2018 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S Tronic quattro AWD in Sedona - Travel Review From A Shunpiker’s Journal

Travel Review from A Shunpiker’s Journal

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

We’re still hanging out in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert surround by saguaro, cholla and javelina. Oh, and we’re also surrounded by some mighty upscale intensive urbanization in and around Scottsdale, where growth intensifies and infrastructure leads the way. As we turn north on I-17, headed for one of the most beautiful canyons in Arizona, suburbia gives way to wilderness about 20 miles out at New River, site of a remarkable cowboy bar called The Roadrunner, where a pen full of riding bulls abuts the pitted dirt parking lot and small, dusty rodeo arena.

Our ride for this half of our Arizona sojourn is a quick, sporty little Audi A4 with a 2-liter turbo and all-wheel drive. The latter is all but superfluous here where it never snows, seldom rains and the car is too low for any off-roading. I suppose if one were trying to drive spiritedly in a monsoon it might come in handy. The base price for the car is about 40-grand but this one is loaded showing a bottom line on the sticker of just over 50.

The compact, four-door Audi fits comfortably into the high-end car scene here in prosperous Scottsdale, as did the Infiniti Q50 we reviewed here last week. More than half the rolling stock here is from the upper-crust of vehicular society. Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Audi and Cadillac are more common on this side of town than Chevy, Ford and Toyota. Fortunately, this A4 is white, a good color in the desert since it reflects more of that oppressive sunshine.

The 110-mile route to Sedona rises and falls along and over a variety of mountains and ridges. As we rise in elevation the saguaro become less plentiful and dense, tan grasses begin to dominate the flora. Rangy cattle graze vast meadows along the freeway. So many dramatic vistas emerge before us that we run out of superlatives. As we descend the north slope of the mountain overlooking Camp Verde we see ahead, across the Verde Valley, the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau marking the end of the Sonoran Desert. Atop the plateau you’ll find Flagstaff where just last week they were blessed with a foot of new snow. Then we look to the northwest and find the morning sun illuminating the red rocks of Sedona, still nearly 20 miles away.

We used the Audi’s optional Adaptive Cruise Control on our fast freeway drive north as traffic glommed up behind the trucks ascending each long up-slope. As with all of these systems, the closing distance is adjustable, but it seemed to me that it was more adjustable on the Audi than others. The system seemed to adjust itself for speed as well. At 30 mph it would allow a smaller gap than at 60. The list of standard safety and technology features on this car is truly impressive as Audi always strives to be at the leading edge of the tech curve.

The distinctive shape of Bell Rock grows in our view as we enter Sedona from the south along AZ Highway 179. Quickly we see Courthouse Rock, Cathedral Rock and an overwhelming variety of eroded red rock formations suggestive of something that inspires a name like Submarine Rock, Snoopy Rock and Chicken Point. Besides the distinct natural beauty, Sedona and the entire Oak Creek Canyon have a rare aura of spirituality, attributed by those who can see or feel that stimulus to electromagnetic fields, measurable at dozens of places around the canyon, called vortexes. We’ve visited at least a dozen of these over the years and, while it would be difficult to definitively assign feelings of both calm and stimulation to these metaphysical anomalies, there is no question this is an inspiring place.

Our day trip in Sedona began with a visit to one of the strongest of these vortexes - a bend in Oak Creek where it cuts across the nearly-vertical north base of Cathedral Rock. We discovered it about 25 years ago on a tip from a local spiritualist. The spot is not easy to find at the end of an obscure park considerably downstream from town. When we first found it, we had to squeeze through a wire fence and follow a narrow, but well-worn, path to the sandy bend where hundreds of cairns made from colorful native stones mark the spot of spiritual experiences of hundreds of folks at this particular spot. It is now barely recognizable as the surging spring river seems to have scoured the cairn garden, strewing the stones and cutting up the riverbank. New cairns are already springing up as people continue to be inspired there.

Back to town, we looked for places to do a few photos of the car. Audi’s design language remains rather conservative but they’ve made it very attractive nonetheless. A bold grille surrounded by large, complex cheek vents and modern narrow headlights give the front view a distinctive look. Modest sculpting the rest of the way around the car and a plain rear feed into arguments by some folks that all cars look alike these days. At night, however, the liberal use of LEDs, ambient lighting and just enough reflective chrome make it look pretty classy.

Inside the A4 we find good materials, fit and finish, as we would expect. The details do not suggest pretentious elegance, rather a Teutonic functional simplicity. Ingress and egress present a struggle for this oversize guy as the B-pillar gets in the way. Once in, though, I snuggle into a comfortable, functional, intuitive space with a firm, well-bolstered driver’s seat. We have all the infotainment, driver assistance and functional complexity for which Audi has come to be known. While most functions were more easily managed than Audis of the past, I still found a few others to cause consternation. But the tactile quality of the cabin is excellent. Just be aware, if you’re not used to these German systems you’ll have a substantial learning curve if you buy one.

The powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic making 252 horsepower and a solid 273 lb.-ft. of torque, they say it’s good for a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds and after some time behind the wheel, I do not doubt the claim. Climbing these long mountain grades and dicing with urban traffic we certainly appreciate those numbers and that quick-shifting automatic, particularly when we use the manual mode. The EPA says we can expect about 34 mpg on the highway, 24 in the city and 27 combined using premium fuel. And, that’s just about what we experienced.

By the way, you can get the A4 2.0T with a six-speed manual, if you like. Bravo Audi!

The A4 2.0T would be a hoot on the race track, I’ll predict. Quick steering, excellent brakes, plenty of torque and the dual-clutch transmission would give us enough power and control to safely have some serious fun. The “Dynamic” mode of Audi’s driver-selectable system makes it quicker, more responsive and more predictable. The track would also be a great opportunity to use the quattto all-wheel drive system.

Audi’s new car warranty covers the whole car, including powertrain, for 4 years or 50,000 miles.

We drove back from Sedona at sunset. The moon, just a day or two from full, lingered 30-degrees above the eastern horizon. The mountains to the west threw big shadows as the daylight waned, changing colors dramatically on the slopes to our left. Ever-changing topography, grazing cattle and beautiful desert flora illustrated our drive home. It is no wonder artists and aesthetes find the Sonoran Desert so appealing.

The Audi A4 2.0T is a great little car for those who want exceptional performance, great quality and a touch of indulgence without calling attention to themselves. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but the amount of technology, a sporty personality and classy demeanor will keep them selling well.

And, if you’ve never visited Sedona and the Oak Creek Canyon, I highly recommend you put it on your list, whether you are spiritually inclined or not.

You may be surprised.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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