New Audi A8 Red

But What About the Audi A6?

This week, Audi premiered the new Audi A8; the brand’s rival to the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. The Audi A8, which is due to go on sale later this year, is Audi’s flagship model so it has big shoes to fill. But, with only 32 models registered in 2016 it is not a big seller for the brand in Ireland. What is a popular model, however, is the Audi A6; one which is completely outdated compared to the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series.

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The new A8 features tech that will blow the retired banker in you’s mind. The new A8 has a traffic pilot feature which allows the car to take control of starting, acceleration, steering and braking at speeds up to 60 km/h. On top of this, the AI system can also pilot the car in and out of car parking spaces or a garage. This is controlled by the driver from either inside or outside the car.

From launch, two V6s will be available; a 3.0 TDI diesel with 286hp and a 3.0TFSI petrol with 340hp. A 4.0TDI V8 will follow later and the same 6.0 W12 is available too. Each engine will use a mild hybrid system which allows the car to coast on electric power until the engine restarts. Convenient for traffic.

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Now that we have sang the new A8’s praises, what about the Audi A6? The current Mercedes E-Class launched in April 2016 and the current BMW 5-Series launched at the start of this year. The current Audi A6? It has received two facelifts in its current model run but has been around since 2011. That’s 6 years. But will the new one be worth the wait? I hate to say it, but probably not. I do like the Audi brand and they make some interesting cars. Take the Q2 or RS3 for example. But the new Audi A6 is just going to be an upscaled A4 and a downsized A8. The same goes for the model range from BMW and Mercedes. Although this is just an assumption, I’m still not holding my breath.

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Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

Road Trip: Mazda3 Grand Touring

Based on my last piece, I want to make the most out of my time in the USA and there is no better way of doing that than road trips. Road tripping is a broad term and usually means spending long periods of time, usually days or weeks, in a car exploring a country or area. But I am re-defining the road trip with short day trips consisting of a couple of hundred miles. What is my latest travel companion? The 2017 Mazda3.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

Model Tested: Mazda3 Saloon/Sedan Grand Touring.
Engine: 2.5 Petrol – 184hp and 251Nm.
Transmission: 6-Speed manual, front wheel drive.
Price: Prices for the Mazda3 range start at $17,845. Price as tested – $26,880. Irish prices start at €23,295.
Economy: Average; 31.1mpg or 7.6l/100km.

Recently I was given the keys to a unique car, by USA standards anyway; a Mazda3 4-door with a manual ‘box. A high percentage of cars here in the US are automatic with the exception of the older/vintage vehicles. So to say I was relieved that I had a manual to drive for the week would be an understatement.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Rear

The Mazda3 replaced the Mazda 323 in 2003 and is available in two variants; the Mazda3 Hatchback and Mazda3 Saloon. Although for the US market, they are the Mazda3 4-door and Mazda3 5-door.  The Mazda3 has just gone through a minor makeover giving the face a fresh look. One thing I love about cars in America is that in most states it is not obligatory to wear a front registration plate. In my case, the Californian regged Mazda3 did not have a front plate meaning the face could be fully appreciated. Mazda’s KODO design is right on par at the moment, in my opinion. Even the Mazda2, its baby model, has a strong, mature look to it.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Front

The Mazda3 I had was painted in Eternal Blue Mica with Parchment cream leather interior. Once stepping inside, it is all familiar with the exception of the steering wheel being on the “wrong side”.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Interior

 

Thankfully, I have driven left-hand drive cars before so it did not take me long to adjust to having to shift gears with my right hand. So much so that I dread the day I get back in Archie and have to re-adjust to my normal driving style. Although, what was not as easy to get used to were the road rules. The one thing I still am unsure of is being able to turn right on a red light. What makes it even more confusing is, you are allowed to turn right but at the same time pedestrians also have a green light to cross. So you must give them the right of way, which I do. But, I have had the misfortune of almost being mowed down by a Jeep Grand Cherokee who dis-obeyed this.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Manual

In light of this, I decided I needed to get out of the hustle and bustle of Chicago. I jumped back onto the I-94 and headed towards a national park called Silver Springs State Park. How did I find it? Zoomed out on Google Maps and pointed to a random part of the map; the only way to explore! After roughly 45 minutes on the Interstate; my exit was coming up. But of course I had Bastille cranked up at full volume on the Bose sound system and was wailing out-of-tune to Weight of Living as I noticed my exit pass. I figured I could just take the next exit, no problems. Thankfully the Sat Nav re-routed me to the next exit off the Interstate; which was another 20 miles away and had added an extra hour onto my journey. Not being able to do anything about this, I went back to my out of tune singing.

Mazda3 Grand Touring Bose

Eventually I came upon my exit. Seeing as I was already a good 40 miles away from my desired destination, I figured I would get myself completely lost on purpose. The Sat Nav tells me to turn left; I turned right. Shortly after riding down some dusty, gravely so-called roads, I stumbled upon a small sleepy town called Newark. What caught my eye in Newark were several cars rusting away on an old mechanics forecourt. Said cars were a Jaguar XJ6, a Fox-Body Ford Mustang, Plymouth Valiant and another  un-identifiable, to me, Jaguar peeking from under a large piece of tarp. Newark is your typical little back-arse-of-no-where town; retirees knocking around in golf carts and a corner diner/pub creating the sense of buzz.

Jaguar XJ6 and Plymouth Valiant

Jaguar

After leaving Newark, I went in search of Silver Springs again. I found myself venturing down gravel roads, passing by corn fields and even vineyards. This is what I left the city for. The Mazda3 could not have been a better companion. The 2.5 4-cylinder performed well on the back roads and the 6-speed manual added an ounce of excitement to the adventure. Eventually I arrived at Silver Springs. I took a quick look around the river and got straight back in the car. I came to drive, really. I couldn’t get enough of the freedom. I couldn’t get enough of being free of Chicago’s busyness.

Mazda3 Grand Touring SkyActiv

The Mazda3 Grand Touring Manual – The perfect exploration companion.