Tricked-Out Audi A4 Revives Dreams of Youth

To tell the truth, forty years as a car guy – ranging from auto mechanic to racing driver to PR for Dan Gurney to Associate Editor of Motor Trend – has left me a bit jaded about cars.  Some of it has to do with the baggage that comes with age, some with the fact that deadline demands mean I hardly ever get to just go for a drive and enjoy myself in a car, and some with the fact that the roads of America are so crowded these days that enjoyment is virtually impossible.  Then I happened to climb into the driver's seat of an Audi A4 so thoroughly spec'd-out as the boy-racer car of my adolescent dreams that I felt myself hurtling back in time….

I slid into the black-suede racing bucket and wrapped my hands around the fat, racing-style steering wheel – complete with shifter paddles and the flat bottom designed to provide extra room for your knees in a true racing car – and I was transported back to Mullholland Drive and my first time on a racetrack and a time when my biggest kick was driving a cool, new car.

Turns out it still is… I just hadn't done it in so long that I'd forgotten.   Granted, this was no ordinary A4, which is a perfectly nice daily driver with a hint of character and reasonably impressive mechanical credentials.  They all come with, at minimum, a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, Quattro all-wheel drive, power glass sunroof, good seats and a good audio system with satellite radio.  Not a bad basis on which to start building… and build you can.
The particular A4 that I found so transformative was also so totally out of the ordinary that it's not even possible to create by checking every option box on the web site.  But somebody obviously knows how to do it.  The 'basic' 2014 A$ 2.0T Quattro Tiptronic has an MSRP of $35,900.  The Glacier White Metallic paint adds $500, and the Prestige option ($8,800) is a laundry list of options that includes an absolutely astonishing Bang and Olufsen audio system (14 speaker, 10 amplifiers, 500 watts), as well as navigation system, back-up camera, etc., etc.

The S Line interior package ($950) includes that flat-bottomed steering wheel I found so enchanting, as well as Alcantera sport seats and brushed aluminum interior trim.  The Sport Package ($1,000) includes special suspension tuning that, truth to tell, makes the car ride a bit like a race car, but My God!, what a blast to be able to go around corners that fast!  And then the Black Optic Package ($1,300) includes titanium-finish 19-inch wheels and high-performance tires, as well as gloss black interior trim.
So add it all up and you have a $49,345 Audi A4… a car that I can't begin to afford, yet lust for and feel is worth every dime if what you're looking for is transformation rather than mere transportation.

I had the car for about four days, although the car pretty much had me after the first hundred yards, and I found myself inventing errands just for a chance to slide behind that steering wheel and press the starter button and power out of my driveway (much to the displeasure of my neighbors in my sleepy little island neighborhood).  In motion, I found myself doing something that I used to do automatically, but, in a real world of a crossover daily driver – usually with a dog in the back – had long since given up; treating every turn as though it were part of a race… approaching wide, braking in a straight line, turning in to the apex and powering out.  And smoothly, always smoothly.
The knob-and-button system that controls the car is much more intuitive, to me at least, than BMW's iDrive, and the settings that let you control handling and shift points make a big difference.  Set it to 'comfort' and the wife could see driving it to work.  Set it to 'dynamic' and I could feel the grain of the road through the seat of my pants, another feeling I'd forgotten.

And, while on the subject of feeling… a small thing, but all the buttons and knobs in the car, particularly the buttons that power the windows up and down, feel precise and smooth and technical… much like the car itself.
And keep in mind that, while it took me from feeling the full weight of my 60 years to the incredible lightness of being that is 30, this isn't even the actual S model with the 6-cylinder, 330-horsepower engine… or the RS5 with the 485 horsepower V-8 under the hood.

So there are still more levels of kinetic joy yet to be explored.  No doubt there's one that will take me all the way back to feeling like I'm 16 instead of 30…. Driving the right car can make you feel younger, and I can't wait.

Click here to see a video of me test driving this car for Braman Audi.

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