Well... about a month ago, the wife was driving down a crowded road, not really paying attention, and rear ended another car. Then the car behind her rear ended her. Then the car that she hit was pushed in to the car in front of that. Smash bash and crash. The insurance company decided that our car, a 2004 Toyota Carolla was a total loss. After being a one car family for a week or so, we decided that we needed a new car. Since I was already looking, and she was the one to wreck the car, we decided it would be MY new car!! YAY!!!!
I drove a bunch of cars. My criteria was that I wanted a navigation system, all wheel drive, good gas mileage, and an automatic transmission with a fun manual option.
Pretty much I drove everything in my previous blog post, except I didn't drive the Cadillac, too expensive and no AWD, and I also drove an Infinity G37 and a Volkswagen Passat. I mainly drove the Passat, because my dad just bought one and really like it... It didn't have AWD, but it has really really great gas mileage, and was the only diesel I drove.
The navigation system was cool, but a little plain. What was really nice about it was that the navigation system put an arrow in the center console of the instrument package with information on when your next turn was and what direction you should turn. That was very handy, and it keeps the driver's eyes in the right places when using navigation.
I liked the Volvo, and it was the first car I drove. The things I didn't like about it were... all of the safety selling points. It breaks for you, it won't let you drive to fast, it is the ultimate back seat driver. What was very cool, though, was all of the extras that all of the sensors and cameras gave you. It had software to recognize speed limit signs, for instance. So, where a conventional navigation system would just show you the normal speed limit, the Volvo could show you the speed limit in a construction zone, because it could read the sign. Very cool.
The Infinity... It was a V6 and got the worst gas mileage out of all of the cars I drove. That and it didn't ride nicely. And the styling sucks. Booo. I didn't like it.
The main contenders were the BMW 335 and the Audi A4. I know I looked at an A5 in the previous post, but after looking at the A5 and the A4, you realize that they are viturally the same car, except the A4 is less expensive and has four doors. All of the features that you can get in an A5 you can get in the A4.
So... Same features, same engine, same gas milage, less expensive sticker price, less expensive insurance, AND the styling is virtually the same except for two extra doors. No brainier. A4 wins over A5.
I really really liked the Audi. The model I drove had navigation, quattro AWD, an 8 speed transmission, and the sport package with paddle shifters! At first, I liked the ride. It drives very smoothly. I didn't like what seemed to be a lack of power off of the stop. You hit the gas and the car lethargically starts to move, then kicks you in the ass as it takes off. It was kind of annoying. Then I put it in to manual "sport" mode. Now that I had control over the transmission, and this auto stick was by far the best auto stick I have ever used, it was just like I was driving my manual transmission. I could keep the car in first gear a bit longer to make use of the higher RPM and keep the power where I wanted it. Lots and lots of fun.
The navigation system was the best I have seen, but a real pain to configure. Like the VW, understandable since Audi is owned by VW, navigation information is presented in the center of the instrument panel. But unlike the VW, the center is a full color screen with better resolution. This console will show you which lane you should be in, and if the road is a left with a quick right or whatever, it will present this in the center console. Very super duper cool!!
The nav system is also integrated with Google Earth, so you can be looking at satellite images with a 3D representation of the city you are driving in. That was really nifty.
BMW has seemed to give itself over to technology. Everything, and I do mean everything, is electronic. It is kind of annoying. To take it out of gear you press a button. To park, you press a button. Buttons buttons buttons buttons.
The ride is nice but a little stiff. I wanted a smoother ride. The BMW that I drove was the "sport" option with navigation, AWD, and 8 speed transmission. No paddle shifters in this car, the auto stick manual mode was on the floor. This car also had a Heads Up Display with your speed and navigation instructions. Super super super cool.
The auto stick... SUCKED. According to the sales guy, when you shift the car puts your request in to a queue and will shift if the computer feels that it is ok to. This way, the sales guy said, you save your transmission and your gas millage. No. I don't like it. If I shift I want it to SHIFT. I want a manual feel in the transmission.
So, after some wheeling and dealing, I purchased the Audi A4. The car that I drove was in a color I didn't like, so I had to wait for one in silver to show up.
It has the MMI Navigation, the sport package, and 8 speed AWD. Lots and lots of fun.
I am getting to know the car now, and liking it more and more everyday.