Audi Fun in Chicago – Day 2: Audi Exchange

On the second day of my visit to Chicago, I took the Metra train up to Audi Exchange in Highland Park and met with Zachary Hansen, the Social Media Director of the Exchange Auto Group.

At the dealership, Zachary gave me a tour of the set up, including a walkthrough of the service and detailing areas, the back inventory lot and the showroom floor. The showroom building follows the previous Audi dealership design (as used by dealers like Sunset Audi) inside and out. Zachary had later mentioned that they are looking at expanding by building a new warehouse for their inventory in the adjacent lot; as well as, freshening up the main showroom to be like the new design.

Exterior of Audi Exchange Showroom
Interior of Audi Exchange showroom

During the tour, I got to see two 2013 RS5s, one with the Aluminium Optic package and one that was blacked out. The latter was being prepped for customer delivery, but more on that later.

Black 2013 RS5
2013 RS5 with Aluminium Optic Package

Dominating one corner of the showroom floor was a gorgeous black A8 L W12. Everything from the Piano Black interior inlays, supple leather and the beautiful Alcantara headliner just oozed beauty and opulence.

A8 L W12 Grille

Audi Exchange had a demo A4 allroad quattro available and asked for a test drive to see how it compared against the Euro-spec A4 allroad quattro that I was able to test drive at Audi Wilsonville. The Euro-spec A4 allroad quattro had seats with manual sliding controls, seven-speed S Tronic gearbox and Audi Drive Select; while, the US-spec A4 allroad quattro is only available with the ZF-sourced eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox, US-specific suspension and power seat adjustments.

The very first thing that stood out while driving the US-spec model is that the ride seemed to be a bit softer than the Euro-spec model. The Euro-spec model somehow felt like it was in between a base US-spec A4 and a US-spec A4 S-Line; in that, it felt fairly sporty for an Avant with slightly higher ground clearance but nowhere as brittle as the S-Line suspension can be. For the US-spec model, it soaked up bumps and ruts a bit more, but wasn’t floaty or slushy.

Speaking of slushy, the Tiptronic gearbox felt like any other Audi with the same eight-speed gearbox. Gear changes were relatively quick, compared to the five-speed Tiptronic in my 2004 A4, and obviously without any drama. I personally prefer the S Tronic’s fast and crisp gear changes over the quick but semi-ambiguous Tiptronic. Unfortunately, with the number of complaints of other dual-clutch gearboxes sold in the US, the more abrupt gear changes does not fit in with the appliance-happy US audience. Shame, really.

I got to play around a little bit with the new MMI Navigation plus and liked the somewhat simplified user interface. Some of the menu trees are different than in the MMI with Navigation in my 2011 S5, so it took a couple of extra clicks to locate some of the options and settings. The new 3D maps is a huge step up from the previous generation 2D and 3D maps that I am used to.

While I was test driving the A4 allroad quattro, Zachary test drove my Leica M9; as, he was quite interested in the idea of rangefinders and is considering purchasing a Leica.

When we returned back to the dealership, the new owner of the blacked out RS5 was starting to transfer his stuff from his black B8 S4 and putting it into the trunk of his new RS5. Now that’s an awesome upgrade!

I continued to tour the rest of the showroom and the front lot, including taking pictures of a black R8 4.2 coupé. I wrapped up my visit to Audi Exchange and Zachary dropped me off at the train station for my ride back into the city.

Black R8 4.2 Coupé

I want to say thank you to Zachary Hansen and Audi Exchange for giving me an opportunity to visit, talk Audi and for the chance to test drive a US-spec A4 allroad quattro.

Additional photos of my visit to Audi Exchange can be viewed in the “27 Jul 2012 Audi Exchange” set posted on my personal Flickr photostream.

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