sedan acting like a sports car, ripping through turns at incredible speeds without breaking a sweat. I could only imagine the forces at work on the tires, brakes and rest of the drivetrain as I piloted this thing through the twisties. Awe-inspiring is all I can say...

the RS4 was everyone's favorite!
My favorite memories of this event were driving the RS4 and the S8. The little FWD A3 with it's 2 litre turbo and dual-clutch paddleshift was a blast as well actually, so was the TT that my friend pushed quite hard at some point.

I was pleasantly surprised and very excited by an email from Eric later on saying that Audi had agreed to let the participants of this event drive the newly arrived R8. Yep, the R8. We went back to the Audi center one evening and each got half an hour with the car. I was completely giddy to be driving this car and remember going around Richmond, desperately looking for a bit of road where I could exercise the car. I wasn't familiar at all with the area though so ended up driving through some industrial lots, managed to get some speedy moments but the half hour was over before I really got the hang of the car. I also didn't bring a camera so you'll just have to take my word for it. :-)

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