Monday, February 24, 2020

An Old Man (Me) Who Drives Old Cars Spends 4 Days With A 2020 Audi Q7

I live in Massachusetts. My mother now lives near Richmond Virginia. She turned 90 this month. It was decided that a party was in order.

Getting from Massachusetts to Richmond Virginia is not as easy as it should be. A plane, besides being incredibly expensive for the amount of miles you're going, doesn't leave you in Richmond. You wind up in North Carolina and have to figure out how to get to Richmond from there. Amtrak isn't bad - I've done it before - but it takes 9 - 10 hours with stops, and the times are somewhat inconvenient. A bus was out of the question.

I currently drive an older BMW X3. Its a good car. I've maintained it and it runs well. But I wasn't sure I wanted to take it on a long drive. What would happen if, say, the alternator goes bad? Especially at night and on a weekend? I'm pretty certain the local Pep Boys or Firestone don't have one on the shelf. I would then be stuck wherever I am until at least Monday with the choice of bringing the car to a dealership and paying their insane prices or hoping to find an indie shop that A) knows BMWs and B) can get me in that day. Those were chances I wasn't willing to take. I decide to rent a car.

I went online about a week before my departure date and reserved a car through Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I wanted an AWD vehicle and they had a good deal on their "intermediate size" SUVs. (Usually a Toyota RAV4 the website said.) They called me a few times during the week to confirm that I still wanted to rent a car and that I would be there at my reservation time. I assured them that I was still planning on renting the car and that I would be there at the scheduled time.

I took an Uber to Enterprise and got there about 15 minutes early. The rental agent took all my info and payment and then went into the back to get the keys to my rental. He came back out a few minutes later and told me they didn't have any "intermediate size" SUVs available. He asked if I would accept a Dodge Journey. I said I would as long as it was AWD. He went into the back and then came out and told me it was 2WD.

I'm not an AWD snob, but I have spent my whole life in the Northeast. The weather, especially in the winter, can be unpredictable. There have been plenty of times that I have gone to bed at night after the TV weatherman has said the next day would be partly sunny, only to wake up in the morning to 8" inches of "partly sunny" covering the ground. I wanted AWD, just in case.

The rental agent went into an office where I saw him talking to someone. He came back out and said that they did have an AWD SUV they could give to me, a 2020 Audi Q7. For the price of the RAV4, I asked. For the price of the RAV4, he replied. Enterprise Rent-A-Car immediately became my new favorite company.

Someone brought the Q7 around to the front of the building. It had 325 miles on it. It looked and smelled new. We did a walk around and I agreed there was no damage on the car and it had a full tank of gas. He showed me how to start it and I was on my way. I drove it 90 miles to my girlfriend's house, as we were leaving from there Friday morning.

First of all, the Q7 is huge. Coming from an X3 it was like getting into a Ford F350. (It's not that big, it just seemed that way to me.) It took me awhile to get used to that. It has plenty of power, but it's not always delivered smoothly. (More on that in a bit.) The interior is really nice, but I was never able to find a perfect setting for the seat despite it having what seemed like infinite adjustments. The seat heaters, however, were the best I have ever encountered. My phone paired right up with the car and the music sounded great no matter what volume it was set at.

My biggest complaint was the navigation system. It's insane. I set our destination when we left my girlfriend's house. At first all was fine. It guided us to the New York State Thruway, then to the Garden State Parkway and then to the New Jersey Turnpike. After we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge, it told us to get off at an exit. I had never done this before. I have made this trip a number of times, but its been a few years since I last made it, so I thought that there may be some new highway that would save us some time. After awhile I started to think that the route it was sending us didn't make sense. We pulled over and looked at the route the navigation was sending us. It was sending us to Richmond via Virginia Beach! This made no sense at all. We backtracked to I95. The whole time we were were doing this the Nav system kept telling me to go back to the route it had plotted. Once we got on I95 it seemed to get its bearings and sent us the way I thought we should be going.

I95 ties into a road around Washington DC called the Beltway. We hit the Beltway at rush hour. It reminded me of when I lived in New York and had to take the Long Island Expressway at rush hour every day, except in DC they commute in much nicer cars. We saw an i8. We saw countless Jaguars. Maseratis were as common as Toyotas. It was an impressive, impromptu, car show.

With the Beltway moving at about 5 MPH tops, we decided to get off in Tysons Corner, VA, to do some shopping and grab some food. We found a Home Goods store (my girlfriend's favorite place in the whole world) and pulled into the parking lot. This is when the Nav system went berserk. In the parking lot it kept saying "turn left, then turn left, then turn right, then turn left," over and over. Had I followed it I would have taken out several rows of parked cars and the front of the Home Goods store. On the way back home it sent us a completely different route that had us driving on the local streets of several New Jersey cities in order to connect with the Garden State Parkway. The free Waze app on my phone is much more impressive than Audi's system.

My only other big complaint with the car was a slight hesitation when I stepped on the gas pedal. It was only a millisecond, but when you're trying to pull into traffic that millisecond feels like a minute. In 2020 I can't believe it's turbo lag, I have no idea what it was.

That's my basic impression of 4 days with a new Audi Q7. This isn't a review, just the impression of someone who hasn't bought a brand new car since the 1980s. In my mind it makes more financial sense to buy a good used car.

Would I buy a used Q7 in a few years? No. I like the size and feel of my X3. When I dropped off the Q7 at Enterprise I was happy to be back in my own car, but thankful that they gave me the chance to drive it.

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