WHEN I saw my grand-uncle, a 61 year-old entrepreneur with a penchant for the marketing industry, drive into our home in a grey B9 A4... I was in for a surprise.
It had a manual gearbox.
The car was hardly impressive otherwise; it had a cracked license plate holder with EuropaCar written on it, a huge scrape down the side, and all sorts of bulges on the tires. The interior on the other side had an uncomfortable damp cigarette stench accompanied by a huge hole on the A pillar right at eye level; where someone, I presume, decided to put one out.
The seat gave me a decent degree of adjustment, the instrument display was clear, and the gearshift was tight and relatively short. Perhaps the biggest complain was the clutch pedal which felt too light, and too long for my liking.
Anyway, after explaining to him that I wanted to drive to the restaurant because it was an important car; the last model of A4 to be sold with a manual transmission (At least in my regular market, North America), I made myself truly comfortable in the driver’s seat and set off. He climbed into the passenger seat, to witness my terrible gear changes.
Now, it was a pleasant drive he barely noticed my shitty driving, and I barely misbehaved. I just wanted to poke the engine a little to see what it had. But evidently I’m not comfortable driving like a buffoon with any family members in the car. We were making polite conversation, he told me about this RS4 he used to own in Mexico.... It was all OK until we arrived to the river.
When we arrived to the river town he pointed at a house, and he said “I had a girlfriend that lived there when I was sixteen”, moments after that we crossed an intersection that put us parallel to the river. He then continued “I used to fuck her behind those trees you see.”
“Right.” I told him
Not wanting to let silence fill the cabin, he went into more detail.
“Oh we were insane, I remember I had this friend that gave me his car for the sole purpose of having sex with her; in the back of the car... after dates. The parents were clueless. He was proud of that... he was proud to be able to say ‘hey, thanks to me, this guy fucks’ we didn’t have the taste to go find a hotel, and actually have fun. It was kind of uncomfortable, and deep down I don’t think I ever enjoyed it for any other reason than the adrenalin” he said, as he looked over the river
“Oh, that reminds me of one of the early scenes of Catcher in the Rye” I told him.
“Terrific book!” He concluded.
and it left me wondering, as I sloshed the gearshifter around looking for the best gear, maybe this A4 is a bit like car-sex. It’s not easy to enjoy unless you’re truly experienced, you know were to push it, and you’re at least half a foot shorter than me.
Which is sad, because, the elements are there... The engine is a bit boring, sure, but it revs quickly, and it makes good turbo noises. The suspension is compliant and even if it very probably has an open diff, I suspect it’s not bad in the corners. But most importantly, its a compact luxury sedan with a manual gearbox.
But it added up to an uninteresting experience, I don’t know, maybe I was nervous, thinking about other stuff, and not up to the job, sweety.
All’s I know is that, you can’t fix a car like this with a manual transmission, on the contrary, I feel like it was worsened by it. Those two extra gears on the regular A4 make it more refined on the highway, this goddamn car was pulling at nearly 2500RPM in sixth at 100km/h; it’s too many revs for such a speed.
But it’s probably not the gearboxes’ fault. As we enter the era of Automatic-rule I think we need to remember that not all manuals are made equal. This Audi was made with a manual gearbox in order to drop the sale price, and to attract customers who don’t seem to appreciate how inflation works. It’s not a cool, performance oriented, driver centric unit. It feels like bean-counters made the choice to sell this A4, not the marketing experts that want to bring more enthusiasts into their brand.
Or maybe it was both of them, and they just decided to half-ass both of their jobs, and turn in a product that feels completely uninspiring, and boring. A 3er would beat this car dead in the driving enjoyment department.
This A4 is a goddamn phoney; and I don’t wish it any luck because I don’t wish anyone “good luck”
Its a phoney thing to do.