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When you're bored . . .
. . . and you're 63 and your wife loves driving -- "every mile's a smile" -- and it is a truly beautiful day in SW Ohio (Saturday last), what do you do? Answer: You take cars out and drive them.
I must admit, I wasn't all that keen on driving a dealer's car, especially since I know and they know and I know they know I know, that neither of us are currently in the market; but my sales rep, Greg, had a 2015 S5 with the Sport Differential option (and 60 miles on the OD) just sitting there, and, well, he knows my wife doesn't have any experience behind the wheel of an Audi S car with torque vectoring (TV). The rest as they say was inevitable.
We went out for a long drive on familiar twisty (and in great condition) secondary roads. I went first at my wife's insistence to somewhat demonstrate what rear torque vectoring added to a rear-biased (60%) AWD car equipped with max performance 35 series summer only tires can do, out of the box.
As I am familiar with the road where a sign indicating 15 MPH (right turn corner) is the correct speed, according to the Ohio DOT, to navigate the turn, I know my non-TV equipped S4 can take said curve @ 45 MPH. Therefore I assume that with the summer-only super sticky tires (I do not have these) and the TV option, the TV equipped car ought to be at least good for another 5 - 10 MPH without drama.
I was proven correct in that I easily took this "curve" at 54 MPH with help from what feels like it could be "The Hand of God." Entering the corner "hot" (but maintaining, NOT accelerating) was a little unnerving at first, but when I reached the apex of the corner, I dialed in about an inch more lock and a like amount of throttle.
The rear end of the car was seemingly grabbed by a giant foam rubber hand and the car "carved" right through he corner as if something or some one had gripped the rear quarter panels low to the ground and simply pushed me through the corner, virtually drama free. Speed? Yes? A bit of a rush coming out of the apex of the curve? Oh hell yes!
Next up a left hand curve with a bit of a an opposite (from the expected and helpful) bank meaning the car was not helped at all by the highway engineer's decision to have the apex of the curve have a crown rather than a scallop. Once again, almost counter-intuitively I entered the curve hot, waited for the apex where I cut the wheel to the left (a bit) while simultaneously punching the gas "with feeling."
Again, the invisible hand pushed the car, as if it were on rails, through the horribly under-engineered road.
A couple of nice, virtually deserted straight-a-ways where the supercharged engine at full throttle thrilled, rounded out the first half of the "test."
Up next, my wife -- our idea was this: I drove the outbound route and she would drive the return route, retracing my steps (in the opposite direction). My left curves were her rights, and so on.
Once she got the hang of cutting the wheel just a bit more than seemed "natural" at the apex and punching the gas, she too was calling TV the hand of god.
I guess, other than sharing this with y'all, I would invite you to experience a powerful car with rear biased torque split, aggressive summer tires and a "sport differential." Someone once said, "nothing else even comes close."
I am "OK" with not having a car equipped with torque vectoring -- but, given a choice, I will never get another car (on purpose) without it. The Acura's SH-AWD is a great piece of tech; but, the issue is: It is installed on a car with a 90%/10% f/r torque split and the ability to shift a maximum of power to the rear of just 50%.
So while I admire and recommend only getting an Acura equipped with SH-AWD, if you're looking at the brand, I can attest that, good as it is, nothing even comes close to the implementation of TV in the S5 I drove this weekend.
Too bad I'm not in the market -- for an S4 thusly equipped would be sick.
Drive it like you live.
Mark, reporting from somewhere in Cincinnati -
I did like my TL SH-AWD Advance. I thought it was ugly, and the interior looked like a Honda that knew somebody. The air conditioned seats were great. The power was good, nothing to scare an S4. The brakes were very weak. The doors sounded tinny when closed. It was a beer to the Audi's champagne. Yet, much as most folks would never cross shop these two, it was Honda's bargain basement S4.
I have to assume the new TL is an improvement. Mine, a 2012, had way too much FWD feel (torque steer), something the S4 doesn't have.
I don't have the S's sport diff (torque vectoring rear diff), wish I did, but I would assume if I did, I'd love this thing even more.
This car and my wife's SQ5 have become our favorite Audis and our favorite cars -- and we've had dozens -- of all time. I want to say nothing even comes close -- but our BMW's have been close (and even a couple VW's were a blast to drive, but still none are the performers of these S's.) I used to think they (Audi S cars) were too expensive, but compared to 3-series, well it seems these Audis are "within reach" of most folks who shop and buy the cars discussed on this forum.
If you "can't see" or "don't share" our (my wife's and mine, i.e.) passion for the Audi S's, I would say the TL or TLX SH-AWD with anything that increases the performance/handling ticked off on the option list, is not a bad alternative (if you can get past the styling and the Honda content.) But, for the money, the Acura may be attractive to you because it will almost certainly stay south of $50K..
If you can't stomach the TLX's looks and the Audi leaves you wondering what I see in them, well, the C class Mercedes, too, looks like it is worth a second look -- and I've always had a soft spot for the Volvo S60 type R.
An observation: many who write here about their cars make remarks like "my TL gave me 6 trouble free years." My irreverent side almost always reads, "my TL gave me 6 [bland, boring, unremarkable, invisible] trouble free years." If I remarked to my wife that she has given me 20 plus years of trouble free cohabitation," she'd have every right to punch me in the nose.
I want 6 trouble free years, too, but I think I'd take 3 spectacular driving experience years instead.
That's why I always say: Drive it like YOU live. Life's too short to not have at least some trouble!1 ·
Recently one (or more) of the "big" auto magazines (I think it was C&D) tested an old vs a new BMW. I assume the genesis of such a test was the ever growing brouhaha -- ostensibly from the faithful -- claiming the newer BMW's have lost some of their BMW-ness as BMW goes on the "soich for more money!"
It seems, if memory serves, that the test reports demonstrated that the new BMW could better the old one in every significant (measurable) performance number.
Once again, since I am not, at this instant, in possession of the test report article, I could be mistaken. What I think I recall, however, is that despite the cries that BMW has forsaken the true believers, the numbers say otherwise.
I had been a die-hard manual transmission guy. Our Audis -- with the exception of my brand new 1997 A8 -- had always been manuals. My maxed out allroad (2003) had to be special ordered -- not that I probably wouldn't have anyway -- since the dealer simply did not stock stick shifts even back then. I couldn't believe Audi would simply no longer offer its cars with sticks (for the most part). The 2001 or 2002 A6 2.7T could be had with a stick but the same model with a 4.2 V8 was only offered with an automatic.
My wife's 2005 X3 had to be ordered, too, since there were virtually no X3's on the dealer's lot so equipped. As I recall we couldn't even test drive a stick BMW period.
When I got my 2005 A6, I knew I had probably enjoyed my last stick (the 2003 allroad 2.7T.)
Going on the hunt, I found that BMW did offer at least some stick shifts but there was little chance of finding one unless it was special ordered.
I now have a 7-speed DSG in my '14 S4. I, for the first time since 2003, don't miss the stick anymore.
Most people -- that I know, excluding my wife -- don't even know how to drive a stick, so I don't see much value in complaining about that, and, besides, the DSG is so much better at shifting than I ever was and the shifts don't feel like they're robbing power from the engine.
What we have today, if you believe Car & Driver (which I usually do), are better performing cars that have their performance characteristics available when you want them but invisible (for the most part) when you don't.
Yes, even Consumer Reports notes that an Audi [A6] is able to be sporty -- which I assume is somewhat of a statement that other brands (that they list) are not sporty.
I'm buying that today's fill in the blank (Audi, BMW, Mercedes & Porsche) automobiles are "the best representations of sport sedans and CUV's ever on the market." I'm, therefore, rejecting the notion that the old ones were better performers than the new ones. The fact that the brands have become more accessible to folks who don't think like I thought -- up until 2005 -- simply means the brands have the power to sustain themselves in the marketplace.
Even if I really thought a 10 or 12 year old M3 was somehow better than a new one, I am pleased that BMW has "cast a wider net," for I fear had they not, they would be going or already have gone the way of the dodo.
The disdain so many have for sentimentality never ceases to amaze me -- my sentimental favorite car ever is my 1995 Audi S6 in pearl teal with a brilliant white leather interior. God I loved that car -- still have fond memories for it. It was, despite its being my favorite, no where near the car my 2014 S4 is -- the older S6 was, in perhaps every measurable way -- "inferior" to the new (or almost new) S4. My current S4 is the best car I have ever had, by a wide margin. I assume it would, in every measurable way, be crowned winna and champeen were it compared to the old S6 or even a last gen S4 (the one with the V8).
These cars that we talk about here and have strong opinions about are the best they have ever been (in every significant and measurable way). The fact that BMW or Audi now attracts folks who don't know that there isn't a V6 under the hood of their BMW is sad (for me at least); but, I would argue that the ignorant owner is just as desirable (as a customer) to BMW as the one who knows there is a turbo-charged inline-6 under the hood. In the end, car companies must put the soich for more money ahead of the soich for informed, appreciative and passionate customers. The way they go about selling more cars, however, is to build better cars that can be appreciated both by the true and pure disciples as well as the bourgeoisie.
Although I don't think the Koreans are TODAY too much of a threat to the world-order, I don't think we should dismiss them out of hand. They are making very rapid advances -- pretty soon they may find entry into the Premium Class (and by pretty soon I think we should be very watchful of the evolution of their products for the next 5 or so years.) I remember the first Toyotas that were imported (back in the 60's) -- made in Japan was, then, not much of a threat. It didn't take long until they were nibbling at US made market share, then they just started taking ever bigger bites until names like Toyota, Honda and Datsun were forces to be reckoned with.
I got into a new Genesis sedan -- it wasn't a Mercedes -- but honestly, I do think it was a very interesting attempt to convince "you" that it was worth a second look. Whenever the 3rd gen comes out, I would look for some serious suspension evolution which could go a long way toward making us take them more seriously.
It amazes me how quickly KIA (and specifically the Genesis "brand" on the other side of the house) has (or is it have?) started to make the case that they, someday, may give the current Premium Class members a rude awakening. As you might imagine, being an Audi loudmouth for so many years, I do participate in my share of (apparently) Audi sponsored surveys.
I was surprised to see the number of questions some of these surveys contain that clearly indicate the Germans (or maybe it is just Audi, I dunno) are concerned that some Korean mfgrs are "breathing down their necks."
Now, I said that last bit for emphasis, but there has been at least a seed planted in the German mfgrs minds that says, "The Koreans are Coming, The Koreans are Coming" (and of course I immediately add -- mentally -- "Cover yourself with butter and carry lemons just in case. . .!")
But seriously, I saw some TV show on Velocity (I think) where a new Genesis (V8) was compared to a Mercedes E-Class and a Volvo S60. Now, at the time, before the video rolled, I thought, "Whose dumbass idea was it to compare these three; they're not even close, no one would ever cross shop them?!"
Turns out I was wrong -- the Genesis, although not exactly a great handling car, has had its suspension tuned by Lotus (sorta) and the thing had a very powerful and smooooooth V8 hooked up to an 8-speed transmission (plus it had all of the latest and greatest electronic safety aids and toys the Germans keep loading their cars with.) Considering that this 2nd gen Genesis was in its first model year, I had to marvel at how far they've come and how fast they've done it.
I did think, too, Lexus was literally a trim-piece brand (and where are they now? First Place? or at least close to it) -- there weren't even any Lexi in Japan, they were all just called Toyotas. Now, look at Lexus -- a legitimate force to be reckoned with even if generally speaking some (
OK most, OK, all) enthusiasts never have taken to them or seen them as anything more than sofas on wheels. Few, even the haters, laugh at Lexus now. And they actually brought that spunky little dude, the IS 350 F Sport to market and pantsed a BMW 335 (look it up, if you don't believe me.)
It would be hard to argue that both the top of the line Genesis, Equus and KIA cars aren't making "don't look back, those headlights gaining on you are Korean" type sounds.
So why isn't it possible for Acura to, likewise, kick butt and -- eventually -- regain some of its premium-ness? Of course, I don't KNOW, know, but I think, it is because they have found a niche where they have been and are successful, they make reliable and durable cars, their cars are in some pretty cool Marvel movies and the halo car has sex appeal. Have a cigar (and by the way, which one's Pink?)
By the way, I do think the NSX will be a great ambassador for the Acura brand, I just am not sure I see someone rushing in and buying an RLX based on the fact that the NSX wears an Acura badge. The gap between the NSX and the TLX or even RLX is unlikely to be narrowed by an oooober expensive sports car -- if you axe me.
Mean time, Genesis and KIA cars are quietly gaining ground and buzzing around the Premium Club members -- and you know what? Pretty soon one of them will sneak its way in and, then, well, there goes the neighborhood.
Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
What next? Chrysler resurrects the Imperial?
We're headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Oh gawd.1 ·
I'm now at 22,000 miles on my '14 S4 -- the car, in every way has been flawless. Oh, I need to correct that: the Audi Connect feature (free for 6 months) was great (when it worked) when I was "in signal." The thing is, someone at Audi of America made a deal with "the fastest" 3G provider (at the time) T-Mobile. However, at least in SW Ohio the coverage, at best, is poor-to-fair, and overall is 2G to poor. The screen indicator registers 2G about 1/3rd of the time (which renders the feature useless). Now, it is true that when T-Mobile is able to pump out true 3G it can be as good as what sometimes passes for 4G from some carriers.
I had enjoyed using this feature with the voice command to verbally invoke "Internet Destination, Morton's of Chicago" or other destinations that would have normally had to have been found via calling 411, getting the number, calling the "destination" asking for the address and THEN entering it into the sat nav.
The thing is, the price for this service is $30/month -- which is galling since the TV commercials claim (for SW Ohio) 4, 4G LTE lines (family promo) for $100/mo.
Of course, were I to buy a new A3, Audi Connect no longer uses T-Mobile.
I'd pay $10/month for this crappy (T-Mobile) service -- but $30 for 2G? No way.
The concept and the technology (in the car) make a lot of sense and when things work as expected (even in 3G) the execution is great (within a two block radius of a certain signal location). Swapping out the radio or "unlocking" the radio via software or some other method (the sim card?) would make my experience with this vehicle "the best ever."
For those folks who want driving performance, I can assure you the S4 (with the 7-speed DSG) is, let me see, effortless to drive, meaning that there is nothing (within reason) the car won't do without breaking a sweat. Another descriptive term: "carve" -- driving the car is as effortless as cutting warm butter with a hot knife.
Obviously, I am off-put by one little piece of tech that some folks who live in a strong T-Mobile reception areas probably can't relate to. But in terms of reliability and "tightness" this S4 is as new-feeling at 22K miles as it was with 22 miles.
That's the story so far.