European

My Midlife Crisis, or Adventures in Audi Maintenance

Posted in Beater Cars, Car Buying, European, European Review by Dustin Driver | January 15th, 2015 | Leave a Reply |

a4-desert

Sure, it’s not really that bad as midlife crises go. I mean, yes, when I hit midlife I did switch jobs three times and got divorced, but that’s more the result of a constant and chronic whole-life crisis, not one of the midlife variety. No, my midlife crisis was automotive. My vehicular partners have all been Japanese and reliable and, literally, colorless (silver, beige, white, black, gray). I had owned my 2003 Mazda Protégé 5 for 10 long years. It was a fun, zippy, practical, economical car that could really do anything. But at 37 something snapped and I decided I needed more elegance, more power, more refinement. Enter the A4.

About a year ago I became obsessed with Audis. Their clean, understated Bauhaus lines, their elegant interiors, their smooth power delivery, their formidable Quattro drivetrains. But I was afraid. Terrified of famously and disastrously complicated German engineering, of bank-breaking repairs and the inevitable ulcer they would induce. You see, I lacked the one prerequisite for blissful Audi ownership: Mountains of cash. A new Audi, blessed with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, was beyond my grasp (see job changes and divorce). If I got an Audi, it’d be old and I’d be on my own. I’d be playing a very dangerous game.

Still, I couldn’t stop scouring Craigslist for a deal. One day I found a local mechanic/Audi/VW dealership selling a minor unicorn (at least in my remote part of the world): A 2002 A4 Quattro with a 3.0 V6 and a six-speed manual. In shining Garnet Red with soothing taupe interior. A Teutonic masterpiece, an Autobahn bomber with dual climate zones and sport suspension. Mileage: 120,000. New clutch, timing belts, accessory belts, and tires. It simultaneously aroused me and set off blinding warning lights and deafening klaxons in the fight-or-flight center of my brain.

It was mid December and icy on the test drive. The 3.0 V6 hummed to life with German precision, all 30 valves working flawlessly to deliver a remarkably flat power band from idle to its 6,500 RPM redline. The gearshift was heavy and mechanical. The steering light, yet precise. One stab of the throttle and an easily controlled four-wheel drift across the icy Central Oregon roads and I was sold. The price was fair, a near even trade for the Mazda. Major work had been done. What could possibly go wrong? I drop-kicked caution into a canyon and took up the Challenge of the Four Rings—without an extended warranty or a live-in certified Audi mechanic.

Thus began my masterclass in Audi A4 maintenance and restoration.

a4

I’d love to say that the past year of geriatric Audi ownership has been trouble free, a delightful autumn drive through a wooded Bavarian valley. It has certainly been reminiscent of a Bavarian valley, just one under constant artillery bombardment by German forces, a smoking mire of charred trees and blood. Well, okay, it hasn’t been that bad. But it has been an enlightening and sometimes painful journey deep into the convoluted minds of German engineers.

Almost immediately the PCV valve went out, causing an erratic idle. My mechanic replaced it free of charge. Then both horns went out. An easy fix with a pair of aftermarket replacements. Then I noticed, to my dismay, that the foremost engine mount (snub mount) was completely missing—its rubber long since crumbled to dust. The other two engine mounts were also badly cracked and bleeding hydraulic fluid. Not to be dismayed, I recruited the help of a fellow wrench monkey and the two of us painstakingly replaced all three with upgraded aftermarket jobs from 034 Motorsports. Then it started mysteriously reeking of gasoline, but only when the tank was full. I sniffed around for the culprit, but could find no obvious leak. I shamefully admitted defeat and drove to my mechanic, who attributed the leak to a cracked rubber seal on top of the gas tank. Luckily it was an easy fix, but an expensive part.

Then there was an unfortunate off-road incident involving the oil cooler and a large rock that taught me a lot about the limitations imposed by ride height, or lack thereof. I don’t want to get into details, but that led to an almost total DIY overhaul of the cooling system, including a new radiator and coolant overflow tank. Oh, and two window regulators went out. Which I replaced. Twice. Long story.

But here’s the thing: I love the car. Maybe even more now than if it had been showroom perfect. Because I know it. I’ve scrabbled around under its grimy undercarriage more times than I can count, loosened and tightened countless fasteners, bathed and swallowed its lifeblood of coolant and oil, inadvertently bled into those same fluid system. I even learned a few words of German. This old, rickety A4 has, in Top Gear speak, become my mate. We are connected by a shared experience, by hours of companionship. It’s also something that I’m quite proud of. In this throw-away consumerist culture, fixing and restoring something old gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I get to take things apart, admire (or scoff at) the engineering genius that went into them, then put them all back together again. Successfully. The process itself is meditative, temporarily occupying a raucous mind. It requires strategic planning, concentration, finesse, and contorted body poses that would tax the most experienced Yogi.

And I suppose in some ways that’s why I bought the A4. I knew, deep down, that it would need restoration and attention. It was something I could pour my energy into and get direct results. Replace engine mounts, get better throttle response. Fix radiator, stop leak. Polish paint, shiny. The A4 is therapy. It’s a soul-soother, a means of fighting off the sense of futility and worthlessness that comes with middle age. And it certainly costs as much as a good therapist.

I was going to compose a list of repair/restoration costs for the A4, but I quickly realized that such a list would unravel my psyche, plunge me into a fog of regret and self loathing. Instead, I’ll end on a positive note. The A4 has been a great car. It starts every time. It’s smooth and fast and shiny and capable. It’s packed with thoughtful features and it’s well designed. I think I’ll hold on to it. For a little while, at least.

Golf GTI Mk.VII: CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS

Posted in Best of, Car Reviews, DRIVE, European, European Review, European Rides, General, Rides, Videos, Volkswagen by MrAngry | July 1st, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Golf GTI Mk VII

Back in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, if you wanted a hot-hatch, then you only looked at one car; the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s small four cylinder engine packed high-revs, smiles galore and giant killer characteristics. However over time the little Golf lost much of its hard edge in favor of creature comforts and ride quality. There’s now a new GTI on the market, aptly named the MK. VII and VW says it’s better in every way. Chris Harris recently grabbed one and gave it a proper flogging so as to let us know if it’s still the same old bloated GTI of the past OR if VW finally got their act together and produced a car that the enthusiasts of old will really want to drive.

Source: Youtube.com

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Road Test: Spyker C8 Aileron — MR PORTER

Posted in Best of, Car Reviews, European, European Review, European Rides, General, Spyker, Videos by MrAngry | June 26th, 2013 | 1 Response |

Spyker C6 Aileron

If you’re looking for an exotic car that not only goes against convention, but against everything those “other” exotic manufacturers are doing, then the Spyker C8 Aileron may just fit your bill. The C8 Aileron features a light weight aluminum chassis, an interior that’s made from some of the most expensive cows in history, and a 4.2-liter Audi V8 that pumps out 400 hp (good for 187 mph). It’s also one of the most stunning automobiles to have been created in the last 30 years. The Aileron is not your average super car and is therefore, not for the average enthusiast. It’s not the fastest, best handling or most expensive, but it is a solid performer that will garner looks of amazement wherever it goes.

Source: MrPorter.com

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Battle of the Spocks: Audi S7

Audi S7

Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy. Two Spocks of different eras brought together for a battle of speed and wits in Audi’s new commercial for the 420 horsepower S7 sedan . Quinto, our new Spock, returns for his second film in the upcoming “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, while Nimoy is a veteran of seven motion pictures and will forever be our #1 Spock. And while Quinto adds a wonderfully youthful flair to the character, let’s just say that there’s no replacement for tried and true experience.

Source: Youtube.com

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Ridelust Review: 2013 BMW X6 M

Posted in BMW, Car Reviews, European, European Review, European Rides, Featured, General, M Series, Rides by MrAngry | May 6th, 2013 | 2 Responses |

2013 BMW X6 M

PRO’s: Outstanding performance, extreme all-weather versatility, spacious enough for a family of 5.

CON’s: Peculiar styling, high price tag.

FINAL THOUGHT: An amazing SUV/crossover that may well be one of the fastest and most versatile vehicles that BMW has ever produced.

If you’re not sure whether the 2013 BMW X6 M is a car, truck or crossover, don’t feel bad because you’re not alone. You see this things got an identity crises, a bad one, and because of that consumers have been perplex by the X6 since its debut in 2008. I just spent a week with BMW’s X6 M and I can tell you this, I still have no idea what the hell it is, but I fell in love with it, and hot damn if it isn’t a riot of a performance vehicle.

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Range Rover Evoque: On and Off-Road Test

Posted in Car Reviews, European, European Review, European Rides, General, Range Rover, Rides, Videos by MrAngry | April 22nd, 2013 | 1 Response |

Range Rover Evoque

They’re a favorite amongst the California Cougar, amazing off-road and come with one helluva’ substantial price tag. Since 1970 Range Rovers have been giving the public a taste of their high-class ruggedness and have been doing so with a shape that has been recognizable for over 40-years. However now they’re bringing us the Evoque, a medium-sized SUV that’s been scaled back on performance, but thrust full-speed ahead on style. Hell, Victoria Beckham was a design consultant on the project. Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire recently got his hands on the Evoque to see if it was still worthy of the Range Rover name, or if it was simply all flash.

Source: TheSmokingTire.com

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2013 BMW 135is: Ridelust Review

Posted in BMW, Car Reviews, European, European Review, European Rides, Featured, General, Rides by MrAngry | April 11th, 2013 | 3 Responses |

2013 BMW 135is

PRO’s: Quick, nimble, smiles-for-miles little hot-rod.

CON’s: Big price tag, lack of limited-slip-differential.

FINAL THOUGHT: The 2013 BMW 135is is a little pocket-rocket of a car that will make you rediscover driving at its core. It’s fun, fast and has the ability to make even grown men giggle.

Buying a car is not a rational decision, it’s an emotional one. We look at style, performance and how that particular vehicle makes us feel. Does it make us smile when we open the garage door. Does it make the right sound when we turn the key. Above all, does it get our adrenaline flowing when we simply go out for a drive. In a day and age where cars are weighed down by government safety regulations, technology and each company trying to outdo the next guy, it’s nice to see that BMW makes at least one car that throws up its middle finger and shows us that a car can still be a good time.

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Mercedes-Benz UniMog: Crushin’ It!

Posted in AMG, Car Reviews, Educational, European, European Review, European Rides, General, Mercedes Benz, Rides, Videos by MrAngry | March 29th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

Unimog

When it comes to heading off-road, vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler, Ford Raptor and Toyota FJ may come to mind. However when it comes to SERIOUS off-roading most people would ditch the aforementioned rides and go straight for the King, or as most know it, the UniMog. Built by Mercedes-Benz, the UniMog has been around since 1947. It’s a true jack-of-all trades and was built primarily to be used by farmers and municipalities. These trucks are not fast, not nimble and certainly not fuel efficient. However, if you are looking for the best off-road vehicle in existence, then there is no beating this thing.

Source: MotorTrend.com

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2013 VW Beetle Convertible With Sound & Nav: RideLust Review

Posted in Car Reviews, European Review, Featured, RideLust Review, Volkswagen by Kurt Ernst | March 25th, 2013 | 1 Response |

2013 VW Beetle Convertible

Thumbs Up: Better than the last Beetle Convertible in every way

Thumbs Down: Cloth seats not available, not much rear passenger room

Buy This Car If: You were there in the 1970s and long for your first Beetle convertible

It’s probably safe to say that few cars ever sold in North America achieved quite as large a cult following as the original Volkswagen Beetle. Countless numbers of us learned to drive behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Beetle, and those of us in snow-belt states soon learned the advantage of skinny tires and a rear-mounted engine in winter. We also learned about things like snap oversteer on black ice, ejecting windshield wiper blades and a heating system that varied between “primitive” and “nonexistent.” Read More…

2013 BMW 750Li Sedan: Ridelust Review

Posted in Best of, BMW, Car Reviews, European, European Review, European Rides, Featured, General, Rides by MrAngry | March 19th, 2013 | Leave a Reply |

2013 BMW 750Li

PRO’s: Outstanding luxury, wonderful performance and loads of useful technology.

CON’s: Big price, hesitant acceleration in comfort mode.

FINAL THOUGHT: One of the best high-end luxury sedans on the market today, regardless of price or pedigree.

For most of us, traveling first class is something that dreams are made of. We wait in line, baggage in hand until our group is called, and then, like lemmings jumping to our deaths, get corralled onto our planes or trains, only to find that we’re seated next to the crying baby or the large man with the glandular disorder. It’s an awful experience for all who are involved and it makes us yearn for the better things in life. Every now and then though, fate smiles upon us and presents us with a gift that not only boosts our morale, but brightens our day. This happened to me last week when a new 2013 BMW 750Li press car appeared in my driveway.

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