FUNNY HOW SOME cars grow on you and continue to impress with a handful of characteristics you can live with, while others are all go and show in the first week, then start to grate with some minor fault that suddenly turns every drive into an ordeal. Like a creaking seat, or a baulky gear change.
Bit like relationships really. Some girls make you want to consider a future together, others are all show and go, if you’ll excuse the analogy, until you discover the previous addictions, the mad siblings and a consistent inability to put the toothpaste cap back on.
I’m happy to report that after four winning months and over 10 000km, the Audi still fits firmly in the first camp. With two minor irritations to temper the adulation. First a domestic one: with shopping for groceries a key grudge purchase, I’ve found the three bags I can afford at any one time tend to roll about in the boot, strewing their contents after the first corner. I cannot understand why Audi sees fit to engineer four strong and beautifully crafted pull rings into each corner of the boot floor, when a key need is for hooks that hold things up. The second issue is a fit and finish one: the floorpan covering on the driver’s side creaks when you stomp on it too hard. Minor, piffling, I know, but a creak nonetheless. Needless to say, it’s the only creak of any sort that has emerged so far. The Audi does not groan or rattle, anywhere. It’s built in Ingolstadt, after all.
I’ve now used the car for a variety of commuting tasks and a few blasts into the country. This month I took an early morning excursion to Bredasdorp along some of the most rewarding, flowing roads the Cape has to offer, revelling in the 3.0 TDI engine’s effortless overtaking ability and relaxed cruising – at 120kph it’s ticking over at 1850rpm, so never sounds overstressed on the open road. Then there was a quick dash to a prime Eastern Cape surf spot, this time more heavily laden with two passengers, a pile of luggage and three darn awkward surfboards. Happy to say, the rear seats fold down 60/40, not quite flat, but enough to slide in the boards and still leave room in the boot for gear and space behind the driver for a passenger. It’s a wide, long boot promising a useful 480 litres as a sedan should, with 962 litres seats folded. Quite adequate if the kitchen sink is not part of your plans.
Luckily with these longer trips, the fuel average is nudged downwards, and true to form, the consumption figure has consistently dropped over the last few months. From 9.88 litres/100km on arrival in the long-term fleet in May, through to 8.96ℓ/100km in June, 8.82 in August and now averaging 8.68.
Remember, that’s under nine litres every 100km for a 3.0-litre turbodiesel that puts out 176kW and 500 Nm of torque and is not driven gingerly. To put that into perspective, the EU test figures delivered by the engine are 9.2ℓ/100km in the urban cycle, 5.5 in the extra urban cycle and 6.9 litres combined. Nobody gets close in the real world, and the rule of thumb is to add 30% to the combined figure which works out at 8.97ℓ/100km.
It’s great that actual fuel use is right on the button. It’s also better than one could expect from an equivalent petrol. Look at the sums. The 3.2 FSI Quattro Ambiente S Tronic A4, admittedly a runout engine derivative with 196kW and 330Nm, costs R8000 less than the 3.0 TDI’s R477 000 before options. But it emits 250g/km CO2 against the diesel’s 183 (which has major emissions tax implications) and carries a 9.4ℓ/100km claimed combined fuel index, working out at a more realistic 12+ litres. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the diesel makes a lot more sense, with a relatively short period required to recover the extra purchase price.
But there are other factors, and the rewards of the beefy diesel are harder to quantify. It’s to do with the reserves of torque, the muted off-beat grumble of the V6. It just feels right.