My Christmas Present
Posted: Jan 9, 2008 4:59pm ET
I’ve been holding back, for almost an entire month. But I didn’t want to spoil the car section of the Good Life Guide in the Jan/Feb issue of Cigar Aficionado. The magazine is out. Many of you have gotten it already, or you can find it, so I can tell you about my Christmas present. That’s what I’m calling it anyway because it’s hard to otherwise justify my new car solely as a means of everyday transportation.
My lease ran out in November on my family car, an Audi A6 sedan that served as a soccermobile for most of the three years I had it in the garage. Since I began driving Audis in 1992, when most people still thought the German brand was jinxed, it was no surprise to me that I loved the car. Those wheels saw more pavement on holiday weekends on the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95, going to and from soccer tournaments, than a car, or the driver for that matter, should have to endure.
But I knew I was going to turn the car in. I like to lease cars because I want a new automobile every few years in my garage, and I long ago rationalized leasing instead of buying a depreciating asset. So every year a lease expires, I do a fair amount of research, checking out other makes of cars, and sometimes even driving them. For awhile I thought I might wait for a Jagaur XF in late spring 2008, but frankly, it didn’t light my fire when I saw a production model in late October. I also knew in advance that it wasn’t going to be in my price range. It didn’t take long to eliminate the “other” German automakers, although I drove a BMW 3-series when I lived in Europe 20 years ago, and I loved that car too. I’ve just never thought of myself as a Mercedes driver.
I went through the U.S. cars too. I love the new Chevy Malibu, and I think the Cadillac CTS is one of the best-looking cars on the market; but what can I say, I don’t think of myself as a Cadillac driver either. I’ve driven a lot of Ford Mustangs when I rent cars on business trips, and it just seems impractical for a family car. While I’m a fan of the bold, masculine lines of some of the new Chrysler products, there is just a bit too much of that influence in the design to make me feel comfortable.
It wasn’t long, therefore, before I circled back around to Audi. The A6 hasn’t changed much in three years, and when I looked at a straight-up replacement, it felt like I wasn’t really going to get anything different. I seriously considered an A4 series, or maybe an S4, and at one point, I figured my dream car, the S5, would be beyond my price range and therefore, I’d be settling into an S4 by December. But lo and behold, the S5 was priced fairly, and when I looked at it without all the hi-tech navigation and driving assistance and the $800 Bose sound system, none of which I felt I needed, I realized I could afford it.
I do need full disclosure here. I had ordered an S5 before it was priced, and I almost canceled my order twice while I was looking at other cars. I variously felt like it was too much car for a 55-year-old guy, or that it was just too impractical even though I now lived in an empty nest with no requirements to transport large groups of young soccer players, or that it was just too obviously a resurgence of the adolescent boy in me. I think by the time I made my final decision, less than 10 days before the car was due at the dealership, my salesman was ready to shoot me. Whatever. I finally decided that if I didn’t drive a car like the S5 soon, I would always regret not having done it.
On December 15th, my new car arrived, a beautiful black panther with a brown leather interior. Yes, it is my dream car. I’ll get over my carbon footprint qualms soon enough, because after all, I take a commuter train to work every day. And, I can get 20-plus miles to the gallon on the highway, putting to shame a lot of SUVs. Powerful? Oh yeah. No doubt about it, and it’s all at my fingertips with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. But read Paul Eisenstein’s professional opinion of the car. It is simply one of the finest balanced touring coupes that has ever hit American shores.
Did I mention that it’s beautiful?
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