Autocar, April 2008 - Our Cars report Audi A4 2.0 TDi (not published)
Being vain is a pain
Classy Audi still losing the battle against the average mans Mondeo
Image? When handed my brief for the new Honda Accord launch and group test I was disappointed to have been given the Mondeo as my drive to Vienna. I wanted the Audi. Why? To put it quite simply I was being vain. I hadnít driven either car and yet that is what I desired to be partnered with for the next two days.
Post group test and after already travelling over 1600 miles mostly in the Mondeo, it was my time in the Audi. My plan was to make it to Cologne and proceed home the next day, but I was so comfortable behind the wheel of the charging German that while cruising effortlessly on the autobahn with the miles ticking away, I decided on my own bed.
On the way down I had suffered a lot of lower back pain in the firm seats of the Mondeo, but in the Audi I was stress-free, sixth gear had remained permanently engaged while it utilised the great spread of torque. This meant that even from 50mph the engine eagerly surged forward, which was just aswell as every time I changed gear it was like being removed from the luxurious confines of the leathered Audi cabin and into something reminiscent of yesteryear. The clutch pedal twanged a nasty vibration into my foot and as my hand clasped around the short throw gear lever it zinged British Leyland. And thatís if I made the gear change at all because at first the largely offset driving position had my foot striking the foot rest while depressing the centrally aligned clutch pedal. It was a stark contrast to its class and generally good refinement. Another inequality is the dull and heavily waited helm to the overly light gear lever; At least neither felt connected to anything remotely mechanical.
So at nearly a thousand miles travelled in a day I arrived home tired, obviously, but with a warm sense of achievement, my left hip numb from the twisted driving position, and knowing that despite its qualities I could not live with the manual Audi on my daily grind. All due to a few quite inexcusable but fundamental flaws and its inability for its primary controls to cohesively gel. Which is a shame, but at least I have learnt that maybe image isnít everything.