The Road Rake

In many states there is a law, or at least a strong suggestion, that you ought to stay the hell out of the way of people who can actually drive. To wit, if you are not passing someone, don’t drive in the left lane of the freeway; if you are coming to the end of an entrance ramp, accelerate into the traffic so you can slow slightly to merge into an opening. Don’t stop at the end of the ramp and wait for things to open up.

When I could afford it, the first thing I did was buy a German car. If you really like to drive, other than a ’68 VW bus, it doesn’t matter much which German car you buy, because they will all go like a banshee, turn like a woman’s mood, and stop in less time than it takes George W. Bush to tell you everything he knows about diplomacy. Big motor, big suspension and big brakes are everything you need, short of a comely companion, for happy motoring. Except, of course, for a road free of Minnesotans.

I learned to drive in a couple of courses—a performance course that taught you how to turn fast, get out of the trouble you got yourself into by turning too fast, and why you should buy new tires every year. I also took a racing course taught by someone who had actually won Le Mans that taught you all of the above, and that going 190 mph is more fun than you think.

So, while I have to admit I’ve never gone 190 on a civilian road, I have touched 145 on the occasional deserted stretch of I-94 when some Mustang driver thought he was Carroll Shelby. When I passed him, I still had two gears to go, but it was my exit anyway so there was no point in rubbing it in. That, and I was afraid that he’d do something stupid and I’d be needing another new set of tires sooner than I planned.

But I really learned to drive in Europe, where left lane drivers who aren’t going way the hell over the limit don’t last long. If you want to experience terror, try passing someone in the left lane in a Renault 5 at 125 km/hr and have a semi come up and tap your rear bumper because you aren’t going fast enough for him. I now rent nothing less than a BMW 5 series in Europe. If he can bump me at 190 km/hr, I guess I should be going faster.

So, why should you check out an Audi A6? It’s the Quattro, pure and simple. The all- wheel drive under all that power just makes it a joy to go like the 5th Armored Division through Baghdad without worrying unduly that you’re going to screw up and lose it. Add all those creature comforts like cup holders (which you won’t find in a Porsche) and it’s almost like being in an SUV, which is what your wife drives and you can borrow when you have to pick up building materials and other large manly things.

But unlike the Explorer full of plywood, this baby handles—especially if you use the Tiptronic transmission (the Porsche-developed racing automatic) to control your torque. You can accelerate effortlessly thorough turns, downshift to blow past those Suburbans in the left lane, and make it home in time to watch the car chase from Ronin (featuring an Audi S8, which is too much car for you) on cable. Don’t get any ideas though, that just because Europeans can drive like that, that you can, too. Remember you are still in Minnesota and that someone is bound to stop in front of you at the end of the on ramp, and that most of the time here, you may as well be in a Ford Fiesta.






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