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driving impressions, 88 90 vs the world (long, rambling)


Since I have the opportunity (more and more often, it seems) to drive
the world's cars through the loving help and care of Hertz number 1 club
Gold, I thought that I'd share some impressions I have of said cars
vis-a-vis my 88 90 2wd, with 205k miles, front end clunk and all.  I do
enjoy driving them all and seeing what the rest of the world likes.  I
am quite biased- my screen saver preaches the message "And thou shalt
drive German sedans."  I've got an 88 90 and an 88 90q.  I enjoy the
involvement of driving them; a car for me is not an appliance to take me
to the office, but (given that I spend 110 miles a day in the durn
thing) part of my daily schedule, one that I'd better enjoy.  I can't
imagine getting into a chevy or other american car just cause it works. 
And works cheap.  My bottom line argument defending M'audi is that I
picked up a $21k car for 7k at four years old; if I put 3k in repairs in
it over the years, I've almost worked myself up to the price of a
similair vintage Japanese sedan, without all the trimmins.  Where whould
you rather be?

Bottom line:
Me Audi is better.

To expand upon that point:

It's engine is more fun to use, even if it isn't as fast as many cars
out there.  33mpg summer, 29mpg winter.  It is as secure and quiet as a
bank-vault on the highway, and you can feel that the suspension is made
to move efficiently through lanes of traffic at high speeds.  The stereo
sounds great, if lacking in bass.  The seats are comfortable and provide
optimum positioning.  I once drove Denver to Dayton in one shot (21 hrs)
and felt great the next day.  Heater and defrost work quite well.  It's
fun and controllable in the corners (you Q owners don't know how well
the fwd audis handle when compared to ther cars!).  At nearly 10 years
old, it looks modern and stylish, with a good paint-job to boot.  When I
bought the wife an 88 90q last year and waxed the red paint, her
co-workers thought she had a brand new car.  Timeless styling, eh?

Here's what the world has to offer:
American sedans:

GM products.  Yeah, right!
  Okay, okay, I'd love to own a new Vette, and I'm sure that a
convertible Z28 is a blast... but those aren't sedans!  Oh, I drove a
Sunfire convertible.  It was decent, and a rag top is always fun.

Chrysler products:
  I have to admit, they look great.  If I were a truck buying guy, I'd
look long and hard at that Ram.  Bravo for going out with the old and in
with the new.  The Cirrus/Stratus/Breeze is a good looking car- perhaps
the best looking American sedan out there.  Better than many Japanese
cars.  Admit it.  Last month in Motor City (or is that Hockey-Town?),
Hertz had a Breeze waiting for me.  "Hooray," I thought, "a chance to
see what these are like!"  I drove off the lot, got to I94 east and hit
the gas.  And waited.  And waited.  This is the slowest durn car I ever
drove!  It won't downshift, and it does not move!  Nothing!  The
suspension will swallow anything Detroit can throw at it (and that's a
lot of craters, folks) and keep going straight and taught.  Just don't
try to accelerate in it.  Reminds me of an old girl-friend's 77 Rabbit 3
speed slush-box.

The Neon
Aka: cutsie, hi, buy me you sweet little thing.  One liner: lousy car.

Ford products.  Okay, now you're getting somewhere.

The Contour  
Believe it or not, that Contour is a fun car to drive.  Its four-banger
has plenty of go, and with 15 inch wheels and a very tight body,
suspension, and handling, it's quite toss-able.  But the engine gives
up, buzzes along at over 70, and the fit and finish are surprisingly
lacking.  Examples include a transmission that you simply cannot leave
in drive at a stop-light, seat-belts that get caught in the door every
time you close it, and an hvac system where one notch is too cold and
the next notch is too hot.  Not to mention that ages-old, taurus-reject
radio... I'm certain that the 24v V6 with a 5 speed provides thrilling
acceleration, and would be quite the q-ship, to borrow a term, but, ah,
at what price?  Right 1.8t owners?

The Taurus 
The best American sedan, hands down.  Feels of quality, dependable,
reasonably priced with its competition, nice engine.  Love it or leave
it looks (and I'm proud they took the chance with the styling.  Heck, it
ain't Pontiac ugly).  I spent a week in rainy Detroit this spring with
one.  I never trusted it on turn-in in the wet.  Felt like it was going
to keep on going straight.  You just can't drive the thing hard.

Fun, for an hour.  I spent a week in NJ driving up and down route 202
with it.  Fun road, twisties, rises, etc.  BTW, did I see a lister with
a red 200 coming around the corner a bit hot?  Given the delay between
gas and go, you hit the gas, point, and then shoot out of a corner. 
Grip is good unless there are bumps in the turn, in which case the rear
end is jump and grab.  Turn in had a delay, kind of like the gas pedal,
but when you got onto it, it stuck.  Just the transients were hard.  The
engine (3.8 v6) sucked the gas (17mpg?) but pulled up to 4500 rpm.  Then
it didn't know if it should keep going or shift.  Either way, the fun
ends for a bit. My poor NA 2.3l 5,10v, with it's pittance of 130 ponies,
just keeps pulling until the cam runs out- then you shift.  Push harder,
it pulls harder; fun to hang on to the engine.  Mustang? no.

Maxima SE V6
  Ten minute test drive yeilds a powerful if un-involving engine in a
quiet, capable, big-feeling sedan.  Not much sport in it, if you ask
me.  Everyone raves about this engine, but it's lost on me.  I got back
into my old Audi, which then felt REALLY slow, but still plenty of fun. 
To quote an acquaintance with both an S4 and a 90QC, "The Maxima is
nice, the S4 is fast, really fast.  But the Coupe is the most fun to

Honda Accords
  The ultimate appliances.  You'd never know you were driving.  I'd
imagine that the Integras, etc feel just about the same.  I drove my
pa's 97 Accord Wagon 6 hours from NH to Millinocket, ME and then back
with the wife and infant in the back seat.  Don't go over 70mph in this
car!!!  The engine buzzes at 3500 rpm, which is 75mph; there's a ton of
wind noise and even more road noise (I could barely hear the radio on
clean, smooth I95 over the din); ergonomics and human-factors design
seemed surprisingly poor for a Japanese car.  I thought this was what
made the Accords so durned special.  I was really dissapointed.  My
sister sold her aging 86 GTI to get a new Accord, and misses the "get up
and go" of her old German fun-machine.  "When I hit the gas in the GTI,
Dennis, it went!"

Toyota Camry:
  Spent last week driving a new 4 banger Camry and must admit to having
been very impressed while driving it.  You heard the engine enough to
know what it was doing yet it wasn't intrusive, just like M'Audi.  It
pulled strongly to reasonable rpms and shifted when I wanted it to witha
reasonable push of the pedal- sometimes two gears, halelujiah!  Quiet,
smooth ride, even at cruising speeds on the 405 (which range from
0-85mph  and back in the span of, oh, a mile or two).  It did wander at
highway speeds- straight lines must be hard.  And understeer?  Maybe it
was the tires, but I was braking firmly and turning into a parking lot,
not being brutal, but using the car, and the tires sent up a squeal like
I was going to smash the thing up.  Scared the family walking out of the
Chevy's I was headed for and turned my face red with embarassment.  And
then I got home and into M'audi.  I rowed through the gears and onto the
highway.  Oh, yeah, so that's waht it's supposed to be like!

I'm partial to the 626, owing to the fact that my parents own an 88 with
250k miles on the clock and a few replaced alternators and mufflers (NH
salt, dontch'ya know?).  That's it.  No nothing else repaired, replaced,
fixed, at all.  On NH roads.  I drove that thing this past winter and
the shocks are tight as a drum, as are the bushings, etc.  Impressive. 
Lousy seats if you're driving anywhere over an hour.

I drove a new one in Atlanta, 4 banger- slow as the Plymouth Breeze.

My brother has a 90 GTU.  170hp full of motorcycle-like acceleration in
a fun, revving engine.  I like this car.  He does too, but is pining for
the 95 twin-turbo.  Like he needs to move that fast.  I'm trying to get
him onto an M3.  He drove an A4 2.8 and thought it was slow.  I'll bet
he didn't get into the engine, but then again, he wants fast-fast.

Here's a fun car.  I'd take one.

Sonata.  I have to include them- I drove one once and, frankly, enjoyed
the experience.  Great front seats.  Better car than the Accord IMHO,
but who knows abut the quality/ reliability of the things?

Legacy awd sport:
I really enjoyed the car.  Had it for a few days in Phoenix, where there
are no curves, but a corner does just as well, thank you.  It was this
car that convinced me to by my wife the 88 90q.  Forget the brakes, just
dive into the corner, point, and hit the gas early enough so that the
engine kicks in when you're heading in roughly the right direction. 
Ride the accelerating power-slide out of the corner and enjoy.  But you
quattro owners know all about that.  Great looking interior and gauges,
Good seats.

Parting question:
Why does every auto manufacturer put the front speakers in the door?  If
they work at all (thanks to all the gophers at Hertz who get in the car,
crank it up, including bass and treb full and blow the speakers...) your
legs are in the way and the sound is, well, lousy.  I wish to God that
Audi would have put a stereo with more than five cumulative watts of
power in it But boy, it has imaging and a soundstage.  Just like a
decent pair of british mini-monitors.  All image, no bass.


My wife is getting sick of me returning from road trips.  After the
final corners into my neighboorhood and up to the door, all I can do
when I walk in is say, "Boy, is that fine piece of German machineray a
nice car!"