Tag Archives: A6

Introducing The New Karen Federmobile: 2001 Audi A6

2001 Audi A6After talking for what seems like forever about getting Karen a different vehicle, the time has finally come: The new Karen Federmobile is a 2001 Audi A6.

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourselves, “Gee that Audi looks familiar.” You would be right. This was my grandmother’s (Nonnie’s) car. To some, it is the Queen Betty on land (the deck boat at the cabin is known as The Queen Betty on the water).

Simply put, this car is special for many reasons. My grandmother loved this car. I’ll never forget the day her, my uncle, my father, and I were in the Audi dealership in Fargo placing the order. At one point there was a conversation that went something like this:

Nonnie: Joel dear, don’t you think the color combination is gorgeous?

Me: Nonnie, the interior color is too light, and it’s going to be a nightmare to keep clean. Also, that exterior color is going to be awful to maintain. Do you realize it’s going to be difficult to find someone who loves this color combination someday when we have to sell this car when you pass away?! Don’t do this to us.

Nonnie: Nonsense, this is just gorgeous. I love it. You’ll see, it’ll be terrific.

I will never ever forget this interaction, or the rest of the memorable quotes during the buying process.

2001 Audi A6

The exterior of this A6 is finished in Ming Blue Pearl Effect while the interior features Vanilla and Royal Blue. It’s definitely unique, and frankly, I do think it’s a sharp looking car in the right light.

Under the hood is a 4.2-liter V8 connected to a five-speed automatic transmission. The car is surefooted through all forms of weather thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system.

The car currently sits with about 86,000 miles on the odometer. Most of those are highway miles put on early in the car’s life, as my grandmother drove from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota to see us, her grandchildren.

Since the car’s been in the family since day one, I happen to have all the service records, manuals, and even the window sticker. Though I will say the most treasured piece that comes with the car is the original brochure from the Audi dealership. It has my grandmother’s notes scribbled throughout the book as she went through the ordering process.

Ironically, both the first owner and second owner of this car have the name Mrs. Feder, though I wouldn’t advise calling Karen, Mrs. Feder.

I know just how much my grandmother loved this car, and I know how happy it would make her to see Karen driving it.

We will remember my grandmother long after we end up selling this A6, but for now, it’s yet another way we are able to keep a small part of her in our daily lives.

2011 Detroit Auto Show: The Good, The Great, The Sad

While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.

Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.

But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.

Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.

The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.

I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.

Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.

Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.

But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.

Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.

I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.

While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.

At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.


Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors

Review – 2011 Ford Fiesta: A Win For America

Anyone that has been on the internet lately has probably heard of the Fiesta Movement.  The car’s unique marketing has definitely stirred interest into a vehicle that has not been in the American market for quite a while.  This small vehicle is a hit in Europe and many Americans have been requesting the vehicle.  With the car finally here, the question is how much was lost in translation?  Is the American Fiesta as good as the European version?

Exterior

The exterior has not changed much from the European model.  Gone are the normal fog lights and projector headlights.  Instead, you have LED light pipes where the fog lights would normally go.  The sedan version of the Fiesta also wears a chrome three bar grille instead of painted insert.  The hatch back does not have the chrome three bar grille rather it sports a painted insert that is closer to the European models look.  I think they are the same size and you could swap the painted insert in place of the chrome three bar setup if you wanted to.  Personally, I like the look of the painted insert better.  From the front fender to the rear quarter panel, a strong character line runs down the side of the car.  While the headlights are up swept and unique, the tail lights wrap around the sides and are a basic non-offensive oval shape.  The overall sedan is better looking then I thought it would be.  Much better then the comparable Toyota Yaris.

Interior

The interior of the Fiesta is really close to the European counterpart.  The gauges look very European while the radio controls are supposed to remind you of a cell phone.  While I am not sure of that, there are definitely a lot of buttons in a tiny space.  I found it easy to operate and the interface was clean.  The small 4-inch display glowed red and was easy to read in all lighting conditions.  The Microsoft SYNC system operated as advertised, and was really quite handy.  One thing that is different from the European model is the climate control.  No automatic climate control is offered, though it was extremely warm while the Fiesta was here and it always kept the interior nice and chilly.  The seats were comfortable, with adequate side bolstering. I did find the seat bottoms a bit flat when driving on a road trip.  The graining on all plastics was very nice and the seat fabric felt like great quality material.  With a soft touch pad for the top half of the dash, if it doesn’t feel quality it certainly looks the part.  Rear seat legroom is somewhat short, but if you are under six feet tall you will be OK.  I am not sure an adult would enjoy a road trip back there, but it is doable.  The steering wheel was the perfect size and the electric power steering had great feedback and on-center feel.  At night the Fiesta I was in had “mood lighting” with seven different color options.  My girlfriend settled on a color resembling teal for the week.  If you find it distracting the lighting, can be turned off.  Overall the interior is a huge win.  Everything from ergonomics to style, the Fiesta fits the bill and then some.

Powertrain

The Fiesta comes standard with a 1.6 liter four cylinder engine pushing out 120 horsepower and 112 pound feet to the front wheels.  That power goes through the standard five-speed manual or optional six-speed dual clutch dubbed PowerShift.  Off the line ,the Fiesta is no rocket.  In fact, it almost seems a little sluggish.  Once you get revs a little higher the car starts to feel faster then it really is.  Driving the car I always seemed to have a stupid grin on my face, even though I was not going that fast.  The Fiesta I had was equipped with the five-speed manual.  Personally, I liked the gearbox.  It was fun with clean shifts.  Though on the highway I will admit at times I longed for a sixth gear.  Not because of engine drone or anything like that (engine and wind noise was in check), but because the car probably would have gotten better mileage.  The five speed manual is rated at 29/38 while the six speed dual clutch is rated at 30/40 (with SFE package, 20/38 without SFE package).  I averaged 29.9 mpg in the city during the week, which was good considering I was definitely not trying to get the best mileage.  On the highway I managed to average only 34.5 mpg.  It is worth noting I had the cruise control set at 77 mph on the highway trip.  I can only assume going slower and or having another gear would have significantly increased that average.

So how much of the car was lost in translation?  Frankly, not a ton.  In fact some of the technical changes when coming across the pond made the car better.  For instance, the addition of knee airbags gave the people up front more leg room.  The car is a blast to drive and many people commented on how fun the car was.  Everyone seemed to the like it.  An Audi A6 owner commented on how great the car looked, both outside and inside.  This car is a huge value and a win for America.  If you look at the direct competition such as the Toyota Yaris, the Fiesta almost puts it to shame.  The Fiesta SE I had was somewhat optioned with the Rapid Spec 203A package (nowhere near loaded) and had a sticker price of $15,990.  That is without a question a value.  I definitely would take the Fiesta over the Toyota Yaris.  The Honda Fit has many tricks of its own, so it really depends on what your uses will be.  With the Mazda2 coming, the Fiesta has a ton of competition in this segment.  In the end, it has the goods to fight off the competition.

Photography- Alex Bellus

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Ford

Review- 2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

2010 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon

Americans have a love hate relationship with station wagons. They love to hate them. I personally have never understood this phenomenon. Most car guys will tell you they think wagons are awesome. They combine the cargo hauling versatility of a SUV with the driving dynamics of a sedan. In Europe, station wagons are sold by the truck load. European fuel prices are higher then in the United States, so they never had the love affair we Americans had with the SUV.

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The CTS Sport Wagon was in development before the crash of the economy and General Motors bankruptcy. The original plan was to export the bulk of the Sport Wagons to Europe where hopefully it would be a success and directly take on the European wagons from Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Since diesels are more popular in Europe they were also going to make the main engine choice a new 2.9 liter diesel. Since those plans obviously are not going to pan out the future of the Sport Wagon will ride on the American public. The diesel engine is not being offered here unfortunately.

The Sport Wagon is truly good looking. The sharp looks and great stance are attributed to the form over function school of thought. The roof line is raked giving off the sporty appearance and stance. Combine that roofline with a raked rear hatch and you have a rear opening that can not take tall objects. The things that stand out to people that asked me about the car are the three foot long tail lights that are reminiscent of the tail fins of older Cadillacs, and the 19 inch wheels, which are optional. The tail lights are fully LED with light pipes running down the outside edge. Light pipes are also used in the headlights on the upper trim cars.

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The car has many winning characteristics. The rear hatch is power operated and can be set with a knob on the drivers door to open full, 3/4, or off. This can come in handy if you have a garage with a low ceiling or possibly shorter and can not reach the hatch when fully opened. The interior is lifted directly from the CTS sedan. The Sport Wagon has a great cargo management system in the rear hatch. There is a storage bin under the floor in the rear end that can hold things from public view. With the rear seats folded flat you have an ample 58 feet of cargo space.

IMG_1855The interior is literally lifted from the CTS sedan. Soft touch materials abound and soft white ambient lighting at night the interior is a win. The generously sized touch screen navigation rises from the dash when the vehicle is started (when chosen to have the settings that way). The navigation unit in the Sport Wagon is hard drive based. Rendering of the map was snappy and the street names were clean and crisp. Live traffic and weather is provided through your XM satellite radio connection.

The vehicle I had was the top of the line 3.6L Premium with optional 19 inch wheel package and optional crystal red tintcoat paint. The sticker price on this car was $55,630. The Sport Wagon has a starting price of $39,830 before destination charges. The summer performance tires were replaced with snow tires from Bridgestone. The Blizzaks handled well though added some tire noise. That is to be expected of snow tires. The Sport Wagon I had was rear wheel drive though all wheel drive is optional in all trims. Also optioned on this vehicle was the FE3 sport suspension which feels very European and more specifically German.

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The Sport Wagon has two engine choices. I had the optional 3.6 liter V6, which features direct injection. This larger V6 puts out 304 hp and 273 lb-ft. The standard 3.0 liter V6 also features direct injection while only putting out 270 hp and 223 lb-ft. Both the 3.6 liter and 3.0 liter are rated at 18/26 mpg. With no sacrifice in fuel mileage, I would recommend optioning for the larger engine. Both engines mate to a six speed automatic transmission. The transmission operates fine in normal driving though, it hesitates for a second to kick down a gear when the throttle is slammed for passing. Moving the shifter to the right puts the transmission in sport mode. This fixes the aforementioned problem. Downshifts are quick and up shifts are not had until red line. Much sportier dynamics are had out of the transmission in sport mode. You can also shift manually with the buttons on the back of the steering wheel or by moving the gear shift.

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GM lists the competition for the Sport Wagon as the Audi A4 and A6 Avants, BMW 5 series wagon, and the Mercedes E class wagon. When looking at the competition the Cadillac is definitely class competitive. It feels right in between the A4 and A6 Avants in size. The new Sport Wagon is a great extension for the CTS line and with the coupe coming next year, the line is only going to get better. The wagon aspect adds a dash more versatility without losing the driving dynamics that make the CTS such a great vehicle. With dashing good looks and a fun to drive ratio that is surprising for a wagon, this is one Cadillac that Americans can and hopefully will love.

Full Disclosure- This vehicle was provided by General Motors press fleet for review