By Jon Rosner, Fri, 11 Nov 2005 08:00:00 PDT
What happens to those enthusiastic drivers of eye-catching, sporty two-seaters and pocket rocket motorcycles when matrimony and diapers turn thoughts of a wrenching or a soothing evening ride into vanishing activities relegated to one's memory banks ? Marriage plus progeny equals diapers plus strollers plus daycare plus Cub Scouts and Daisy Scouts AND a need for LOTS of room, a rolling storage facility.
The problem is the response to the need: station wagon ~ wouldn't be caught dead in one; S.U.V. ~ gas is down from $3.00 per gallon to $2.00 per gallon, but that still a BIG hit at the gas pump when all you're getting is 12 to 14 mpg; the boring, large Japanese sedan ~ well it's a boring, large Japanese sedan, and my mother-in-law drives one; American car ~ American car ~ American car ? Not a solid style statement; how's about a nice BMW, Saab, Volvo or Jaguar Wagon, ooops ?!? Estate !
This is got to be an active-family vehicle that does it ALL. Requirements: four-wheel drive, decent gas mileage, road-rocket acceleration and handling and enough room to haul whatever we need, oh yea, and under $40,000 PLEASE !
The Subaru Wagons are nice, not the back-road bandit, and in truth, a little boring. Volvo, ouch, I don't want to make everyone think I'm that practical. BMW M3, YEA Baby ! Ouch, 15 mpg, $50 large, ding ~ no go. Hey ! What's this ? Smallish wagon, 3.2 liter hot rod motor, close-ratio 6-speed automatic, paddle shifters that respond like a videogame, pulls from 6th from 30 mph at 1,200 rpm, torque-rich, butter-smooth acceleration and totally glued to the road handling ???? Yousa, ding ! Audi A3 3.2.
Five-doors to accommodate the kids and the stuff. The interior is simple and unfussy and follows Audi's pattern of setting the gold standard for perfect fit, great style and total utility. The back-seat can even handle six-foot tall friends, in comfort.
On the road the A3 3.2 won't please your mother-in-law, she will not approve of the taut ride, nor will she like your driving on back-roads like you were in your former "banshee" vehicle that was on her not ride list, too bad. This is smallest S-Series Audi and the closest thing you can get to a Lotus Elise with adequate space for a family. Point and squirt through traffic was delight, brakes were heading into Porsche 911 suck-your-eyeballs-out territory, and trips to Costco were handled quite well thank-you.
In stop and go traffic with not a lot of highway time we clocked 19 mpg, but there were multiple times when drenching downpours made us quite happy that we were enclosed in a solid four-wheel-drive that could handle the worst that mother nature could throw at us. Brian Hitchins and a few other Audi Cognoscenti immediately noticed the new A3 3.2 and were as wowed by it as the former Ms. Autobahn and I are. The A3 3.2 is priced at $35 to $38k, loaded. It's stylish, comfortable, very, very quick and a delight to drive.