For the past several days, I had visited Chicago primarily for #NotAudiRelated reasons (to find out more, check out this blog post); but, that didn’t stop me from checking out some Audis while I was in Chicago.
Early Thursday afternoon, I decided to take a short bus ride up from where I was staying in The Loop up to Fletcher Jones Audi. Both exterior and interior design of the dealership follow the new design language found in newer dealers (including: Audi Wilsonville and Audi San Juan). After checking out the floor for a couple of moments, I met the guy behind the dealer’s social media presence, Dave Nickerson. Dave gave me a tour of the floor and service department, as well as the delivery room on the third floor. When I was there, there were two A5 coupés and an A4 allroad quattro.
After taking several photos, Dave walked me across the street to check out a portion of their inventory. He snagged a 2013 S5 coupé with S Tronic and we went over to their other lot to check out their more valuable cars available for sale. On one floor of the warehouse were four R8 5.2s parked in a row (three coupés and a Spyder), as well as an A8 L W12. I was able to take some photos with my Leica, but between the harsh afternoon light and lack of a flash, many of the pictures didn’t turn out that well.
Heading back to home base, we stopped in and I got to chat a little bit with the General Manager, Niko Karvunidis. After chatting with Dave a bit more, I got a chance to try out the 2013 S5 coupé to get a feel of the new (to the S5 coupé) engine, transmission and the new Drive Select controls (the car only had the Sports Rear Diff). While I had a chance to test drive a 2010 S5 cabriolet with the same engine and transmission, I wanted to see what it could do in the coupé (which weighs less and is more rigid than the cabriolet).
As with my test drive of the S5 cabriolet, the supercharged V6 had a good amount of punch off of the line and the S Tronic shifts were quick and crisp. The exhaust note is nothing like that of a V8 (that’s a given) and it still had the blat/fart sound when the gearbox changed gears; though, it is a bit more muffled than in the cabriolet with the top up or down. I can definitely say that both that engine and that gearbox are meant to be paired together. I would still prefer a proper manual gearbox.
In my 2011 S5, setting the Drive Select steering option to Dynamic changes the feel of the steering wheel to be pretty weighty and requires a bit of effort to steer. To me, I love that when romping through the twists and turns but gets tiring in the city. In the 2013 S5, the same Drive Select steering setting yields a slightly softer and less weighty feel. I would put it somewhere between Auto and Dynamic in my S5.
By the way, I am still not sold on the new grille and headlight shape; but, I love the solid line look of the LED DRL. Granted, it doesn’t have quite the same punch as the iconic sweep used on my S5… then again, I might be biased!
After driving the 2013 S5, I got a chance to drive in an R8 5.2 coupé with an R Tronic gearbox. Yes, this was my first drive of an R8! The R8 was Daytona Gray and was decked out with many carbon fibre options and packages. As with the exterior, the interior is just so gorgeous and love the cockpit feel. Even though it wasn’t a manual (yes, there was an R8 with a manual gearbox available, but I wanted to see what the fuss was able with the R Tronic and “bucking”).
Unlike many other people in the media, I knew that driving an R8 with an R Tronic gearbox would mean treating it like it was a manual gearbox without a clutch pedal. Yes, that means that you need to lift up on the throttle when you change gears. If you don’t, it will buck you like if you weren’t handling a mean horse properly. In order words, if you are bucking an R8, you are a bucking idiot.
By using the throttle and paddles properly, the R8 shifted quite smoothly on city roads and had the right amount of feel when being more agressive on the highway in Sport mode. Speaking of gear changes, good gravy does it make such a beautiful sound when changing gears! In lower RPMs, the engine and exhaust are fairly sedate for a V10; but, drop it down a gear and mash the throttle and both sing a heavenly tune. #swoon.
I switched back and forth between fully automated mode and manual mode during my test drive, as well as setting the suspension into Sport mode as well. Except on really bad roads or in cities with a whole season dedicated to road construction, the R8 could easily be a posh, yet powerful, daily driver.
After the test drive of the R8, I got to ride back to the dealer in luxury… in an A8 L, that is. The interior of the A8 L is done so well, with the soft door panels, rich wood inlays, beautiful light accents and extremely well laid out and designed center console. Once back, got a shuttle ride back in a Q7.
All in all, my experience at Fletcher Jones Audi was great, so much of that is in part of Dave taking time out of his day to answer my questions and allowing me to fulfill some of my dreams. Huge thanks goes to Dave and to Fletcher Jones Audi.