As many of you may remember, I debated about whether to stay on my corporate automobile plan or take the lesser reimbursement plan and purchase a two- or three-year-old Saab as a road car. When I began the process of comparing the two, I made several assumptions. Chiefly, I assumed that the program wouldn’t change much from the previous iteration. As with all assumptions like this, some pieces were truer than others. After a great deal of consideration and several tempting offers from one of our sponsors, I elected to stay on the company automotive plan and continue to drive a company-owned vehicle.
Click through to see why.
Once again, this was my previous company car, a 2006 Chevrolet Impala LT in Colbalt Blue. Despite the obviously pedestrian origins of this car, we, as a family, had true affection for it. Immediately dubbed the “Blueberry”, the Chevy put up with lengthy drives through all sorts of weather on business, long drives to the beach, remote camping trips and general around-town abuse. Those of you with small children (mine are 9 and 10) will appreciate this: because it was the Chevy, we simply dismissed dirt and general mistreatment by the kids saying, “Who cares? It’s the Blueberry!”
The car was roomy, functional and easy to drive. The air conditioner was top-notch (important here in the American South), there was plenty of torque to be had from the 3.6 liter V-6, the exhaust note was suitably aggressive and the trunk was huge. On the flip side, the transmission was a little less than smooth at times, the steering didn’t have much feel and the interior was a very light gray velour that just looked cheap as dirt. Reliability was great with one HUGE exception that would spin me into next week if I retold that story. Overall, a much more livable experience than I’d like to admit. I’d give the Chevy a firm 6 out of 10 as a people hauler/grocery getter.
However, faced with the possibility, I knew that another three-year stint with the Chevrolet’s replacement in kind, a Chevy Malibu, Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion, wasn’t exactly what I wanted. The Blueberry had been good to us, but I figured that we could do better with a 9-5, 9-3, or perhaps a 9-3 SportCombi in the driveway instead.
Once the automobile selection for 2009 was revealed, I knew that it would be difficult to turn down one of the options. And, ultimately, I elected to take it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Blackberry, my 2009 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro with Triptronic 6-speed automatic transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels.
I picked up the car today, and I can understand very easily why this car has been a hot seller. Technology all around, great leather, sure-footed four-wheel-drive, plenty of power and a transmission that feels smooth and German. This is a great package. Especially considering the $33,000 sticker price, it’s in the mix for quite a few drivers; it’s even competitive with many of the Japanese offerings.
On the downside, the car is small. Much smaller than the Impala and my 9-5. The trunk is barely passable for a family car, particularly the depth or lack thereof. The rather largish spare eats into the storage space significantly. I also dislike the overly light steering feel and the vehicle feels light — almost too light. Like it will not be durable. Time will tell, naturally, and I’m glad that I don’t have to pay for maintenance.
If I really want to be picky, I’ll also mention that while it’s flashy and makes a great first impression, the car control system can be a bit of a cipher and is probably overly complex for most drivers and most situations. I do enjoy the user-friendly nature of Saabs (although my 9-5 has its moments). The system Audi has created requires the interior display to access many of the car’s features (including heating and cooling) and that little LCD is sure to be a pretty penny to replace (if you even can) when these cars are the age of my 900. Something to think about for sure.
The delivery experience was, as I’ve come to expect from our local Audi dealer, Jaguar Porsche Audi of Nashville (nee Thoroughbred Motorcars), impeccable. Once I arrived at the well-appointed dealership, I was ushered directly to a stylish desk in the Jaguar showroom for a short conversation over the remaining three or four pages of paper and then it was outside and into the Audi, waiting just outside the front door. Jeff, the fleet sales person (as if a Jaguar Porsche Audi dealer needs a fleet sales person), showed me the ropes, and I’m glad that he did. If we think that Saabs can be quirky, this Audi is, too. Mostly in a “wow, I can’t believe that they thought of that” kind of way.
So it goes. I’ll have a directly competing vehicle to compare to the Saabs, and I hope that Saab wins. I really do.