Car shopping

Kent McLean kentmclean at
Sat Jan 10 16:41:39 PST 2009

Looking for options to a $3500 engine job for my A4, I went car shopping today.

First up was a 2000 A6 4.2L.
Very nice.  Secure handling, gobs of power on tap, although with all the
sound deadening, you don't really notice the speed. And the brakes were
awesome. Press the peddle and it stops hard and fast. This example had
a loud rhythmic clicking when I applied the brakes, plus a slight shimmy
from 30 MPH on up.  I was surprised at how much the interior was like
the A4 -- cruise control stalk, driver info display switches, etc, are
the same (and haven't changed since my '89 200 TQ). The tiptronic was
the same. The Bose stereo was a step up, and in the quieter car it
sounded great.  I loved the seat, immediately comfortable. I really
liked the car. But except for the seat and extra power, it didn't seem
to be a whole lot better than my A4.  As for the brakes and shimmy,
"We haven't gone through it yet." At 94K miles and 8 years old, it will
need a t-belt real soon. And the wheels are Mille, not stock. And it
will need tires soon. So figure $2K to $2500 to put it right.  But
even at $7500, it's a steal for a great car.

Car 2 was a 2000 VW Passat, V6, automatic
I wasn't expecting to be as impressed as I was. Interior woodwork
was very tasteful. The stalk controls were Audi, same as in my
'89 200 TQ. Nice sound system. Huge trunk. It all seemed so familiar.
On the test drive, the lack of quattro meant the V6 didn't have to
work as hard, and acceleration was "brisk". But the lack of quattro
worried me when on a back road an oncoming truck forced us far to
our side, where snow had drifted onto the road. A bit of pucker
factor, but the car hardly hiccuped. The missing muffler wasn't
a problem (although I imagine exhaust would have a better chance
of entering the cabin), but it would have to be replaced. The test
drive showed a shimmy that "wasn't there before". And the brakes,
not as powerful as the A6 4.2's, felt strong with no mushiness of
the pedal.  As we pulled into his driveway, you could hear the left
front CV joint clicking, as the kid had stated. Examining the front,
there was snow stuck in the front wheel, which would account for
the shimmy. I saw 25ish MPG on the meter; the kid says 27 on the
highway. That would be nice. At 143K, it, too, will need a t-belt.
That and the muffler and CV joint. I thought the handling, power,
brakes, seats, and stereo were good. Maybe not Audi level, but
better than a Toyota. At $3900 asking price, I'm tempted.

But neither ride screamed "this is much better than your A4".
And the A4 is a known quantity.  I'll sleep on it some more.

Comments welcome.

Kent McLean
'99 A4 Avant, V6 Tiptronic
'91 200 TQA #3, gray, UFOs, chipped, Euro headlights
'91 200 TQA #2 blue, up in smoke 2
'91 200 TQA #1 black, recycled
'94 100 S Avant, "Moody", sold
'89 200 TQ, "Bad Puppy", up in smoke

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