Thursday, January 12, 2012

It is hard to keep a good man down…

You know, for the first time in many years, I was Porscheless. Is that a word? It could be. Denoting not having a Porsche in your garage, not having that wonderful sound of a flat –six motor fill your ears when you mash the go pedal. Could probably go on, but I think you get the point. I was now the proud owner of an Audi A3, but at least an Audi A3 with the very cool paddle shifting DSG transmission. DSG (which is short for a very long sounding and technical German name) means that the clutch is automated and there are two input shafts for the gears. Actually, more or less it is two transmissions housed in one case. You may think that everything should be double the size, but those smart German engineers figured out a way to make every thing fit, but all the gears and shifty bits are really tiny. You do not want to have to take apart one of these things without a very good manual. A very, very good manual. Well, to be frank, you do not want to ever have to take one of these things apart ever. So when you are driving with the DSG and you have a gear engaged, the other shaft is spinning, ready to slam home in the next gear you choose. It is pretty quick too. OK, OK, since you insist…DSG stands for Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe.

Today a lot of serious car manufacturers use DSG or something close to it – VW, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Maserati, Aston Martin - pretty much all the bigs. But in 2006, there were just a few and my A3 was one of them. It was white with tan leather interior and the sports package (DUH!) with sports seats and other sporting stuff that was supposed to make a 4-door semi sports wagon feel well…sporty. You may sense vagueness here, like I was not convinced about its sporting pretentions. I wasn’t. It was very small on the inside with basically zero back seat leg room (can you imagine my 6’7” son trying to wedge himself back there? Neither can I.) But it was pretty quick and did have some aggressive Dunlop rubber. But a track car? Ahhh, not so much. Trust me, I tried it on the track…twice. Not that it was not bad, but it did not replace the feeling of the Porsche. Any Porsche… In the photo below, you can see (kinda) the small silver paddles behind the center spokes of the steering wheel.

The first time I ran it on the track, on my Birthday no less, I finished the track event and headed home. Since it is a front driver (also known as Front Wheel Drive), there is more weight over the front axle and unless you get all the braking done before you turn in, it wants to push or understeer. That means as you turn the steering wheel, the car wants to go straight. After a bit of time, you adjust your braking and turn-in points and get used to it. A couple of days later, the low oil light came on the dash. Immediately I stopped the car and checked the oil level. Bummer, it was at the lowest point on the dip stick. I bought a quart of Castrol Syntec 5W-40 and added it to bring the level back to normal. Then I realized, that the 2 liter Turbo motor used a lot of oil at the track. I should have know and would not make that mistake again.

I do remember giving a guy in a Boxster S fits in the Audi, he just could not pull me. I was on his rear bumper lap after lap. When doing a track event or track day, the slower car is supposed to let the faster car (in this case my A3) pass him on a approved passing area like a longish straight. But he never acknowledged the waving blue flags with diagonal strips, the passing flag. If it is being waved at you, it means that there is a faster car behind and you should let them pass. It is also called the invisible flag, I think the Boxster S guy was in this category, he never saw it. Although I am sure if the shoe was on the other foot, he would have been very upset that a slower car would not let his Porsche pass. It kind of reminded me of the old joke about Porsches – goes something like this: What is the difference between a porcupine and a Porsche. The Porsche has the prick is on the inside. Wait a minute…I am a Porsche guy. Hmmm, maybe that does not apply to all of us. I went to talk to him about his on track manners after the session, but since it was the last one, he exited the track, headed for the exit and just kept on going. I complained to the folks that ran the event and they did not seem to care too much either, saying that it was the last session of the day and all. Have not been back to an event they run.

So I ended up toasting the set of OEM Dunlop tires on the car and replaced them with very sticky rubber Falken Azenis RT-615’s but as usual, new tires on one of our cars means that its days are numbered. About the same time, we started having massive AC issues with the car. Had to have the compressor replaced 4 times in less than 3 months. I tried to get Audi to do something about it, like extending my warranty on the AC system, but they said fat chance. We traded it, I mean literally. Picked it up from the service drive, went to the front of the dealership, found another car that we liked and got rid of it that same day. It was still under warranty so figured that Audi would no doubt fix the issues before they resold it.

The Sales guy that handled the trade ended up buying it for his wife. I found out later that he got rid of it too, something about the AC not working correctly. Go figure.

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.

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