November 3, 2011
By: Kris Hansen
Some people think we’re completely mental, off our rockers crazy for choosing to drive from New England to Georgia to cover Petit Le Mans. They may be right, but we do it anyway. The fact that we spend more time in the car than we do at the race is not lost on us, but we’ve found that the drive really isn’t that bad when you have 2 capable drivers, plus, you’re guaranteed a window seat. Best of all, there are no annoying security lines to go through, and no risk of an overly aggressive pat down. Driving can be cheaper than flying as well, and there are no luggage restrictions, which is handy for covering a motorsports event such as Petit Le Mans. Long road trips can be fun too, and you get to see lots of “Welcome to (insert state name here)” signs. We saw 11 of them, in each direction (MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA).
For 2011, our 4th time making this drive, our chariot was this beautiful midnight blue Audi A5 2.0T with a 6 speed manual transmission. We had hoped to borrow either a Q7 or A3 TDI for an uber mileage run, but none were available, and beggars can’t be choosers, so we took what was available to us. In all honesty, we weren’t disappointed in the least, as the A5 is one of our all time favorite cars, and the 2.0T can be frugal.
We loaded our luggage, camera gear, computers and other things into the spacious trunk, with some room to spare. For a weekend jaunt for two (or three or four), the A5 is a brilliant choice thanks to the abundant cargo space. Because we wanted to keep the back seat behind the front passenger seat open, we limited what we put in the back seat to a cooler, where we kept our sodas, sandwiches and other road needs, and pillows and jackets and stuff. Having food and such just an arms length away for the driver is key for making the best time possible and limiting stops. The A5 has great door pockets with locations to store up to 1 liter bottles, and good cup holders in the center console, perfect for storing the gigantic coffee cups that we’d pick up at driver changes.
The base A5 has fairly flat looking seats, but they’re actually quite comfortable and supportive. Thanks to the multiple power adjustments, it’s possible to put the seat in the exact perfect position for long term comfort. When reclined fully, the A5 seats are easily comfortable enough to sleep soundly. Interestingly enough, the A5 has very long seat rails. It is possible to put the seat far enough back that even 6 foot tall drivers can’t push the clutch all the way to the floor. On a long drive, this legroom is more than welcome as it allows a much more comfortable leg bend for long hours in the car.
Having two (or more) drivers on is almost required for driving 1100 miles in one go unless you have the ability to stay alert for long periods of time. The luxury of being able to stop, fill the car with gas, take bathroom breaks, refill the cooler, switch drivers and get back on the road means covering the distance very quickly. Even though we averaged over 31mpg for the trip (yes, really), the A5 doesn’t have the biggest fuel tank in the world, which meant our stints were limited to around 420 miles. Given the 1100 mile one way trip, that meant a minimum of 3 stops. Even with these extra stops, we managed to make great time. Without excessive speed, we made the trip south in around 17 and a half hours, early enough to make the photographers meeting Friday morning. Thanks to not hitting any traffic on the trip north, we actually made it in under 17 hours, again without excessive speed (no more than 10 over at any point for any length of time).
All of the extra bells and whistles in the A5 of course helped make the trip more pleasuarable. The SAT NAV system was accurate and helpful as always. The Bang and Oulfsen sound system was excellent, though with sleeping passengers we didn’t really crank the volume much. At night, the HID lights were very good, throwing light far down the road. Other than in the heavy traffic we encountered in the greater NYC area, we loved the long legged 6 speed manual transmission. 6th gear is very long – at 80 mph the engine is ticking along at 2500 rpm. With the broad torque curve available from the 2.0T engine, this is a perfect range to be in for maximum economy.
For a sporty car, the A5 rides very well. There were a few stretches of road that were either under construction, or desperately in need, and the A5 soaked them up very well. Considering that the car was fully loaded, the handling was still very good. Even though we were not pushing our speeds, it was comforting to know that we didn’t have to worry about the car being a handful to drive.
The A5 ended up being a great car for this trip. It is supremely fun to drive no matter the road. The interior is roomy enough for 2 big guys to be comfortable on a very long road trip. We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again, the A5 is a phenomenally good car. At the end of a 2400 mile trip, there was nothing we found with the A5 that we’d change, nothing that we wish the car would do differently.
The only way the A5 would have been better is if we didn’t have to give it back to Audi…
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