I haven’t been home much lately. It seems like every few days I am coming and going from Orange County and constantly adjusting to driving different cars in different places. On a recent trip to Europe, the point of the trip was to drive the new Audi Q5, a smallish SUV that is more Avant than truck. The thing is, before driving the Q5, I spent a day ripping around in two sensationally fast cars on wide open autobahn and a race track.
First on the list was the R8 at the track. An amazing car that seems to be just barely underpowered, but so well balanced you don’t seem to notice. You can carry so much speed through corners that you don’t really feel any sort of bogging except out of really slow stuff. There was really only one increasing radius second gear turn that led out on to the back stretch where I was really wanting more torque.
The second flog of the day was blasting up and down the autobahn in an RS6. A twin-turbo V10 pulls the big Avant with frightening urgency. Audi found the bravest, or craziest guy they had to sit backseat with journalists as we let loose in a 580hp uber-wagen. We saw speeds in excess of a speedometer indicated 290kph, that’s a little over 180 for the mile-an-hour club. The RS6 is just so stable and the power band so broad that it really is just effortless.
The day after all this fun, we ended up heading to Valencia Spain to drive the Q5. Valencia is an industrial port city with narrow roads and plenty of traffic. We ended up mostly in the country where the Q5’s smaller size was a real advantage. However even with the smaller size, even 60mph felt pretty quick on the tight roads.
I returned to California with just enough time to really enjoy the blurry haze of jetlag at home before heading out on my next trip. This one was just up to Portland for a VW TDI Cup race. Driving around Portland in Touareg V10 TDIs was another big culture shock. In downtown Portland the cars felt mammoth, but on the highway, they rolled along comfortably and the air conditioning worked beautifully in the hot summer weather. But the reason we were all there was to drive the TDI Cup Cars on the track. Again, another big switch. After driving the mid-engine Audis with the high-revving normally aspirated gas V8s, the turbo diesel four cylinder Jettas were quite a switch. The Jettas pulled hard out of every turn and didn’t even need to be revved to redline to get the most out of them. The real difference however is actual race slicks. A fully prepared racecar on race tires is a completely different monster than anything on the street. You really have to recalibrate your senses to get the most out of them.
Now that I’m back home again, I’m back in the long term MINI Cooper S. It won’t touch the R8, RS6 or TDI Cup Cars in performance, but on the street it really is fun. One thing I did notice however, was as soon as I got in the MINI, I instantly noticed a lack of air-pressure in the tires. Funny how some fast driving will heighten your senses to little things.