Tuesday, July 6, 2021

New car report

     It wasn't much, as test drives go.
     Out of the driveway, down the street, right on Cedar, right on Cherry, under the viaduct, past the Sunset, right on Shermer and park in front of our goal, Lou Malnati's.
     I'd usually walk. But we had four guests, the pizza augmented with salads and wings and such. Might be a bit to carry. So I suggested we drive, and since our visitor's car was behind ours in the driveway, we took that.
     "Do you want to drive?" my pal asked. Your brand new Audi E-Tron? Sure.
     The car has a grille but no engine. You have to admire that. Humans cling to tradition, particularly when it comes to our automobiles. Thus trunks and glove compartments, even when we stopped strapping trunks to the back of our cars long ago, and ladies don't need a place to stash the gloves they no longer wear. Drivers want to pretend their car is cooling the internal combustion engine that isn't there. It would look odd otherwise. Maybe that'll change as more electric cars are sold and designers start to explore their possibilities. Right now, only about 2 percent of new cars sold are electric.
     Cedar presented a two-block stretch, and I mashed the accelerator. The E-Tron surged ahead nicely. 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds. (Not that I got it to 60, understand). Generally I drove extra carefully and got there without incident. My buddy went in for the pizza. The folks at Lou's were backed up, which gave me time to examine the car. I ran my finger over the ... wait for it ... faux wood, or maybe ersatz stone; some odd gray and white mottling that someone in Germany considered decoration.
     "You'd think they'd pop for a piece of actual wood," I said, to my pal's brother-in-law, who came along for the ride. The car costs, what? $70,000? He explained that the dynamics of buying the car required quickness, and so it had to be purchased as is. You could, he said, get better materials if you ordered a car, but time hadn't permitted that.
     A pity. Rule number one of design is that it shouldn't be worse than no design at all. Had that area of the dashboard (another name that lingers, as I've pointed out, even though the entity supplying the horsepower no longer dashes) been plain black, I'd never have minded. But this...
   The E-Tron (a dubious name, by the way, redolent of that 1982 Disney movie, "Tron") did try to redeem itself, style-wise. When I returned home and got out, the driver's door cast the car's name in light on the ground where I was to step, I guess in case the owner forgot what he was driving. Still, that was cool. And my pal's son showed me the neat way, with a press of a button, that the hatch containing the charging equipment presented itself.
     But driving a new car is supposed to inspire covetous, not relief that your 2005 Honda Odyssey has not yet given up the ghost. Which, I should point out, is not a car radiating impressiveness. But it drives, which is about all I ask of a vehicle nowadays. That said, I'd take the E-Tron in a heartbeat, the dashboard be damned. It's still a cool car. Particularly that blue.


  1. Speaking of "neat" designs, I am impressed with the pickup truck that has a step that unfolds from the rear gate, but figure that this feature will probably not work after a couple of years of being subject to 200 lb workers carrying 100 lb sacks of concrete. Of course, I thought something similar about the new fangled (in 1970) windows with little motors instead of cranks for opening and shutting, and also about automatic feed on copying machines, bound to wear out after a few hundred copies. Wrong. Wrong. Right? Taken for granted now-a-days. And copying would take hours out of one's day in any office, if fed one at a time. Though companies could reduce the amount of paper that has to be copied, were it not so much easier to add things than to subtract them, as noted by Neil.


    1. I think the neatest design I saw was the fold out running board on a pickup truck I saw.
      But my favorite bizarro comment on electric windows & door locks was from Consumer reports, maybe 25-30 years ago, when they called them a ridiculous & unnecessary thing.
      Then common sense took over a number of years later & they realized they were actually a safety feature, where you could lock all the doors at once & control the windows too.
      That was also the era, when consumer Reports, in a review of TVs, wrote that no one needed a tv bigger than 19"!

    2. Or...you can miss a curve, go into a pond, and drown when the electric windows fail. Happened to the wife of a former Cub pitcher in the early Eighties, in Wheaton. She was not found for five years. People laughed at my stick-shift Saturn with crank windows, which I owned as recently as 2015, but I knew I still had a ghost of a chance if I ever screwed up. Less so now.

  2. Sticker price on the E-Tron is north of $80K which reminds me:
    The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

  3. I grew up with the somewhat misguided (or unjustified) notion that Audi was somehow a poor man's BMW, and it took me ages to understand that they simply have different approaches to motoring. One of the highlights of my entire life was a spirited blast in my rental Audi A5 through the back roads of England from Stonehenge to St. Albans, outside of London, so I think I can now respect Audis for what they are. Yes, their interior design choices can seem unusual, but years of ownership will make it all seem familiar over time.

    That's certainly true of our 2005 Toyota Sienna AWD Limited. I purchased it new, grudgingly, back in that year after conceding that three kids required more room and entertainment on our long driving vacations. After 16 years and 214,000 miles, we are showing fewer Disney films on its DVD player and lugging more college furniture and appliances around, but I can definitely say that we would buy it all over again, despite my personal culture shock at the outset.

    (One footnote to the above: I learned from the Toyota Owners Group website that we can expect the Sienna's digital odometer to simply stop registering when it reaches 299,999.9 miles. It seems like even the manufacturer knows that all good things must come to an end.)

    1. Saturn owners used to brag about their high mileage. After 227,000 miles, the odometer on our '94 wagon just froze up. I think we added at least another 50,000 miles...or maybe more...before we traded it in. Drove it all over the East, Midwest, and South for thirteen years.

  4. P.S. Regarding that grille (with an "e" on the end): I don't know the construction of the e-tron specifically (which Audi seems to want to spell in all lower-case), but I'll hazard a guess that it still needs lots of airflow through the front to cool the air conditioning condenser, as well as gathering air for the passenger compartment ventilation and climate controls.

  5. I'm sure the Audi is a fine car. Fact is, the quality of cars has improved so much that from a quality standpoint, there isn't much difference between any of them except for the style and decorations. You never hear anyone saying, "Don't buy a _____. They don't last." They all last. None burns oil but most still burn gas. Kudos to your pal for going electric. It's something we all would be driving had it not been for the oil companies' influence.

  6. Cool. But the front end looks like monster-scary toy from an animated movie.


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