As they say: You win some; you lose some.
The process started out innocently enough: I like driving cars.
My commute consists of two 44 mile stints that bookend a long day of slinging Mazda’s. Somewhere along the way, I concocted a crazy idea and then found a way to present it to my wife that she might actually go for!
It went something like this: I want to be able to drive different cars, but, I don’t have a long reach in the automotive community and working full-time has curbed my dealer-swap abilities. So, what if, since I have access to them, I start to drive cars that get traded (or from auctions) that I find interesting for a few months (or until I get bored with them) and then sell them (since I have access to a dealership as well). In 4 months, I can rack up 10k miles, but, even still, when it comes time to sell it, I should still be in the black. It seemed like a simple plan that I could use to maybe even make a little extra money - which was her biggest selling point! For some reason, she was skeptical - but, she let me try it.
The first candidate came around and that’s where it started to go downhill: It was a 2.0L Audi.
Yep, you read that right. I started with a 2007 Audi A4 Quattro 2.0T, a manual transmission (obviously) and 90k miles on it!
Hey, we all make mistakes, right? And, at least I had it checked out before I bought it - or at least verified that the noise it was making was what I assumed it was? Oops. Thankfully, at least the price was right.
I got everything signed and drove it home. The next day I didn’t even get to drive it to work because we needed to have my wife’s car here for something - so she drove it and I still hear about it. The noise the tires made (I feel like there’s a saying about assumptions..) was really obnoxious and she had, in that moment, marked the car for death. It was doomed to not be loved.
Despite the noise, it drove solidly in that quiet German tank kind of way, so the next day the car ferried us along with my mother to an Imagine Dragons concert in Worcester (read, Woosta) with the tires howling away and returned a healthy 27mpg (a figure that never really seemed to change no matter how I drove it.)
The handling was decent enough and with good Continental summer’s and the Quattro, it would hang onto the Appalachian Gap much better than I would have guessed and even with the, umm, forward weight bias, I didn’t feel any understeer - and I was surprised how nicely the Audi manual rows. The steering, while a little numb, was well weighted and I didn’t have any problems placing the car where I wanted it. Overall, I liked driving it and it seemed to like the twisties - but where it really shined was on the highway. It was nice and quiet, smooth and it took to a VT winter like it was designed for it. It was as planted and sure footed as anything I’ve ever driven in the snow and never got remotely close to stuck or out of control.
I do have a handful of small complaints though: the design of the center stack and my right knee didn’t co-exist very well. Perhaps this was rectified later (or in higher trim levels) but, there was no trip computer (just a big thing in the middle to tell you how many miles until empty)...although it’s also possible I just wasn’t smart enough to run it. I had assumed when I bought it that any premium car of this vintage would at least have an auxiliary input - but, nope. The back seat can be cramped (although, if I really used the backseat more than occasionally, I’d just buy a bigger car). I mean, it’s not like it’s any worse than the 9-3 Aero it replaced nor the V50 that replaced it...or any 3-series I’ve ever seen - so I guess I’ll stop bitching about it. I did however find myself wishing it was an Avant. The trunk space is certainly sufficient, but, the opening is tiny and I could barely fit our normal-size cooler in there.
But, to be fair, I wasn’t buying the car for the long term - so, it’s shortcomings would be short-lived and I got over it.
The rest of the car made it easy to get over. Decent power comes from the 2.0L and a great throaty snarl emanates from the exhaust - at least when you have the windows and your foot down. If I were keeping the car, a quick chip upgrade would help power and delivery greatly. The most impressive thing about this car though is the feel. Many of the Japanese and American cars I’ve driven feel like they were made of straw compared to this brick beast. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of noise from the outside, the apparent build quality and the materials that make up the interior (after 90k miles nothing was out of place and nothing squeaked or rattled). Perhaps it’s that all of the buttons have this click and tactile feel that make them feel like they’ll outlast the body of a Trabant.
The car came with a great set of both summer and winter tires, new brakes all around and a pretty short list of things to do.
First and foremost though - timing belt. I had no record showing it being completed - so, that was first on the list. While in there, the water pump and all the pulleys were taken care of. The shop that took care of it also is familiar with Audi’s and the 2.0L’s penchant for failure. They lifted the high-pressure fuel pump to inspect the cam followers for wear and only found minor wear - not really enough to worry about for now (unless of course I wanted to fork over another large chunk of change.) But, $1k later and the scheduled maintenance is set for awhile between the belts, pump and a fresh oil smoothie.
A little sanding and a quick spray of paint over a small patch of rust (where something had obviously hit and broken the paint) and the car feels solid - except for the whine that these stupid winter tires emit!
Eventually, even here in Vermont, the snow stops falling and melts away. Then it’s time for the summer tires to come out - and, in this case, for the whining to stop! Summer tires installed, fire up the car to drive home - 45 miles of quiet, not-whining bliss. And, that’s exactly what I got, except for exactly the same noise emanating from these tires. Ahh, shit.
So, I bring the car over to a neighboring dealership (he deals with lots of Audi’s and some other interesting stuff (Peugeot, Citroen, etc)) to ask them to take a look at it. I walk up to their service writer (with the business owner near by) and start to describe the issue. “There is a whining noise coming from the front end of the car. I assumed it was from the tires - but, once I changed them over, the noise didn’t go away.” The owner turns to us and say’s “Did **** own that car?” My mouth says “yes” while my mind says “well, that can’t be good...” He continues “We have done lots of work on that car” (a good thing) and had plenty of records to support that. “she was also here about a month ago for the same issue you are describing and we’ve learned that the front differential is the source and needs to be replaced along with the transmission (since they are all in the same case) to the tune of a very large number (not a good thing). Being neighbors and forgoing doing the clutch at the same time (since it didn’t feel like it was anywhere near close to needing to be replaced) they get it done the following week for about $1,800 (about half what he quoted the previous owner).
Eventually the car I bought to take it’s place through the summer and that will allow me to put the Audi up for sale is ready to go (a story for another day...) and the time comes to turn the car over to another. The car gets listed online and put on our dealer website as well as on the lot. It happens in less than a month, someone looking for a stick A4 comes in and we strike a deal - making sure he knew about the work that had been done recently. He drives away happy and I haven’t heard from him or seen the car since! Although, he said he was planning to increase the horsepower a bit, so, hopefully it holds up!
Bought for: $7,474
Timing Belt Service: $1,034
Oil Change and checkup: $257
Sold for: $11,000
On the plus side I drove a nice Audi for 8k miles and owned it for 6 months for the cost of a light trip to Costco. However, since my initial argument was based on making a little extra on these cars, I didn’t quite make it. And, the second installment definitely did NOT help my case any - but, I’ll tell you about that one later (here’s a hint that will probably give away the ending: the next car is rotary powered....)
Shitty photos courtesy of me.