Cigar Aficionado

Fun Wheels

I don’t want this blog to always be about cigars. And since I’ve been battling a nasty little respiratory flu bug the last 10 days, I don’t have a lot of current smoking anecdotes, although a friend of mine came over last night and I gave him one of my La Aurora Cien Años…the aroma was delicious and I was envious that he was smoking it and not me.

This past weekend, I requested one of the new model Audi TT roadsters, which was available in that wonderful world of “press fleet” cars that are available for journalists to try out and write about. The sleek little bubble of a car now has a 3.2 liter engine option, coupled with a six-speed manual transmission. That’s the same engine that Audi’s bigger sedan, the A6, has under the hood. The engine/transmission combo has turned the little roadster into one of the hottest two-seaters on the road.

I drove it out of Manhattan last Friday afternoon, which is a day during the summer when the rush hour exodus begins about 1:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t get started until past 2:30, so the first 45 minutes in the car were spent creeping up the West Side Highway, a distance of about six miles. That may sound like highway hell, but in fact, it has taken me twice as long to go that distance on some summer Fridays. I felt like I was ahead of the game.

The first time I had any road room in front of me, I punched the accelerator and felt the car jump out from under me. As I went into the first curve on the Henry Hudson Parkway just north of the George Washington Bridge, I thought about touching the brakes, but the car was hugging to the road like glue and I just stayed on the gas. It was a revelation how solid this car felt throughout the curve. As I pulled into a toll booth (I’d forgotten my E-Z pass at home that day), I rolled down the window, and the toll taker, all notoriously cranky in the New York area, smiled and said, “Man, that is one bright red car.” Well, OK, so it wasn’t exactly staid and invisible.

The looks and admiring glances and adoring comments didn’t stop all weekend along. But more importantly, the car never felt cramped. My wife and I drove it back into the city on Saturday night for a New York Philharmonic concert, and with her in the car on the way to the concert, I drove very conservatively. There was none of that harsh sports car feel, and with the sound system pouring out selections from the Sirius JazzCafe channel, it was a pleasant, comfortable drive. (Coming home is another story because I wanted to get home in a hurry…suffice it to say, we did and she just closed her eyes most of the way.)

Here’s my take on the car. If you want a second car, a fun addition to the driveway that you won’t have to rely on the get the groceries back to the house, or the kids to soccer practice, this may be the car for you. It’s fast. It handles like a dream. At around $34,000 standard price for the six-speed, you can quickly add $10,000 with some bells and whistles. But for that, you get a sports car with a 5.5 seconds performance from 0-60…not bad for a little bubble car that changed the way America looked at car design.

"Nice call on mixing it up, Gordon. As a reader, you like to get a complete picture about the writers you frequently read and a blog provides a perfect opportunity for that. I know that on my blog I like to mix up cigars, golf, politics, and then just some random nonsense that I find amusing. Your insight on "press fleet" cars is really interesting and glad you shared that." —June 20, 2007 10:46 AM